Friday, May 24, 2013

Kane Brewing offering hops lesson

Think you know hops? Have a passion for hops?

Then this event is sure to please.

For its June 1 brewery tour day, Kane Brewing will train a spotlight on hops, taking its Head High IPA as a base beer and turning it into a flight of nine single-hopped brews for a lesson on the flavors and aromas that hops provide and some insight into the green-yellow flower cones' power to turn a single beer into many different beers. 

"So many IPAs out there use tons of different hops to blend the flavors together," says Matt Czigler, head brewer at Kane. "A lot people who are into IPAs, or are getting into IPAs, aren't sure which flavors come from certain hops. So, we want to give (them) that experience while celebrating everyone's love of hops."

So think of A Wolf Among the Seas, as the event has been dubbed, as creating a knowledge bank, a foundation for your taste buds and nose to begin teasing out flavors and aromas in your favorite IPAs or pale ales, beers no doubt shaped by the typical brewing conventions of multiple hop additions. 

(About the event title: The Latin genus and species names humulus lupulus roughly translate to wolf among the weeds; Kane Brewing is located in Ocean Township in Monmouth County, a little over three miles from the beach, so A Wolf Among the Seas. The event runs from noon to 5 p.m. at the brewery.) 

As a brewing ingredient, hops are hardly two-dimensional. They're more than mere bittering and aromatic agents. And in a single varietal, you can get quite a range of qualities.

"There are times even in a hop itself you get different qualities off the flavor and off the aroma," Matt says. "Certain hops may be very heavy in grapefruit in the aroma but the flavor might give a sort of different citrus (taste). We want to let people know that when we say we're using certain hops in there, these are the qualities we're looking for, and we're blending them together for this reason."

Head High, Kane's 6.5% ABV flagship IPA, is normally brewed with a blend of Columbus and Chinook in the boil for bitterness, with later additions of Cascade, Centennial and Citra to lend a grapefruit signature beneath a nose of citrus, pine and tropical fruit. It's dry-hopped with Cascade, Citra and Columbus.  

For A Wolf Among the Seas, Matt pulled off a few barrels of wort from a Head High brew day, and finished out single-hopped batches with Citra (citrus and tropical fruits); Columbus (citrus, slight woody flavor); Amarillo (spicy, orange-like bouquet); Simcoe (varied aromas of pine, passion fruit, citrus, or earthiness); Legacy (a spicy hop with black currant notes; Kane used Legacy in some recent specialty batches); Nelson Sauvin and Pacifica (New Zealand-grown varietals, with fruit flavors or orange marmalade signatures); Bravo (floral aromas and fruitiness); and Mosaic (floral qualities and tropical fruit). 

Besides having the same grain bill, the beers all have the same IBU level and were fermented with the same yeasts to ensure even comparisons across the lineup.

"They're all sort of apples to apples, just different hops in them," says brewery founder Michael Kane. "It might not be the best beer in the world, but it's a good way to understand what a hop tastes like. We've also been working on a pale ale, a lower-gravity American style beer. We're hoping to release that that weekend as well, if it's ready."

Kane's event is reminiscent of one Iron Hill Brewery held at its Maple Shade brewpub a couple of years ago. Brewer Chris LaPierre turned out an Irish red ale without using finishing hops, then dry-hopped individual quarter kegs with several kinds of American hops, plus Czech, Slovenian, German, English, and Japanese hops.

But specifically, Kane Brewing's tour-day event is really an echo of its highly successful afternoon of stouts held in March. Back then, Kane took its Port Omna Stout and spun it several ways with adjuncts like coffee, vanilla bean and orange, or whiskey barrel-aged it, effectively demonstrating for tour guests how brewers can rewrite a beer with some later conditioning and tweaking. 

Offering a lesson on hops made for a natural a follow-up. New Jersey beer enthusiasts can expect more such events on a semi-regular basis from the brewery. 

Beyond that, though, the event provides something else to consider: Given the new liberties to retail to the public and serve beer, freedoms that Garden State craft brewers were handed last fall by the Legislature, Wolf Among the Seas and events like it become effective uses of production breweries' tasting rooms. They're ways to interact with the craft beer-drinking public that take brewery tours beyond the big, shiny stainless steel tanks people often get to see. 

