Saturday, May 18, 2013

Samuel Adams Longshot last call

Next Friday (May 24th) is the deadline for entering Samuel Adams Longshot American Homebrew contest.

Lots of breweries sponsor homebrewing contests and brew the winners' recipes as one-time beers for the drinking public to enjoy.

In New Jersey, Cricket Hill in Fairfield (Essex County) ended up with a great imperial stout through a contest, and Iron Hill annually provides the second running of one its biggest beers to homebrewers who compete for a chance to brew at the Maple Shade brewpub. The Tun Tavern in Atlantic City has featured winners' beers at festivals across the Garden State.

But Samuel Adams' Longshot contest is about the only competition that promises the winners national exposure.

Find more details here. 

Friday, May 17, 2013

A talk with Turtle Stone Brewing's Ben Battiata

Ben in the Turtle Stone brewhouse area
For now, there are no pale ales, IPAs or hop-bomb double IPAs.

Turtle Stone Brewing sidestepped those workhorse styles of the craft beer world to walk a different path toward making a mark on New Jersey's beer scene. 

Probably the closest thing to them that Turtle Stone flirts with is a red rye ale and an American stout, the latter a brew that drives sales for the 14-month-old South Jersey production brewery. 

But when you look a little deeper into what owners Ben Battiata and Becky Pedersen are up to, you'll notice how that garden and food – jasmine tea, dark roast coffee or sweet potatoes, flowers – informs their brewing to create what are arguably boutique or artisanal beers.

More realistically, though, those ingredients are the answer to what inspires Ben and Becky's creativity and vision as brewers.

"We brew with certain things people aren't used to," Ben says. "Sometimes when people try (the beer), they love that it's completely different and that it tastes different. It's not what they're expecting.

"For me, I like to brew what I like. But it's also all part of that trying to create our own identity. I certainly respect the traditional styles of beer. I want to create my own versions of them, whether it's a take on a traditional style and just tweak it a little bit, or just go completely different and kind of ignore some of what people have been using as guidelines for so long."

That principle is what Turtle Stone was founded on, and it's led to brews that re-imagine beer as what it could be, not just what it should be. Recently, Ben took time for a talk about Turtle Stone's first year in business and where he'd like to see the Vineland brewery go this year. 

BSL: Describe that first year, what were the highs and the lows? 
BB: The highs were definitely getting started, getting our beer out there, having people get to experience our beer, us experiencing their reaction and reception of what we're brewing and want to introduce to the craft beer world. We were hoping to (have) production up a little higher than it is now. 

We did a lot of festivals this year, which were a lot of fun, good experience and learned a lot. We have a lot more plans, and hopefully they're going to get implemented soon ...

BSL: Turtle Stone still has some remaining work to do in the brewery space. Can you talk about that, what needs to be done for your 15-barrel brewhouse? (The system was bought used from a brewpub.)
BB: Yeah, 15-barrel system ... We just have some construction to do, some final installation of the equipment. We have our large cold box that we need to get set up, too, with the bright tanks in it ... They're not jacketed, so they have to go in there to regulate temperature. It's a typical brewpub setup, where the bright tanks would be in a cold box and serving directly from the bright tanks  ... 

Other than that, it's just getting that final construction done, and our tasting room permit. We're really going to do a lot with our tasting room area, bring in local people and get our beer out that way, too. 

The other area we want to get into is bottling. That's something we want to introduce fairly soon. We have a saison we want to bottle condition, so that's a beer we want to bring out for the season. It's a dandelion saison, peppercorns and lemongrass.

BSL: This is your first season with it? (The saison is called Dent De Lion, French for lion's tooth.)
BB: We didn't do it last year. By the time we started, it was a little late for us to get that in the season we wanted it. If we had been licensed in January, we probably would have had it ready to go by (March). Vineland is the dandelion capital of the world. We took a play on that and sort of celebrate the dandelion capital of the world status, and in turn make a beer with it, too. 

Becky's brother, Scott Pedersen, festival help
BSL: What beers are you regularly producing? What's emerged as the beer that tops your production? 
BB: Red rye and American stout are definitely the two main flagships ... Our American Stout, this year definitely proved that that was our biggest selling beer, most popular beer. It's been probably one of my favorite beers for the last 10 years. 

