Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Drinking The Illadelph: Triumph Brewing Co. Owner Reflects On The State Of Brewpubs

From the Sunday New York Times:
Like-minded beer drinkers better known by their chosen brews than their full names can be found at any of New Jersey’s brew pubs, which are thriving after a shakeout in the industry that Adam Rechnitz, the owner of the 10,000-square-foot Triumph Brewing Company in Princeton [and Philadelphia], likened to the dot-com bust.

“There was this carnival atmosphere in the 90s,” he said. “People were making terrible beers and giving the industry a black eye. Eventually, they got handed their hats.

“The ones operating now are doing pretty good beer,” said Mr. Rechnitz, who opened Triumph in 1995 after working for the enactment of a 1993 law allowing brew pubs — distinct from microbreweries in New Jersey because they cannot sell their beer wholesale.
“It’s like with any business,” he said. “The people who are passionate about what they’re doing do well. People who are in it hoping to make a quick buck don’t.”

That may be especially true now.

While the latest strain of foodie — the locavores — scour farmers’ markets for just-picked ramps, and coffee connoisseurs stray ever farther from Folgers and Maxwell House, beer drinkers have also been busy refining their palates.

A study by the Brewers Association in Boulder, Colo., shows the market for handmade beers grew 12 percent in volume and 16 percent in dollar sales last year nationally. Major breweries like Anheuser-Busch and Coors have even gotten in on the action; Coors makes Blue Moon, a Belgian-style white beer, and Anheuser-Busch produces a variety of seasonal beers and specialty brews.

Accordingly, while Pale Ale Toms have become commonplace at New Jersey brew pubs, Budweiser Bobs may be on the wane.
And deservedly so.
Where there is curiosity, of course, there is a blog. And an expert. Jeff Linkous of Little Egg Harbor, a freelance writer and sometime home-brewer, started the Beer-Stained Letter (beerstainedletter.blogspot.com), devoted to dissecting beer brewed in New Jersey, a year ago.

“I got into beer when the beer craze first came this way, probably 1995,” said Mr. Linkous, who has observed that fellow New Jersey beer drinkers are, for the most part, more savvy now about what’s being poured. “The ones who are really into beer are more sophisticated, right down to being able to pick out the hops used in the beer. Still, Bud, Coors and Miller sell a lot of beer in New Jersey.”

In Mr. Linkous’s view, “Anyone who’s still drinking those beers just hasn’t discovered what they’re missing. It’s kind of like watching ‘Law & Order’ when you could have been watching ‘The Wire.
And how.

Related:
New Jersey Brew Pubs Enjoying Golden Days [ New York Times ]

[ Photo via Flickr user MANNAfests ]

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