by Kevin Trayner
Husband and wife owners Leo Sawadogo and Denise Ford Sawadogo have opened Montclair Brewery. Leo, a homebrewer for more than a decade, is the head brewer, while Denise applies her extensive marketing background and MBA to selling, branding and promotion. Leo’s West African heritage comes through in the nanobrewery’s beers – many make use of herbs, spices and fruit. The Hibiscus Dream Pale Ale is a nod to Denise’s Jamaican heritage – hibiscus (oft called “sorrel” in Jamaica) is used to flavor alcoholic drinks such as beer.
Recent taps included Kingston Porter, a Passionfruit Golden Ale, Blackberry Ale, Mango Ale, a raspberry Framboise, and an IPA and Double IPA. The brewery, based on Walnut Street in a former furniture store, opened its doors in October, and raised $12,000 of its funding through Indiegogo, a crowdfunding site (similar to Kickstarter).
Village Brewing has begun construction of its 8,500 sq ft brewpub in downtown Somerville in what was formerly a Woolworths department store. In fact, the 50-ft bar that looks out to Division St. and the downtown, will be in the space formerly occupied by the Woolworth’s lunch counter, according to General Manager Scott Eadie. Eadie formerly worked with the Harvest Group, which owns about a dozen successful restaurants in North Jersey, including Trap Rock brewpub in Berkeley Heights.
The brewpub will house a 10-bbl ABE (American Beer Equipment) brewhouse, and will serve its own beers, and some from local breweries as well. Additionally, there will be a 8,500 sq ft private banquet/catering space on the lower floor. In terms of square footage, it will be one of the larger brewpubs in the state. Look for Village Brewing to open in early 2019, said Eadie.
Departed Soles in Jersey City is adding some lagers to its mix of gluten-free and regular beers – to be clear the Liberty State Light Pilsner and Rail Lager are of the decidedly non-gluten category. In other news, the Red Headed Step Brewer Amber Ale has returned as well as two hazy IPAs (NE Style). One of them – Autohops – is a nod to the new Transformers movie. Look for a big Imperial Stout (“S’mo’n Joe”) in early January.
I was catching up with Greg Zaccardi, owner of High Point brewing in Butler, at the Central NJ Beer festival, over their spot-on Schwarzbier, Ink Black Lager. Ink Black Lager will be brewed year round and available in bottles and on tap – replacing the Dunkelweizen which is discontinued for now. “It was a great beer, but just didn’t sell well,” he said. The chocolatey Schwarzbier is a great replacement though. Spin IPA, High Point’s all-German hops and malt version of an IPA, has also come into the regular line up as well.
And of course, it is not winter without the brewery’s fabulous Winter Wheat, a Wheat Doppelbock weighing in at 9%, available on tap and in bottles. The late, great Michael Jackson once described this beer as “Powerfully enveloping, deep and complex” – it doesn’t get any better than that folks.
Heading down to Roselle Park, Climax’s English style winter warmer Snowplow keeps the chill at bay. Look for a cherry-flavored version as well, made with sour, tart Montmorency cherries.
And if you haven’t made your reservations, Gaslight’s annual Robbie Burns supper is Jan. 25, featuring a reading of the Address to a Haggis, Scottish menu items, and bagpipers. The brewpub will also be tapping Satan Claws for the holidays while Dec. 21 marked the brewing of Solstice Ale.
J.J. Bitting in Woodbridge taps a Porter, and then a malty Winter Warmer. Recent offerings at Harvest Moon included a Scotchy, Scotchy, Scotch Ale, Schwarzbier, Simple Refinement Lager and Berry Smoothie Sour.
Bolero Snort continues construction on its new bricks and mortar brewery, after having been a gypsy brewer for several years. “We are in the process of knocking down the existing building,” said owner Bob Olson, of the new 5,000 sq ft building in Carlstadt. The new 30-bbl brewery will be one of the largest breweries in the state when it opens, hopefully sometime in Spring 2019.
