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.
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.
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
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
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)
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