November 1998 Newsletter

PALE TALES NEWSLETTER
ISSUE #31
NOVEMBER, 1998

****A CLIMATIC EVENT AT THE NASSAU INN TAP ROOM**** DATE: Monday, November 30th
TIME: 7:30 p.m.
PLACE: Nassau Inn Tap Room, Princeton, NJ

This month’s meeting will feature none other than brewmaster Dave Hoffman of Climax Brewing (Roselle Park) as our speaker. For a fairly small brewery, Climax has been getting some excellent press lately.

They are the only NJ brewery to be listed in Michael Jackson’s latest book. You can also check Michael Jackson’s web site for reviews of the ESB and Porter. And if that’s not enough for you, Climax’s Nut Brown Ale recently won a gold medal at the recent Real Ales festival in Chicago.

Join us for what promises to be a great meeting with some excellent beers. Our next meeting will be held at Joe’s Mill Hill saloon in Trenton at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 28th. More details to follow in the next newsletter.

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HOST A BEER JUDGE FOR THE HOLIDAYS

It’s the holidays. Open your hearts, open your home, and hide your homebrew – host a beer judge during the competition! If you have a spare bed or floor space, why not let a beer judge sleep there during the competition (on Dec.5). You will have the chance to meet an interesting person and help that person save a few dollars. And remember a beer judge is the perfect gift for the holidays, and much easier to find than a Furbie!

If you’re interested in hosting, please contact Steve Rowley

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LAST MONTH’S MEETING – ON THE ROAD AT RIVER HORSE

Club members got a guided tour of the River Horse brewery in Lambertville and were able to sample River Horse’s great beers. Co-owner Jim Bryan was our featured speaker and tour guide.

Bryan was even gracious enough to break out a two-month old sample of River Horse’s Roebling Bock to the delight of many club members. I found the Bock to be malty, clean, and deceptively smooth, despite a 7.5% ABV. The Roebling Bock beer has just been released in bottles.

According to Bryan, the brewery is planning some more expansion in the Spring, possibly adding three more 40-barrel fermenters. This addition would double River Horse’s original capacity of six fermenters. In terms of events, the brewery will be taking part in Lambertiville’s Winter Festival, and will be holding a special Rock & Roll memorabilia event in December.

FRIDAY IS DEADLINE FOR COMPETITION

This Friday (Nov. 27) is the deadline for submitting entries to the club’s “Hoppiest Show on Earth ’98” competition. All entries must be received by November 27, 1998. Drop off entries at Princeton Homebrew, 148 Witherspoon St, Princeton, NJ 08542, or The Little Shop of Hops, Manhattan, NY.

“The Hoppiest Show on Earth ’98” will take place on Dec. 5th in Skillman, NJ. If you would still like to volunteer your services, send an email to paleales. Be sure to provide contact information for yourself in the email also.

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HOBOKEN BREWING – JUST CHANGING HANDS OR SHUTTING DOWN?

Last October, the rumor in the NJ brewing industry was that Hoboken Brewing would possibly be shutting down. A more in-depth story follows…

By the time you read this, the fate of Hoboken Brewing will probably have been decided – one way or another. As of mid-November, Hoboken Brewing has been closed for nearly a month, and the brewery’s sole hope appears to be an offer put together by Sal Pennacchio, owner of Old World Brewing in Staten Island. At press time, Pennacchio’s and DeAquilla’s legal representatives were reviewing the offer.

If the deal goes through, Pennacchio will own Hoboken Brewing, and the DeAquillas will be out of the picture. The equipment for the 6,000-barrel capacity brewery and license are the key ingredients in the deal – As Hoboken does not own the building, nor do they currently have a long-term lease for it (more on that). Hoboken’s Mile Square label, which includes an Amber, Blonde and Ginseng beer, would also be included. Pennacchio would not give even a ballpark figure as to the offer, although he said it was a “fair and reasonable offer.”

How did Hoboken get here? Well, the folks that could best answer that question – owners Mitchell and Anthony DeAquilla – have not been saying a whole lot. (No one at Hoboken returned my phone calls.) Sources in the NJ beer industry point to two main factors – a change in ownership of the brewery building and Hoboken’s apparent lagging sales and finances. Pennacchio agreed that both these were key factors, and suggested that there were other issues involved as well, but would not comment further.

