Friday, July 26, 2013

Welcome to the archive for Beer-Stained Letter, the website that covers New Jersey's craft brewing industry. This page was, from January 2007 until July 2013, the place where everything written under the Beer-Stained Letter title regarding New Jersey's craft brewing industry was posted. That's changed. Now, for up-to-date posts about brewery news, beer people and beer life, click here.

Think Jersey, drink Jersey ...

– Jeff Linkous, July 26, 2013

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Again on the cusp of a Longshot win

In 2007 Dave Pobutkiewicz of Pompton Lakes made it to the finals of the Samuel Adams Longshot Homebrew competition with a helles bock. Dave's helles bock has taken him back in the finals for 2013. Check out the story here.

Reminder, this page will soon become an archive-only page. (See below for details.)

Monday, July 22, 2013

Brewery tenant in Flying Fish's former site

Follow this link for today's interview with Jamie Queli of Forgotten Boardwalk Brewery, the in-development brewery that has signed a lease for the Cherry Hill location where Flying Fish Brewing launched back in 1996.

Reminder, this blog site is transitioning in a few days to the full website at the link above. This page will become a 2007-2013 archive for the main site.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Carton Brewing: And so it gose

For the post about Carton Brewing's gose beer click here ...

Reminder, this blog page is being phased out with a upcoming website relaunch (see below).

Friday, July 19, 2013

Big change coming for Beer-Stained Letter

Within a few days, Beer-Stained Letter will relaunch as a fuller, easier-to-read website with better features.

For now, you can get a sneak peek here.

It's way overdue for a shift from a blog site, and this forthcoming change will accomplish that. This blog page will continue to exist, but will be labeled as an archive for Beer-Stained Letter:

No new posts will go up on after the relaunch. The blog will be solely an archive of the past 6 1/2 years of writing about New Jersey's craft brewing industry. All posts on it will continue to be searchable and accessible.

Think Jersey, drink Jersey
Jeff Linkous, July 2013

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Bolero Snort rye beer forthcoming

July looks to be a pivotal month for Bolero Snort Brewing.

The Bergen County beer company expects to have a second fermenter installed at its contracted brewer, High Point Brewing, within days, a move that will put a third Bolero Snort beer on the market.

The beer, There's No Rye-ing in Basebull (yes, it's a take on Tom Hanks' line in 'A League of Their Own') will be a 4.2% ABV quaffable pilsner-like rye beer, available in bottle and draft and available in late summer.

Bolero Snort co-owner Andrew Maiorana expects the forthcoming brew to play to a wider audience of beer drinkers, enticing to, say, Bud Light buyers, but still tasty enough to satisfy craft beer fans.

"This is going to be our take on a lighter lager, but still flavorful, and it's going to be a rye beer," Andrew says. "We were always hoping we would be able to put the rye beer out during the summertime, and it just so happens that it's working itself out, because we're going to get this second fermenter."

The second 30-barrel tank is due to arrive for installation at High Point by next Monday, if not before. The rye beer will likely be the brew that christens that fermenter.

"We hope to be selling it late August. We have the approval on name, we have the approval on the label, the keg collars ... everything is good to go," Andrew says. "We just have to get the fermenter."

Andrew and co-owner Bob Olson launched Bolero Snort, based in Ridgefield Park, around the beginning of 2013, striking a contract-brewing agreement with High Point (known for the Ramstein brand) and putting a 30-barrel fermenter in the Butler (Morris County) brewery. That tank enabled Bolero to enter the Garden State's craft beer market in March, first with draft amber and dark largers, Ragin' Bull and Blackhorn.

Bolero's draft business was followed soon afterward with bottled versions of the two brews. But the company was still left with only a pair of brews in the market, while Andrew and Bob's advance marketing efforts in 2011 and 2012 gave beer drinkers in North Jersey (Bolero's primary distribution area) reason to expect a wider footprint from Bolero. (You'll notice by the printing on their case boxes that a porter is part of their plans.)

The answer to that constraint has been to dress up those two launch beers, like the maple-pecan version of Ragin' Bull that Bolero offered for a cask festival at Uno Chicago Grill and Brewery in Metuchen late last month. Such treatments, in effect, have been a way for Bolero to have different brews in the market and hold beer drinkers' interest, despite the capacity limits of a single fermenter.

"Right now, we can't produce a third with the single fermenter. One of the two (labels) would suffer," Andrew says. "There are accounts that take just Ragin' Bull; there are accounts that just take Blackhorn, and you'd be surprise by how many accounts take just Blackhorn – a lot, actually."

Thus, the new tank is the source of plenty of anticipation for Bolero Snort, a crucial step toward growing the brand and distribution.

"We're pumped. We're really excited," Andrew says, during a stop at High Point last Saturday to drop off case boxes and some empty sixtels. "This third beer is going to put us into another level, and increase our recognition in the state. With that, we'll also increase our distribution throughout the state. We're going to spread a little more south, a little bit more west. We're going to try to keep working the boundaries.

"We've been opening up accounts here and there, a bit more out of our immediate distribution area," Andrew says. "We get requests from people, even as far as Cape May, who say they have liquor stores, or ask 'Where can I find your beer?' Unfortunately, we can't accommodate those people right now."

Monday, July 15, 2013

A Ramstein one-off, plus Oktoberfest

Another foray into one-off beers by weizen beer specialist High Point Brewing, which also for the first time bottled a non-wheat beer under its Ramstein brand.

Additionally of note for High Point: The brewery has gotten the earliest jump ever on producing its signature Oktoberfest seasonal.

Released last Friday, High Point offered up a new one-off brew, a bourbon-barrel aged version of its 6.5% ABV maibock, taking the beer beyond its German traditions and big malty profile by giving it a pleasing tang with the addition of some lactobacillus and oak characteristics from the whiskey barrel.

The brew made for a well-received follow-up to a Belgian-style chocolate cherry sour ale that High Point brewed at the end of last year.

For quite a while now, craft brewers up and down the state have been whiskey-barreling some of their beers for maturation and flavor effect. But the Buffalo Trace distillery oak High Point got its hands on was an inaugural effort at bourbon-barrel aging a Ramstein beer. 

The maibock, like the chocolate cherry sour, were tasting room treats, extras for tour patrons who show up at the Butler brewery for the Ramstein lager and wheat beers.

The jazzed-up maibock went fast, gone by early Saturday afternoon, reflecting the potential of craft brewers' tasting rooms to engage the public with small-batch beers that also give breweries and their tour patrons an additional beer theme to take up. It's all part of what lawmakers in Trenton enabled last year when they updated the rules for Garden State craft breweries.

"We had four kegs that we allocated for the brewery. We were open for four hours, and we sold out of them," says High Point owner Greg Zaccardi. "(It's) the excitement we have now with this new law. Let's be honest, we can make a few more dollars, but we also have to make it interesting. People are going to come here and buy the beer only if it's really worth coming."

