By Murray Schulman
It was just last week that Liz and I headed out to one of our new favorite pubs in Waretown, New Jersey. Breakers Tap and Grill is an establishment that is owned and operated by two sisters.
I hear the rumbling out there. Don’t worry, my friends, this is not another restaurant review. So, keep on reading.
All I will say is that the six of us who went there that evening had a great time, enjoyed some spot-on pub food and received VIP attention as did every patron in the packed house. One of the owners made the rounds, visiting each and every table to chat and ensure our comfort. Great place.
Now let’s get to the meat of the story. Craft and microbrew beer is exploding here at home as well as on the world market. Small breweries are popping up in local communities nearly everywhere. These local breweries are offering their concoctions in select pubs in their immediate area. These pubs offer the opportunity for the breweries to test the waters with their new selections to a wider audience than they could through brewery tap-room tastings alone. We also see an ever-growing variety of these craft and microbrew beers hitting the shelves in four packs and as stand-alone single bottles in many liquor stores. In fact, the larger liquor stores are featuring entire sections dedicated to this market segment.
Over the last several months, in direct response to the summer heat index, my interest in ice-cold beer has increased. I find myself gravitating to the pubs that feature an interesting food and beer menu. Plus, I want the option of ordering a flight of good local craft beer. This is a great way to sample a variety of brew types and styles. For example, on my last outing, I ordered a flight. I was given a list with at least a dozen craft beer selections from which I got to choose four. I opted for an Oyster Creek Brewery Cream Ale, a traditional American lager, a pale ale and a bartender’s choice. I mentioned that I am not a big fan of IPAs. After all, I do have a delicate palate. The bartender sent out an IPA stating that he was requesting that I please taste it. He promised that if I didn’t like his selection, he would replace it with another. I agreed for two reasons. First, I was curious why he would offer this selection in view of my opting out of that style. And second, I figured that I had nothing to lose by trying it. To my amazement, this selection had that bite that turns me off to IPAs. But, it was so subtle and so well balanced as to be the most refreshing and enjoyable selection of the flight and the night. Yes, I am in fact, still trainable. These new discoveries are what make doing what I do so much fun. Isn’t that what life is all about?
With all of this hubbub going on with these new trends in craft and microbrews, my mind drifted toward some observations. No, I wasn’t inebriated. I was just thinking about the fact that what was very old is now new again. Aside from monks and others brewing all sorts of malt style beverages back through the far reaches of history, one particular innovator comes to mind. Actually, I was reminded of this person when my daughter’s other half gifted a very cool bottle to me.
Let’s think back to the year 1759. A daring and creative individual signed a 9,000-year lease on a run-down, out-of-use brewery. This young man of 27 years old was already an entrepreneur and philanthropist. Yet he had a vision to create unique styles of beer. Today, they would call this the start of a craft beer brewery. Arthur Guinness was that man and an iconic beer was born from his imagination. Guinness has been producing their Milk Stout, Irish Wheat, Nitro IPA, Blonde Lager and Draught combining 259 years of experience.
Today, Guinness is the most consumed alcoholic beverage in Ireland. It is brewed in 49 countries and sold in over 150 countries. Over 10 million pints of Guinness are consumed daily worldwide. Yet Guinness remains a true innovator in the craft beer market as well as in main- stream volume production markets.
What amazes me is that this very old-school proper Irish Brewing company has stated that the U.S. is “the world’s epicenter of beer innovation.” Just one year ago last month, Guinness opened a new state-of-the-art experimental brewery in Baltimore. They are taking their original expertise in aging beer in wood to produce new and innovative craft beers that will be a powerhouse in the craft beer markets. It is fascinating to me that the same innovation that produced that first Guinness porter all those years ago, still is alive and thriving.
Yes, craft and micro brewing is considered a modern trend. Yet, it is that same spirit straight out of the history books that began as a small local craft brewery in a run-down brewery at St. James Gate, Dublin. Trends change. But innovative thinking and creativity have and will never go out of style. IAH