Jersey Shore, Part 4 (Brewery Renaissance)

New Jersey had some peculiarities.  People can’t pump their own gasoline, for instance.  It’s like the 1960’s, with station attendants and the whole deal.  The local roads also had this weird thing where drivers had to exit right to turn left.  I don’t mean like on the Interstate highways with formal ramps and overpasses where that’s pretty normal, I mean on regular roads.

One more thing, a beer quirk:  patrons of New Jersey breweries have to take an educational tour before they can purchase a beer — every single time they visit a brewery.  In response, breweries came up with some rather inventive ways to minimally qualify a “tour.”  Something printed on the back of a coaster could become a tour; a quick glance at a jar of grain could become a tour; a walk past some equipment on the way to the restroom could become a tour.

I’d never been to a New Jersey brewery before this trip.  Now I’ve been to fifteen.  As usual, we stuck to small samples (generally four ounce pours) of several styles at each location.  The point was to enjoy the range, not drink to excess.  Nonetheless, by the end of the week, even I got a little tired of all the brewery visits.

Middlesex County

Harvest Moon Brewery

I figured the easiest way to break this article up might be to discuss it by county, simply because I like counties.  How should I cover the two breweries that got away?  I guess I’ll just mention them now.  We wanted to go to Flying Fish Brewing and River Horse Brewing — two well regarded New Jersey establishments — on the drive up.  However, our horrible detour via Pittsburgh ruined that plan.

I figured I still deserved a beer after a ten hour drive even if we had to get up early the next morning to run a half-marathon.  Harvest Moon Brewery in New Brunswick tugged at us, just a five minute walk away from our hotel, and we had to go even if only on principle.  We didn’t linger late into the night although we did sample the brewpub’s entire range.  I was so tired by that point I’m lucky I even remembered to take a photo.

Monmouth County

Carton Brewing Company

We ran our race the next morning, washed up, packed, and headed towards the shore.  Along the way we passed through Atlantic Highlands and stopped at Carton Brewing.  A friend of ours who was familiar with the area suggested we should give it a try.  Thank you, Steve.  Carton was solidly within the top tier of breweries that we visited during our trip.  Later that day we stopped at Triumph Brewing’s Red Bank location for dinner on our way to Asbury Park.

Ocean County & Atlantic County

Tun Tavern Brewery

We visited Ocean and Atlantic Counties on a Monday and a Tuesday.  Unfortunately most breweries closed down during the early part of the week so we had to skip them.  Brewpubs, however, remained open every day.

Brewpub differed from breweries of course because they included full-service restaurants.  New Jersey didn’t require brewpubs to give “tours” like their brewery brethren either.  Our beer sampling adventures slowed down during those quiet days, with lunch at Artisans Restaurant and Brewery in Toms River on Monday and Tun Tavern Brewery the next.  Tun Tavern connected directly to the Atlantic City Convention Center so I’m sure it got big crowds at times,  just not on the day we visited.  We practically had the whole place to ourselves.

Cape May County

Cape May Brewing

We drove south during the latter part of the week and the breweries began to open up.  Oh my goodness did we visit some breweries in Cape May County, practically every one.  I won’t describe them all although I’ll mention a few highlights.

Bucket Brigade Brewery in Cape May Courthouse held a special spot in my heart because it became my 500th brewery visit!  Once I thought 100 would be an almost unachievable number and now I’ve surpassed it five times.  I also enjoyed the Avalon Brew Pub in the town of Avalon because it was attached to our hotel.  We didn’t even have to walk outside to get to it.  COHO Brewing impressed me with its experimentation and Gusto Brewing performed wonders on the cutest little nano system I’ve seen in a long time.  Our other Cape May brewery stops included:

  • Ludlam Island Brewery (Ocean View)
  • Slack Tide Brewing (Cape May Court House)
  • MudHen Brewing (Wildwood)
  • 7 Mile Brewery (Rio Grande)
  • Cape May Brewing (Rio Grande)
  • Cold Spring Brewery (Cape May)

Bonus Breweries

Dogfish Head Brewery

Of course we managed to detour a couple of times on the way home as we drove through Delaware.  I’d been to Dogfish Head in Milton before, but didn’t mind stopping again at an old favorite.  We also picked-up a new visit at Mispillion River Brewing in Milford.

Afterwards, I felt no need to try another beer for a weeks.

