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.