Monday, June 26, 2006

New Jersey beer goes here

The Garden State Craft Brewers Guild (GSCBG) just hosted their 10th annual beer festival this past Saturday. Around 1,000 people came out on a rather gloomy day to taste some NJ craft beer. I ask myself if it was a success? In terms of the gate and given the weather, I suppose it was. But as a member and president of our organization, I see it as a failure as well.

Of the 16 members in our guild, only 12 brought their beer to the fest. Given that we have only one festival per year, that is disturbing and quite frankly unforgivable. The purpose of our group is to bring awareness to the great beer being made in our state. If the breweries don't believe that, how can we possibly hope that beer drinkers will? I know that some members view each other as competitors and are reluctant to do something that they feel may benefit another business. But what they fail to see is that good beer begets good beer, and good beer drinkers. If they took the time to come out to these festivals, they would see that.

I've been president of the GSCBG for a few years now. I never wanted to hold that office and only did it because no one else would. I know that this organization (if you can call it that) is probably no different than many others. There's little participation from the members and I fear that the group has lost it's vision and purpose.

Since Heavyweight is closing this summer, I'll be leaving the guild. I am sad for the future of the NJ beer scene for I fear that no one else has the time or inclination to keep the guild going. I hope I'm wrong. I hope there is another festival next year. I'll be there, with all the other beer lovers, to support NJ craft beer.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Here's to little beers and big flavor

Show of hands ... who is just bored with high-alcohol and ridiculously-hopped beers? That must sound rather strange coming from someone who named his brewery: Heavyweight. But the truth is if you look at the beers that have come out of Heavyweight, few were over 8% abv. The intent of Heavyweight was to produce beers that were bold and flavorful and when I look back on some of my favorites, I realize that they were mostly lower gravity brews. The Juhlia (a sahti), Black Ocean (black lager) and the current Slice-of-bread (rye beer) are all bold and flavorful and all under 5%. I also believe that it's much easier to create a 9-10% beer than a 3-4%.

Don't get me wrong, strong and hoppy beers can be wonderful and complex. But all these double and triple pales/reds just make me yawn. It's easy to understand the attraction of hops in beer, they are a powerful flavor component. But I would much rather drink a well-hopped ordinary bitter.

As I've stated, making smaller beers is a challenge. Well, making them taste full-bodied and flavorful is the challenge. Anyone can brew beer, just like anyone can make bread. They're both simple processes with simple ingredients. What separates the men from the boys is the technique, passion and art of the process. And that's what keeps me brewing and happy: trying to expand my knowledge of process and continue to develop the art.

As many people already know, Heavyweight will be closing at the end of June 2006 after seven years. The good news for folks who like what we do, is that my wife Peggy and I will be channeling what we've gleaned and achieved with Heavyweight into a new brewery/pub project. As for me, the best thing about this new venture is that I'll be able to make lower gravity beers without some folks raising an eyebrow and asking "You are from Heavyweight, aren't you?".

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Here we go again

Well, here's another post about RATEBEER. It may seem as though I exclusively pick on these folks and their reviews, but the truth is, there's just so much to pick on. I admit that I'm a troll. I don't post there and I've given up looking at the reviews, but I do like to see what folks find interesting.

The latest is a piece by some dude called OAKES. He may be mr. RATEBEER or perhaps just a member, I'm not sure. His spiel is about 'Ten beers you don't need to try'. Now, while this may be his opinion, and he's entitled to it, in my opinion, posts like this are just stupid. Like .... 'here's my favorite five beers to get a girl into bed' or 'top ten beers to show your boss that you have what it takes to succeed'. It doesn't matter which beers mr. OAKES selected, because the mere exercise is a kitchen full of useless gadgets.

Beer is a wonderful thing. Do I get upset when my sister orders a Bud Lite when I take her to a brewpub? Sure, but I wouldn't chastise her for ordering the brewery's Golden Ale.

Beer with flavor is the key and in my book if you drink flavorful beers, I want to drink with you, cowboy.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Festival season

We are about to do our last couple of beer fests, ever. When we first started our brewery, we did all the festivals we could. You know, on the road, promoting the brewery. It's been exhausting at times although we do enjoy seeing other brewers and friends. For the past few years, we didn't feel like we were introducing our beer to a new audience. So we decided to do only charity events. You would think that good causes would attract good beer drinkers. Why? Well, the ticket prices are usually higher and the events seem to attract better breweries. But I don't really think that's true anymore. I think that the majority (there are exceptions) of the fests attract drunks. Most of them want 'our light beer' or just something really cold. My wife's got a stare that could freeze them. To be fair, there are some good fests. The BA fests are well run and there are several in the Philly burbs that are good as well. The thing is, I'm just tired of them. Offering food and lodging to the participants are great but in my opinion, offering to pay for the beer sends a better message. Even if it's a charity cause, it demonstrates that the beer and the brewery are important to the success of the event.