See Also: The Complete Photo Album on Flickr

Jersey Shore, Part 3 (Lighthouses)

I enjoy visiting lighthouses .  They’re also one of those things I like to count and track.  Of course I researched the most promising locations long before I ever got to the New Jersey coastline.  This shore seemed particularly attractive so I sifted through a bunch of options and planned my strategy.

I found several possibilities although I also discovered that many of them wouldn’t be open during mid-April at least according to their websites. I thought I’d go there anyway and at least take some exterior photos.  Fortunately, the situation differed in a happy way for once.  Every single lighthouse was open that week.  We were able to climb a bunch of spiral staircases to gaze upon the Atlantic Ocean like keepers of yore.

Navesink Twin Lights

One of the Navesink Twin Lights

We knew the Navesink Twin Lights in Highlands Borough would be open, one of the few accurately depicting its status ahead of time (map).  I’d never seen a facility quite like this one though with two towers flanking a large keepers quarters.  The solid stone construction and imposing footprint made the exterior seem more like a prison with watchtowers.

They allowed visitors to climb the north tower to experience sweeping views across New York Harbor with Manhattan skyscrapers visible in the distance (photo). Such a busy port required something as distinctive as these dual lights, guiding ships past hazards since its construction in 1862.

Sandy Hook Lighthouse

Sandy Hook Lighthouse

We fully expected the Sandy Hook Lighthouse to be closed that day (map).  We showed up anyway, just as a park ranger walked from the keepers quarters and unlocked the door to the tower.  He’d been escorting a small tour group and he asked if we wanted to join them.  Of course we did!  So we got to climb the light while learning about the history of the site.

This tower actually predated the United States.  It began shining in 1764 and held the record as the oldest working lighthouse on U.S. soil.  British troops occupied the light during much of the Revolutionary War.  The rebellious Continental Army tried and failed to destroy the tower, so it survived the conflict intact.  It occupied a spot practically at the tip of Sandy Point when first constructed.  However, sand continued to accumulate along the shoreline over the last couple of centuries and now the tower sits about a mile and a half from the current point.

Barnegat Light

Barnegat Light

The Barnegat Light proved so iconic that the surrounding town adopted its name, having originally been called Brownsville.  It took some driving to get all the way out to the tip of Long Beach Island (map) and that added to its appeal.  Historically, the lighthouse provided a particularly important aid to navigation.  It marked a dangerous shoal where ships had to change course on an otherwise straight-line track between New Jersey and New York.

This one had an interesting background too.  A U.S. Army engineer designed the light and construction wrapped-up in 1859.  The designer happened to be George G. Meade, who later became a Major General for the Union army during the Civil War.  He defeated Confederate General Robert E. Lee at the Battle of Gettysburg.  I’m not sure how a lighthouse designer became a commanding general in such a significant battle.  Clearly he had multiple talents.

Our visit took place on an extremely windy day.  The tower’s extra elevation only added to that effect.  We were perfectly safe although it felt like we might get blown out to sea.

Absecon Lighthouse

Absecon Lighthouse

George Meade designed the Absecon Lighthouse in Atlantic City, too (map).  In fact his success at Absecon led to the assignment for Barnegat.  He saw Absecon rise in 1857.

This one is now the tallest lighthouse in New Jersey and the third tallest in the United States (171 feet / 42 metres).  I can vouch that I definitely felt every foot of elevation gain as we climbed each successive step to the top.

Once the tallest structure in Atlantic City, any number of casinos now dwarfed it.  Those were a little farther away from the tower so it still offered some nice views.  Well, parts of the view seemed nice, like the beaches and the ocean and the boardwalk.  That contrasted with the elevated gaze onto crumbling row houses, empty weed-strewn lots, and urban blight.  I tried to ignore that part.

Cape May Lighthouse

Cape May Lighthouse

Another wonderful light appeared at the far southern tip of New Jersey.  The Cape May Lighthouse began operations in 1859 and continues to serve as an active navigational aid (map).  Two predecessor lighthouses sat at unfortunate locations nearby.  Actually, those sites no longer existed, having been swallowed by the sea.

The current structure fared much better, placed a little farther back from the shoreline and constructed to withstand the strongest hurricanes.  We saw more tourists here than at any of the other lights.  It didn’t surprise me.  We stopped by on a warm afternoon with perfect weather.


We even found a couple of unexpected lighthouses as we rode the ferry across the mouth of Delaware Bay.  We couldn’t stop at either one them of course, although we did get close enough for some pictures.

