Molecular Brewlology 401: Beer
New Jerseyans love beer. It's kind of a thing. We love drinking it. We love talking about it. We love pairing it with delicious eats.
Local beer has an interesting history. With tons of German immigrants settling the area in the years after revolution, New Jersey became a world beer brewing center, with hundreds of notable breweries, including Kruger (first to ship cans!) and Ballantine (Don't laugh! Pre-prohibition American macrobrew beer was made with higher quality ingredients, rivaling the microbrew movement of recent years). With tons of elite brewers established in Newark and easy access to the nation's rail infrastructure, New Jersey became one of the chief drivers of America's early upstart success on the global beer stage.
Ad for Ballantine. Note the location in the bottom right. via biblioklept.files.wordpress.com (cc)
Then prohibition happened. While it made for some good stories (see Boardwalk Empire), the NJ brewing scene never fully recovered. It's really, really sad.
Yet, like its resurgent football program, there is hope.
While there remains a healthy macrobrew scene and tons of distribution goes through the aforementioned transportation infrastructure, New Jersey's return to beer prominence lies in its burgeoning microbrew scene. Classic brewers like Triumph and Cape May create stellar offerings and innovative brewers like Cartons and River Horse push the envelope with some truly unique flavors (If you can find it, try River Horse's Oatmeal Milk Stout, a delicious but not-too-sweet stout. Absolutely fantastic.).
Jersey's favorite beer though, both in taste and in heart, has to be Flying Fish. Nationally renowned for its quality, Flying Fish won over the state with its Exit Series. Each references an exit off the turnpike, drawing inspiration and ingredients from local produce. While there have been some stumbles with broader distribution, if you see anything from Flying Fish, grab it asap and thank me later.
via farm7.staticflickr.com (cc)
So, that's Jersey beer. We've heard good things about beer in Big Ten Country. Editors, what's the best brew the conference has to offer?
Although I haven't been there yet, I'm going to use this space to promote Function Brewing in Bloomington, Indiana. The owner/brewer went to engineering school with me at Purdue. It just opened a few months ago; if you're in the area check it out.
Candystripes for Breakfast
I sadly must abstain on this question, for two reasons. The first being that I haven't tried any beers that could represent the rest of the conference that well. The second reason, of course, is that I don't really drink that much, and am wholly unqualified to judge beers, considering I don't really like them at this point in my life.
Beer is sadly not my forte. However, I will continue to tout the wonderfulness of Empyrean Brewing and their Dark Side Vanilla Porter and Third Stone Brown Ale. Those two are great and if you come to Lincoln, do yourself a favor and grab some.
Yuengling is the best beer in the conference because like the Big Ten itself, the amber lager is old, traditional, and proven to be great throughout the decades. It's made by America's oldest brewery in Pottsville, Pennsylvania and has not changed its uniform in years. Remind you of Penn State? Come to Penn Staaaaaaaate! Drink Yuengliiiiiiing.
Id feel disingenuous if i didn't say flying dogs dead rise summer ale wasn't as Maryland as you can get. The beer is brewed with old bay. Id like to claim dogfish head for Maryland, but perhaps that is why winner gets Delaware so we can claim ownership of this brewery.
On beer, all bow before Founders' Kentucky Breakfast Stout. Its otherworldly quality and limited supply make its release something of a holiday. More readily available Michigan brews include Bell's Oberon and Atwater's Vanilla Java Porter, but seriously, if you're bringing up craft beers, Michigan as a state is in a class with California and...that's it. There are great beers from other states hereabouts, sure, but for breadth and volume of great choices you can't beat the mitten.
I will be true to both sides of my heritage. For Northwestern and Chicago, head to Revolution Brewery. Try the Rosa Hibiscus Ale and the EuGene Coffee Porter. You won't be sorry.
But that doesn't touch my first love: the state of Minnesota. In Minnesota, for a more generic (but delicious as hell) black lager, get Schell's Chimney Sweep. Toasty, full-bodied, and smoky, it's like a Christmas ham in your mouth. And if you don't love a Christmas ham in your mouth, get the hell out of my Christmas party.
Oh, you're a porter fan who happens to be in Minnesota? You like historical breweries? Head on over to the old Hamm's Brewery on the East Side of St. Paul, now home to Flat Earth Brewery! Every winter, Flat Earth does an event called Porterfest, infusing their already-amazing Cygnus X-1 Porter with a different flavor every week based on customer demand. Popular flavors include cheesecake, Irish cream, orange, raspberry, and even a chili pepper-infused porter. Nothing, though, tops the Grand Design porter, featuring s'mores. Imagine a summer campfire: the crunch of a graham cracker, the sweetness of a marshmallow, the warm chocolate. Now distill that into a beer. Magic. MAGIC.
Aggro 521 - Agriculture in the Garden State
Farmland in Sussex County, NJ via farm2.staticflickr.com (cc)
Spending time hanging out in the wonderful comments section of Off Tackle Empire, I get the sense that folks in the heartland take their agriculture pretty seriously. Well, they call Jersey the Garden State for a reason!
