Saturday, March 24, 2012

Notes from Harvest Moon's Sweet 16

Harvest Moon brewer Kyle McDonald
Another reminder of how craft brewing can integrate itself into a local economy ...

New Brunswick's Harvest Moon Brewery & Cafe celebrated its 16th anniversary with a beer dinner that included pork and beef produced by Rutgers University's agriculture program.

The ag program takes Harvest Moon's spent grain, sparing the brewpub disposal costs, and by feeding it to the cattle the program raises, the spent grain doesn't wind up in landfills.

Getting farmers to take the grain is a rather common practice among craft brewers, that is, when there are nearby farmers available (it's not always the case). So it may not seem like a big deal that Harvest Moon's spent grain ends up being dispatched in this fashion.

But in truth, the exchange, especially one in which a brewery finds a subsequent use for the spent grist, then in turn uses products the grain helped enable, well that makes a brewery something more than just a beer factory, and a brewpub something more than just a place to eat and drink.

Harvest Moon's relationship with Rutgers was a side point noted to patrons of Thursday night's dinner. After the dessert course of chocolate cake pops, head brewer Kyle McDonald was kind enough to take a few moments to explain the brewpub's interdependence with Rutgers' ag program, and how Harvest Moon's executive chef, Michael "Tank" DeAngelis, added Rutgers farm bacon and beef to the anniversary dinner menu.

Applause for Chef Tank DeAngelis
(The bacon was a topper to a first course of split pea soup, while braised short ribs were the main course. Beers on the night were an American-inflected mild that was amped up a little more than you might find in its English cousin; an abbey single/Belgian golden ale; a one-two shot of Irish stout and 10.5% ABV imperial stout. The finale was a barleywine that led with some hops but resolved to the warmth of its 11% ABV.)

From Kyle:

Rutgers obviously has a big ag department, and they raise a variety of different livestock. One of things they do raise is hogs.
(Taking the spent grain) is a big savings to the brewery and a sustainable thing for Rutgers in that they're giving back in the community.  
I don't think it affects their livestock feed budget at all, but they're kind enough to come and take it from us. They no longer feed hogs with it; they only feed the cattle.
Click to enlarge menu

Because I work directly with the gentleman who supervises their entire livestock program – he's the one I contact to come pick up (spent) grain and I'm on their email list – so whenever they slaughter anything and they open that up to public sales, I obviously get the heads up.

We had the beer dinner coming up, so I alerted Tank. We wanted to try to incorporate as much different stuff as we could. For the pork, he thought it would be good and easy to incorporate bacon in one of the dishes. So he grabbed 10 pounds of bacon right away.

The short ribs we had for the entreĆ© were from the cattle they raise; we got 15 or 20 pounds for the dinner. It kind of completes the full circle – livestock fed at least in part with our grain – returned back braised in our beer and served with the beer that fed either that cattle or other cattle.

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Friday, March 23, 2012

Jersey Shore attraction: craft beer & food

Click to enlarge beer list
At the intersection of the words "beer" and "festival" this weekend, you'll find quite a companion spread at the Jersey Shore: chicken and a summer ale, kielbasa and a golden lager, or brisket and a pale ale.

Beers on the Boards at Martell's Tiki Bar Saturday on the Point Pleasant Beach boardwalk features regionally and locally produced craft beers, with some of those brews used in the preparation of the dishes on the event's buffet menu. Six New Jersey brands figure prominently on the beer lineup, which also includes some of the usual big festival suspects, like Murphy's Irish Stout. (First session starts at 12:30 p.m.; evening session is set for 6 o'clock.)

Nonetheless, the event represents something bigger, as far as beer scenes go. Beers on the Boards reinforces the inroads that craft beer has made at the Jersey Shore, an area of the state where the big macro producers still command a lot of tap handles, even as craft beer's popularity continues to surge.

That doesn't mean the Shore is an utter craft beer dead zone. Far from it. But it's hard to deny that the region has trailed the west side of the state and North Jersey in craft beer appreciation and good beer bars coming online.

"The Jersey Shore has great potential, but it's a tough nut to crack. Some places kind of get it," says promoter Chris DePeppe, a Jersey Shore native-turned-Pennsylvanian whose TotalBru Marketing and Beerheads companies launched the Beer on the Pier festival in nearby Belmar two years ago. "Whether we'll sway some of the Miller Lite or Bud Light drinkers, I don't know. There are some craft beer drinkers out there though."