The flavor profile of the barrel-aged maibock featured caramel-like signatures against a bright citrus quality, plus bourbon and vanilla from the wood.

"It had that tartness, that yogurty tang," he says. "But the nice thing about it is, you get that thirst-quenching sensation, then it stops to a clean finish of bourbon and vanilla."

Giving the maibock the barrel tweaking, taking it outside its traditional construct, put an emphasis on the sensory elements of beer.

"This was a way for us to get to people, get them to come in and think about what's going on – and they're educated," Greg says. "It draws attention to all the elements of beer. People start talking about aroma, they start talking about texture, they start talking about balance, complexity, depth of flavor."

The beer was a one-off, and though it's gone, there's more where that came from, so to speak.

"I'm not saying we're going to make a beer like it every week. But I would like to believe that every other month or so we're coming out with some sort of unique way of making beer taste different that what you're expecting," Greg says.

Meanwhile, High Point already has its top-rated Ramstein Oktoberfest in kegs. July has historically been the month High Point began brewing the märzen for its annual release on the second Saturday in September. (For years, the brewery has made a tour-day event of the märzen, ceremoniously tapping an Austrian oak keg to salute Oktoberfest.)

Over the past year few years, High Point has begun brewing the 6% ABV märzen earlier and earlier, reflecting increased demand for the seasonal, which, as a lager, requires the requisite longer conditioning time. This year, brewing began right after Memorial Day so High Point could both boost production by about 20 percent from last year and better work to distributors' needs.

"In May, we got a list of pre-orders for Oktoberfest from our distributors. They said, 'We'll pick it up in July if you have it,' " Greg says. "So why would we not brew it, if we had bona fide purchase orders for it? That's really what drove us to adjust our production schedule."

Meanwhile, the märzen's junior sibling, Ramstein Amber Lager (5.5% ABV, also called Northern Hills Amber Lager), was recently bottled for the first time ever, a moment that also marked the first instance of High Point bottling a beer other than its signature Blonde, Classic dunkel and doppelbock wheats. (Ramstein Oktoberfest, maibock, imperial pilsner, and golden lager are draft-only brews; the same goes for a 6% ABV pale ale that works its way in and out of High Point's lineup.)

"The beer is a hoppy, slightly lower-gravity sessionable version of our Oktoberfest. We have a lot of interest and (accolades) for our Oktoberfest, and we thought about making it year-round. People always ask us to make it year-round. It's just not designed for that," Greg says. "We wanted to make something that was in a similar vein but could be consumed year-round, and that's what this beer is."

Some of the amber lager, which is a favorite among Ramstein's Facebook followers, is destined for the festival Mondial de la Bière Europe in France Sept. 12-15. It's at least the second time Ramstein beers will be at the event.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Rinn Duin gets OK from federal regulators

Tokens on tasting room bar
 Rinn Duin Brewing cleared a key hurdle last week, with federal regulators signing off on the company's brewer's notice.

That happened on Monday (July 8th); Rinn Duin's application to the state for a brewing license is still pending.

Founder Chip Town says once the ongoing brewery buildout wraps up, he hopes state regulators will be able to inspect the brewery and issue a license quickly.

"I'm expecting by end of August, beginning of September we'll be out on taps," Chip says. "We're that close now. It's a matter of finishing this (buildout) in the next couple of weeks and getting the testing done. Once that's done, a couple of weeks to make the beer, keg it and get it out the door."

Rinn Duin founder Chip Town in the
Toms River brewery's tasting room
The 25-barrel brewhouse, mash tun, 50-barrel fermenters and other tanks began arriving at the brewery in Toms River (Ocean County) late last month. The fermenters and other tanks are upright; the brewhouse is in place, but still needs its scaffolding erected, plus some other installation work.

"Everything is approximately where it should be. Now what we've got to do is tweak the exact position because the piping is all premade," Chip says. "The technicians are here. One is doing the piping, the other one is doing the electrical installation, all the control panels, all the motors. It's probably going to be 15 to 20 days to do the complete installation.

"Once we've got all the piping and the wiring done, I can call for a (certificate of occupancy), and then the ABC will come in and do their inspection."

Brewhouse, assembly required
Forty-four draft accounts have been expressed interest in Rinn Duin's session brews – a blond, a brown, Irish red and smoked Scottish ales. Getting those brews into bottles is going lag behind the draft business a little bit, Chip says. He forecasts bottling to get going in the fall.

Rinn Duin's six-tap, 500-square-foot tasting room was finished during the springtime and is stocked with glassware (shaker pint glasses and growlers). Beer drinkers can expect plenty of brews exclusive to the tasting room.

"Those taps are going to have a lot of different beers in them that you aren't going to see in the bars right away," Chip says.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Flying Fish tasting room & Menendez visit

Senator Robert Menendez notes some
accomplishments of Flying Fish
after touring the brewery on Monday
Flying Fish toasted its year-old Somerdale facility with a visit from U.S. Senator Robert Menendez, whose tour of the brewery on Monday was also the highlight of a soft opening of Flying Fish's new tasting room and the bottle release of its hurricane fundraiser beer, FU Sandy.

Senator Menendez, a co-sponsor of legislation to cut federal excise taxes for craft brewers by as much as half, took a brief tour of Flying Fish's brewery space, checking out some firkins and wooden barrels at the foot of towering fermenter tanks. He then raised a pint of Flying Fish Farmhouse Ale with company president Gene Muller and sales director Andy Newell in the new 10-tap tasting room. 

From left: Andy Newell, Gene Muller,
and Senator Robert Menendez
The senator saluted 17-year-old Flying Fish as a groundbreaker in the state, noting the brewery's growth since its move last year from its founding location of Cherry Hill, and saying: “It’s the first microbrewery here in southern New Jersey, and the first new brewery in the region in more than half a century. The $6 million expansion in 2012 has enabled Flying Fish to triple production and create two dozen new jobs.” 

There's more growth ahead: Flying Fish has two more 150-barrel tanks coming later this month.

Last May, Senator Menendez highlighted the introduction of the federal legislation to cut the excise tax on craft breweries from $7 a barrel to $3.50 on the first 60,000 barrels of beer produced, a reduction that would actually make the federal tax slightly lower than New Jersey's tax on craft beer production. (Others from New Jersey's congressional delegation who are supporting the measure include Reps. Rush Holt and Leonard Lance.)

Meanwhile, Flying Fish's new tasting room opened quietly on either
side of the Fourth of July holiday for growler fills and sales of six-packs and of the limited-release bottled FU Sandy.