The owners of the brewery building, reputedly a Taiwanese company, went bankrupt and defaulted on the mortgage. The bank holding the mortgage took possession of the building – and as part of the legal process, a third party is managing the building. In a nutshell, Hoboken has a temporary lease, which may run out or be cancelled at any time.

With regard to Hoboken’s finances, Pennacchio did not provide any details, although he indicated that the current deal depended heavily on a legal/financial review of Hoboken. “They gave it a good shot,” he said, adding that he feels better marketing could have helped head off the current situation. The end result of all this is that Hoboken has been shut down for about a month – and the worst part is that Hoboken is not the only brewery suffering from the shutdown.

NJ breweries that had depended on Hoboken as a contract brewer, including Old World Brewing, Shore Brewing (Avalon Amber and others), and Barley Road Brewing (Justice Pale Ale), are quickly running out of product and, in many cases, cannot supply their distributors. “I haven’t been able to fulfill orders with the Hoboken Brewing shut down,” said Mike McCahon of Shore Brewing, adding that he is currently relying on his own stock to fulfill orders. Pennacchio echoes his sentiments as well.

If the deal goes through, Pennacchio’s first priority will be to get the facility brewing again to supply his own beer, and the other contract beers Hoboken handles. “We have five to six batches to make if we start up.” If the brewery starts up by the end of Nov., Pennacchio predicts that new beer could be on the shelf by mid December. Timing is critical, as the holidays are a key sales time.

What are Pennacchio’s long-range plans? “I would probably have more open houses, and more events at the brewery – become more a part of the community.” He also plans to continue to produce the Mile Square products which are viable and continue to sell. He particularly praised the Blonde Ale, calling it an excellent beer. For his own product line, Pennacchio plans to brew his Amber Ale, Winter Ale and Porter at Hoboken. He is excited by the prospect of experimenting with some of his recipes at the brewery, particularly cask-conditioning.

And the deal doesn’t take? “We’ll go elsewhere,” he said. The future is uncertain for Hoboken, but it is certainly more positive than one month ago, when it looked like the brewery would close permanently. Hopefully, NJ will be able to keep one of its first microbreweries – but only the future will tell.

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REAL ALE RULES IN CHICAGO

A Special Report from Steve Rowley

My cousin just happened to get married in Chicago on October 17, so I decided to go and check out the Real Ale Festival the night before the wedding.

The Festival advertised 142 American Cask ales, 10 British Cask ales, and 47 bottle conditioned ales (and lagers). I was immediately impressed by the fact that we were given real glass half-pint tasting vessels instead of the plastic urinalysis cups that are passed out at many large scale tastings of late.

The list of beers that I tried was lengthy, and as always, contained some good, some bad, and some ugly. Some opinions I had developed in London were further confirmed at the festival.

The festival was also visited by some luminaries in the beer world including the man himself, Michael Jackson, who spent the evening signing books. I also saw William Crisp, who was a sponsor of the festival. He said he recalls his trip to Princeton with fond memories.

The best beers that I tasted all were higher in original gravity. I don’t think this was because the lower gravity beers were garbage (how could one call Fuller’s London Pride garbage), but that they don’t travel well in a cask. I noticed the same thing while in London. Without exception, the best beer on offer at a pub was one brewed within twenty miles of the pub.

The Goose Island Brewery was passing out samples of the same batch of IPA served by three different methods: cask, nitro, and CO2 pressure. The subtleties of flavor in this beer were most evident in the cask sample. I found the nitro sample to lack most of the very pleasant aroma characteristics of this beer, and the CO2 sample to have flavor masked by the dissolved gas.

To sum up, here are my opinions for what they are worth. The best type of ale to drink if you are interested in all the wonderful subtleties of flavor is a cask conditioned ale. If you are drinking cask conditioned ales, drink locally, as Lew Bryson would say. Finally, if you are reduced to drinking non local cask conditioned ales, drink those with higher starting gravities.