Beerheads teamed with Martell's and the Point Pleasant Beach Chamber of Commerce to stage Beers on the Boards. East Coast Beer, the Point Pleasant-based company behind Beach Haus pilsner, signed on as a sponsor. So did Cricket Hill Brewing, and you'll find the two brands among the Jersey brews on the event's lineup. (The others are: Flying Fish, Carton, Kane and Tuckahoe.)

"Sure it's special to us. It's our back yard," says East Coast's John Merklin. "There are actually two stories here: Craft beer has come to the Jersey Shore, and the Jersey Shore has come to craft beer."

And this time, it's borrowing some ideas from beer-and-food events like the Brewer's Plate in Philadelphia, or SAVOR, the Brewers Associations annual gathering in Washington, D.C.

Click to enlarge menu
Folks who attend Beers on the Boards will find plenty of flavors to explore as they sample both the beers and the buffet, says Martell's executive chef, Tom Peet, who crafted the event menu. Tom paired the beers to the bring out the best flavors of the beef, fish and chicken dishes.

"I like the Philadelphia Pale Ale beef brisket, the Yards Brawler Fish 'n' Chips. That (beer) paired well with the fish. They're all good in their own way," Tom says, adding any dish is a good starting point.

"Start with your heart. If you like chicken go with chicken. If you like beef, go for beef. It's all about individuality; it's what you like," he says.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Turtle Stone becomes 2nd NJ licensee for 2012

Three beers for Turtle Stone Brewing.

That comes after three cheers for the Cumberland County brewery, licensed by New Jersey regulators eight days ago.

Owner Ben Battiata jumped straight to brewing after the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control made its customary inspection of the Vineland brewery and gave the thumbs-up on March 13th.

Using a 1-barrel pilot system, Ben turned out a half-batch of a milk stout, and full batches of an American stout and a red rye ale, the latter of which is destined to be the house beer at the Old Oar House Irish Pub in nearby Millville, a bar that's been one Ben's haunts for a while and in recent times has been working craft beers onto its 30-plus taps.

"It's the bar I've been going to since I've been allow to go to bars," Ben says.

Turtle Stone's 15-barrel brewhouse is still being set up. Thus, Ben cobbled together the small pilot system to get some beer produced to ensure the brewery had a presence at the Atlantic City beer festival March 30-31. "We didn't want to lose out on that exposure," he says.

As a vision, Turtle Stone goes back about six years. As brewery startup, things started coming together more seriously three to four years ago, with the acquisition of brewing equipment and scouting a location. Ben and his partner, his girlfriend Becky Pedersen, saw the pace quicken last year with federal regulators signing off on the project and brewery construction taking place through the fall and winter. Last week's visit by ABC inspectors was the breaking of the finish-line tape to what had become a bit of a marathon. Despite that, there are still a few more details to get in hand, such as bringing the 15-barrel brewhouse online and adding a tasting room. (Ben hopes to have that taken care of by summer.)

"I've been waiting for things to settle down so I could get some rest. It hasn't worked out that way," says Ben, who still works full-time for Viking Yachts in Bass River. He brewed the three inaugural ales over four sessions (two batches of red rye ale), sometimes working until 4 or 5 a.m.

With the red ale, Ben says to look for a stronger rye presence. The 6% ABV brew was made with caramel malts and an ample amount of rye, and hopped and dry-hopped with Cascades, although future versions are likely to include Amarillo hops. (Right now, Amarillo is hard to get, but Ben hopes to lock in a supply at some point.)

"I really like rye beer, so I pushed that up a little more," he says.

The milk stout (5.2% ABV), Ben says, was Turtle Stone's first batch as a licensed brewery and comes from his recipe file built up from over a decade of homebrewing. It was done in a smaller batch because he was still getting a feel for the pilot system. He plans to take a couple of sixtels of the milk stout to the AC beer fest, but more of the two other brews.

The American stout (6% ABV), a beer that has always been part of the launch plans for Turtle Stone, also features Cascade hops, plus the Zythos blended hop. The grain bill includes some oats to give the beer a silky body.

Coming six days after the approval for Flounder Brewing in Hillsborough (Somerset County), Turtle Stone is the second production brewery licensed by the state this year, nudging up the tally of New Jersey craft breweries to 24.

The two additions come on the heels of five licensees in 2011, and the exit from New Jersey's craft beer scene of just two startup breweries since 2010 (Port 44 Brew Pub in Newark and Great Blue Brewing in Franklin Township, Somerset County).