The other thing is, most of even the well-run fests are no longer sampling events. They are merely opportunities to get pie-eyed on 35 dollars. I don't know, maybe I've just gotten grumpier and crotchety in my old age. I just long for the days in my myopic memory, when festival attendees asked about the beers and styles and also asked me to pour a smaller sample so they could enjoy the rest of the fest responsibly. Or maybe that was a dream I had last night.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Words make the (wo)man

I've been really trying lately to think about the words that I use in conversation and attempting to stop using all the useless cliches and 'likes' and 'you knows'. It's not easy to do, but when you hear yourself speak on a recording and you sound like a moron, you can do nothing but try.

Two words, when used in a brewing context, derive a similar 'nails on a blackboard' reaction in me. They are 'drugs' and 'infection'. The first one bothers a lot of folks in our industry. Equating casual beer enjoyment with drug use is just plain stupid. Although I hate when people make this analogy, it is a rather easy one for me to ignore.

But the second word is a bit more caustic to my ears. Wikipedia defines infection as:
"An infection is the detrimental colonization of a host organism by a foreign species. An infection is, in effect, a war in which the infecting organism seeks to utilize the host's resources in order to multiply at the expense of the host. The infecting organism, or pathogen, interferes with the normal functioning and perhaps the survival of the host."

It's been well documented that human pathogens cannot grow in beer. People know and understand that, yet they still insist upon saying "that beer was infected, and not in a good way". Of course they're referring to the 'good infection', as in lambic. Using the word 'infection' when speaking about beer is somewhat similar to using the word 'drug'. It conveys something negative and erroneous. Of course, what people mean to say is 'contaminated'. Beer does get contaminated. I've packaged beer that was contaminated and for that I'm sorry and ashamed. Maybe beside being linguistically correct, for me, 'contamination' just sounds better. Contaminated beer will never harm you and perhaps it will never even get beyond your nose. So the next time you try a beer that smells like a horse blanket, ask whoever brought it, 'is this beer suppose to smell like ass or is this contaminated?'.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Radio is dead

I hate my local public radio station. I want to like them, I really do. It's WBJB and I just can't listen anymore. I love when I go to Philly and get to Listen to WXPN - that's just a wonderful station. And I just returned from a beer gig in Staten Island and got to listen to WFUV (Fordham) - that's also a cool station.

What I dislike most about 90.5 (WBJB) is that it's the most commercial public radio station on my dial. They play the same music over and over. Ok, so it is some cool music, but you do hear the same tracks over and over again. Do they have the album (CD)? Can't they play an alternate track? It is at this essence, a programmed station. They also throw in so much sponsored spots that they have to have enough money to buy a few extra CDs. I will never join this station unless they shut up and play some good music. I really wouldn't mind listening to some commercials, if they played some decent music. I used to think Rich Robinson was a good jock when he spun tunes on WHTG. Truth is, he's a dinosaur. Plays the same shit he's been playing forever. I guess the sad truth is that radio is a dead medium. You'll hear nothing new on it, commercial or otherwise. Man, I'm depressed. Guess I'll go listen to some Junior Kimbrough.

Monday, May 01, 2006

More reasons to drink beer

So once again I would like to share some deep and thoughtful beer ratings that I discovered on I didn't include the names of the beer being evaluated because I didn't see the point. Only one of the beers are from Heavyweight - see if you can find it. Thanks to Kevin from Paducah, Kentucky for the entertainment.

"dark brown pour with a sticky brown head. smell is nice:cognac, peanut butter and grape jelly. taste is overly attenuated red grape taste. ashy pressboard taste with an unhappy caramel finish.grrrr. for some reasoni wrote "jesus shit waffles" i don’t know what that means."

"muddy black brown pour with a grey head. roast peanut aroma. dry unswet tea flavor with the taste of model airplanes. a biting carbonation level. a lingering bittersweet berry taste."

"pours a urine tainted neon yellow with a white head. yeastastic aroma of grains of paradise or corriander or something, a really great spicy nose. first taste bites me then i compensate for the crappy mouthfeel of pine needles. lemon pear and blueberry come out in this in an bad balance for me."

"amber body with a grey white head. nose is loose and hard to catch. a bit of honeysuckle. flavor is astringent pear and balsa wood. apricot finishsomehow still smooth."

"nice fiery gold body with a lacadaisacle ring of grey head(some weird scribbles about big beer and upsetting something and trying something else are in my notes, someday i’ll figure out what i meant)penny and donut flavor with a glaze. i also wrote "jesus shit out a waffle" here too. some candy corn here."

If you guessed 'muddy black brown with the grey head' was from Heavyweight, you're correct. That is my Black Ocean.