Monday, March 11, 2013

Barrels and honey

Some unfinished business from the weekend and back to the start of February:

Flounder Brewing produced its first batch of beer for sale on Saturday, and Kane Brewing is doing a tap takeover at Cloverleaf Tavern in Caldwell that features some of the Ocean Township brewery's beers taken to the hardwood.

The event itself is a bonanza of 17 brews – IPAs, browns, Belgians and stout.

Anyone who's been to Kane knows the brewery has a pretty cool rick of wood going, and the folks there cycle some interesting beers through those Jim Beam and Wild Turkey barrels. (Barrels are the brewery's Facebook avatar.)

Brewing started at Kane in July 2011, and the brewery has been giving its beers the barrel treatment from the get-go.

Last year's beer to made mark the company's first anniversary, 365, was a product of some barrel aging and blending. Kane's brew for the second anniversary will be all barrel-aged.

Here's owner Michael Kane from early February talking about what was sitting in the wood earlier this winter:  

"Head High and Overhead, we have Drift Line – we've done than before and it came out good, so we did six barrels of Drift Line. Then, there's some Belgian quad, some imperial stout, last year's anniversary beer, there's some of that."

And definitely more going forward.

While work was being done to finish up the brewery's cold box on Saturday, Flounder Brewing mashed in for its first official batch of a pale ale-amber beer crossover, Hill Street Honey Ale. 
Made with locally sourced orange blossom honey, Hill Street's a really quaffable beer, at 5% ABV, balanced with a gentle aroma of citrus grove, like you're standing at a produce cart of oranges.

The finish is an alternating embrace of honey and hops – really it's like those to ingredients are making out; there's a lot going on between them. 

Jeremy "Flounder" Lees, who launched the Hillsborough brewery with his brothers, brother-in-law and cousin, acknowledged the first brew with some relief and humor.

(The brew comes a year after being licensed and with some slight detours. It will be followed up with another brew day in mid-April. The brewery is still bringing some fermenters online.)

"As weird as it sounds, it's awesome to know that I'm actually going to pay taxes on this. Because it means it's official," he says. "It's only been several years … It's the most ingredients we've ever used, it's the biggest batch we've ever done, and so far so good.

Soft openings are planned for mid- to late May, with regular tasting room hours to start in June. 

"Because this is only one barrel at a time, we only have so many kegs and so many cases we can get out of this. I want to get another one or two full batches brewed and under my belt to have the inventory," Jeremy says. "It's still all about us getting our feet wet and figuring out our game plan and everything before we go too crazy. And that's fine with us."

Anyone who has started a brewery as a new career or side venture can tell you that behind the beer is someone whose understanding and patience is to be thanked. 

Standing at his Blichmann brew set-up, Jeremy gave his version of whom to thank:

"Everybody. Particularly family, and my wife, my very understanding wife, especially since we have 8-month-old twins at home. She's been very understanding in taking the kids when I've got to come down here work."