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New Jersey Brewpubs...

Hello, native New (North) Jerseyan here, who will be heading home for another visit later this year. I'm interested in finding New Jersey's best brewpub.

I understand many have opened over the years since I left NJ and moved to Portland, Oregon, and I've tried a few back in Jersey already. Most of them seem to be about average, though. I understand the focus in these places will always be the beer first and foremost, but for beer lovers like me such a place which also puts attention and care into their food is a special place, indeed.

The ones I've already been to are Gas Light in South Orange, Long Valley out in Morris County, Harvest Moon in New Brunswick, Basil T's in Red Bank, JJ Bitting's in Woodbridge and Triumph in Princeton.

Out of those, Long Valley had the best food and service (with Basil T's a close second), but I think I'd give Gas Light the nod for best beer. JJ Bitting's Coal Train Porter certainly deserves an honorable mention, though.

Trap Rock in Berkeley Heights is first on my list to try next time I'm out there, and I think I heard last year that there's a new brewpub set to open in Newark (or has it already?)?

Others I'm interested in are the Ship Inn in Milford, Krogh's in Sparta and Tun Tavern in AC if I can manage to get all the way down there.

Anybody have any experiences with those places? Or other suggestions I'm not aware of?

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  1. Oh, and of course...

    The best place to watch a Rutgers football game is certainly Harvest Moon!

    A Jimmy D's Firehouse Red, and Rutgers football. Can't beat that!

    2 Replies
    1. re: JayinPortland

      Excepting that one season, Rutgers and football are reminiscent of ice cream and anchovies.

      1. re: MGZ

        Lol, yeah I know all too well. I remember listening to games on the radio back in the 80's and early 90's (when we couldn't even get 'em on teevee!), when a few of my classmates' older brothers played for the team. Then, some of my friends went on to do so. We lost a lot back then, huh? But these days, it's just that much sweeter to see RU televised regularly. I can see about 6 games a year here in Oregon, just on regular cable.

        One of these days, we're gonna win the Big East. And on to the BCS!

        Yes, I'm a dreamer. But I'm also a Mets fan, so that should explain it.

        ;-P

    2. I am afraid that the NJ brewpub scene is lousy. Harvest Moon at least has its own beer. My experiences at Basil T's in Red Bank were disappointing. I am looking forward to making a trip out to Salt the Gastropub. I also hope that your query will elicit some helpful leads.

      9 Replies
      1. re: MGZ

        Thanks...

        Have you tried Bitting's or Gas Light yet? They're not that far if you're in the New Brunswick area. Gas Light has B food, and A- beer. Bitting's food is a C at best, but their beers average around a B to a B+, imo, even if they're pretty weak by national brewpub standards. The seasonals (sorry, can't remember the names, but I know they once had a really good pumpkin beer) are usually pretty good though, and the Coal Train Porter is always worth a try or three.

        1. re: JayinPortland

          I live close to Gaslight so I wind up going there frequently. The beer isn't that good - my main complaint is that it is quite variable, and sometimes off. One good aspect is that they have several well chosen guest beers and a cask-conditioned ale (brewed in house or guest). Plus the people that run the place have rubbed a lot of people the wrong way with some odd and petty rules and regulations.

          My theory is that NJ licences are so hard to get and expensive that it attracts people who need to recoup their costs rather than those with a passion for good beer. BTW, I have heard recent reports that the Ship Inn has gone severly downhill. When I'm looking for good beer I prefer beer bars like the Coppermine in N. Arlington or Andy's in Bogota.

          1. re: jmoryl

            Thanks for the information. Maybe I'm viewing things through rose-colored glasses, and wanting to remember them as better than they were? Coming in from Portland, OR, I do tend to drop my standards a bit for Jersey beers. But maybe I shouldn't!

            Terrible to hear that about the Ship Inn, I've been looking forward to heading there for years. I'll still go, but maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised by not having my hopes up too high.

            Thanks for the recs in North Arlington and Bogota. Maybe I'll be able to find a River Horse or a Cricket Hill worth drinking in those places?