We have the Flor Roja (Spanish for red flower), which is hibiscus, blonde style. It's more of a California common style beer. We introduced that at our launch party. It did really well throughout the summer, then we kind of dialed that back toward the fall, when we had our sweet potato fall seasonal, which was awesome. (Turtle Stone also brews a jasmine green tea beer called Green Snale.)

BSL: What's the process for brewing with sweet potato? There's a lot of starch in there. How do you free up the sugars in that?
BB: We mash it, just like we would the grains. It's pretty much the same process of converting the starch to sugar in (barley) mash. We roast them first; roasting caramelizes some of the sugars. I think it adds a little more of that caramel sweet flavor ...

BSL: How does the beer finish out? 
BB: It actually has a clean finish. There's definitely some residual proteins left behind that give it a little bit more mouthfeel. We subtly spiced it with some nutmeg and cinnamon sticks in the boil. We used our house yeast, which is pretty much a version of the American ale yeast. We kind of categorize it as a märzen style beer, even though it's not a lager yeast, just because we called it Oktuberfest. Everything about the base beer was a märzen. We added maple syrup to the bright, which had a really nice effect on the flavor of the beer. 

BSL: What hops go with beer like that, something a little more noble-like?
BB: Definitely noble hops. I think I used Sterling. Definitely no Cascades. You don't want that citrus flavor. Sometimes that will take over a beer and conflict with the flavors you're going for.

BSL: There's been a number of coffee stouts from Jersey brewers over the past year, working with coffee roasters local to them. Talk a little about yours.
BB: We worked with a roaster in Millville, Cafe Magnum Opus, and did our Filboid Stout. We did a nice Sumatran roast ... it's a lesser acidic region. We did a cold toddy in the bright, as opposed to in the boil. When you expose a lot of heat to coffee you extract a lot of tannins. 

It was a really, really good beer, a little more expensive to make for us. We also used cacao nibs – Ecuadorian cacao nibs – and baker's chocolate. The nibs really give it a nuttier kind of flavor and nose.You get a little of that chocolaty nose, but you don't get much of that chocolaty flavor from it, so we also used dark baker's chocolate to get a really nice bitter dark chocolate.

BSL: And this is a beer you envision bottling at some point?
BB: That was the one beer we wanted to bottle for Christmas. That was one of the first ones we were going to try to do, but we weren't ready yet to bottle. We actually wanted to do packages because we get a lot of people asking ... for us, the market around here seems like it would be easier to get on the liquor store shelves. I have some liquor stores asking for our beer, but we're not packaging yet. 

BSL: Tasting rooms are an important side component for production brewers now, given the law change last fall that lets you retail in more ways now versus the past. What's your timetable for getting that part going?
BB: We want to have something open by the summer. We want to be able to get some of that shore traffic coming from Philly and Delaware to stop on their way, be able to actually get people in here. All throughout the year, we've had calls and emails, people wanting to stop in for tours and get growler fills, and the locals who want growler fills. So we really want to have something going by the summertime. That's one of our main focuses for this year.

Editor's Note: Video from 2011, a small festival in South Jersey.

A good sign

Some artwork started a few weeks back, and now a little more detailed. Done in Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

See the new Jersey Shore & sample some beer

A beer festival this Saturday that's worth your while.

The Jersey Shore Beer Fest from 2 to 6 p.m. at The Headliner in Neptune  is a fundraiser for the Richard S. Bascom Scholarship Fund, a nonprofit that The Headliner, a longtime fixture on the bar scene of Monmouth County, has supported over the years with wine tastings.

And now a beer event.

But there's another message to take away from the festival: The storm-ravaged shore is back. Yes, Superstorm Sandy did a number on the coastline, but there's been a great turnaround since those dark days at the end of October 2012. 

Believe it. Visit it. See it for yourself.

“We are very excited to be back at the shore just in time for a little warmup party for summer, and it looks like we will have the right weather for it," says Chris DePeppe, of TotalBru, the event promoter, and a Jersey Shore native (neighboring Wall Township) "The Jersey Shore has bounced back faster than anyone could have expected, and I think there is just a tremendous feeling of anticipation from Cape May to the Highlands. I know the locals are more than ready to get the season off to a good start. What better way than with a craft beer festival right outside in the sunshine right next to the Shark River Inlet?”

