Saturday, October 6, 2012

Putting his stamp on things

Catching up with Chris Sheehan, brewer at J.J. Bitting brewpub ...

In a few days' time Chris will be heading west to the Great American Beer Festival, catching up to the five beers the Woodbridge restaurant-brewery sent to this year's gathering in Denver.

Bitting is one at least four Garden State breweries sending beer to the Oct. 11-13 festival (according to the GABF website, the other three are Flying Fish in Somerdale; Harvest Moon in New Brunswick; and Iron Hill Maple Shade, a bronze medalist last year for Vienna lager).

Bitting selections that Chris sent are Victoria's Golden Ale; Knockout Bock; a dunkelweizen; the hoppy foreign export Onyx Stout; and Bad Boy Oktoberfest, a GABF bronze medalist a dozen years ago. (They're all entered into competition.)

With just over a year under his belt at Bitting, having arrived shortly after Newark's Port 44 Brew Pub closed over the summer of 2011, Chris has spent his time in Woodbridge bringing to tap beers from his own recipe catalogue.

For instance, this year is the second go-round at Bitting for his wet hop Harvest Ale made with home-grown hops. Onyx Stout is a Jersey remake of the well-received Black Hole XXX Stout he turned out at Chelsea Brewing in New York.

The Harvest Ale went on tap a couple of weeks ago, the same day as the Central Jersey Beer Fest, the event Bitting has sponsored at a park near the pub for the past six years.

The 10 pounds of wet hops (of differing – some unknown – varieties) were used mostly for finishing, though some did get a 30-minute kettle addition. They came from upstate New York and Chris' home in Bergenfield, where one of his bines was a big-time producer, providing a fifth of the fresh hops he used.

Chris has also been tweaking some of the Bitting flagships, but he has been rather conservative in that regard with the Oktoberfest.

"I reworked all the recipes, except the Oktoberfest because it's an award winner from years ago. I did have to take sack of grain out of it. I was getting better (mash) extraction from a change in the crush of the grain and just better brewhouse techniques."

Good luck in Denver to Bitting, Iron Hill, Harvest Moon and Flying Fish.