          2. re: JayinPortland

            I've been to all except Berkeley Heights and Long Valley. I only care about the beer. JJ Bittings now has a brewer, James, who worked in Oregon before joining JJ's a few months back. They have by far the best beers, IMHO. Right now they have a barleywine on tap, along with 6 or so others, including a cask. Soon they will have a vg porter, along with Irish Red and a stout for St Patricks Day. Basil T's in Toms River is now Artisans Brew Pub and the beer is made by the owner of Climax Brewery. Haven't tried it yet.

            1. re: scrappyone

              Don't waste your time with Tun Tavern. We stopped there twice recently on two separate trips to AC. Both times my husband's beer was flat and tasteless. We ate there years ago and the food was not good.

              We recently went to Long Valley. He really like the beer and the food was very good too.

              Have been to Trap Rock. We often go to their sister restaurant Ciao and they have the Trap Rock beers on tap. He does seem to like them.

              I'm a wine drinker so can't comment. The brewpub scene in NJ pales in comparison to places like Portland and Seattle.

              KathyH

              1. re: KathyH

                Thanks! It would really be aggravating to make a trip all the way down to AC and find out the place was horrible. I was kind of wary of that place all along anyways, with it being in AC and all.

                Besides, I think if I'm gonna head that far south again I might as well just hit Earth Bread & Brewery on Germantown Ave (I think?) in Philly again. I really enjoyed that place last time I was there visiting a friend from the area.

                Seattle? Feh. They only WISH their brews were even half as good as ours here in Portland! ;-P

              2. re: scrappyone

                Interesting, I've never heard of Climax before. I lived close to Roselle for years! They probably weren't around when I was there, though. Hmmm, wonder if I can get to Toms River? I have dozens of friends in the Red Bank area, maybe one of them would be up for the trip...

                1. re: JayinPortland

                  Dave Hoffman's Climax Brewing Co. at this point is the oldest craft brewery in NJ (where, by law, you're either a brewpub or a brewery, can't do both). Unfortunately, his distribution area is still quite limited for his draught beer and he doesn't do conventional 12 oz. or 22 oz. bottling, instead using only 1/2 gallon growlers for off-premise retail sales. As a result, a lot of retailers seem to pass on the beers and those that do carry it, often stock it on a bottom shelf with "macro" quarts and 40's, etc., so it's easy to miss.
                  http://www.climaxbrewing.com/

                  The biggest recent brewpub news in NJ was the opening of an Iron Hill pub in South Jersey last year- the first new brewpub in the state in a decade (according to reports) http://ironhillbrewery.com/mapleshade/ The "happening" area for craft beer in NJ is now in that part of the state, due mainly to it being suburban Philadelphia (one of the premium beer cities in the country). A number of craft beer bars have opened down there as well, but the state in general has a long way to go in terms of breweries, brewpubs and good beer bars.

                  1. re: JessKidden

                    Iron Hill is actuially pretty good, but always seems packed when we've gone there. All we've really had there have been appetizers, but they have all been good. I think I had something very strange there one time, but can't remember what it was, and of course, I can't access their site from our server here because there is alcohol content. Let me say that I had the blockers here at work! Surprised I can even access this board from here. Maybe it was cheese steak spring rolls or something though, I can't remember for sure. Regardless, the chow was good, and there beers were nice as well. -mJ

          3. An old thread but you may find it helpful. I agree that the Ship Inn has really gone downhill in the last few years.

            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/406777

            1 Reply
            1. re: ambrose

              Ship Inn has made a few changes. They dropped what was a good whisky selection down to maybe five different brands. They discontinued most of their large bottled beer selection, and offer almost exclusively beer on tap. They have a few guest beers, but most beers are brewed there. They usually have about five different kinds available at a time.

              Foodwise they have paired down the menu a bit, but the general food quality hasn't changed (read still mediocre pub grub). Stilton skins still there, along with decent wings. They do a roast with yorkshire pudding on weekends. I have noticed that they are stressing organic nature of their ingredients.

              Overall I am not sure I would say that the pub has gone downhill. Clearly the owners made a business decision around things that cost money to hold in inventory and move slowly (whisky and beer). I find the atmosphere to be the same fun crowd, and its the only place around that consistently serves good english style bitters on hand pump. That in and of itself makes it worth the trip for me.