Harbor of Refuge Light

No natural harbors existed near the entrance to Delaware Bay so a series of breakwaters were constructed in the vicinity of Lewes, Delaware during the second half of the nineteenth century.  These collectively came to be known as the National Harbor of Refuge.  Ships heading up or down the Atlantic coast or over to the port of Philadelphia that encountered stormy conditions could stop at the refuge for safety.  Lighthouses were used as beacons to mark the breakwaters.  The Harbor of Refuge light became a primary focal point.

Delaware Breakwater East End Light

The Delaware Breakwater East End Light served in conjunction with the Harbor of Refuge Light to guide those ships to safety.

See Also: The Complete Photo Album on Flickr

Jersey Shore, Part 2 (Boardwalks)

What should people do when they visit the Jersey Shore?  Hit some of the many well-known boardwalks of course.  I doubt any other stretch of Atlantic coastline in the United States has a greater density of boardwalks than New Jersey.  We traveled the length of the state’s waterfront, heading north to south, from Sandy Hook to Cape May and strolled down several boardwalks along the way.

I don’t think anyone could walk every one of them in a single week although we gave it a good shot.  Each one had its own unique characteristics that appealed to distinctly different audiences.

Asbury Park

Asbury Park Boardwalk

We strolled the Asbury Park boardwalk (map) on an early weekday morning as a storm rolled out to sea, leaving the planks damp and deserted.  The previous evening seemed a lot more lively although probably considerably quieter than what it must be like during the summer.  Some places remained open all year round including the Silverball Museum (photo) where visitors could play vintage pinball machines by the hour or the day.  The nearby Wonder Bar (photo) offered a nice spot to stop for a drink.  A few of the restaurants also seemed open.

It evoked images of Bruce Springsteen who got his start here, performing at the Stone Pony (photo) and other clubs in the vicinity.  Madam Marie’s psychic booth (photo), mentioned in his “4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)” continued to exist.  The original Madam Marie passed away years ago although a descendant still told fortunes at that spot.

Barnegat Light

Viking Village at Barnegat Light

Barnegat Light didn’t actually have a boardwalk.  The town fell a little off the beaten path at the very northern tip of Long Beach Island and didn’t have enough visitors to support one.  However, it did have Bayview Avenue, a nice road that hugged the island’s western coastline.  Infrequent traffic moved at a leisurely pace and wide shoulders offered plenty of room for walkers or bikers.  Local marinas included actual working fishing boats in addition to pleasure craft, a more blue collar atmosphere than many of the other shore towns.  A small area of former fishing shacks called Viking Village (map) provided the closest thing to a shopping district.

Atlantic City

Boardwalk Hall

Imagine the exact opposite of Barnegat Light’s solitude and that would describe the boardwalk at Atlantic City.  Casinos lined the shore along a wide wooden trail.  Crowds enjoyed springtime warmth as they roved from one gambling establishment to another.  Boardwalk Hall (map) in its Art Deco magnificence rose above the esplanade, the famous home of the Miss America pageant.  Unfortunately, almost every part of town just a block to the west confirmed preconceived notions of the financial decline of the city.  Those blemishes weren’t visible from the boardwalk though.

Ocean City

Mini-Golf at Ocean City

Ocean City’s boardwalk (map) gave a much more wholesome experience.  Gaudy and cheezy came to mind almost immediately, although in a pleasantly nostalgic way.  Three distinct buying experiences dominated the local scene:  T-shirt shops; miniature golf courses and pizza parlors.  I’d never seen such a concentration of any of these types of businesses in such a short distance.  It seemed like dozens.  Don’t try to find a beer though.  Ocean City has been “dry” since its founding in 1879.  Alcohol can’t be sold there, a point the town uses to bolster its family-friendly reputation.



Wildwood featured amusement park after amusement park along its scenic oceanfront boardwalk (map).  Oddly, most of the shops on this stretch hadn’t yet opened for the season, more so than any of the other seashore towns we visited that week.  All I could guess was that maybe they couldn’t attract enough visitors until the amusement parks opened, and the rides weren’t operating in mid April.  It didn’t matter to us though.  We came to walk.

Cape May

Full Moon at Dawn on Cape May

Technically speaking, Cape May didn’t have a boardwalk.  It had a promenade (map).  No trees died in the making of this town’s beachfront strip.  The solid asphalt berm likely doubled as a barrier during hurricane season too.  It also lacked storefronts except in one small section.  That made for a great place to jog in the early morning solitude, a flat even surface stretching for more than a mile.

See Also: The Complete Photo Album on Flickr