Great NJ Beer Stores
- Jim Leff Jul 5, 2011 10:09 AM
There are some really great beer stores in NJ, and I used to keep a list. Problem is I could drive near any of them on a highway and not realize which town I'm in; I'm not great on Jersey geographics. So I'm trying to figure our which are accessible when driving thru the state.
Two highly accessible beer stores I know about:
Fort Lee: Linwood Wine 102 Linwood Plaza....super convenient to GW Bridge, and
Hoboken: Sparrow Wine and Liquor 126 Washington St.....super convenient to Holland Tunnel
So......are there any really great beer stores within a couple miles of the Turnpike, or 80, or 17? Not "good" beer stores, I mean great ones?
And: are any of these (from my old list) still open, still good, and/or near Turnpike, 80, or 17?
Manasquan: Spirit of '76 Wines & Liquors 119 Taylor Ave 732-223-3180 ·
Boonton: Liquor Outlet Wine Cellars 289 Myrtle Avenue (866) 454-7688
Mahwah: Mahwah Wine and Liquors 340 Ridge Road 201-327-3600
Wayne: Gary's Wine & Marketplace 1308 Route 23 North (973) 633-3900 great beer store
morris plains: bottle king beer 201-285-1226 34 miles
South Plainfield:Oak Tree Discount Wine and Spirits 902 Oaktree Ave. 908-561-0051 great beer store, they have limfjords porter
North Plainfield: sell rite beer n. plainfield 908-756-0400 31 miles
Clinton: clinton beer wine and spirtis in clinton 908-735-9655 59 miles
Ramsey: ramsey beer 47 W Main St 201-327-0353 28 miles
Shop Rite Liquors in Caldwell. Nick and his staff have a wide variety and are extremely knowledgeable.
Some good ones there including Oak Tree and Ramsey. Have only been to so many myself but Ill throw in:
Martin's Liquors (State Highway 38 & Marter Ave, Mt Laurel, NJ (856) 235-2273) which you could hit with a softball from the Turnpike. Has a decent selection (and a Dunkin Doughnuts has replaced the deli...).
Theres also a Canal's in Marlton that has a selection worth checking out. (www.joecanals.com/marlton.php)
Hops & Grapes is a nice shop in the Total Beverage style of liquor stores. (810 North Delsea Drive, Glassboro, NJ (856) 582 - 8110) although it is 7 or 8 miles off the Turnpike.
Super Savor in Pennington (used to be Circle Liquor) is a bit out of the way but is infamous for having some crazy beers available. Not sure how they get them. As in like the full line of Samichlaus going back 15 years. Even was rumored to have sold Westy 8's on more than one occasion. And their regular every day selection is pretty solid too.
Spirit of '76 in Manasquan is close to 40 minutes from the Turnpike and even further from Routes 17 and 80. More importantly, the beer selection, though having improved in the past 2 years, is short of great. A better beer store in the area is Jonathon Ron Liquors, 629 Higgins Avenue, in Brielle.
Funny, we just went to Oak Tree for the first time this weekend. They did have a good selection though it was a bit picked over due to the holiday. But I'm looking forward to going back once they have a chance to restock.
Joe Canal's in Woodbridge/Iselin not only has a good beer selection but it also offers growlers. The growlers are usually of beers that you wouldn't find at your normal beer stores.
I just want to restate that I'm looking for GREAT beer stores, not "pretty good" ones.
Just to bring you up to date on Linwood Wine and Liquor in Fort Lee- for the past two years (due to the last ownership change) the beer section has steadily improved. Personally I have no need to go anywhere else anymore; it always seems to suit my ever changing moods.
The newest releases are there right when expected, you can usually find what is being 'talked about', the selection of bombers/750s is well thought-out (especially in terms of Belgian beers), in general all of the bases are covered and then some. From time to time they will even get limited releases (though you have to ask - they're not stocked on the shelf). And they don't let the stock sit around too long: if it doesn't sell they move it out of the store and replace it with something else. Tom and Jake are doing a great job, much better than the last iterations of the store.
Considering the scene in NJ I think one could make the argument that they are a great store. You won't be able to find 'everything' there, but I don't know of many places around here that you could say that about.
