The Jersey City Craft Brew Fest just made its November debut (their spring offering happens in April), which means more beer, more local food and more chances to out-geek your beer-geek friends. The festival is a must-attend for NJ and NYC craft beer fans; mostly for its convenient Harborside Atrium location and view of the NYC skyline, one of the best in the state.
Once the kick-off horn was sounded, local, national and international breweries served up their new offerings. Little-known Japanese and Belgian breweries? Yes, please.
Sure, there are national craft breweries, like St. Louis’ Schlafly, Chicago’s Revolution and San Diego’s Ballast Point; and area mainstays like Brooklyn, Captain Lawrence and Weyerbacher have the goods, but this festival relies heavily on the NJ breweries.
The selection from Layfette’s Angry Erik always makes beer fans happy. The only reason to be angry is if you miss out on one of their spectacular concoctions. Owners Heide and Erik Hassing offered up Kayewla (which translates to “fierce warrior”), a Belgian pale ale named for the word that the Oneida Indian tribe called Major General Marque de Lafayette during the Revolutionary War. Their other fierce beer was Pedals’ Black IPA, which was named after the wild black bear that walked on its hind legs and was spotted around Morris County between 2014 and 2016.
Other NJ Staples
Nobody else seemed to have gotten the message that kilts were perfectly acceptable attire for the JCCBF, but our favorite kilt-wearing brewer, Joe Fisher of Man Skirt, represented the no-pants coalition with his flagship beer, The Great Porter. On the lighter side, he served up Once, Twice, Weisse, a tart Berliner Weisse that will make your mouth all sorts of happy even when it’s puckering up.
Also displaying a Berliner Weisse was New Jersey brewing veterans River Horse with their Cherry Berliner Weisse. It’s basically a traditional sour wheat beer cut with cherry fruit juice, which is often how it’s served in Northern Germany. Their other offering was one of the most popular pumpkin beers in the state, the Hipp-O-Lantern Imperial Pumpkin Ale. It clocks in at 8.5% ABV and is chock full of pumpkin, whole spices and molasses.
Dark City never disappoints with their year-round line-up of beers that you can find in fine stores that sell craft beers. One option from the festival was Charrette, a Belgian IPA with a bright tropical fruit taste; it finishes with a slight sweetness to offset the hop bite. Their other pour was a grapefruit-tasting sour IPA named after their Asbury Park address, Second and Main.
Lone Eagle made the trip up to Jersey City from Flemington to trot out their award-winning flagship beer, Maiden Flight West Coast IPA, which uses Amarillo, Summit and Equinox hop strains for that intense floral aroma. Newly added to their canning lineup is a Belgian pale ale that has notes of honeydew melon fruit and finishes dry with an herbal taste.
So Many Options
The Cypress Brewing crew brought out two of their under-the-radar beers that show off their breadth of styles. While they are known for Northern English Nut Brown, Insane in the Grain and 17-Mile IPA, they introduced Lighthouse, a coconut-focused brown ale, and a vanilla imperial porter.
We don’t need to tell you how awesome Flounder Brewing is with their highly-crave worthy ales. Those not in the know got to see why their flagship, the Hill Street Honey Blonde Ale, is one of the most sought-after beers in New Jersey with its smooth and sweet taste. Their other offering was their Murky Brown Ale, which is earthy, but well-balanced with malty and roasty flavors.
Departed Soles didn’t have to travel far to satisfy the people of the Jersey City Craft Beer Festival. Their brewery operation and tap room is just three blocks away, so people could get growlers and cans of their good stuff to go. A newish title that the brewery brought was a cranberry kölsch, which is also available in cans. They also poured a couple of their fan favorites, the Deeper Shade of Sole saison and New Jersey Ninja blonde ale.