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CRAFT BEER AND BLUEGRASS IN THE HEART OF THE SMOKIES

A Special Report from Kevin Trayner

Craft beer in the South has grown by leaps and bounds in the past couple years. And what better place to sample the fruits of this craft beer growth, than in Asheville, NC, an artsy haven for beer and crafts nestled at the base of the Great Smokey Mountains? That’s exactly what nearly 3,000 ale and bluegrass lovers did at the second annual Great Smokies Craft Brewers Invitational and Brewgrass Festival this past Sept 19th!

Close to 35 breweries and brewpubs poured their beers to the infectious bluegrass twang of Norman Blake, the Bad Livers, the Greasy Beans, and other acts. “We’re very happy with the turnout. People seem to be enjoying themselves,” said Doug Beatty, co-owner of Barley’s taproom, one of the festival co-sponsors. Sponsors had every reason to be happy, the festival’s attendance this year was triple that of last year’s – a testament to the growth of craft beer in the South.

Excellent barbecue, southwestern-Caribbean (Salmon Habanero burritos, anyone?) flavors, and pub grub were also served up. Excellent weather rounded out this well-organized event, which donated a portion of the proceeds to the Make-a-Wish Foundation and the Asheville Merchant’s Action.

As at this year’s GABF, Kolsch beer was spotlighted here as well. Three of the participating breweries, Green Man Brewing (Jack of the Wood), Two Moons Brew-N-View and Highland, offered versions of this cold-conditioned, slightly fruity ale in the “Kolsch” tent. As all the beers were made with similar malts, hops, and the same yeast strain, the beers were similar in flavor and more or less true to the Kolsch style – somewhat fruity and malty, with some bitterness.

Sweetwater Brewing (Atlanta) served a delicious, hoppy Extra Pale Ale, a great English Bitter (silver medal winner at the 97 GABF), and a tasty Blueberry Wheat. Sweetwater also won three medals at this year’s World Beer Cup – master brewer Frederick Bensch is definitely doing something right! Old Dominion Brewing (Ashburn, VA) served up their amazingly hoppy Tupper’s Hop Pocket Pale Ale.

Blindman Ales (Athens, GA) served a standout Expresso Stout, with a lot of depth and texture, and an excellent Pale Ale as well. The unique logo (a blind man and cow) and name were inspired by a dream owner Bob Tibbs had. (Check out www.blindman.net if you’re curious.) Cottonwood Brewery (Boone, NC) poured an unusual, but tasty Chili beer. The smoky Anaheim peppers practically jump into your nose, but are surprisingly subtle in the palate of this light ale. Williamsville Brewing (Wilmington, NC) served up an equally exotic Mango Ale with a fruity nose and palate.

Bock and Octoberfest beers were in abundance of course. Tomcat Brewing (Raleigh, NC) served up a tasty Bock beer, and Weeping Radish (Manteo, NC) tapped a clean, malty Marzen beer, smoothed out by a six-month lagering.

There were many more breweries of note – although not enough space to list them all. The Carolinas were well-represented, with over 20 breweries. Tennessee breweries included New Knoxville, Smokey Mountain, and Sophisticated Otter. Other breweries included St. Simons (Georgia), Frederick Brewing (Maryland), Catamount (Vermont), Mendocino and North Coast (California), and Rogue (Oregon).

If you’re ever in Asheville (a picturesque, surprisingly hip little town) be sure to check out Barley’s taproom, which has a great, affordable tap selection and good food. Brewpubs include the Jack of the Wood (my favorite), and Blue Rooster. At the Two Moons Brew-N-View, you can drink fresh-brewed beer, eat a burger, and watch a movie – it’s almost like being at home! Other attractions include live music, Appalachian crafts, hiking in the Smokies, and the magnificent 200-room Biltmore estate.

FRESH BREWED IN THE GARDEN STATE
Brewpub and Brewery News in NJ

Real ale is alive and well in the Garden State! Two New Jersey breweries won medals at the 3rd Annual Real Ale Festival in Chicago this past October (see the special report from Steve Rowley earlier in this newsletter). Climax Brewing (Roselle Park) won the gold in the Cask-Conditioned Mild and Brown Ale category for its Nut Brown Ale. Climax Brewing Co. Flying Fish (Cherry Hill) won bronze and silver medals in the Cask-Conditioned and Bottle-Conditioned Specialty Beers categories for its Abbey Dubbel.

