Grab a Winter Beer
And Plenty More Pints
At Pinelands Brewing Co.
by Liam McKenna
I won a New Jersey Press Association award for this story back in April. I figure this is an ideal time and story to start a new online portfolio. I’ve been writing for The SandPaper, a weekly newspaper on Long Beach Island, for a year now.
In my eyes, business writing was one area where I really improved. Winning an award helped affirm this belief. A love for craft beer certainly helped me do the write-up, though.
12.17.2014 — For those looking to step up their beer game from that of a poor, ignorant college kid to that of a connoisseur, look no farther than the new Pinelands Brewing Co. in Little Egg Harbor Township, right off Route 539. This is the perfect time to check out its neat holiday brews.
Take a taste of the company’s All the Fixin’s. The name says it all. It’s a seasonal porter, a dark beer, featuring cranberries and sweet potatoes. No, that is not a typo that this writer will have to correct in next year’s first issue. This beer is as bold as it looks.
Brewmaster Jason Chapman said the inspiration for the beer simply came from the time of season. He says brewing darker beer typically happens in the chilly months. Add in the seasonal fruits that can get thrown into the mix, such as those cranberries, and brews can get interesting toward December.
“We had the desire to do a seasonal brew this year. As soon as pumpkins came out, we brewed a pumpkin ale. And we said, ‘Let’s do something more wintry,’” Chapman said.
He said new ideas for pints come from conversation. That was certainly the case for All the Fixin’s. Chapman met some guys connected to a cranberry farm. They hooked Chapman up with some cranberries, and it was time to start conjuring up some recipes.
“We were trying to figure out what to do with the cranberries. We didn’t want to do a run-of-the-mill cranberry amber recipe,” he explained. “We decided to do a porter. And at the same time, a friend of mine had a truckload of sweet potatoes. It’s widely known that breweries have brewed with both, so we figured why not throw it together in one beer.”
This was the first time Chapman had brewed with sweet potatoes. However, he just incorporated the ingredient in the same manner he uses with pumpkin — adding it during the “mash” process after it had been oven-roasted. During this step, Chapman described the sweet potatoes as “steeping with the grains” to extract the flavor. As for the cranberries, Chapman added those into the brew in the same manner as he does with blueberries: while the beer is boiling in the brewing kettle. There, the cranberries burst open, adding their flavor to the beer.
“It’s a caramel-y porter, and it’s got that little bit of tartness and fruitiness from the cranberries,” Chapman said.
Using Chapman’s prior knowledge, Pinelands was able to “pretty much” nail the recipe on the first attempt.
“It’s a calculated experiment,” he said. “We were very, very pleased with the results.”
The beer came out close to Thanksgiving, and that’s how the brew got its title.
For those who may not be adventurous enough to taste All the Fixin’s, the brewery does have plenty of other options.
“Some of these brews aren’t too far off-style,” Chapman said. “We’re a small brewery. We’re testing the waters.”
Among these other brews is the staple: Pitch Pine Ale — a now awarding-winning American pale ale, thanks to a great showing at the Atlantic City Beerfest back in April. From this writer’s intermediate beer knowledge: it’s super good and super smooth and no, it’s not too hoppy, Mom. Chapman has been working on the beer since 2007. He has personally been brewing since 2001. After brewing the beer for seven years, he considers the award validating, even more so because the brewery had been open for just one month.
“I was ecstatic. I don’t know how else to say it,” Chapman said. “We love what we’re doing and where we are.”