Thursday, October 6, 2011
Local Beer Brewers Shine
Local beer crafters from Monmouth and Ocean counties have gone toe to toe with Samuel Adams and Miller-owned brews at beer festivals this fall, as beer enthusiasts lined the streets of Asbury Park this weekend and Belmar last weekend to celebrate the suds.
While some large, corporate breweries were represented, the day belonged to the local crafters.
The end of September welcomed hundreds of beer enthusiasts to Belmar Marina for the second annual Beer on the Pier event. Beer tastings from 34 breweries were the centerpiece of the event, which also featured live music and food from local restaurants.
When the votes were tallied and a winner declared, it was Carton Brewing Company of Atlantic Highlands who emerged victorious. The brewery's Boat Beer was the people's choice for best beer, beating out larger, more established competition such as Sam Adams and Miller-owned Leinenkugel.
Jesse Ferguson, Carton's head brewer, described Boat Beer "very drinkable, but very tasty," adding that the session ale also goes great with food. Carton also featured their 077XX India Pale Ale at the event— named in homage to Monmouth County zip codes.
Their victory at Beer on the Pier is the latest development in what has become a whirlwind introduction to the business for owners Chris and Augie Carton.
The cousins, longtime beer enthusiasts, opened the doors to their brewery this summer and are currently producing three beers which are available for consumption in bars throughout the state.
Another newcomer was Mike Kane, owner of Kane Brewing Company in Ocean Township. Kane, who opened his brewery just six weeks ago, offered tastings of a beer called Head High, a west coast style IPA and Single Fin, a Belgian style blonde, which are currently available in approximately 25 bars, mainly in Monmouth and Ocean counties, including Murphy's Tavern on Ward Ln. in Rumson.
"We've been well received," Kane said of the crowd's reaction to his beer.
While the craft beer industry has grown by leaps and bounds in the last ten years, New Jersey— and the Shore area specifically— have been somewhat late to the party.
Kane, however, has seen the tide turn.
"A lot more bars are getting into it," he said. "It's a good time to be a drinker in New Jersey."
With strong flavors and a typically high alcohol content, some craft beers can be intimidating to casual drinkers. John Merklin of Brick, co-founder and brewer of the Point Pleasant-based East Coast Beer Company, sought to make a beer that truly reflected local culture.
"We're out for accessibility," he said, explaining that his beer Beach Haus is "a true craft pilsner."
After years of homebrewing, Merklin launched his company last year. This year, East Coast will put out their second beer, a black lager called Winter Rental.
While many of the brewers in attendance were new to the game, there were plenty of veterans on hand and in New Jersey, nobody has more experience than Cranford's David Hoffman.
Hoffman is the owner and brewmaster at Climax Brewing Company of Roselle Park. At 15-years-old, the brewery has the distinction of being New Jersey's oldest microbrewery.
Hoffman himself has even more years in brewing.
"I was a homebrewer," he said. "I started in my basement and it grew from there."
After many years of availability on tap, Hoffman took the next step with his business when he opened a bottling line a month and a half ago. Six of his brews are now available in six packs at retail locations.
Manalapan resident Mike Kivowitz, founder of New Jersey Craft Beer, an online resource for beer aficionados in the Garden State, is encouraged by New Jersey's movement towards craft beers.
"There's new breweries starting up every couple of days it seems like," he said. "There's a lot of movement in that realm."
"There's a lot of small guys," Kivowitz added. "Those places are starting up and looking to broaden their horizons."
"The small guys are really pushing it."
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