              -----
              Ship Inn Restaurant & Brewery
              61 Bridge St, Milford, NJ

            2. The Uno's on Rt. 1 in Edison/Metuchen brews their own beers. They have a red, porter, etc., so I'm sure you can find the type that you like. I stopped in last night for wings and tried 2 or 3 that I've never tried. Not bad brews, by NJ standards perhaps.

              1. Kroghs is a mixed bag. Some beers are outstanding and some just OK. I really liked their porter when I was there a few months ago.

                Trap Rock's beer is solid but not outstanding. They seem to dumb the beer down a notch to make it more appealing to a wider range of people. Don't expect your typical pub food at Trap Rock however. The food is definitely upscale and expensive. Not your standard nachos, wings and burgers.

                You can also get Trap Rock brews on tap at their other restaurants (though the beer itself is brewed at the High Point Brewery from Trap Rock's recipe...stupid NJ laws), including Ciao and 3 West in Basking Ridge, Huntley Taverne and Roots in Summit, Grato and Tabor Road Tavern in Parsippany.

                Ship Inn was always a favorite of mine. I haven't been there in years though, so I'm sorry to hear that it appears to have gone down hill.

                1. I had a very good ESB at Triumph in Princeton yesterday. Cool space. The place was pretty crowded for the late afternoon, so I decided not to try the food coming from a clearly taxed kitchen. Definately thinking about going back, if only for the beers. Anyone eaten there?

                  14 Replies
                  1. re: MGZ

                    Been many times, decent food, nothing special.Once in a while the kitchen will surprise on the upside but inconsistent. The space is unique with good seating up or down.

                    1. re: MGZ

                      To me Triumph is a step above bar food, and inconsistent for sure. Sometimes the fish and chips are great on a Friday during lent, other times they come out super greasy. Burgers are usally decent, and now when we visit I usually have the kobe sliders, but it's been a while since we have gone. Service has always been ok, and never bad. Actually had great service on a few ocassions.

                      Great place for a beer, and decent food, but I wouldn't go out of my way to go here anymore. Regardless, Triumph will always have a special place in my heart for special reasons.

                      Beers are usually pretty good, but I am really curious if they really make them om premises. I know they have the equipment in there, but I wonder if it is just for show, and they actually make their beers in a warehouse somewhere. I've seen pople upstairs sweeping and what not, but never seen anyone doing anything with the tanks. Interesting! -mJ

                      1. re: MGZ

                        IMO Triumph is a turd. Their brews are almost always bland and flavorless, and the food is terrible for the price they charge.

                        1. re: joonjoon

                          I'll disagree with the flavorless on the beers. I've enjooyed quite a few pints of their different ale's...it's been a while since I have been there, but their IPA used to be great, with some nice spice to it. -mJ

                        2. re: MGZ

                          We (my sister & I) had a 'blah' experience at Triumph in Princeton the one time we went, but I'm willing to chalk it up to just a bad day on their part. Maybe? It was a Friday around lunchtime about a year ago that we went, and the place was pretty crowded when we got there. My falafel was way too dry (even the sauce, amazingly enough) and pretty much tasteless, my sister's salad was only slightly better. The service was okay. The beers were decent, imo. I can't find my notes on the place right now, but I think I had a Red and an IPA.

                          Really cool space, though. I even liked the entrance, lends a nice ambiance to the place. Not sure if it's worth going back to in my case though, since a trip down to Princeton and back would be most of a day for us next time I visit.

                          Interesting point brought up above about where they brew their beer. I didn't think to ask. Since they have 3 restaurant locations, they very well may use a central brewing operation in a warehouse somewhere?

                          1. re: JayinPortland

                            I have never asked either, but I have a hard time believing that they brew on premise in Princeton. The equipment up there is just too darn clean, and I have rarely seen anyone up there, and when I have, they have just been sweeping or cleaning the outside of the tanks. I definitely don't think that brew in their Philly location either. No telling really, but someone surely has to know. I would be curious to see. -mJ

                            1. re: njfoodies

                              I could be wrong, but I though one caveat of being a NJ brewpub (in house distribution only) was that you had to produce on premise. May be different rules for PA locations. I agree the Princeton tanks are spotless, but I seem to recall seeing hoses used for cleaning and other brewing supplies up there.