Speaking of real ale, NY and NJ will have another chance to sample the Champion Beer of Britain. B. United International will be importing 15 firkins of Conniston’s Bluebird Bitter this December, according to representative Ron Fischer. The Bitter will be available in Ginger Man and d.b.a in Manhattan.

B. United will also be importing other Great Britain Beer Festival winners this coming month. On Jan.4th, over 14 casks of GBBF winners, including J.W. Lees Moonraker, Gales Festival Mild, Mordue Radgie Gadgie, and many others will be available. (I tried Gales Mild at Monk’s CafĂ© in Phila. this past November, and it was simply outstanding!)

BREWERY NEWS

Down south, Flying Fish is releasing a new seasonal for the holidays – the HopPhish India Pale Ale. The HopPhish will be available Dec. 1 – draft only in the half kegs and torpedo mini-kegs. The brewery also plans to release a few cask-conditioned firkins, according to Gene Muller, president of Flying Fish.

The HopPhish (6.1% ABV) uses five hop varieties (Chinook and Fuggles for bittering, Ahtanum and Goldings leaf hops for finish), which are balanced by five malts (Pale, Caramel, Belgian aromatic, Munich, and Cara Vienna) with a small percentage of wheat for an extra creamy head. It will be extensively dry-hopped for three entire weeks with Mt. Hood and Ahtanum leaf hops. After five weeks of aging, it will be lightly filtered and then keg-conditioned to add a bit of extra character.

Flying Fish is also re-introducing its variety cases for the holiday season. Each case contains all four styles – Extra Pale Ale, ESB, Porter and Abbey Dubbel.

And while we’re “down the shore,” Shore Brewing (Harvey Cedars) has added a new product – Atlantic IPA, and a new look for its packaging. “We’ve gotten good feedback from retailers and consumers about the new packaging,” according to Mike McCahon, co-owner of Shore Brewing. The brewery felt that the six- packs suggested a generic beer rather than a craft-brewed one – thus the new brighter blue-colored packaging.

The IPA has been selling pretty well in NJ and Phila, and the brewery is looking to make it the flagship beer, according to McCahon. (I recently picked up a six- pack of it and found it to be a well-balanced, somewhat light-bodied IPA).

Although Shore Brewing is available in NJ and Phila., finding the beer might be a little tough for the time being though, as all of their products (IPA, Wheat Ale, and Amber) are contract brewed through Hoboken Brewing – which has been shut down for about a month (see related story). McCahon hasn’t been able to fulfill his orders, and is currently relying on his own back supplies until/if Hoboken comes back on line.

Going north in the state, High Point is experimenting with a Kristall Wheat beer this Winter, according to owner Greg Zacardi. The brewery is taste testing different characteristics, particularly hop levels. “Experimentation is ranging from a mild Kristall to as close to a Pilsener-Urquell as you can get,” said Zacardi. Plans are to release the Kristall for the Spring in both bottles and on tap. By the way, be sure to sample a bottle of the Ramstein Winter Wheat (a portly 9% Doppelbock), available in limited quantities in NJ during the holidays.

BREWPUB NEWS

New Jersey is busy with brewpubs this Holiday season! It looks like South NJ will likely be getting a new brewpub this Christmas – Oar Brewing of Millville. As of press time, co-owner Brian Tomlin said that the brewpub would be open by December, possibly even by late November. Tomlin and partner Bill Puzak have put over $500,000 in rennovations into the 130+ year-old building located in the center of town. The brewpub, Cumberland County’s first, will feature a 26-foot handmade Cherry bar with brass rails, and a copper-tin ceiling. “It will be a typical Center City bar, with a pub style,” according to Tomlin.

Oar Brewing is unusual in that no beer will actually be brewed on the premises. Instead, the brewpub will contract its beer at a local brewery (Tomlin declined to give more details at this time). The brewpub will carry possibly as many as four of its own brands, he said.