Joe Torres, who recently joined Flying Fish to run the brewery's tasting room, says a total of 109 growlers were sold last Wednesday and Friday, plus nine cases of Sandy, the wheat-pale ale first brewed last winter to raise money for Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. 

Initially draft-only, FU Sandy sold out effortlessly and was brought back with a draft release in June and 750-milliliter bottles that began hitting store shelves early last week. 

Flying Fish's tasting room is still somewhat a work in progress: Some wallboard still needs to be hung, and the air-conditioning is getting a tweak. Thus, the soft opening. (Check with the brewery for tasting room hours; by the way, Flying Fish has logo'd growlers.)


Casey on brewhouse steps
It's been several weeks since former head brewer Casey Hughes left Flying Fish for Tampa, Florida, and Coppertail Brewing, a start-up brewery of similar size to his New Jersey alma mater. But Casey, an avid fisherman, didn't leave without sharing a one-that-got-away tale, specifically, a beer with a Garden State-crop ingredient whose brewing eluded him during his 10-year tenure.

"Cranberry Berliner weiss. It's a style, being in the state of New Jersey, the one beer I've always said I wanted to make," Casey says. "That was the beer. I love Berliner weiss, and I'd love to do one down in Florida. It seems now that everyone brews Berliner weiss in Florida. The state seems to have really (glommed) onto that style, so I probably won't be able to do one for a while until it all calms down there."

Here in New Jersey, Casey says,  "somebody else will get to make that beer." 

Friday, June 28, 2013

Cricket Hill goes big on hops, little on ABV

From the brewhouse, a word on
 Jersey-brewed from Rick Reed.
You say you like hops but want your fix in a session beer, not a brew that does IPA with a lot of ABV?

Then Cricket Hill Brewing has the answer for you: Big Little IPA, a small-batch beer that's waiting in the wings of a July 1 release. 

Think of Cricket Hill Hopnotic India Pale Ale's sessionable 5.2% ABV but with a more robust bitterness (Nugget and Willamette hops), nearly twice the IBUs, in fact. 

Big Little IPA was included in Cricket Hill's offerings last Saturday on the Battleship New Jersey at the Garden State Craft Brewers Guild festival, served up as a teaser to its release.

At a time when a lot of hops lovers are finding comfort with a brew like Founders session brew All Day IPA (4.7% ABV, 42 IBUs) Big Little IPA offers a way to keep your quest for hop-kick in a session beer in the home state.

"We're giving the IPA flavor in Cricket Hill fashion," says founder Rick Reed. "We're not going to knock you down; we're not going to bowl you over. We're going to give you a good hop flavor, 76 IBUs, and you can drink it all day long."

Rick says the Fairfield (Essex County) brewery is winding down this year's production of its Jersey Summer Breakfast Ale, the end of the line of 225 barrels' worth for the hot-weather season. You can expect a big smoked rye for September release, plus another fall seasonal.

"For the first time ever," Rick says, "we're going to abandon the Reinheitsgebot. Under pressure from distributors, we're going to come out with a pumpkin beer. We've never done it before ... the market's there, so we're going to try it."

*ABOUT THE PHOTO: Folks who have been to Cricket Hill brewery tours know Rick usually gives a little speech from the brewhouse deck, a sort of comparative assessment of craft beer's advantages over the big factory beers. 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Uno holding first summer cask event

Brewer Chris Percello pours a half pint of cask ale.
Over the years, Uno Chicago Grill & Brewery has staked out territory as a champion of real ale, annually staging spring and fall cask events.

The most recent one at the Middlesex County brewpub last March saw a healthy crowd polish off 60 gallons of Jersey-brewed cask beer in about four hours. 

Now Uno's brewer Chris Percello is presenting a first-ever summer cask event on Saturday, with another Garden State lineup that this time stirs newcomer Bolero Snort Brewing into the mix. (Bolero launched as a contract beer company back in January, with its beers made at High Point Brewing in Morris County.)

Also featured will be beers by Carton and Kane Brewing, from neighboring Monmouth County, Climax Brewing, and Flying Fish. 

Kane cask
The pay-as-you-go event of half and full pints begins at noon at the Metuchen brewpub and will last as long as the beer does. Chris' advice is to arrive early if you want to get a taste of the entire lineup.

This incarnation will be Chris' fifth turn at the cask event, something he inherited when he took over as brewer from Mike Sella, who jumped to Basil T's brewpub in Red Bank in 2011. Mike started the Uno cask events in 2009.

"We're probably going to have at least three firkins this time around and about seven pins," Chris says. "The most important thing is making people aware of the great beer we have in our state."

Among Chris' own contribution of house beers will be a saison dressed up with lemon verbena and Szechuan peppercorn, thanks to a people's choice survey.  

"It's a basic saison recipe. I use French saison yeast. In the actual brew I use coriander and lemon peel," Chris says. "Then we put it out there and asked people how they would like me to treat the pin. The combination they selected is lemon verbena and szechuan peppercorn added to the pin. We're hoping to get a little more of that lemon character out. 

"The szechuan peppercorns, although not like a typical peppercorn – they're actually not even considered a peppercorn – have a nice woody, earthy, slight citrus taste, and actually leave a kind of a numbing, tingling feeling on your tongue. They're actually supposed to enhance other flavors."

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

NHC: A talk with the AHA's Gary Glass

Which came first, homebrewing or craft brewing? 

The best answer may be that they're twins – not quite identical, certainly more than fraternal – arriving ever so close together, with craft beer growing a little faster than homebrewing, yet homebrewing never existing much more than a whisper away. 

And like any close family tie, especially among twins, one preternaturally knows what the other's thinking and doing. 

More practically, it's safe to say, homebrewing helped launch the craft brewing industry, and virtually on a daily basis it creates new commercial brewers, while the taste for craft beer helps attract people to the hobby of brewing at home. 

"It's kind of a cyclical thing," says Gary Glass, director of the American Homebrewers Association, the national organization founded 35 years ago to promote the homebrewing hobby. "The two communities, professional and amateur craft brewers, are part of one larger community. In the United States, we have breweries that produce a wider range of styles than anywhere else in the world, and it is a direct reflection of the homebrewing community that we have in this country. No other country has a homebrewing community that is as well-developed as we have here." 

As for that chicken-or-the-egg question, Gary says: "Back in the (late) 1970s, when the very first craft breweries started to open in this country, it was homebrewers who were opening (them). But there had to be some kind of initial exposure to something more than the American light lager that was ubiquitous in the country at the time. In a lot of cases, it was exposure to beer that was made maybe overseas – Germany, or Belgium or England – whether on vacation or traveling for work, or stationed in the military. People got exposure to those beers and came back and couldn't have them here, so they started brewing their own. That was kind of the start, but there's still that need of exposure to craft beer, flavorful beer, before you make that leap into homebrewing. They both feed upon each other: As homebrewing has grown, more of those homebrewers have opened craft breweries, more people are exposed to craft beer and then become part of that pool of people who can become homebrewers."