                              I've always liked their stouts. Agree the food has been hit or miss, mostly miss forever. Calamari salad ordered once, ended up being a sliced garlic salad with hints of calamari. Totally inedible except for warding off local vampires!

                              May want to check out this site for NJ brewers: http://www.njbeer.org/

                              1. re: Foody4life

                                I know that they do indeed brew on premises. I recently had their Honey Blond and found it quite tasty. I have not eaten there, so I cannot comment on that.

                                Cheers.

                                1. re: TomT

                                  That's good to know. How did you find out? -mJ

                                  1. re: njfoodies

                                    Long story short. Triumph supplies beer for a fishing website's annual get -together. Jay Misson who was their brewmaster and passed suddenly was a member on the site.

                                    This was the first year I made it to said get-together and like I said enjoyed the Honey Blond. I shot one of the guys at Triumph that I met an email and he confirmed brewing on premises. (he also acknowledged consistency issues in the kitchen which they hope to have solved...but is obviously something that needs to be kept on top of)

                                    1. re: TomT

                                      Wow, that is awesome. I thought for sure everything was just for sure as it is always so damn clean up there. If anything, I figured they brewed in some warehouse somewhere and then just trucked their kegs to all of their locations. Might actually be kind of cost effective, but good on em for brewing all beers on premise. -mJ

                              2. re: njfoodies

                                If you spend 5-10 minutes on the web you will find a number of articles which certainly suggest that they brew on site. You can even learn what type of equipment they have and which company supplied it (at least for the Princeton location). On the other hand, I couldn't find anything that said yes, they brew on site.

                                njfoodies, I believe you live in the area so you are hereby charged with finding out if Triumph brews at their Princeton location. :-))

                                1. re: ambrose

                                  LOL Ambrose! Deal! I will see if I can work on that next week, or maybe even tonight. We'll see! Wednesday's are guys night out as the girls do their thing on Wednesday nights. Who else wants to go? ;-)

                                  If I can't get over there tonight, I'll give it a shot next week sometime. This weekend is about one thing, and one thing only! A10 basketball in Atlantic CIty!

                              3. re: JayinPortland

                                As I noted, I have little experience with the place. I did, however, find their Extra Special Bitters to be delicious. It was not ice water cold, well-draughted, and quite flavorful. At $5, I did not think it too expensive (Hell, I paid $4.50 for a Heineken at Conte's thirty minutes later).

                                As to brewing there, I'm not certain, but I did not smell that beer making smell (for lack of a better term) that I associate with breweries. You know sort of dusty and organic, etc.

                            2. You’re kidding me, right? You actually want to leave PORTLAND for NJ beers. HA HA
                              Let's see, you want under hopped over carbonated beer? O.K., you can take one trip to the Horse Brass and have better beer than you could ever get anywhere in NJ. Enough of the bashing, we do have some decent stuff if you don't like hops. As far as Brewpubs, I would say the best Food/Beer combo would be Trap Rock ($$$ P.S. Don't even think of wearing a baseball cap in there, yikes!) Ship Inn for authentic British style Hand Pump brew and a good Scotch egg. Long Valley has decent beer and good food (Wiener schnitzel!!). Triumph (3 locations) average food, Avg beer (Bengal IPA, a Rye beer too) Jay Mission left his stamp there (R.I.P, Oh Mtn Valley how I miss you). Krogh’s and Tun Tavern, don't waste your time. Gas Light, (funky food--Ostrich burgers?) I may be wrong, but I was under the impression that they were an Extract Brew outfit; again coming from Brewvania you will be disappointed. As far as breweries go, Climax is Very Good and Ramstein in Butler is outstanding for German lagers (tours 1st sat of the month?) Another small outfit producing good beers is Boaks (Three blind monks) if you can find it. Beer bars--Andy's Corner in Bogota is top notch and they have a Hand Pump. You can head to NYC and if you’re lucky you can get some Oregon brews.
                              Again, if you can keep in mind that you are coming from the land of Rogue, Hair of the Dog, Tug Boat, Lucky Lab, Deschutes, need I continue? What about the Montage! Damn! I want to move to Portland. Save your money on the flight and just go to the Brewers Fest in July. Or just come to my house and have a Bear Republic bottle or some Pliny the Elder on tap! Have Fun!

