Friday, December 2, 2011

Flying Fish announces Exit strategy

Remember these numbers: 4, 9, 10, 13, 16, 17.

The Pick-6 Lotto, they're not. But they are winning numbers, nonetheless.

Two of them are Saturdays – Dec. 10 and Dec. 17. The other four are Exits from the Cellar.

A shortage of brewing capacity and plans to exit Cherry Hill for bigger digs in Somerdale, about 10 miles south, have iced any hopes of Flying Fish releasing this year's trio of brews under the Exit Series banner, as was the per-year plan when the brewery began releasing the specialty brews in 2009.

This year, it's been Exit 9, and Exit 9 alone, that saw release.


But with everything that's been going on at Flying Fish, something had to give. So the brewery has come up with another Exit strategy.

Which means, Flying Fish is digging into its private stock of previously released Exits, namely Exit 4 American Trippel, Exit 9 Hoppy Scarlet Ale, Exit 13 Chocolate Stout and Exit 16 Wild Rice Double IPA, and making the 750 milliliter bottles available for purchase during Saturday tours of Dec. 10th and 17th.

As most everyone knows, Exit 4 is available in six-packs these days. But in the big bottle, with the ruby-red wrapping on the top, it's the original release.

Exits 1 (oyster stout), 6 (Wallonian rye) and 11 (hoppy wheat), sadly, are history.

Time for a second round?

Could New Jersey Breweries, the guidebook to the Garden State's craft brewing scene, be in line for a second edition?

Maybe so.

That idea is being floated to the publisher, Stackpole Books, says Mark Haynie, who with co-author Lew Bryson, wrote the 148-page region-by-region look at the pub and production brewers of the state.

With good reason.

A lot has changed on the state's beer landscape since the book landed on the shelves during the summer of 2008. Not only have the ranks of homegrown craft brewers swelled, but industry trends have shifted, with the notion of small-batch brewing taking on a new meaning, and growlers of take-home beer no longer existing as the province of brewpubs and breweries. Then there's the matter of the state's bar owners gravitating to and embracing craft beer in general, adding taps and putting on beers that were unimaginable a few years ago.

At the time New Jersey Breweries hit print, the Garden State had just under a dozen and a half craft breweries, with the newest one being Krogh's, the Sussex County brewpub that began teaming house-brewed beers to its restaurant offerings back in 1999. Now, the brewery count numbers closer to two dozen.

The change began as a trickle, then a gush.

In 2009, Iron Hill brewpub, the Delaware-based restaurant and brewery company started in 1996 by a trio of Jersey guys, ended a decade-long drought of new breweries opening in the state. It was a homecoming that saw Iron Hill launch its eighth location in Maple Shade. (Iron Hill is poised to open its ninth location in Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia. A second New Jersey location is also in the works.)

New Jersey Beer Company followed suit a year later as a production brewery based in North Bergen in Hudson County. This year alone, there have been three new production brewers – nano beer-maker Cape May Brewing became licensed in May, with Kane Brewing and Carton Brewing doing likewise over the summer. Meanwhile, Turtle Stone Brewing, an in-development production brewery in Vineland, is targeting a late 2011 or early 2012 opening.

Speaking of nanobreweries, the industry trend of tiny breweries serving local niche markets, took off big in the Garden State in 2011. Besides Cape May, Great Blue in Somerset County became licensed, while Flounder Brewing in Hillsborough and Tuckahoe Brewing continued to wend their way through the regulatory maze, and also looked to open soon.

But wait, there's more.

Flying Fish, the state's largest craft brewery and a Cherry Hill fixture for all of its 15 years, bought a new building in nearby Somerdale and made plans to triple its production capacity. In 2009, Flying Fish also began a well-received lineup of specialty beers. The Exit Series was referenced in New Jersey Breweries as part of the brewery's plans.

Elsewhere, Climax Brewing in Roselle Park, the state's first production craft brewer, began packaging in 12-ounce bottles in six-packs, retiring the signature half-gallon growler jugs that had long given its ales and lagers a presence in the state's bottled beer market.

Speaking of growlers, the jugs most often associated with brewpubs, started showing up as offerings from taverns and those packaged goods stores lucky enough to have licensing held over from the days of when they included a bar under their roofs.

Indeed, the Garden State is a different place for beer now, even from just three years ago.

About the videos:
Above, Mark Haynie talks with interviewer Tara Nurin, of the women's beer group Beer for Babes, about growth in the New Jersey craft brewing industry. Below from 2008, New Jersey Breweries co-author Lew Bryson talks about the book's release.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Cape May cuts ribbon on tasting room

Joined by local government dignitaries, nanobrewer Cape May Brewing on Thursday christened its tasting room at a special weekday open house.