The funny thing is that while Rutgers is nestled in one of the most productive biomes in the world, most of that incredibly fertile land is put to use solely to grow beautiful lawns. That said, just like our towns and cities, Jersey agriculture is dense, utilizing every available inch of fine "Downer Soil" farmland to produce some impressive results for such a small state.
via upload.wikimedia.org (cc)
From New Jersey, the 47th largest state in terms of size (yup, that's smaller than Hawaii), we get:
- 3rd in cranberry production (Ocean Spray and others license Rutgers Cranberry Varieties. Go RU!)
- 3rd in blueberry production
- 3rd in spinach production (Our ground game is strong to the finish ‘cause we eats our spinach!)
- 4th in peaches, lettuce, and bell pepper production (our green peppers are as sweet as most reds)
- 7th in Tomatoes (Jersey tomatoes are simply amazing. Super sweet. Pairs perfectly with some fresh mozzarella, basil, salt and peppermmmmmmm nom nom nom nom)
- 9th in sweet corn (see below)
- 10th in wine (The Outer Coastal Plain region is up and coming. Unionville Vineyards' Pinot Noir is not one to be missed. If you see it, buy a case immediately).
Some impressive figures, but the signature Jersey product has to be Jersey Sweet Corn. Throw a little butter and sea salt on there and you have a quasi-religious experience on your hands. You can only get it from late summer to fall, but it's the best corn in the country, and it ain't close. Suck it Nebraska!
So, my fellow editors, what are the signature crops for your respective teams, regions or states? What local produce do we need to sample when road-tripping to your respective outposts?
Indiana is a fine state for growing corn and soybeans. For a Purdue-related ag product, pick up some Orville Redenbacher popcorn. Orville graduated with an agronomy degree in 1928.
Candystripes for Breakfast
Crops? I mean, I know there's a lot of farmland in Indiana, but the ag school is the black and gold folks up north, so I'll differ that part of the question to them. Must sample food in Bloomington? Well, I'm partial to the pizza variety in town, as you really can't go wrong with most of them, but for food experience, you must visit one of Nick's English Hut (the quintessential IU bar), Kilroy's on Kirkwood (the quintessential IU Greek life bar), the Village Deli (best breakfast food in town, and pretty good other selection as well) or Mother Bear's (best pizza in Bloomington, and really feels like a college town restaurant). But, since you probably won't be visiting us until next year at the earliest, I would definitely solicit opinions from people over at the Crimson Quarry as well, because they know more about Bloomington than I probably ever will.
So uh, we're not necessarily into the whole produce thing. I like sweet corn from Nebraska, but we're more about crops to feed livestock because we have a lot of cows here. Now, that being said, there are some pretty great farmers markets in the area and they can get you everything from great string beans to potatoes to all sorts of other veggies. Still, we are more about cows and pigs and such and feeding them. Oh, that and ethanol. We produce a lot of crops for ethanol, which is something.
Pennsylvania is mostly known for dairy, milk, cows, and mooooooooo. On the scenic drive into State College, you can see this majestic creatures at work, chewing their cud, and generally being fabulous. The finest bovines have their milk turned into ice cream by the magical Penn State Creamery. Go for the ice cream, stay for the milkshakes.
Maryland, at least the eastern shore and southern Maryland, were known for tobacco production for a long time. So popular that the county i am from used the Calvert coat of arms (yellow and black on Maryland flag) with a tobacco leaf laid overtop as the county flag. Now that it's frowned upon and subsidies paid out to not produce it, corn has become the main crop. The silver queen variety was the most grown corn for a while until hybrid corns became so popular that there isn't really a majority type in the state.
Haha well I ought to defer to SpartanHT on this one. Because of the Great Lakes' moderating effect on the weather, Michigan can grow more types of crops than any state other than California, I believe (HT, check me if I'm trippin'). The Traverse City area is legendary for its fruit trees, but I'm straying well beyond my wheelhouse so I'll let my food science bros elaborate.
The guys who lived next to me in Evanston had some AWESOME carrots growing in their garden. At least, I think they were carrots...they promised me they were, and all I could see were their leaves. Man, those guys threw some bitchin' parties.
Statistics & Projections 602: The Long Game
Bill Connelly recently did a great preview of Rutgers' first season in the Big Ten, noting some interesting trends:
Rutgers has pulled off something remarkable in recent years: the Scarlet Knights have managed to regress in six of the last seven seasons.
In a roundabout way, such an achievement is a tribute to both where they started seven years ago (it had to be pretty far up to give the team room to fall this much) and how far they bounced back in the one non-regression season (the Scarlet Knights were very good in 2011).