Beginning Thursday, homebrewers will take center stage in Philadelphia's craft beer scene, when the 2013 National Homebrewers Conference kicks off with speakers (Tom Peters of Monks Cafe is the keynote speaker), seminars and the crowning of this year's National Homebrew Competition winner. 

The three-day run marks the conference's return to the Mid-Atlantic region for the first time in eight years. The event has quadrupled in size since that Baltimore gathering; interest in the hobby has surged since then, and correspondingly, homebrewing supply shops have done well. Brewing supplies have even begun staking out shelf space at stores like Whole Foods. 

"It's phenomenal growth right now," says Gary, who earlier this month took some time to talk about homebrewing's popularity, the upcoming conference and the hand-in-hand relationship homebrewing continues to enjoy with commercial craft brewing.

BSL: Homebrewing, as a hobby, has clearly staked out some comfortable space and an identity that's cut loose from being an esoteric pursuit. It's much more plugged into the culture now, and enjoys a wave of popularity alongside craft beer in general. What has that meant for the American Homebrewers Association? 
GG: Since 2005, we've averaged 20 percent annual growth in membership, and we were seeing similar numbers at retail. We just did our survey of homebrew supply shops for the 2012 year, and we found that, overall, shops that sell homebrew supplies grew by 26 percent in gross revenue. Those shops that are focused on primarily selling homebrew supplies grew by 29 percent. 

BSL: That leads to this question, last year the AHA announced a milestone, passing the 30,000 mark in membership. That was truly a big moment, wasn't it? 
GG: It was a very big moment. I started with the American Homebrewers Association in 2000, and we had a little over 9,000 members at the time. It kind of went between 9,000 and 10,000 from then and until 2005, five years of being pretty flat, and previous to that it had dropped. So, ever since 2005, to see this tremendous growth – consistently growing at around 20 percent – it's just amazing. In any other kind of business, you would think that would be unsustainable in such a period of time, in eight years that kind of growth. 

BSL: And that's just people who have signed up with an organization, a head count you can audit. What are the best estimates for the overall number of people who have become homebrewers?
GG: It's definitely over a million people now in the United States. My best guess would be somewhere around like a million and a half, 1.6 million, somewhere in that area. But that really is a difficult number to pin down. 

BSL: Are you able to get a snapshot of demographics in homebrewing, how age groups are represented in the hobby?
GG: It's one of the questions we survey retailers with, what's the demographic of people buying beginner kits. What we found a couple of years ago was that almost half of the shops were seeing the biggest sales going to people under the age of 30. It's kind of creeped back into that 30 to 39 range being the most common age group buying beginner kits. But it has been in that 20 to 30 in the past several years. Before 2005 or so, it would have been more in the 30 to 40 range. That was about the time Generation Y was becoming of legal drinking age. I think that Generation Y is really fueling a lot of the growth that we're seeing in the hobby now.

BSL: Aside from craft beer's rising profile, what has contributed to homebrewing's surging popularity, or helped sustain it as a hobby?
GG: The single biggest change that has brought about this growth is access to information. Before, there were a couple of books that people (had available) to read. But now, the availability of information online ... it's really helped homebrewers succeed from the get-go, be able to make great beer from the start, which really hooks them into the hobby. People are succeeding with the hobby at an earlier stage than previously.

BSL: Let's talk a little bit about the National Homebrewers Conference, which is in Philadelphia this year. With the spike in interest in homebrewering, that has certainly posed some challenges for organizing the annual national gathering, hasn't it?
GG: We plan these conferences years in advance. I signed a contract for Philadelphia after our 2010 conference in Minneapolis, and then the 2011 conference had a 50 percent jump in attendance. I hadn't really anticipated that kind of growth. When I signed a contract for Philadelphia, I wasn't anticipating what we ended up with, which is, we'll have somewhere around 3,400 attendees in Philadelphia because we were able to expand our space available for this conference. We were very fortunate in Philadelphia that the hotel we're at is attached to the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

BSL: When was the last time the conference was on the East Coast, in this area and what was attendance like?
GG: It was Baltimore in 2005. We had about 850 attendees, and that was our biggest conference to that time. Last year, we had about 1,800; we sold out that conference in two days. That was in the Seattle, Washington, area. This year it took 20 hours to sell out, almost double the capacity.

BSL: So, again, this is a tricky task, finding a place to stage the conference, then gearing up for it ...
GG: That is the big challenge going forward. Finding those venues that are affordable for the attendees, recognizing that the attendees are hobbyists when most conventions are for business people who have their businesses paying their way. But with this conference, the attendees are paying their own way. It's important to us that to make sure it's accessible to as many members as possible, so we can try and keep the price down. Finding the venues that can house 3,000 to 4,000 or more attendees that are at that affordable level, that's the big challenge.

BSL: And sponsors, vendor participation, that has grown as well?
GG: I think it's 64 exhibitors this year. We used to have just a handful of exhibitors not too long ago. Last year, we had 40-something exhibitors, and this year we just ran out of space. There were more businesses interest in exhibiting than we actually had space for. It was vastly more than what it's been just in the last few years.

BSL: Philadelphia is known within and outside the region as a great place for craft beer and Belgian beer styles. When you're planning the conference, do you aim for places where you can feature the local beer culture?
GG: Yeah. We try to find a location that's accessible to members, but that's also a desirable destination ... (Philadelphia) is one of the best beer cities in the country; one of the first cities to have a citywide beer week was Philadelphia. It's definitely a very well-established beer scene and is continuing to evolve. 

BSL: Part of the homebrewing culture is necessity driving invention, creating things you don't have but want or need to help you brew better ...
GG: Yeah, absolutely. For a lot of the homebrewers out there, myself included, a big part of their love of the hobby is you do kind of create your own equipment, build a brew stand or little innovations to make your brewery better. I have no doubt at all that I spend more time and money tinkering with my equipment than I do actually brewing on it. That's part of my own personal interest in the hobby, and certainly a lot of other homebrewers are like that, and then come up with that great idea. They (may) have the capacity to start making it commercially and making it available to other homebrewers. For example, Blichmann Engineering ... John Blichmann was an engineer, made tractors for a living, and just started creating gadgets for his own brewing purposes, and realized other people might be interested in those things. He eventually had a company, and it became a full-time business. He's got employees, and high-end, stainless steel top-quality equipment now available to homebrewers.

BSL: And some nano-brewers as well.
GG: Right. 

BSL: You noted how access to information, especially online, has played a big part in the growth of homebrewing. And your organization responded with some changes to its own website. 
GG: For a long time, was the official website. Back then it was the Association of Brewers, which included the Institute for Brewing Studies and the American Homebrewers Association, the Brewers Publications ... I think it was 2009 when we launched the new websites and broke the AHA portion of Beertown out and made that into, and created as the consumer facing website we use to promote all craft beer.