FWIW- there has been a lot of scuttlebutt about a Super Buy Rite in Jersey City that does offer a huge selection. I haven't been there personally, but it might be worth looking into.
They may be on an upswing, but they're on a longer-view downswing. It was much better under the prior owner, Carl Russo. I agree that it's still pretty good, but:
" I don't know of many places around here that you could say that about."
But this thread isn't about the "many", it's about the few worth traveling out of the way to.
Another mention for Jonathon Ron Liquors, 629 Higgins Avenue, in Brielle which has one of the best craft beer selection in the shore area. Also try any Wegmans that sells wine and beer for a decent selection of craft beers.
Well, I have this argument all the time on what makes a "great" beer store since it seems for most people it's simply a big selection and, maybe thrown in is the "cool beer guy".
I don't know, any idiot can just continue to order every beer the distributors are carrying but if I pick up a 22 oz. bottle of Anchor Bock and see it's from 2009 or find some cold Pikeland Pils in the cooler only to see that instead of the "Best Before" date of two months ago that's on the warm shelf, the cold six was "Best Before" last December, well, I'm not so impressed by the huge selection. Many of these places are "beer museums", with any recommendations having to be qualified with "...but watch the date codes and don't buy anything that's not dated...".
I don't know, I see a lot of these "big selection" stores with absolutely no concept of freshness, rotation or how to store beer properly. It's sad that often the nice dark beer coolers are filled with cases of cans of Old Milwaukee and Bud Light but the much more fragile, slower moving and expensive "craft beer" sits at room temp under bright florescent lights- sometimes even near the windows. The "please keep refrigerated" notices on many cases are routinely ignored.
As for the "Beer guy" - while "talking beer" with the help is always nice, the "knowledge" I usually want from a store is not esoterica like hop rates or yeast strains but just "Can you get XYZ Lager?" or "When is ABC Ale suppose to be released?" And those questions usually meet with a blank stare.
In addition, correct prices on the shelves (since most NJ stores read bar codes for pricing) and discounted case prices (not 4 X the 6 pack price) are also important factors for me.
You raise very pertinent points. The production and distribution of craft beers has outpaced the knowledge and ability of the vast majority of retailers to properly deliver the products to consumers. I expect that the situation will not be remedied soon as these same sellers still have trouble doing the same things with wine after decades of experience. (I've seen liquor stores with storage areas for beer and wine devoid of any climate control.)
This one may not meet the location criteria, it's a suggestion for the rest of us that have a need right at Exit 88 off the Parkway, it's across from Home Depot.
Wine Academy has a great Craft beer selection http://www.wineacademysuperstores.com/
Don't let the name fool you. Even though it has a vast wine selection, it also has one of the best Craft beer selections I've seen with more than fair prices.
Shoppers Vineyeard in Clifton on Bloomfield Ave has a great selection of beer including a few that I've not seen elsewhere.
If you are driving thourgh Delaware into Maryland, make sure to stop at:
State Line Liquors
1610 Elkton Road
Elkton, Maryland 21921
Here are some reviews from the folks at Beer Advocate:
In 2010, Rate Beer rated State Line Liquours 18th in the World as far as retail outlets go:
There are a couple of stores in South Plainfield, NJ and Poughkeepsie, NY that finished higher on that list and would probably be closer to you.
While Sparrow in Hoboken has recently improved their beer selection, I would definitely say that the new Super Buy-Rite in Jersey City (even closer to the Holland Tunnel than Sparrow) has a much larger and more complete craft beer selection
I have yet to go yet, but have only heard good things about it: WineWorks in Marlton. It got an A based on 10 ratings on beer advocate. I've driven by this store many times, and it definitely has the space to be a good store. I will probably be heading there sometime this week, I'll report back on how it is.
WineWorks turns out to be fantastic. Although it's selection of wine is astronomically larger, the craft beer selection is pretty good. Large selection of single bottles, pretty good selection of six packs and a huge aisle of bombers. Also has all the usual domestics and a large cold section of bottles, bombers, and packs. Prices are just ok, not good not too bad.
And what is really great about Phillips is they have dedicated a room for aged beers... its in the back off of where the American Zins/Chardonnay/ are. Do not know many wine stores, especially one that is as small as Phillips have dedicated that much room to specialty one off beers and stored them in the right way.