But perhaps the bigger news for the tiny brewery is that once again it is looking to grow. Cape May Brewing is in talks with the Delaware River & Bay Authority to take over some space adjacent to the brewery, located in a building on the grounds of the DRBA-owned Cape May County Airport.

Ryan Krill, who started the brewery with his dad, Robert, and college friend Chris Henke, says the discussions are in the early stages. The brewery is also doing some preliminary work toward boosting capacity again, he says.

Cape May shed its start-up half-barrel brewing system a few months ago, moving to a 1.5-barrel setup.

"We're pricing stuff out and scaling things out right now and seeing what's going to be appropriate," Ryan says. "That's the whole goal, to be able to have more than four accounts. We want to sell beer, we want to have a lot of fun doing it. We're going to try to find a sweet spot and a good scale for us."

In addition to its tasting room, Cape May Brewing has three bar accounts (Cabanas, SeaSalt and Lucky Bones Backwater Grille, all in Cape May) for its brews – a flagship IPA, a sweet stout, a porter (made with locally produced honey) and a wheat beer. Upcoming is a dunkelweizen, as well as an 8% ABV imperial IPA with Centennial hops that was brewed this week for release around Christmas.

At Thursday afternoon's open house, dignitaries from Lower Township and the DRBA took part in a ribbon-cutting for the tasting room where Cape May Brewing has been welcoming visitors since July.

Ryan says the brewery plans to hire a couple of staffers to help out in the tasting room and with retail sales of glassware, hats and shirts from Saturday tours and tastings.

About the video:
Cape May Brewery's Ryan Krill talks with interviewer Tara Nurin of the women's beer group Beer for Babes at the Somers Point beer festival held Oct. 29.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

This chocolate's hot

Iron Hill writes another chapter in its ongoing sponsorship of competitive homebrewing, tapping a chipotle pepper-cocoa-cinnamon porter Monday night created by Camden County homebrewer Michael Bittner, who claimed the 2011 Iron Brewer title.

It's the second year for the contest at IH's Maple Shade location, continuing a tradition that started at the brewpub's West Chester, Pa., site a half dozen or so years ago and takes its name partly from the Iron Chef television show.

Claiming his top prize of making beer on a commercial scale, Michael, an Audubon resident and member of the Barley Legal Homebrewers club of South Jersey, brewed the 9-barrel batch of Aztec Ale Nov. 5th under the supervision of head brewer Chris LaPierre, who scaled up Michael's 5-gallon recipe.

(Last year's Iron Brewer beer was a coffee stout called Luca Brasi, brewed by Barley Legal members Jim Carruthers and Scott Davi, winners of the inaugural Maple Shade competition.)

Aztec Ale has a chocolaty aroma and taste, with a finish of gentle pepper heat; there's a bounce of vanilla in there, too. The cinnamon was prominent on the palates for some folks, but less so for others.

Both pro brewer and homebrewer were happy with the outcome.

"It's just what I remember it being, reminds me of the original recipe ... the smell, the taste is very similar," Michael said after the tapping.

Aztec Ale, Chris says, stands as one of the more exotic brews to be entered in the Iron Brewer contest.

"This would be one of them. It definitely had a lot of ingredients that I don't often use in the brewery," he says. "There was also a beet beer last time that came pretty close to winning. That was really interesting."

Aztec Ale also marks the third fusion of chocolate, cinnamon and hot peppers by a Jersey brewpub this year. Basil T's in Red Bank and the Tun Tavern in Atlantic City both brewed with those ingredients back in January as a collaboration called Chocolate Fire, done under the Garden State Craft Brewers Guild's Jersey's Finest banner.

Like the other 10 or so contestants who vied for the Iron Brewer title this year, Michael made his beer with wort collected from the second runnings of IH's The Situation, a robust ABV beer (almost 10%) that weaves in and out of a few styles (think barleywine meets double IPA).

The contest, in fact, started as a way to make use of the healthy amount of malt sugar that would otherwise go down the drain after the needed volume of wort for The Situation is collected in the kettle.

Chris says The Situation likely will be scheduled for brewing again in February. "So that's probably when we'll do the next Iron Brewer wort pickup," he says.

Right now Michael is basking in the limelight of Aztec Ale, and planning to clone Dogfish Head's Indian Brown Ale, not to mention looking forward to defending his Iron Brewer title after the next wort give away.

"I'm not going to say what I'm going to brew, and it may change before then, but I've got some ideas," he says.