Cricket Hill released some winter seasonals at its Fairfield brewery – bourbon barrel aged version of its ESB, and Russian Imperial Stout. And for the weekend of Jan. 10, the bourbon-barrel aged Barleywine will be wakened from its winter slumber. Also, the brewery is offering its 12 Days of Christmas 12-pack which includes 12 different beers from the brewery’s production year, including a few barrel-aged specialties.
Czig Meister in Hackettstown hosts its third annual ImperialFest on Jan. 19, with the tagline: “Winter Sucks. So, bundle up, grab a few friends, and come drink big boozy beers with us!”
Big beers will be supplemented by big tunes throughout the afternoon and evening, starting with the Max Adler Vibes Quartet.
In Ewing, River Horse gears up for its 2019 Cask Fest on Jan. 12, 7-10 pm. The fest will feature live music and 20 plus different cask beers – some old, some new. The Belgian Freeze has returned for the winter, along with a new canned Coconut Stout. The brewery will also be canning its unusual and delicious Hippo’s Hand (a DIPA made with Buddha’s Hand fruit), and the Oatmeal Milk Stout. Lastly, look for a draft-only Toasted Marshmallow Brown Ale.
I’m guessing you will probably be seeing a lot of River Horse on tap at the new Landmark American Tap and Grill in the Campus Town Retail Shops, adjacent to Rider University and College of New Jersey. Landmark, a sports bar chain with a great tap list and American fare, has locations in Glassboro, Philly and West Chester – typically settling in college towns.
The Ewing location will be an expansive 9,200 sq ft and feature 40 taps. Can’t say what those taps will be for sure, but Landmark typically carries a lot of locals, so expect to see a lot of Jersey and PA breweries in the lineup. Along with The Firkin, Ewing now has two great beer bars.
In case you missed it, the Garden State took home three medals from the GABF this year. Kane won another medal for Night to End all Dawns, its wood-aged Imperial Stout, taking home silver this time. Village Idiot in Mt Holly, one of the smallest breweries in the state and an inspiration to many of our “storefront” breweries, won an impressive silver for its Tripel. And lastly, Slack Tide from Cape May Court House, won a bronze for its Amber Ale.
Oh, and Iron Hill continued its ridiculous “stop already, how are you doing this?” streak of winning GABF medals for the past 22 years. This year they “only” had one winner – for their Russian Imperial Stout, Solzhenitsyn.
In other news, all Iron Hill locations, including Maple Shade and Voorhees in NJ, is featuring the 9% Reindeer’s Revenge Tripel and 9.8% Russian Imperial Stout in can 4-packs. The Voorhees location will be brewing up a Brut IPA in time for New Year’s, which it collaborated on with Flying Fish and Spellbound. Brut IPA is a relatively new style, think of a super dry champagne-y IPA with little residual sugar flavor, courtesy of an enzyme which allows for fermentation of typically
Spellbound (Mt. Holly) did its own version of the Brut IPA at 6.8% and dry hopped with Nelson Sauvin/Hallertau hops. “Think of an NE style hop profile without being overly sweet,” said co-owner John Companick. There also are a limited number of the fourth anniversary LivingtheDream?!, an 11% bourbon-barrel aged imperial stout with coffee and maple syrup.
Just down the street, Village Idiot released its Notafingah! Winter Warmer with the ceremonial lighting of the leg (a hideous lamp shaped like a burlesque dancer’s leg, taken from “A Christmas Story” movie) The GABF winning Belgian Tripel will be on tap as well (it’s a staple at the brewery). New beers include some NE IPAs – Dankey Punch and Muck City DIPA.
Flying Fish released its 15% Blueberry Braggot aged in Dad’s Hat Rye whiskey barrels. The 6.9% Grand Cru Winter Reserve is out and about on tap and in bottles till Feb.