Count The Headliner among those shore landmarks in the rebound column. The Headliner has undergone extensive repairs and renovations since the storm: The interior has new bars, new flooring, and a new kitchen. The outdoor bars and beach volleyball courts will be opening just in time for the beer festival. 

Beers on the festival lineup include: Home-state favorites Flying Fish, Carton, Cricket Hill, Tuckahoe and Beach Haus; regional names like Brooklyn, Blue Point, and Yards; plus the always-reliable Stone, Smuttynose and Ommegang.

There will also be a specialty beer bar, featuring fruit beers and wheat beers and an IPA Happy Hour Bar.

You can get tickets and some more details through the festival website. Use the discount code of JSBF to ensure you get the $45 ticket price. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Insight into Tuckahoe Brewing's expansion

Jim McAfee (right) on a tour Saturday ... a growler to go
Tuckahoe Brewing put out the word awhile back that it had expansion plans in the works for its operation in the northern part of Cape May County. 

Now, here's some insight into the 17-month-old brewery's efforts to move away from its start-up brewing system and boost its brewing volume.

Founders Matt McDevitt, Tim Hanna, Chris Konicki and Jim McAfee are in the process of closing on the financing that will enable the brewery to step up to a larger brewhouse and corresponding fermentation tanks to keep up with a demand that is running well ahead of supply.

"It looks like we'll be getting this stuff in October or November, and maybe operating on it by the new year at some point," says Matt, who handles Tuckahoe's brewing duties, turning out a lineup of pale ale, Belgian wit, smoked porter and stout.

Matt and his partners are also in the process of tricking out their tasting room to add a bar.

"We're at the point where we can't brew any more than we are brewing, and the demand is such that our distributor is having to hold beer back from certain places because we don't make that much," he says. 

The plan right now, Matt says, is to remain in the Dennis Township location where the brewery launched in December 2011 and take over some adjacent space in the business park building that also houses a coffee roaster. (The neighboring roaster's Sumatran and Honduran beans were used in Tuckahoe's New Brighton Coffee Stout. The beer won best in show at the Atlantic City beer fest last month).

Exactly what size brewhouse Tuckahoe acquires to replace the 3-barrel PsychoBrew set-up now in use could go a couple of ways.

"We're probably heading to a 15-barrel brewhouse, possibly a 20 at the biggest. That kind of depends on used equipment," Matt says. "If something comes up that's 20 barrels that's used, we'll probably jump on that. But that's hit or miss. You can't depend on (finding) used equipment."

Used equipment has been a way to get start-up breweries into business sooner than later. But the market for used equipment has tightened sharply over the past couple of years, if not longer, as the number of craft brewery start-ups across the nation has risen. Additionally, delivery times for orders on new equipment have grown longer for pretty much the same reasons.

December 2011: First brew at Tuckahoe
Tuckahoe's capacity is a pressing concern. Demand last summer put a squeeze on the brewery; this summer probably won't be any different. As an example, Matt points to the Deauville Inn in nearby Strathmere (Upper Township), one of the brewery's draft accounts. The Deauville runs through four kegs a week of Tuckahoe's top-seller, Dennis Creek Pale Ale.

"Last summer was huge with the pale ale," Matt says. "We're going to have a tough time now, since we're in more places, a tough time managing that this summer. We're trying to stockpile as much as we can (but) it's really not working. We're selling everything out."

Meanwhile, work on Tuckahoe Brewing's tasting room has been ongoing.

"That's the first thing we're doing, with the money that we have already," Matt says. "We've knocked down a bunch of walls. We're hoping by Memorial Day it'll be ready."

Monday, May 13, 2013

Starting a brewery? Here's an updated guide

Image from BA website

A freshened-up guide on how to launch a craft brewery is now available.

The Brewers Association, the Colorado-based trade group that represents the U.S. craft brewing industry, on Monday announced the second edition of its guide book Starting Your Own Brewery. 

