Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Homebrew permit saw rise in final year

With Big Brew/National Homebrew Day just a month away, here's an interesting statistic concerning New Jersey's now-buried requirement that homebrewers get a permit to make beer in their backyards.

Last year, when the requirement was in its death spiral thanks to legislation moving through Trenton, there was a spike in the number of homebrewing permits issued by the state Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control, the agency that regulates all things dram in New Jersey.

From Jan. 1, 2011, to the last day of December, ABC issued 633 permits to make homebrew. That's more than twice the number issued for 2009, when ABC granted 299 permits, and 213 more than the year before (for 2010, the number was 420).

With the stroke of a pen on Jan. 9, 2012, Gov. Chris Christie turned the permit obligation into a footnote, freeing homebrewers from a near-paper tiger mandate that nearly all of them had been ignoring to begin with.

True to form, when word of the permit's demise got out, homebrewers didn't exactly take to the streets singing "Ding, dong, the witch is dead!" It was more like they yawned, and said, "Meh."

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Still, there were those who brewed at home who felt pressured to comply with the nearly 20-year-old regulation. They ponied up the $15 fee. Many others did so because they were partaking of the hobby through brew-on-premise shops, which, for reasons of protecting their businesses (and legitimately so), required patrons to apply for the permit before any brewing could take place.

What's more, BOPs probably accounted for last year's spike in the number of permits, given that there are at least two now operating in the state, Brewer's Apprentice, a fixture in the Freehold area since the mid-1990s, and Brew Your Own Bottle, a newer BOP and supply shop in Westmont in South Jersey. 

Like a lot of things surrounding craft beer, homebrewing is riding a wave of popularity, too.

The American Homebrewers Association, the national group that supports the hobby and sponsors Big Brew/National Homebrew Day, says its membership has crossed the 30,000 mark, a milestone for the organization that sprang from the 1978 legalization (technically, it's a federal tax exemption) of making beer at home.

The AHA also estimates that these days there are 1 million homebrewers in the United States and more than 1,000 homebrew clubs.

Big Brew this year will be observed on May 5, with homebrewers striking mashes simultaneously (or close to that) across the country, brewing from AHA-provided recipes (this year it's brown ale) or their own.

But the reality is, the event is a show of solidarity and camaraderie around the craft of making beer.

In New Jersey, there's an extra reason on Homebrew Day to raise glasses in a toast: Even though Gov. Christie's eliminating the permit obligation may seem like some pro-forma going through the motions,  it does provide some relevant cover for those who enjoy making and sharing their creations. New Jersey homebrewers can indeed say, "Ding, dong, that witch is dead."

Homebrew Competitions

The Tun Tavern is once again holding a pro-am homebrew competition, and Cricket Hill Brewing was planning another one toward the fall.

The entry deadline for the Tun Tavern's contest is Tuesday, May 1. And yeah, that's less than a month away, but this competition was announced weeks ago on homebrew forums, such as the Barley Legal Homebrewers, so consider this note a reminder. If you live in North Jersey, don't let the fact that this is in South Jersey keep you from entering. Well-made beer always wins.

Entries should be comprised of a six-pack or the equivalent of whatever style you're submitting, plus your contact information (email, cell phone number, land line ... just make it so you can be reached.)

Grand prize is a chance to scale up your winning recipe and brew a batch that will be served at the Tun's booth at the Garden State Craft Brewers Guild Festival, June 23 aboard the battleship USS New Jersey at the Delaware River waterfront in Camden. The prize also includes passes to the festival. The Tun's phone number is 609-347-7800.

As far as Cricket Hill's contest goes, we caught up with brewery co-owner Rick Reed at a Friday night tour and asked if they planned to hold another competition. If you remember, it was a homebrew competition that produced CH's nicely done Russian imperial stout, plus an IPA the brewery released just a couple weeks ago.

Rick says they plan to hold another contest, some time around or after August. Best bet is to mark your calendar and check with the brewery toward the end of July to see if their plans hatched in early spring are is the same in late summer.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

More tanks arrive at Flying FIsh

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Construction of the new Flying Fish brewery in Somerdale is really starting to come together.

There's still boatloads to do, after all, it's a quite an undertaking to set up an automated brewery that will triple the size of the one that has been producing 15,000 barrels of beer annually for a while now.

But on Monday, some more key pieces to the puzzle began falling into place. The brewery took delivery of six more tanks (fermenters and bright beer) from fabricators Paul Mueller Company of Springfield, Missouri.

The tanks arrived in pairs on flatbed trucks, and then, one by one, each was hoisted up to the roof and lowered through a hatch (specially created this purpose) and into the building.

From there, each tank was moved a few feet by forklift to make room for the next one. The tanks will be set on the concrete pad adjacent to the brewhouse over the balance of this week.

The work that took place Monday was the same process that played out back in February when the first round of fermenters and other tanks arrived from Mueller. The brewhouse equipment, custom made in Germany, arrived back in late January.

So when is all of this stuff going to be pressed into service to make beer? Well, that's a question best answered by the folks at Flying Fish (they say test brewing could start in May). But whenever that day comes, to quote Dr. Emmet Brown, "you're gonna see some serious shit."

Here are the photos from Monday.

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March beer fest madness

A kiss before trying (the beers)

Images from the Atlantic City beer festival last weekend (March 30-31).

The shots are from the Friday night session, and most are of folks who were with the home brands, the Jersey breweries that were there.

Got your Facebook page open? There are more uploaded to an album there.

Beer banter at NJ Beer Company booth

Meanwhile, below are shots (again more in a Facebook album) from Beers on the Boards, the March 24th Point Pleasant Beach festival at Martell's Tiki Bar that featured not only beer, but a buffet with foods prepared using some of the beers poured the event.

Beer me, please