The response was tremendous. It really allowed us to focus those particular groups. I would say the AHA has done a much better job of serving our members as well homebrewers under than ever could have under Beertown. We have 40-something-thousand people on the AHA forum, which I couldn't have fathomed when we launched the new website. Previous to that we had an email forum, which was just for members. We made a conscious decision to make it open to all homebrewers, and I think we've seen, as a result, that was a very wise decision. It allows us to provide that information (via) that forum to every homebrewer out there. 

BSL: One can easily say that inside almost every homebrewer is a brewer yearing to go pro. A lot do, and a lot turn seek formal training. Do you have any statistics on perhaps how many people have pursued formal brewing programs because of the AHA?
GG: That is an interesting question, and I don't have the answer for that. I do know a lot of those programs like Siebel Institute, American Brewers Guild, U.C. Davis are certainly involved with the American Homebrewers Association. They're exhibitors at our conference, advertisers in our magazines. They certainly see we are funneling people into their schools. Interestingly, there have been several universities that have started brewing programs of late ... Colorado State in Fort Collins does a business of beer program for people looking to start a brewery. There are brewing programs just getting underway in Auburn University in Alabama. (Alabama) just legalized homebrewing, and they've got a program to train people to be professional brewers.  

BSL: Speaking of professional brewers from homebrewer stock, can you talk a little about that long-established and continuing trend?
GG: We're seeing explosive growth in homebrewers who are taking that next step and starting their own brewery. The Brewers Association has over a thousand breweries in planning; we just surpassed 2,000 total breweries in the country in 2012. Growth in the hobby is translating into growth in the number of people who are taking that next step and opening their own breweries.

1,000 batches & a homebrew shop later ...

Brett Mullin checks labels on kegs of homebrew
dropped off at his supply shop in Westmont. The
kegs were later delivered to the National
Homebrewers Conference in Philadelphia.
For Brett Mullin, the carboys in the garage of a home where he was helping redo a basement begged the question. 

What are those? 


From where, exactly? 

Home. Yes, you can make beer in your garage, the homeowner said. 

Impressed and curious, Brett, then barely past his 18th birthday, was hooked on the idea and decided to give making beer at home a shot.

With a kit given to him as tip by the homeowner, he turned out an IPA, augmenting the task with some additional equipment and supplies he picked up the next day at homebrew shop that has now since closed. 

"I started it at 11 o'clock at night. I didn't finish up until like 4 or 5 in the morning," he says.  

That was 11 years, a career change and 1,000 homebrew batches ago. "Ever since then, I've been brewing like crazy," he says. 

Beer, indeed, has become a dedicated pursuit for Brett, a guy who brews six days a week and teaches other people how to brew, as well. His past curiosity is now an occupation: Brew Your Own Bottle, the homebrew supply shop he opened after a chronic shoulder injury forced him out of carpentry work, just observed its third anniversary in business.

With the three-day National Homebrewers Conference kicking off in Philadelphia on Thursday, Brett's shop, like others around the region, has served as a drop-off spot for kegs of homebrew destined for serving at the conference.

Brett timed the brewing of his 1,000th batch to fall around his shop's anniversary. (Nine composition books filled with brew-day notes and details chronicle his years of beer-making, the diary of a malt activist, if you will.) 

"I did what's called a double-double," he says, explaining the 10-gallon for Batch 1,000. "You take your first mash, your first runnings from that and you mash that in another beer. You're basically making a very high alcohol, very malty kind of beer. It came out with an original gravity of 1.120. I figure it's going to finish out at 1.020 or 25, about 13.1% ABV."

Brett divided up the batch (made with 44 pounds of grain) so he could use different yeasts to ferment it: Two with British ale yeast, another with an Irish ale yeast. 

"It'll probably take two weeks to ferment out to, say, 025 or 030, and then over the next year, it'll keep dropping down a little bit at a time," he says. 

Not one to sit still, he's already thought of the next brew. For that, Brett's going back to his roots, an IPA. But after all the time he's been brewing, that IPA is one he has refined into what he expects from an India Pale Ale. Thus it's a nod to Heady Topper. His version was crafted through comparative sampling of the Vermont double IPA and his own creations.

"I think I have it pretty much nailed. It's perfect for me, and I'm probably going to brew that again because I only have 10 gallons left of it. It's one I always have on tap," he says.

And that very first IPA, that beginning beer? Brett still has some of it. Over the years, it has flavor-morphed from IPA to something like cream ale and doesn't score well on the test of time. 

"It's not a very good beer," he says. "It did not age well at all."

Friday, June 21, 2013

NJ craft brewers guild fest is Saturday

The Garden State Craft Brewers Guild returns to the battleship USS New Jersey for the 17th incarnation of the organization's festival.

As followers of the home-state brews know, this event at the Camden waterfront is the only beer festival in the state to exclusively feature Jersey-brewed beers. 

This year, the guild has added a VIP session ($55, tickets are limited) stocked with a dozen cask-conditioned ales, in adition to the regular admission ticket ($45).

Also being served is a guild-collaboration beer that harkens back to Ballantine India Pale Ale.

Admission includes a tour of the battleship (find tickets here). Music again is the Cabin Dogs. 

Last year saw the lineup of breweries at the festival increase by five, reflecting the growth in the state's craft beer industry. You won't find any new brewery additions this go-round; none of those in development were licensed in time. Nonetheless, if you're going to the festival, keep your ears open because you're likely to hear about new breweries in development.

It's a shirt!
The Welcome to Brew Jersey image that graces this blog (and was created by the blog's owner) is now a shirt. The design was donated to the Garden State Craft Brewers Guild, which will have Welcome to Brew Jersey shirts on sale at the battleship festival. 