                              17 Replies
                              1. re: CAMRA

                                just over the border in Pearl River, NY there's defiant brewery...very interesting beers- some great, others not so...they just started a bbq operation out of the back that's turning out some very excellent pulled pork & brisket (mac & cheese/ cole slaw not so much)...the bar is NOT scenic- more brewery than pub- but quite frankly i'd rather have tasty beer than a cutesy environmnet.

                                1. re: CAMRA

                                  Ha, well I gotta drink SOMETHING when I'm visiting family back that way! ;-P

                                  But yeah, I know it's still kinda, umm, 'dry' back that way? Anyways, thanks for the tip about Trap Rock. That's probably where we'll be going later this year on my next visit. I'll leave my Blazers hat at home, heh.

                                  As for NYC, I've done Heartland a few times (Union Square and Midtown) but I think they're kinda hit or miss. The Red Rooster is one that I remember as being decent a couple of years ago, though. Been meaning to hit Chelsea Brewing for a while as well, maybe I'll make that my other stop.

                                  I'm walking distance from most of the Portland places you mentioned, btw. And you know of Tugboat?! There's people who've lived here for years that don't know of Tugboat! Fwiw, they've had a massive and consistent infection problem for a while now that's finally led me to just stay away from them for good. Besides, Bailey's Tap Room is just 15 feet across the street.

                                  1. re: JayinPortland

                                    Too bad about the Tug, I think we were hanging at the Church of Elvis and stumbled onto the Tugboat years ago while in town for the Beer Fest. Across from Bailey's, you don't have to rub it in! BTW, if you get to NYC, forget the hit/miss breweries....Gotta hit Blind Tiger, Ginger Man, Hop Devil and jump into Brooklyn for Brazenhead and Muggs.

                                    1. re: CAMRA

                                      Tours at High Point Brewery (Ramstein Beers) are on the second Saturday of the month. There are now tours at 2:00pm and 3:30pm. However, the brewery is open for growler fills and samples, Monday through Saturday. There are usually 2-4 beers on tap. Boaks is also brewed by High Point.

                                  2. re: CAMRA

                                    CAMRA;
                                    Got to say, yer tip on Andy's Corner Bar in Bogota was one of the best chowtips i've had in a long time..i went their with my beer-loving dude and swear to god, i think this place is his beer nirvana. A place for serious beer nerds- people- mostly men- come alone so they can taste through the list and talk about beer with other nerds...I loved it, my dude loved it and I'm so glad to have read about it! Thanks!

                                    Andy's Corner Bar
                                    257 Queen Anne Road
                                    Bogota, NJ 07603 (map)
                                    (201) 342-9887
                                    http://andyscornerbar.blogspot.com/

                                    please note- the bar is in Bogota, not Hawthorne if it's suggested in the "Places Mentioned" section at the top right- I can't seem to erase the link

                                    1. re: sixelagogo

                                      Sounds like my kinda place! We have about 15,000 of them here in Portland, as CAMRA surely knows... ;-P

                                      Youze have the better pizza, though. Everything balances out, eh?

                                      I have an old girlfriend in Union City I'll be stopping by to see on my trip back later this year. I do believe we'll be heading over there to Bogota then, yep...

                                      1. re: sixelagogo

                                        And if you were to brown bag some White Manna burgers to accompany your beer you wouldn't be the first ;)

                                        Andy's is THE beer place around here (well- I've heard talk of Firewaters also, but haven't been there myself, it just doesn't seem like my kind of place), and those are few and far between- like Jay said, we're the total opposite of Portland. I'm surprised you hadn't been there yet, and wish I had more places to suggest.

                                        Bergen isn't too bad if you like to enjoy most of your beer at home, which is where my life seems to be right now. Check out Linwood Wines in Fort Lee (in the H-Mart Linwood Plaza) if you need a beer store that's fairly local.

                                        1. re: TongoRad

                                          Speechless...

                                          Omg, I need some sliders right now. Thanks for the reminder!