The publication covers topics such as choosing a location, flooring, branding, regulatory matters, and what to consider when acquiring brewing equipment

The latest edition also features new sections on working with distributors and sustainability, the latter being a cultural issue that is gaining a lot of attention. (Things have moved well beyond finding a farmer to pick up your spent grain. Breweries these days are also considering alternative energy sources, such as wind and solar power.) 

The new edition also expands on topics regarding brewery portfolio selection. 

The original guide book, published seven years ago, was written by several contributing authors from the U.S. craft beer industry. However, the update was written entirely by Elysian Brewing founder Dick Cantwell, whose Seattle-based company has started five breweries, and thus affords him the background and perspective to speak on a wide range of brewery business topics. 

The new edition also includes Elysian's original business plan with an analysis of what about it was effective and what wasn't. 

"I hope it's useful to see something that worked as a tool for raising money and worked as a document for building a business that has now been going on for 17 years," Dick says in a video on the website for Brewers Publications, the publishing arm of the Brewers Association. "I think once you get going, you have to maintain as much flexibility as you can because we're seeing breweries all around us expanding and trying new things. The more doors you leave open as you are putting your plan together the better for the future. You really have to figure out some way to set yourself apart from everybody else, because there's a new brewery opening every day."

The Garden State is no exception. 

There are a number of breweries now on the drawing table in New Jersey, and you can probably expect at least one or two of them, possibly more, to launch this year. The past four years have been big for growth in the state: 10 craft breweries launched, plus two contract beer companies, with just two casualties among that group (Port 44 Brew Pub in Newark and Great Blue Brewing in Somerset County, which kind of stalled on the launch pad; its owners then let the license lapse).

With that kind of growth pace, a guide book sounds useful. There is a caveat, though. The book costs a steep $95.

Click here for a glimpse at the table of contents.

This week, think local, drink local

Some thoughts on American Craft Beer Week …

New Jersey is, as Benjamin Franklin is said to have noted, a barrel tapped at both ends. 

That's widely taken as a metaphor for the gravitational pulls of New York and Philadelphia, which result in distinct identities of North Jersey and South Jersey.

Flavors of the state, if you will.

Regarding beer, there's a third element to consider these days: the great beers that come into the state from other parts of the country and from overseas. 

It's hard to resist them, especially when elevating your beer horizons compels you to drink them (you, indeed, should drink them). 

Some of them are the much-sought-but-hard-to-get brews; others are the next wave in style. So, they're very much part of the craft beer landscape, part of what has you doing the thousand-beer stare at the store or endlessly poring over your favorite bar's beer list.

But that said, over the course of this week don't let the cornucopia of selection from elsewhere overshadow the home-state beers created by the Jersey brewers who are part of that pursuit of something better, something tastier.

This week, don't forget to think Jersey and drink Jersey.


Sunday, May 12, 2013

Federal brewers tax cut proposal reintroduced

Legislation to cut in half what craft brewers pay in federal excise tax has been reintroduced in both houses of Congress. 

Craft brewers now pay $7 per barrel on the first 60,0000 barrels they produce and $18 for every barrel on top of that. 

The proposed Small Brewer Reinvestment and Expanding Workforce Act would halve the first tier of the production tax and create a second tier of $16 levied on production from 61,000 to 2 million barrels. 

The tax after 2 million barrels would remain $18.

Proposals to cut excise taxes were last introduced in 2011 for the 112th Congress, but the legislation stalled. (There have been several instances of similar legislation proposed in Congress in the past.)

The legislation was reintroduced in the House of Representatives three months ago. Last week, the Colorado-based Brewers Association, the trade group representing the craft brewing industry, announced companion legislation had subsequently been introduced in the Senate by Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat, and Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine. 

New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez posted a statement on his website that he is a co-sponsor of the bill.

Nationally, the craft brewing industry employ more than 108,000 full- and part-time workers, generating more than $3 billion in wages and benefits, while contributing $2.3 billion in business, personal and consumption taxes.

Supporters of the legislation say lowering the tax rate would enable the nation's 2,400 craft production brewers and brewpubs to hang on to an additional $60 million annually, money that could be reinvested in their brewery operations to grow them regionally or put them on a national footing. In the process, supporters say, brewers would likely be creating jobs. 

The bill numbers are H.R. 494 and S. 917.