Beer Minute: Brewery count tops 2,500

A mid-year tally of U.S. breweries in operation finds the number has topped 2,500. The Brewers Association's count of 2,514 as of May 31 – the figure is up 422 from the same time in 2012 – goes beyond craft brewers to include the mega breweries, such as Budweiser and MillerCoors and their holdings. Of note, there are 1,167 brewpubs and 1,214 microbreweries. The BA's count of breweries-in-planning is at 1,559, up 331 from the same period last year. That breweries-in-planning figure can be deceptive, given that the threshold for getting on the list is rather low, and the BA had to clean up its list  late last year, purging a couple hundred entries. The BA notes on its blog page that brewery openings are on pace to crack 3,000 next year. At what point the trend begins to slow, where the ceiling is, and how far from that mark things settle is anyone's guess.
New Jersey's craft brewing regulations were changed last year by convincing lawmakers in Trenton that craft beer can help pull the oars of the economy. So this tidbit from the economic think tank National University System Institute for Policy Research helps build on that case: San Diego's craft beer industry means big bucks to that part of California: nearly $300 million in wages, capital spending and contracts. The policy research institute cites 2011 figures, the most current available. (The policy institute itself has only been around since 2007.) According to the institute, craft brewing makes a bigger economic splash for San Diego than the annual Comic-Con, and employs 1,100 people. 
Here's an older item out of the Brewers Association, but it's still worth noting. The BA recently hired an economist from the University of Iowa, Bart Watson, to study the craft brewing industry with an eye toward developing statistical tools for association members and state brewing guilds across the country. Besides doing the data crunching, the job calls for producing a state-by-state impact study.
Portland, Maine, brewer Allagash notes on its Facebook page that its ever-changing Fluxus beer, an expected late July release for 2013, is a porter this time out, brewed coffee and chocolate malts, blood orange, and hopped with Perle, Tettnang and Glacier. An abbey yeast turns it all into beer. (Fluxus 2012, a Belgian strong pale ale, was brewed with spelt and pink and green peppercorns.)
California brewer 21st Amendment's Hop Crisis is back for a third year. The 9.7% ABV imperial IPA that's part of 21st Amendment's limited edition Insurrection Series features new dry hops with New Zealand Motueka and Australian Stella blended with Northwest Cascade hops. The canned beer is being sold in four-packs. (Lower De Boom barleywine and Marooned on Hog Island oyster stout are the other Insurrection brews.)
Here's one for the traveling craft beer enthusiasts: Stone Farms, where Stone Brewing has been growing produce for its farm-to-table Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens restaurants, is opening to the public. Tours are offered Saturdays and Sundays for 20 bucks, and 10 bucks if you're not drinking. Stone has five acres of the 19-acre property under cultivation, growing year-round and seasonable crops. Fowl are also raised on the farm, producing eggs for garnishes, specialty dishes and appetizers. 

– The Beer Minute is a quick-read round-up of notable events or news about breweries from elsewhere that distribute in New Jersey.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Brown ale goes coconuts and coffee at Iron Hill

From left: Homebrewers Shawn 
Kaderabek, Mark Furfaro, Martin Webb 
and IH brewer Chris LaPierre
Bragging rights are always part of the prize whenever you're named a contest winner.

For winning homebrewers who claim a top prize of making beer on a professional brewhouse, those bragging rights get some extra lift when the beer you eventually make gets tapped for public consumption.

Such was the case Wednesday night at Iron Hill brewpub, with the tapping of Buccaneer's Bounty, an American brown ale dressed up with coconut and coffee that Gloucester County homebrewers Shawn Kaderabek, Mark Furfaro and Martin Webb brewed to take first place in this year's annual Iron Brewer contest.

The guys are members of the Barley Legal Homebrewers, the South Jersey homebrew club that meets at Iron Hill and has been part of the Iron Brewer competition since the Maple Shade brewpub opened its doors four years ago. Shawn, Mark and Martin brewed their prize winner on Iron Hill's system late last month. (See photos of their brew day here.)

Buccaneer's Bounty (6.0% ABV, 33 IBUs) was inspired by Koko Brown, Kona Brewing's toasted coconut-infused nut brown ale, and elaborated on with the addition of Sumatra coffee against a lineup of Perle, Styrian and Cascade hops. For a brown ale, the hops are a little more assertive in Buccaneer's Bounty.

"Two of our threesome here prefer a lot of hops, hoppy beers. So we went a little heavier on the hops in this beer than you might normally mix in there for the style," Martin says.

Iron Hill brewer Chris LaPierre is a veteran at taking recipes for 5- or 10-gallon batches and reworking them for commercial sizes of 15 barrels. Still, scaling up poses some conversion concerns, and when you add a food ingredient, like coconut – one that's less frequently used than say, honey or blueberries – things can gain a tougher curve to work against. 

A toast to Buccaneer's Bounty
"One thing that really surprised me about this beer is, if I were going to be making a beer with coffee and coconut in it, I never would have thought to put that amount of hops, particularly not American hops, in it," Chris says. "Any of the fruit or spice beers I make – the winter warmer, the pumpkin – I don't put (much) hops in it at all. So when I saw the (amount) of hops in this, I didn't know what to think of it."

Yet, Chris' working to Shawn, Mark and Martin's design produced a tilt toward a hoppier brown ale that gives Buccaneer's Bounty the quality of remaining pleasantly grounded in familiar, comfortable beer flavors. 

"Tasting the beer, I'm amazed by how well the hops play into it," Chris says. "It has a place in there; it makes sense. It kind of reminds you that it's a beer, despite all of the kitchen flavors, food flavors."

About the name
Shawn says Buccaneer's Bounty was a winning beer in search of a name. The moniker came after the contest judging and was arrived at through some resampling of the batch their contest entry was drawn from. Shawn and his co-brewers noticed hints of rum in the beer and a little bit of alcohol presence (there's no rum in the beer, or rum-barrel aging). That got them thinking about pirates, and after some word-associating, they came up with Buccaneer's Bounty. 

About Iron Brewer
The annual homebrew competition starts with Chris brewing Iron Hill's malt-monster beer, The Situation. The second runnings of wort are given to interested homebrewers to create a beer for competition. Top prize is the opportunity to brew at Iron Hill under Chris' guiding hand. Last year, Scott Reading and John Companick won with Om Nom Nom, an oatmeal cookie beer that also featured raisins, cinnamon and spice and vanilla bean. Scott and John, these days, are probably more notable for Spellbound Brewing, their in-development craft bre

Also out of Iron Hill: 
The company last year cracked the top 10 of the Brewers Association annual rankings for brewpubs, based on beer production. This year, with the January 2012 addition of Iron Hill's Chestnut Hill restaurant in Philadelphia, the company improved in the standings, reaching No. 7. 

Mark Edelson
The Rock Bottom brewpub chain continues to occupy the top slot. (Maple Shade continues to be the busiest of Iron Hill's nine locations for beer sales, while the Media, Pa., location leads in overall sales. Iron Hill plans to open a 10th restaurant in Voorhees this August. The long-range picture is for the company to double in size over the next seven years, expanding along the edges of its Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania market.)

Mark Edelson, one of Iron Hill's co-owners, acknowledged this year's list (published in New Brewer magazine back in mid-spring) and extended a healthy portion of credit to the Iron Hill food menu and the company's kitchens. 

"We'd be No. 1 if it were based on the kitchen," Mark says. "When the Brewers Association does the rankings, it's based on beer sales. If you look at those rankings, and they say the number of pubs each group has … you divide it out … there are some people in there who are selling either a lot of beer offsite, or they just sell a lot of beer. 