                                          When it comes right down to it, I wouldn't trade Portland's food scene for any other in the country... but damn, there are some authentic Jersey things I really miss that you just can't get here.

                                          White Man(n)a Sliders (I used to hit the JC location most often as that was where I was always closer to when I needed a burger, but I always preferred Hackensack's when I could get over there) and Town Hall Deli Sloppy Joes!

                                          1. re: JayinPortland

                                            And of course, there is nothing like a New Jersey hot dog.

                                            1. re: hotdoglover

                                              Actually, there is something even better, and that would be a Chicago style Vienna Beef dog! -mJ

                                              1. re: njfoodies

                                                Nope. I've had Vienna, and while it's ok; it cannot compare to Best's from Newark or Thumann's. We in New Jersey prefer the salad on the side. Our dogs are good enough to stand alone.

                                                1. re: hotdoglover

                                                  Best are good dogs! Used to get a double footlong at the sandwich shop on Fort Monmouth, and they used Best brand. Good stuff, and very similar actually to Vienna Beef. Can't say i am a big Thurmann's fan, but may have to try to revisit them.

                                                  Haven't ever had a hot dog with lettuce on it, so not sure I get the salad comment, unless you are referring to the 2 slices of tomato. Other than that, just mustard, onion, a pickle spear, sweet relish (that is like a neon green), and a couple of sport peppers, with a dash of celery salt on a poppyseed bun. Now that is a little bit of Chicago heaven, and I can't wait to get back home this summer for some dogs at Wrigleyville Dogs before a Cubs game at "The Friendly Confines." Absolutely awesome!

                                                  I might have to open a hot dog stand one of these days serving Chicago styled dogs, Italian Beef sandwiches, beef and cheddar sandwiches, and other Chicagoland treasures! -mJ

                                                  1. re: njfoodies

                                                    We actually had a place that served authentic Chicago style hot dogs and Italian beef sandwiches in Linden, N.J. It was called J's Beef. He did barbecue and hamburgers too. Most of the ingredients including the buns were imported from Chicago. He used the neon green relish from Vienna Beef Co. I went so often that I actually aquired a taste for the Chicago Hot Dog, though I still prefer a regular dog plain. Too bad he closed. Business was good; I believe he closed for other personal reasons.

                                                    The only place I know of that serves anything close to a Chicago dog is at Shake Shack in New York. I went once and didn't like it. They did serve lettuce, cucumbers, and green peppers.

                                                    1. re: hotdoglover

                                                      I think I read about J's Beef on here and read that it closed. Such a bummer! It stinks only being able to have a Chicago style dog a few times a year.

                                                      Some places back home do put cucumbers on their dogs, but that doesn't do it for me. Lettuce and green peppers is just plain wrong.

                                                      I stop by Russ Ayres in Bordentown quite often for a dog with just maustard and 'kraut on them. Not a bad dog in the least. -mJ

                                              2. re: hotdoglover

                                                Of course!

                                                Actually, you just gave me an idea - thinking how great it would be to combine the Jersey style of cooking / preparing hot dogs, with the great stuff we get locally out here like Oregon elk, yak, emu, bison sausages, etc.

                                                Best of both worlds! Maybe I should open a hot dog cart, myself...

                                          2. re: sixelagogo

                                            sixelagogo,

                                            Sounds like you enjoyed your time @ Andy's. The staff is great too! Sorry, I should of mentioned it can be a bit of a sausage fest in there. I never noticed until my wife pointed out the lack of women in there. No matter, it's all about the beer. As far as Firewaters goes, you mean Hooters? When I think of great beers that IS what comes to mind.

                                            1. re: CAMRA

                                              didn't mind the beer geek dudes- both patrons and owners made the bar one of the friendliest bars i've ever been to in NJ.....we exchanged restaurant reviews/recipes/and beer favourites....not everyday my bf and I can walk into a bar and have great conversations with perfect strangers...That inherent friendliness coupled with fabulous beers really makes this place something to rave about.

                                        2. It's not a brew pub, but Bistro 55 in Rochelle Park (just off the parkway an routes 80 and 46) has an interesting (at least to my mind) selection of tap beer and bottles. about 12 on tap, all small production craft beers.