Carton is releasing a few new beers and old favorites in December. AUG 2, an 8% Dubbel made with beet sugar and pomegranate molasses was released at the tasting room last weekend. The brewery also tapped Gilded Lily, a Tripel made with white truffles. Beers are available in can 4-packs (case limit). In Asbury Park, Dark City brings back Side Piece the cranberry sauce-inspired Gose and Charrette the rye IPA. New beers from Dark City, include Campgrounds, a 5.5% oak smoked ale – reminiscent of graham crackers and campfires, according to founder Kevin Sharpe.
Rinn Duin in Toms River celebrates its fifth anniversary in Jan. with events at the brewery and at the Office. Check the website for dates and details (www.RinnDuin.com). The 5th Anniversary Ale will be a Celtic Wee Heavy, brewed with local buckwheat honey, available in 22 oz bottles and draft. In other news, Rinn Duin will be nearly doubling the size of its taproom, with construction scheduled to be completed by March.
Ironbound Hard Cider officially opened its tasting room at Ironbound Farm, located in Asbury (Exit 11 off of Interstate 78). The cidery will be open Saturdays, 12-8pm and Sundays, 12-6pm. All cider is made from apples from NJ and neighboring states, and is produced on the 108-acre Hunterdon County farm. Upcoming ciders include Devil’s Harvest, Woods Folly, and Gooseberry Ginger. Ironbound is available in over 700 bars, restaurants, and retailers throughout New Jersey.
Tuckahoe Brewing (Egg Harbor) has put out some brand new can art – think cool looking sea animals (giant squids, sea monsters, jellyfish, etc) and nautical stuff. The brewery’s new NE IPA, Arc of Visibility (sporting a jellyfish) was the first to display the new branding and art.
Down the road, Hidden Sands celebrates its first year by bringing back its first ever holiday brew – Cranberry Plum Wheat. The brewery is open Wednesday through Sunday, and typically features 12 beers on tap, including a hand pump. Recent offerings included a mix of several IPAs, sours, Imperial Stout, Baltic Porter, and Rose Petal Saison,
Heavy Reel (Seaside Heights) has been putting its Crowler machine to work, according to brewer Jeff Greco. Recent favorites include the collaboration with Icarus, Just Wing It, a coffee milk stout and 34N 74W, an Oyster Stout brewed with fresh local oysters harvested a few away miles from the brewery.
Bradley Brew Project releases its new Witbier in December, and is currently brewing its version of Resilience IPA for the Sierra Nevada’s Camp Fire Relief Fund. More than 1,200 breweries have signed on to brew a beer to raise money for those affected by the Camp Fire in Northern California.
This year Cape May has released two versions of its big beer seasonal, Boughs of Barley seasonal. Both versions of the barrel-aged Imperial Stout are available in limited quantities at the brewery’s Brewtique in the Cape May Airport and at selected retailers in NJ and Philly. One version was aged for a year in second-use Cognac barrels (previously used to age the 2017 Boughs of Barley), while the second variant spent 18 months in Scotch whisky barrels.In related news, Cape May co-owners Ryan Krill, Chris Henke, and Robert Krill are launching a new beverage distributorship called Cape Beverage. The brewery had a need to distribute its popular cranberry shandy, The Bog, currently contract brewed by FX Matt out of state. (Cape May needed this particular beer to be pasteurized, but like most craft breweries lacked the equipment to do so.) In addition to distributing The Bog, Cape Beverage will carry curated offerings from other select breweries, cideries, meaderies and wineries. One of the first non-Cape May beers the distributor will carry is Panga Drops, a Keller Pilsener, from Nicaragua Craft Beer.
At last count, 18 of NJ’s breweries had signed up to brew a beer and raise money for this effort – from the state’s largest, Flying Fish, to nanobreweries like Human Village. Flying Fish is tapping its Resilence IPA on Dec. 21. Check out www.sierranevada.com/camp-fire-relief-fund for more info and a full list of participating breweries.