Likewise, such events distinguish production breweries' serving pints of beer from the idea of the breweries acting like bars. In the case of the hops and stout events, for example, tour guests comparatively taste and smell how a particular beer ingredient is used. That's something a bar or restaurant can't really do, and it speaks directly to the spirit of regulatory changes craft brewers won last year.

"Brewery tours are designed to be an educational experience, so this is a logical use of the tasting room," says Flying Fish Brewing's Gene Muller, who helped lead the push last year to change the state's craft brewing regulations.

The tasting rooms then truly supports brewers' products and help build followers, who in turn buy the beers in bars and packaged goods stores. 

"It's a good tool, especially to educate about some of the styles that we do that are a little different," Michael says. "Some of the beers we make are a little more unique. So we can talk about that, the process by which we do it, other things we're working on, new hops, new malts, different yeasts, different barrel-aging techniques and products we're using.

"Our primary business is brewing and (wholesale) distributing. That's what we do. But it's nice to be able to interact with people who are interested in what we're doing, explain a little bit more and focus on what's going on around here and keep people informed. We're always adding new equipment. It gives people a chance to come in and see what's new, see what's going on around here."

Beer Minute: Sly Fox, Terrapin, homebrewing

Pennsylvania brewer Sly Fox is taking one of its offerings beyond its own taps and onto the store shelves. Grisette Working Class Ale, a spicy, unfiltered Belgian-style brew that scrapes the ceiling of session beer (5.6% ABV), debuted in 12-ounce cans at Sly Fox's Pottstown, Pa., tasting room and at its Phoenixville location this week. An off-the-beaten-path beer for U.S. brewers, as a style Grisette was to Belgian miners what Saison is to Belgian farmhands. The name is derived from the gray dresses worn by the working-class women who served the beer. In Sly Fox's world, Grisette has existed as an exclusive draft offering at the brewery's pubs and some select accounts. Sly Fox promises wider distribution down the road in all of its markets.

Georgia brewer Terrapin (where Jesse Ferguson of Carton Brewing in Atlantic Highlands trained for a time) is adding to its year-round beer lineup – a session ale that will also be Terrapin's first brew in 12-ounce cans. RecreationAle (4.5% ABV) is described as a hoppy go-anywhere brew, thus a fine fit with the canned packaging (not to mention good marketing). Due out in early June in 12-packs (the beer plans were actually announced back during the winter), RecreationAle (hopped with Bravo, Centennial, Zythos, Amarillo and Galaxy) will be the second year-round beer added to Terrapin's lineup this year. Tree Hugger, a special draft release from 2012, was added to the Athens, Ga., brewery's year-rounds back in March.


Homebrewing is legal now in all 50 states, with Alabama bringing up the rear. But despite that celebratory change from early May, the American Homebrewers Associations says there were still some Prohibition-era yokes remaining on homebrewers that needed lifting. Lawmakers in Missouri and Illinois recently passed bills to allow homebrewers to take their beers off the premises where they were made, as in legally take their beers to homebrew club meetings, enter them in contests or serve them at festivals. Governors of both states are expected to sign the bills. Homebrewers in those states were probably ignoring those transport restrictions anyway, like their brethren in New Jersey did before Trenton tossed the Garden State's homebrewing permit requirement and transport restrictions last year.

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

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Beer Minute: Magic Hat, Starr Hill, growlers

Things are turning ugly between a new Kentucky ale-maker and Magic Hat. Magic Hat has headed to court with a trademark complaint against Lexington, Ky., brewer West Sixth over its logo. The giant 6 looks a little too much like the style of Magic Hat's 9 motif for the one-time Vermont brewer's tastes. Magic Hat says trying to resolve the matter amicably turned sour and got uglier when West Sixth asked its followers to ask Magic Hat to lighten up. Magic Hat's owners (North American Breweries) filed suit against the year-old West Sixth in federal court last week. West Sixth tells the Lexington Herald-Leader the suit has no merit.


