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Just a post to share various local beer news and happenings in Northern New Jersey and the Tri-State Region this month.

Boaks Beer Launched

Cheers and best of luck to a great homebrewer who has now gone pro! Brian Boak, award-winning homebrewer and president of my local homebrew club (http://www.jerseybrewers.com/), has now launched his own line of commercially-produced specialty craft beer under the label Boaks Beer (http://www.boaksbeer.com/index.php).

His Monster Mash Russian Imperial Stout is now available in restaurants, bars and stores in New Jersey. While the Russian Imperial Stout style in general isn’t a favorite of mine, this one is a solidly good beer, and is opening to great reviews on beeradvocate (http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/16792/41239) and ratebeer (http://www.ratebeer.com/beer/boaks-monster-mash-imperial-stout/83776/)

Even more highly anticipated (in my opinion) is his Two Blind Monks Belgian-style Dubbel which should be available later this month. If it is anything like the subtley spiced, rich and malty homebrewed Dubbel that Brian has shared at our homebrew club meetings and at last Fall’s Brewtopia Fest in NYC, this is one well-worth seeking out.

We wish you all the best, and look forward to your future releases!

Still crazy after all these beers

Follow the link below to an article on the excellent Captain Lawrence Brewing Company and the state of homebrewing in Westchester County, New York: http://www.lohud.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080305/LIFESTYLE01/803050302

The Beer Essentials

Follow the link below to an article on the Hudson Valley’s own Defiant Brewing and homebrew club the Ramapo Valley Ruffians: http://www.lohud.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2008803050305

1st Manhattan Cask Ale Festival

Cask-beer afficianado and expert Alex Hall, recently featured in the New York Times (www.nytimes.com/2007/10/24/dining/24pour.html), is organizing Manhattan’s First Cask Ale Festival in conjunction with (and being held at) the Chelsea Brewing Company on March 28-30. For more information, and eye-popping list of breweries expected to be providing casks, visit: 

http://www.gotham-imbiber.com/beerfestival.html

It Must Be Spring…

 if Maibock is now on tap! Ramstein, brewers of some excellent German-style lagers and wheat beers, will have the debut of this year’s Maibock (a traditional German hoppy sweet strong pale lager typically tapped in May) at their March Open House on Saturday, March 8th from 2 – 4 p.m. at the High Point Brewing Company in Butler, NJ. Their open house includes samples, a brewery tour, and the chance to purchase growler-fills of their draft-only beers (including their Maibock). Visit the brewery website at:

http://www.ramsteinbeer.com/

Out of Town Events: Philly Craft Beer Week

 A celebration of the (self-proclaimed) America’s Best Beer-Drinking City, there are numerous events, tastings, tours, dinners and even a breakfast (ah, yes, “Wheat Beer! The Breakfast of Champions”). For more information, visit:

 http://www.phillybeerweek.org/

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HollisterWhile the wineries surrounding Santa Barbara have been slowly growing in both popularity and reputation over the past ten years or so, the quirky comedy Sideways has brought even more attention to Southern California’s answer to the Napa Valley. And while visitors to Santa Barbara are constantly reminded in almost every restaurant, bar and tourist publication of the vast array of local wine available, there is some great beer to be found here if you know where to look.

The LA Times recently featured a great article about beer in wine country, and I was lucky enough to check out a few local breweries for myself.

Surrounded by a sea of big-box stores in the Santa Barbara suburb of Goleta, the recently opened Hollister Brewing Company is not exactly what one would consider a tourist destination. However, for a change of pace after a day or two of wine tasting, their house-brewed beer is well-worth seeking out. Skip over the relatively mundane Sands Session Ale, and let your palate explore their more robust and flavorful offerings. For hop-heads, the White Star XPA has a big grapefruit aroma that carries through the flavor, finishing with a moderate but palatable bitterness. It is served on a nitro-tap, typically used to give stouts their creamy head and mouthfeel, an unusual twist that makes this Extra Pale Ale even more enjoyable.

For those who enjoy maltier beers, both the Table 42 Red and the Milk Stoutare excellent choices. The red ale is a very drinkable session beer, full of caramel and bready flavor with just a hint of butterscotch. The stout is smooth, creamy and sweet, which is exactly what makes a milk stout more approachable to those who find dry stouts, like Guinness, too bitter and sour. Imbibers who like a bit more “funk” in their beer will enjoy the yeasty, slightly tart Farmhouse, a saison-style ale that can is excellent with spicy Asian-influenced cuisine.

And while all the beers I’ve mentioned so far are very solid offerings, the real stars here are Holister’s two wheat beers: Hollister Hefe and Magic Clamps Weizenbock. While the German hefeweizen style is common in many American brewpubs, few acheive the right level of banana and clove aroma and flavor that make a hefe much more than a wheat beer. Hollister gets the flavors here just right, along with a spritzy, lively carbonation that makes this an excellent refresher on a hot summer day.

Weizenbock is a much less commonly found style both here and abroad, maybe due to the fact that Germany’s Aventinus Weizenbock is so close to perfection that few will attempt their own take. I’m very glad that Hollister took on the challenge. Their Weizenbock, in both aroma and flavor, with its spice, fruit and richness will remind you of both banana bread and fruitcake. And for as strange as that may sound for the taste of a beer, it really works here. I daresay it is the best American example of this style I have ever tasted.

Hollister is a brewpub and restaurant, so I shouldn’t forget to mention the food. They offer a wide variety of unusual pizzas, but for as delicious as the menu descriptions sound, the pizza is merely average. Maybe this was because it was overshadowed by the appetizers we enjoyed beforehand. Their tortilla soup is rich in flavor without being too spicy, and their mac & cheese made with pancetta and gruyere is just simply delicious.

We’ll continue with two more Santa Barbara beer stops in upcoming blog entries, so stay tuned…

AventinusaventinusDefinition: Weizenbock
A richer and stronger (i.e. higher alcohol, Bock strength) version of a Dunkel Weizen (a German dark wheat beer). It has the signature banana and clove aroma and flavor typical of German weizen beers, along with flavors of darker fruit (raisins, cherries, figs) and rich caramel malts. Aventinus is the most famous and best example of this unique style.

Beer Quote:

“Beer that is not drunk has missed its vocation”

                                                    – Meyer Breslau