In addition, to featuring 16 taps (including Dock Street, Sierra Nevada, Flying Fish, and Guiness to name a few), the brewpub will have over 100 bottled beers as well. The restaurant will feature a mixture of gourmet selections and pub grub, as Tomlin describes it. Patrons will be able to enjoy their stogies and beer in the cigar room, with cigar dinners planned for the future. Nearby public parking will accommodate 60-70 cars, and in the warmer months, patrons will be able to enjoy beer and music in a fenced, landscaped beer garden, with seating for over 150. Millville is located in Central South Jersey, and easily accessible from Routes 49, 47, or 55. The brewpub is currently working on a web site, which will be at http://www.oldoarhousebrewery.com.

Also, for those of you who haven’t heard yet, Maxwell’s Brewing stopped brewing this Fall when it re-opened. According to management there, the brewpub component of the restaurant was simply not making money. Maxwell’s new owners are re-emphasizing the live music component, which made the club popular.

Mike Munroe, head brewer at Pizzeria Uno in Woodbridge, has been busier than most brewers – of course that’s because he’s working at two breweries now! Munroe has recently taken on brewing responsibilities for the newly opened Gilded Otter brewpub in upstate New York (see related story).

Pizzeria Uno still plans for Munroe to continue to supervise the weekly brewing, and work with the assistant brewer, according to Regional Manager Fred Houston. Furthermore, Munroe will also continue in his role as Corporate Brewmaster for Pizzeria Uno, helping set up brewpubs for the restaurant chain.

Gaslight Brewery (So. Orange) is featuring a gala of interesting dinners in January, which will pair alcohol and food, according to owner Dan Soboti. The dinners will be featured every Tuesday night, and all of the dishes will be made with the respective spirit (wine, beer, etc.).

The first week will be a wine dinner, and wine will be featured in the food offerings as well. Next week will be a beer dinner, which will feature the brewpub’s beers and some outside ones as well – of course beer-crafted dishes. The third week will host a cigar and single malt scotch dinner – with food made from scotchLastly, the fourth week will feature cigars and bourbon, and again menu items will be made with bourbon. Call the brewpub for more information at (973) 762-7077.

The brewpub has recently added a beer engine, and will be producing some cask ales for it by December, according to Soboti. Plans are brewing for a Belgian Dubbel in December as well.

Scott Herscher of Jersey Jim’s (Hillsborough) has been lagering some beers recently, and experimenting with a “first wort hopping” process. With this procedure, hops normally reserved for late kettle additions are added at the beginning of the transfer of wort to the kettle. According to Herscher, this process gives a very delicate and pleasant hop aroma and flavor that is often not possible using finishing and flavoring hops only.

So far, Herscher has brewed two Lagers using this process – a Light Lager, which is currently on tap, and a Bock beer, which should be available in December. The results have been good so far, Herscher said, adding that you can expect a Doppelbock sometime in January.

The Trappe Rock brewpub (Berkely Heights) will be brewing up a Rye Ale, according to brewer Scott Cetera. The 20% rye provides a full flavor and restrained spiceness, according to Cetera. “It’s a very interesting grain to work with. Of the cereal grains, it has the most flavor,” he said, adding that it was tough finding information on brewing with rye as it is not a popular style.

Triumph (Princeton) is featuring its usual eclectic musical acts, including electric voilin (Caryn Lin), pop, jazz, blues, and alternative rock with voilin! On Dec 20th, Triumph will feature Spiced Punch, a Dickens-era quartet which will play traditional holiday music. New Year’s eve will feature Night Train, a classic Rhythm and Blues band, $10 cover charge. And of course, Triumph will be featuring its tasty Winter Wonder holiday ale this coming month.

Basil T’s (Red Bank and Toms River) has recently updated and revamped its web page at www.basilt.com. Robert Hettmansperger, Basil T’s Head Brewer, is quite the web guru also, and has done a great job here! And if you’re more interested in drinking beer than surfing the Net, Basil T’s offers brew tours every Wed. night at 6 p.m.

The Bernardsville Stone Tavern will be featuring a New Year’s Dinner and Comedy show ($65), according to manager Nick Novello, Jr. They will also be bringing back the Stout and Porter for the Winter, in addition to a Winter Ale of course.

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MEMBERS ONLY DISCOUNT AT HOMEBREW EMPORIUM

FYI, te folks over at Homebrew Emporium (www.beerbrew.com) have graciously offered a 10% discount for PALE ALES members.

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Princeton and Local Environs Ale and Lager Enthusiast Society