"We're probably lower than that on the amount of beer sold per pub, but that's because we're restaurant driven. We sell so much food, and food helps to drive the beer."

Monday, June 17, 2013

Beer Minute: StoneRuinTen release today

California brewer Stone has released a rebrew of its Ruination Tenth Anniversary triple IPA. Last year's observance of the IPA's milestone was well received, prompting Stone to put a rebranded version, StoneRuinTen, on the brewery's special-releases calendar for this year. Here's the beer's construct: 110 IBUs, a 50-50 blend of Citra and Centennial in a double dry-hop, and an ABV clocking in at 10.8%. The new name is a brewery and fan shorthand for 2012's Stone Ruination Tenth Anniversary IPA. Folks at the brewery suggest drinking this brew sooner than later to maximize the hops experience.


For a fifth consecutive year, Pliny the Elder tops a survey of American Homebrewers Association members asking which is the nation's best commercially produced beer. Russian River's highly acclaimed Elder bested Bell's Two Hearted Ale, Dogfish Head 90 Minute Imperial IPA, Bell's Hopslam Ale and Ballast Point's Sculpin IPA in results released Monday. Alas, three of the five (Pliny and both Bell's beers) are not distributed in New Jersey. Pull out your travel plans.

– The Beer Minute is a quick-read round-up of notable events or news about breweries from elsewhere that distribute in New Jersey.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Senate beer booster turns attention to distilling

Nine months after the playing field was leveled for New Jersey's craft breweries, state lawmakers have taken a key step to promote another craft sector in the alcoholic beverage industry – distilling.

On Thursday, a Senate committee advanced a measure that would create a craft distillery license that would help small-batch distillers operate in the Garden State. 

Camden County Democrat Donald Norcross, a key sponsor of last year's legislation that gave craft brewers greater freedom to retail directly to the state's beer drinkers, is a sponsor of the craft distillery bill. 

The measure was advanced by an Assembly panel last month. 

Under the legislation, holders of the license would be allowed to produce up to 20,000 gallons of liquor, provided they certify that 51 percent of their raw materials were grown or purchased in the state. Licensees would be required to include on their labels "New Jersey Distilled."

The license fee would be set at $938, considerably less than the $12,500 paid by Jersey Artisan Distilling, which opened in Fairfield earlier this year to become the only distillery operating and producing liquor with the state's borders since the end of Prohibition 80 years ago. 

Creating the license category with a substantially lower fee is an attempt to kickstart an industry that the bill's sponsors believe could take off in the state much like craft brewing has and offer an economic boost in tax revenues and jobs. Additionally, a few New Jersey craft brewers have in the past expressed interest in having a parallel distilling business if it were ever possible. 

“New Jersey’s current laws make it incredibly difficult for small-scale distillers to do business in the state. With several distillers prepared to open facilities, it’s well past time that we took steps to update our antiquated laws. This will help to facilitate growth of the craft-distillery industry while supporting our agricultural community and creating new jobs,” the senator says in a statement released Thursday by the Senate Democratic majority office.

The legislation (SCS for S2286/S463, A3518 in the Assembly) now heads to the full Senate for consideration. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Brew Ha-ha returns to Six Flags

There are beer festivals all over the state these days, so many it's hard to count 'em, and even harder to figure out what, besides location and date, distinguishes one beer-sampling event from the next. 

But here's one that's value-added, an event where the beers get the top billing, but there are some added attractions to complement the brews. 

For a second year, TotalBru will bring craft beers to Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson Township for Brew Ha-ha. It's a mix of beers, food and music in an open-air beer hall this Saturday, plus a comedy show to boot. (There's a separate Great Adventure entrance for the festival, by the way.)

"We want to give the guests real value, and while the beer tasting is always the main attraction, I think having food included and adding a comedy show to those who want to stick around are great ways to add value," says Chris DePepe, the guy behind TotalBru. "I also think for anyone who has not been to Great Adventure in a while, the $75 all-day pass with the beer fest included is a great deal."

 Find more details here.  

Thursday, June 6, 2013

A little longer wait for Sandy bottles

Boxes of labels for FU Sandy bottles


Think July, not June.

Flying Fish has put out out an update on the bottle release of its wheat-pale ale, FU Sandy, pushing back the date a little bit.

The 6.5% ABV brew that initially appeared in February as storm-relief fundraiser made a draft return last week (notably at the start of Philly Beer Week), but it's going to take a couple weeks longer for the 750 milliliter bottles.

The beer is due to be bottled in a week. However, such schedules can be subject to change. Additionally, the brewery's handling of the 750s is a two-stage process: They get the labels put on a day or so after they've been filled.

There are a few other circumstances related to doing business in New Jersey to factor in. The upshot is, the beer's bottle release is now the beginning of July.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Brewing up history: Ballantine IPA à la today

Harvest Moon brewer Kyle McDonald stirs the grist during
the mashing in of the  IPA collaboration at Carton Brewing.

At best, this IPA can only approximate the past.

But it can still satisfy the present. 

And who knows, maybe it will point toward a future.

Five New Jersey craft beer brands – production breweries Carton and Kane, joined by brewpubs Harvest Moon, Uno and Trap Rock* – convened at Carton's digs in Atlantic Highlands on Sunday to jointly strike a mash on an IPA that will ultimately surmise the taste, salute the legend, or simply speak the name of Ballantine IPA, a hearty gem born of Newark's now-gone brewing identity. 

Uno brewer Chris Percello
checks Cluster hops aroma

Ballantine was chosen, says Carton founder Augie Carton, as a way to give the collaboration a Jersey-centric theme. It also allows the team marshaled from the Garden State Craft Brewers Guild to reclaim some of the state's brewing lore, given Ballantine IPA's influence on modern craft brewing. 

"It's from Newark, New Jersey. The yeast that Ken Grossman cultured to make Sierra Nevada, the Chico yeast, was stolen from Ballantine IPA. So it makes its way back," Augie says.

Using the IPA bible written by Stone brewmaster Mitch Steele as a guide (Ballantine's IPA is referenced in the book), the five breweries crafted a sturdy 8% ABV recipe with some adjunct ingredients (flaked maize) and Bullion hops to capture some signatures of the original beer. (The collaboration beer is being fermented with White Labs California yeast.)

Ballantine IPA label. Note that
it mentions Newark, something
that would disappear as the
the brewery changed hands.
The 15 or so gallons brewed on Carton's pilot system will be served at the guild's festival June 22 from a guild-bannered table, but hopefully talked about by all who trod the fantail deck of the USS New Jersey battleship, where the festival has been annually staged for nearly 10 years now.

Ballantine India Pale Ale owns a place in beer culture as an American-made IPA that won a following generations before the Pavlovian response those call letters – IPA – would come to evoke in craft beer drinkers today: a thirst for muscled-up, super-hoppy brews turned out by U.S. brewers rewriting the natively British style's guidelines. 