Bill is spot on. Rutgers arrived in 2004 and has been flirting with greatness since. One might look at that vacillation and think Rutgers has hit the ceiling. Well, that ignores some pretty spectacular long-term trends and external factors.
via upload.wikimedia.org (cc)
For the longest time, Rutgers was a peer school to the Princetons, Lehighs, and NYUs of the world. The ADs that came before Bob Mulcahy had no interest in playing major college football on the banks, and thus it was largely ignored. To no surprise, Rutgers football meandered through most of its existence (with a few notable exceptions in the 60's and 70's) without a clear vision or goal.
via upload.wikimedia.org (cc)
Flash forward to the 21st century and Rutgers is finally realizing the dream of competing at the highest level of college football. With entry into the Big Ten, Rutgers is facing prestigious programs at a pace never seen before. With increased institutional support, Rutgers' football teams have been competitive on a level never seen before. With the democratization of football and television distribution creating a new college football economy, no football program in the nation stands to benefit more than Rutgers now and in the mid-to-far future.
So, fellow editors. Last question: Where do you see Rutgers Football in 10 years?
I have no idea if Rutgers football (or college football in its present form) will exist in ten years. My Magic 8 ball says, "Cannot predict now."
Candystripes for Breakfast
Rutgers Football in 10 years, eh? Well, given the recent state of the conference, you'll probably be in the B1G's Coastal Division by that time (because expansion isn't over yet). As far as on the field performance, as long as your athletic department doesn't keep going full WTFgers, you'll probably be solidly in the middle of the conference. To compare you to a current team, you'll probably be in the Minnesota/Iowa tier: a team capable of producing a great year, but also capable of 4-8ing with the best of us. If, however, you've gone full WTFgers, welcome to the Illinois/[REDACTED] tier, where anything (including 1-11) is possible. Somewhere in between (half WTFgers or so), and you'll be in the Indiana tier: praying for the bowl game that will never come. ONE OF US, ONE OF US, ONE OF US.
Okay, so hear me out Rutgers' fans. Let me tell you a little tale about a team from Nebraska, a team that was a) coming off a 10 win season, b) returning a lot of talent in all three levels of the defense, and c) actually had a pulse on offense. While many pundits were leery - for what would be legitimate reasons - and most B1G fans were extremely leery, many Nebraskans believed they would waltz into the Big Ten and win the championship right off. This, of course, was somewhat absurd considering it didn't take into account the change in style, the change in prep, the difference in talent, and the general churn from year to year. Nebraska would go on to get embarrassed by two foes in the Big Ten it felt were its contemporaries (Michigan and Wisconsin) and were beat by Northwestern at home. Why am I telling you this when we're discussing the long game? See, here's the deal Rutgers. We can't predict that right now. Yes, you now have resources, but so does Michigan and Michigan State, Ohio State and Penn State, Indiana, Purdue, Minnesota, and the rest of the lot. While there is plenty of talent in NJ, there is also plenty of carnage for those recruits and sadly, until all facilities are at or above those you are around, you're still always playing catch-up.
All of that said, I think Rutgers has potential to be good. Win it all the time good? No, not at all. Mid-level with a flare to the top? Probably. But, I'd temper your expectations to get there. This isn't a walk in the park and while the long game seems better (going back 20 years and comparing to institutional support is a legitimate argument to be made), I'd also worry that there is a cap when you start playing with schools that have been playing this big boy (money-wise) game for a while. And uh, remember the Nebraska story always. You may have had an off year last year in your eyes, but you have a lot less than the 2010 Nebraska team, and that team didn't do nearly as well as they thought they would. There is a good chance that happens to you for the next half decade or so. You might not believe me, but don't come complaining to me later that I didn't tell you.
"Don't say doin' your wife, don't say doin' your wife, don't say doin' your wife..."
Doin' your... conference championship game? Maybe. If Rutgers can get enough kids to stay at home (and there should continue to be plenty of recruits coming out of New Jersey), they can be a competitive team in the Big Ten and maybe even shock the system every decade or so. With Michigan State and Ohio State both in the East Division for now, Rutgers faces a stiff challenge, but 10 years is long enough for anything to happen.
A heaping pile of trash just like the state they are from. Just kidding, kinda. I think Rutgers stays where they are: not good, but not terrible either. I just don't see it becoming the place to go.
Hahaha who the hell knows? I'd be pretty surprised if college football closely resembles what we know now in another 10 years. Assuming the infrastructure continues to exist, you could talk me into a middle of the pack existence for Rutgers. But if you think access to big-time audiences and an institutional commitment to football guarantees a bright future, think again. Rutgers now faces three of the wealthiest and most tradition-steeped powers that college athletics has to offer, plus a potential fourth power in MSU, and that's just in your division. It's great that you've arrived, so to speak, but you're in for a rude awakening if you think the hardest part is over.
Still in the B1G, to the chagrin of traditionalists who by 2024 will be reduced to yelling at clouds before heading off to the highly-anticipated Ohio State at Reykjavik Technical College tilt on an aircraft carrier in the Gulf of Mexico. DELANYYYYYYYYYYYY
Monday: Cocktail Party Preview
Tuesday: Smartest Guy in the Room
Wednesday: Potluck Part One
Thursday: Potluck Part Two/Smoking Room **You are here**
Friday: Keeping the Enemy Close