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NJ.com Reports: N.J. Beer Festival blends booze and battleships

06/25/2013 - 7:26am

Beers on a battleship? Blasphemy! Well, at least not for one day on the Battleship New Jersey at Saturday’s Garden State Craft Brewers Beer Festival.

After spending years hosting the festival at the Waterloo Village in northern New Jersey, event organizers had to move the beer tasting bonanza after the village stopped hosting local events, according to Gene Muller, the president of the Flying Fish Brewery Company and one of the organizers of the event.The festival, hosted by the Garden State Craft Brewers organization, brings out 20 local breweries to let residents sip some of the state’s locally brewed craft beers.

About 10 years ago, the event was originally held on the pier on the Camden Waterfront. But after one year where the weather was too hot to encourage people to drink alcohol, the group looked at the ship parked at the dock and thought that the crosswinds blowing on the ship might help them continue to hold the event in the summer.

So, for $45 per glass, residents get to enjoy some of the state’s locally brewed stouts and ales alongside the sights of anti-artillery guns on one of the country's most decorated ships and the Camden shoreline.

With 14 of the breweries hailing from central to northern New Jersey, Muller said that several of them do not distribute their beers in South Jersey, so Saturday’s event is a unique experience on more than one front.

“A lot of the people are from South Jersey, so they don’t get to see some of the North Jersey beers very often,” said Muller.

For the president of a brewery based out of Camden County that started in the mid 1990s, Muller said he and others wanted to promote an atmosphere that could show off some of the area’s best brewers.

“All these little guys are able to open up and generate interest in their local brews,” said Muller.

Turtle Stone Brewing Company, based out of Vineland, was also at the event as one of the 20 members of the Craft Brewers organization.

Ben Battiata began brewing his own beer over a decade ago and just recently became officially licensed to sell beer around his hometown.

Growing up, he said that there really wasn’t that much of a scene when it came to locally crafted beer.

“When I first started (brewing), I didn’t like the beer that was out there,” said Battiata. “So I thought, if you can’t get it locally, they make it.”

Ever since the company started selling the beer last year, however, Battiata said that his company has been getting interest from the Cumberland and Atlantic county areas, with beer aficionados and novices alike interested in everything from their dark stouts to their blond ale.

Battiata, now a 34-year-old still operating out of Vineland, says he tries to use as many local products as he can when it comes to creating the beer, including an interesting sweet potato beer that he says can stand up to some of the pumpkin ales that come around in the Fall.

While he admitted that the scene had grown larger when he first started, thanks in large part to efforts like Muller’s to encourage more people to get interested in their local beer makers, he said he still wants more people to try something else other than the typical Budweiser at their local chain restaurant.

“(The local beer scene) still has some vibrancy to gain, but it’s getting there,” said Battiata. “This gives them the chance to try something new and something local.”


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