In the 1990’s, Montclair, New Jersey’s Greg Zaccardi worked as a brewer in Germany. When he returned to the states, not finding any decent craft or even imported beer, Zaccardi decided to do something about it – open his own brewery! Remember, this was the dark days when Beck’s and Molson were considered exotic.
Originally, he wanted to open his brewery in the High Point area of Sussex County, as this part of the Garden State reminded him of Germany. Not finding the necessary infrastructure, or a good supply of quality water, he opened shop in the former American Hard Rubber Factory in more centrally located Butler, NJ, and so High Point Brewing Company was founded as the first exclusive wheat beer brewery in the U.S. (Ramstein Beer is named for the town surrounding the large Air Force Base in Germany.)
When Scott advised me that there are brewery tours/open houses at 2:00pm and at 4:00pm the second Saturday of the months March-December inclusive, and that the November date also marked the release of Winter Wheat, we both inked November 12 on the calendar!
After posting here on TheBrewClub.com and emailing Scott for over a year now, I had no apprehensions about meeting him in person. I’m happy to meet anyone who shares the passion for good beer, though his wife asked of me “What if he’s an ax murderer?” 🙂
Scott advised to arrive early as this is a popular event. And it is! Hundreds of people it seemed were lined up for the two open house sessions. Some folks even attended both sessions! People were handed one white and three pink tickets as they entered. The white was for a sample of the Ramstein Winter Wheat, the pink for samples of the other two beers on tap, the Amber Lager and the Double Platinum Blonde. Available for sale were growler fills and six packs of the Blonde Hefe-Weizen.
On the tour, besides explaining the brewing process and history of High Point Brewery, Zaccardi mentioned that eleven beers are produced annually, though only three are bottled; that the wheat, barley, hops, and yeast are all imported from Bavaria; that Butler water is sold in bottles; and that the Ramstein Oktoberfest is the highest rated Octoberfest beer of any U.S. brewery.
High Point produces 4000 barrels of beer a year in a very small, though recently expanded, facility. This is an incredibly minute capacity when compared to the majors or larger micros.
So, how was the beer? The Winter Wheat was a very tasty winter warmer beer, and one definitely notices the 9.5% ABV! The Amber Lager tasted like a lager. That’s not a bad comment, just that my taste is for more complex beers, but I’d say it’s a good craft beer introduction to macro-drinking friends.
The Double Platinum Blonde is a good session beer and one I would definitely have again. Hefe’s all taste very similar to me, it’s not my favorite style, and the Blonde Hefe is representative of the style.
I’m very happy to try locally made beer, help Zaccardi’s dream come true, and to meet a very cool guy. Cheers!