COURTESY OF Bestofnj.com by Chris Castellani
New Jersey drank a lot of beer in 2017. Let’s rephrase that…I drank a lot of beer in 2017. Eleven new taprooms, two new breweries that are canning and kegging and one new brewpub round out the Class of 2017. Whether you’re looking for your new favorite beer or simply want to continue your New Jersey beer tour, here’s who joined the state’s brewery landscape this year.
2nd Act Beer
Where: No tap room currently
Best beer: Lil’ Cabin Coffee Blonde Ale
No tap room, no problem. Three music-loving buds want to add beer to their set list while they prepare for the main act. Under the tutelage of Greg Zaccardi of High Point Brewing Company, they brew one batch of beer at a time to serve in bars and restaurants around North Jersey. Besides their coffee-infused blonde ale, they’ve also released a kölsch and a Steel Sax Pale Ale.
Buck Hill Brewery & Restaurant
Best beer: Cliff’s Red Ale
You’ll have to travel deep into the boonies to find the lone new brewpub in the state; It’s worth the scenic trip. Near the Pennsylvania border and the Delaware Water Gap, Buck Hill serves hearty pub grub, handsome burgers and American dishes in a classy log cabin-like setting. Whether you settle up at the bar or want to pair your beer with your meal, they have a dozen house-made drafts to choose from for any taste.
Bucket Brigade Brewery
Where: Cape May Court House
Best beer: Pry Bar IPA
After fighting fires and saving lives, our men and women who ride the big red truck would like a tasty beverage. A couple of firefighter brothers are putting out thirst in Cape May with their line-up of IPAs, stouts and pale ales. Located in a former auto repair shop, don’t expect to slide down a pole, just slide up to the bar to order.
Common Sense Brewing
Best beer: Pumpkin Pie Ale
If the name Common Sense sounds familiar, that’s because this spot is named after Thomas Paine’s 1776 pamphlet, which detailed the reasons why the colonies should fight and declare independence from Great Britain. We think the great Paine would be proud that the folks behind Common Sense Brewing are declaring their independence from mass market beer. Located on Farnsworth Avenue in downtown Bordentown (where Paine lived), this family-run nanobrewery is making history of their own with a dry Irish stout, porter and amber ale.
Death of the Fox
Best beer: Stout Heard ‘Round the World
A recent New York Times article talked about how beer people are also coffee people and vice versa. This can be attributed to the fact that both drinking experiences are satisfying when done in moderation and they also offer tasting profiles. Owner Chuck Garrity created New Jersey’s first coffee roaster and brewery, so you can grab your morning joe then come back for your post-work tipple. Obviously, expect coffee-infused dark and pale beers alongside a cream ale and seasonals.
Where: Point Pleasant
Best beer: Strawberry Blonde
Frye Brewing is one of the two new breweries that opened in shore destination Point Pleasant over the summer. Leave the kids at the boardwalk with a bucket of tokens and head over to Frye’s to try some fruity beer flavors. The Strawberry Blonde is juicy riff on their flagship Summ’time Blonde, while the Coconut in The Dark is a tropical take on their Irish stout.
Hoboken Brewing Co.
Where: No tap room currently
Best beer: Cityside IPA
Finally, Hoboken has a beer that they can call their own. After years of homebrewing, planning and sitting on that coveted Hoboken Brewing name, Andrew Zebrowski and Brendan Drury got their beer into cans and onto shelves in 2017. While a taproom in Hoboken is the ultimate goal, for now you’ll just have to crack open a Cityside IPA and enjoy that floral Amarillo and Mosaic hop goodness, or opt for a Bodi Blonde for some flavorful coconut action.
Icarus Brewing Co.
Best beer: Valjean French Saison
Having opened last January, Icarus Brewing isn’t afraid to fly close to the sun. They’ve already brewed over a hundred beers! Started by a couple of certified beer geeks (one has a brewing degree), you can find fresh and local beer at Icarus. Expect to enjoy their Yacht Juice IPA (which pairs perfectly with the Yacht Rock music of the Doobie Brothers), a roasty Yukon Cornelius Coffee Porter and a sweet and funky Valjean French Saison made for watching Les Miserables.
Where: Point Pleasant
Best beer: 5/4 Stout
Between your first wave and last wave, you might need a beer. The other brewery that opened in Point Pleasant this past summer, this surf-themed craft brewery is a great place to bring your pooch after a day of shore fun. After your tour in their downtown location, settle in for the Spot Check Golden Ale, Chop Hop Porter and a 5/4 Stout for some velvety smooth refreshment.
ManaFirkin Brewing Company
Best beer: Wake the Firk Up! Oatmeal Stout
For the non-beer geek, a firkin is just a small, portable cask. Combine this with Manahawkin and you have a new taste sensation. Filled with repurposed wood in a barn-like setting, the tap room serves up a dozen selections like their IceTeaPa (an ice tea IPA), a CobraKaiPa (a tribute to the Karate Kid) and Wake the Firk Up!, your new favorite Sunday morning beer.
Best beer: Bombshell Kölsch
Rock music and craft beer must be a thing, because you’ll find vinyl records all over this new entry into the Hammonton craft beer community. Jim Sacco, the former head brewer at nearby Three 3’s Brewing, struck out on his own this year to create his music-inspired brews like We Go to 11 Oatmeal Stout for Spinal Tap fans and Sweep the Leg Johnny Pumpkin Ale. I’m partial to their Bombshell Kölsch for its peaceful, easy feeling that won’t let me down.
Yale Terrace Brewing
Best beer: #17 Yale Cream Ale
After years of development, Cranford’s first craft brewery snuck into the beer scene just before the close of 2017. Down the road from OG New Jersey craft brewery Climax, the newbies are starting out with a cream ale, double IPA, a bourbon espresso stout, a wine-infused IPA and a saison.
Zed’s Beer – Bado Brewing
Best beer: Zed’s In London – English Mild
We were there for the opening in September, so what has Geoff Bado been brewing? He’s added Zed’s On Maple Ave., a breakfast-inspired, maple-infused dark ale. Hold my beer, so I can start drinking this beer! He’s also added Zed’s In The Universe (a pale ale with Centennial, Cascade and Amarillo hops), Zed’s In Kilkenny (an Irish red ale) and Zed’s In Wiltshire, a British strong bitter ale.