Beer-makers like Stone (California) and New Belgium (Colorado) opening breweries in the eastern U.S. are helping raise the profile of craft beer for craft brewers who have long called that region of the country home. That's what Starr Hill Brewing's Mark Thompson tells Veer magazine. Thompson further notes how his state's brewing industry enjoys an assist from wineries there. Virginia's largest craft brewery and the maker of Jomo Lager, Northern Lights IPA, Starr Saison and Grateful IPA continues with an expansion that will boost annual brewing capacity to 55,000 barrels.


One of the largest beer festivals on the East Coast is just days away. Sponsored by BeerAdvocate and Harpoon Brewery, the Sixth Annual American Craft Beer Fest at the Seaport World Trade Center in Boston will feature 640 beers from 140 breweries. No Garden State brews are on the lineup for the May 31-June 1 event, but brewers regional to the Jersey area such as Dogfish Head, Troegs, Victory, Brooklyn and Sixpoint will be there.

It's predictably heavy on wheat and fruit beers, but there are some IPAs in there, too. The Brewers Association, and its website, have a list of summer brews worthy of your glass. Citing a study by marketing researcher Mintel that says craft beer drinkers make their beer choices based on what season it is (imagine that!), the BA has put out the list of brews, which feature, among other ingredients, honey, blueberries, raspberries, banana and orange peel. Some gems on the lineup that are available in New Jersey are Founders All Day IPA and Flying Dog's Woody Creek Belgian White.


Citing New Jersey liquor stores' ability to fill growlers, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell took the occasion of American Craft Beer Week last week to make the practice legal in the First State. Says Markell: “Delawareans who own craft breweries or liquor stores were at a disadvantage compared to their competitors across our borders." Thanks for the shout-out governor, but in New Jersey it's not as simple as every package goods store tapping a keg and sending growler customers on their way. Stores that are allowed to fill growlers here in New Jersey at one time in their existence were also actually bars. Thus, no bar license in their history, no growler sales.

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

Monday, May 20, 2013

Brewhouse arrives for Iron Hill Voorhees

IH West Chester brewer Larry Horwitz operates the lift.

This is a story about anticipation.

For Garden State beer lovers, especially those in South Jersey, word that the brewing equipment arrived for a widely followed brewery chain, whose newest location was announced a year ago, must feel a little like a fast-approaching favored holiday, or a big concert everyone's talking about.

So it goes for the next Iron Hill brewpub location. 

Voorhees brewer Kevin Walter moves tank. 
Trucks laden with the tri-state restaurant-brewery company's equipment rolled into the Voorhees Town Center shopping complex Monday and offloaded a collection of serving tanks and fermenters, the brewhouse, and combination mash tun and hot liquor tank. 

Over the course of several hours, from early afternoon to early evening, the equipment was raised on a forklift and eased into a corner unit of the retail complex, Iron Hill's 10th location – and only second in New Jersey. (The others are spread among Pennsylvania and Delaware.)

There's still quite a lot left to do in the buildout, but plans call for an August opening (pushed back a bit from an earlier announced opening of July). 

For the beer geeks, the equipment included 10 serving tanks, six 10-barrel fermenters, the mash tun, kettle, a 22-barrel fermenter, and related brewhouse gear that chills wort to fermenting temperature or regulates tank temperatures. 

The brew kettle
Mash tun/hot liquor tank
An array of serving tanks
All of this is the long way of saying that Iron Hill Voorhees is a little closer to being one of the next craft breweries to come online in New Jersey. 

Like Iron Hill Maple Shade, which opened in 2009 as the company's entry into the Garden State, the Voorhees brewery will feature from the outset a flight of house beers – Ironbound Ale, Pig Iron Porter, a Vienna-style lager, a light beer that doesn't taste like a light beer, and a Belgian-style ale. 

After that, it's a matter of the imagination of head brewer Kevin Walter, most recently of Iron Hill's Lancaster, Pa., location. That, and what followers of the brewpub may suggest: Iron Hill's brewers are quite responsive to their customer base. 

August … For folks who know Iron Hill, it probably can't come soon enough. 

Sorting out the tun lid and fittings
Hoisting a fermenter
Positioning a fermenter