Other Sights at Jersey City Craft Brew Fest
Floating above the festival for all to see was a mini shark blimp. This adorable guest’s, who came courtesy of Hackettstown’s Czig Meister, job was to draw attention to three of their new offerings. For the guys and girls who want hair on their chest, they poured bottles of their 10.5% ABV Scotch ale, Seonaidh. They don’t call it a “wee heavy” beer for nothing. Not as heavy, but still a bit burly, is their Chieftains Covenant doppelbock; it’s 8.4% ABV and a 6.7% ABV New England IPA with Citra and Mosaic.
Cricket Hill celebrates their 16th year of operation this season, so they created a complex Sweet 16 Anniversary India Pale Lager with flavors of cantaloupe, pineapple, sweet orange, and lemon zest, which is also available at their Fairfield tap room. Their other hop bomb being sampled was their Soggy Sack Wet Hop Ale, which uses fresh Centennial hops from Penning’s Farm in Warwick, New York.
A few newbie brewers made their presence known during JCCBF. Both Dover’s 2nd Act and Hoboken Brewing Company don’t have tap rooms, so you’ll need to check social media for their fun offerings.
2nd Act makes one beer at a time and distributes their offerings to bars around North Jersey. Their Lil’ Cabin Coffee is a light-drinking blonde ale that has strong coffee notes. Yes, a golden colored beer that tastes like coffee is possible. Their other beer poured was their debut beer, the Steel Sax Pale Ale that uses El Dorado, Mosaic and Citra hops.
Even More Brews
Hoboken Brewing Company can be found in cans among other of your favorite local craft beers on store shelves. They offered a juicy Cityside IPA that uses Mosaic and Amarillo hops and a Bodi Blonde Ale brewed with coconuts.
Traveling the furthest within Jersey was the crew from Hammonton’s Three 3’s. It took a two-hour drive to get their danky Totally Drenched Double IPA and silky smooth and robust Coffee Porter to Jersey City. Both beers smell just as good as they taste.
Also coming up from South Jersey was Double Nickel Brewing from Pennsauken, who just went through a brand refresh with new logos for their can line-up. Making the trip up the turnpike was their everyday drinking Vienna Lager and candy-goodness from their Belgian Strong Golden Ale.
Wait, There’s More?!
Wet Ticket Brewing is new to the festival, so they brought in their fruity Tastes Like Summer Watermelon Wheat; it tastes like…something you should be drinking right now. Making it’s debut this month is their One Way Ticket, a single hop IPA that uses Centennial hops.
While Brotherton Brewery continues planning out a taproom in South Jersey (which could possibly be completed by the end of 2018), your best bet is to grab a sample at a beer festival like JCCBF. Included for sampling was their IPA, which uses Citra hops, and their Pine Barrens Pilsner, a traditional, clean-drinking German-style ale.
The crazy Bolero Snort crew have been longtime purveyors of amazing and unusual beer with punny names. For this season, they’ve re-introduced their Pineapple Express Bullazed, a double IPA that’s conditioned on pineapple. Bullyjuice, with a can that nods to Beetlejuice, is actually a Double Dry Hopped DIPA; in addition, it has plenty of tropical fruit flavors.
Returning with their Hammer & Ale Imperial IPA and White IPA were the lads from Two Ton. This time around, they poured from their bottle release of their Brute Squad; a heavy-lifting 10.2% ABV barleywine to celebrate their second anniversary.
Last, But Not Least
Finally, 902 Brewing are rapidly getting their name out with an expanding can line (P.A.T.H. is a must have); they can now also be found on tap at NJ Beer Co.’s taproom in North Bergen. Also on the canning lines are their double IPA No Line; this one swirls with Simcoe, Mosaic and El Dorado hops and Black Dynomite Black IPA, one of their original brews.
As always, JCCBF offered a fine sampling of craft beers from around the country; with NJ’s own brews shining brightly and keeping the crowds happy. For those who missed this round, be sure to snag tickets to April’s offerings.
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All Photos: © Chris Castellani / Best of NJ