Ballantine's IPA was apparently brewed on either side of Prohibition. Some historians say the first printed references to the company making a beer designated India pale ale appeared as early as 1878. It could have been brewed even earlier. IPA, as style was in demand in England in the 1840s, with advertising references to India Pale Ale existing 20 years prior. Brewing the style the U.S. around that period doesn't seem that much of a stretch.

Whatever the case, Ballantine India Pale Ale, a 7.5% ABV wood-aged beer (60 IBUs) with its signature aroma owing to hop oils added to the aging vessels, went on the market post-Prohibition in 1934, about a year after the 21st Amendment had officially taken effect and the 18th Amendment was truly buried.

From left: Carton brewer Jesse Ferguson,
Kyle McDonald, and Uno brewer Chris Percello 
Overtime, as production shifted to other states via corporate changes, the brewing techniques evolved, with the alcohol content ultimately trending down a couple of points, after the IBUs were reined in. 

By the time Sierra Nevada Pale Ale was undeniably making a name for itself, Ballantine IPA was fading from the landscape, becoming a setting sun, but still revisited on homebrewer and beer enthusiast Internet discussion boards. Not to mention chat among brewers like the guild crew, pondering its quest to make something like it, or honoring it.

Stepping away from the brewing, Kyle McDonald, Harvest Moon's brewer, took some time to reflect on the moment, calling the gathering a chance to build a buzz about the guild's festival and what he hopes will be a "great IPA" plus a brewing camaraderie that continues.

"Collaborations are very trendy right now in the brewing industry. For us to do something like this, (it) offers something special at the battleship to encourage people to come out," Kyle says. "I hope to see more of this type of collaboration moving forward." 

*EDITOR'S NOTE: Trap Rock Brewery and Restaurant supplied hops for the brew, but brewer Charlie Schroeder was unable to attend the actual brewing. Also, a shout-out JessKidden, an email friend and an ongoing source of historical guidance to BSL. Thanks again. 

Clockwise from left: Michael Kane, Kyle McDonald,
Augie Carton and Jesse Ferguson

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Guild collaboration brew set for Sunday

How many Jersey brewers does it take to make 20 gallons of beer for a summer festival?

As many as can fit around a Tippy brew set-up at Carton Brewing on Sunday.

The Atlantic Highlands brewery, in conjunction with Kane Brewing from nearby Ocean Township, will brew a throwback IPA that echoes Ballantine India Pale Ale. 

The beer will be served at the Garden State Craft Brewers Guild Festival on June 22. 

Planned to track toward maltiness, the beer is also targeted to finish out at 8% ABV, with Bullion hops walking point. 

Joining the two Monmouth County breweries will be guild members Trap Rock brewpub (Berkeley Heights) and Uno's (Metuchen), and possibly some others. 

Philly Beer Week sees FU Sandy return

Flying Fish sales rep Mary Grace
Hodge pours FU Sandy Friday night
FU Sandy, the hurricane fundraiser beer brewed by Flying Fish, made its return at the opening-night festivities of Philly Beer Week Friday.

The next stop for the hybrid wheat-pale ale (6.5% ABV), brewed with experimental hops, is in its home state of New Jersey in a couple of weeks, in draft and bottles.

"It's back; it's strong. It's Jersey strong," says Andy Newell, Flying Fish's director of sales. "We're ready to go. We're really excited to be releasing it in 750 (milliliter) bottles. We wanted to get people excited about it. It's a great opportunity for all the people who didn't have a chance to taste it (previously)."

Philly Beer Week's Opening Tap, the kickoff event for the 10-day beer week, marked the first pour of the brew's second round. FU Sandy was initially released in February in a limited run of 50 barrels. Flying Fish brewed 200 barrels for the second installment of FU Sandy. Fifty barrels will be kegged, while the rest will be bottled.

The initial run raised $45,000 for three charitable organizations doing storm relief work. That figure represents all proceeds from the beer. A portion of the proceeds from the second batch will be steered to aid relief efforts from last October's hurricane-nor'easter hybrid storm.

"It won't be set up like it was before, as a straight-up, 100 percent fundraiser," Andy says. "But we're going to continue to build on the efforts we've made already. We're excited about that as well."

Friday, May 31, 2013

Pinelands Brewing buildout underway

Jason Chapman outside Pinelands' brewery space

Pinelands Brewing has its buildout under way at a small business park in southern Ocean County.

Owner Jason Chapman has been working in the margins of his day job at Stockton State College to get things moving at his 3-barrel brewery in Little Egg Harbor Township. 

Cutting piping
"We're just starting construction. The main thing is we've got our floor drain in. There's a little bit of cosmetic work, a couple bits of plumbing," Jason says. 

"We're looking at some time in August to get open. We've talked with the state, and they're pretty much waiting for us to get done with the buildout so they can come in and inspect." 

If all goes without a hitch, Pinelands will be one of at least three new breweries joining the ranks of Garden State beer-makers this year. Iron Hill brewpub took delivery of its brewhouse for its Voorhees location – its 10th and second brewery in New Jersey – last week and expects to open in August. Rinn Duin, a planned production brewery in Toms River (also in Ocean County), installed its brewhouse in late April and projects a July launch.

Jason says officials from Little Egg Harbor Township have been supportive. 

"Some towns, you say you want to open a brewery, even though it's a nano brewery … they don't know what that is. They think we're opening Anheuser-Busch," he says. "We communicated to them the scale we're doing, and they pretty much said, go ahead so long as everything is up to code."

Right now, plans call for launching with an IPA called Evergreen, and an American pale ale, Pitch Pine, a nod to the most prevalent species of tree growing in the expansive Pinelands National Preserve that envelopes a huge chunk of South Jersey. 

Floor drain plumbing 
Jason is also considering a wheat beer and either a black saison or a honey saison. Draft accounts in his hometown of Hammonton have expressed interest in Pinelands' beers, as have some in Atlantic City.

Situated at the southern tip of Ocean County, the coastal town of Little Egg Harbor is known regionally for clamming in the bay waters. It's also historically notable for a skirmish during the American Revolution in which a ragtag Colonial force under the command of Polish Count Casimir Pulaski were ambushed by the British.

Beer Minute: From Monster to ghost

It's over for Brooklyn Brewery's outsized barleywine, Monster Ale.

The brewery announced via its blog on Thursday that the 10.3% ABV, three-mash winter seasonal has been discontinued.

Like a lot of barleywines, this big beer ages well, the brewery says, so those who still harbor some in their beer holds should let it age gracefully until there's an occasion special enough to pour it.

– The Beer Minute is a quick-read round-up of notable events or news about breweries from elsewhere that distribute in New Jersey.