There’s a cure for the summertime blues — summertime beers! And that’s exactly the brand of medicine I tried out at this year’s Jersey City Craft Brew Fest. The massive event took place on Saturday, June 3 at the Harborview Plaza Atrium, offering stunning views of Lower Manhattan.
The festival presents two sessions, one from Noon to 4:00 pm and the other from 5:30 pm to 9:30 pm. I tried the night session to enjoy a lovely sunset; with beams of light pouring into the atrium and a nighttime view of the Freedom Tower.
A Whole Lot of Beer
But let’s be honest, the view was just a bonus for attendees. People came for the beer…around 150 of them, but who’s counting? For casual beer fans, it’s an opportunity to be introduced to some of the most respected breweries in Jersey and across the country. For the beer geeks, beer fans, beer connoisseurs, etc. like myself, it’s a chance to see what our favorite craft breweries are up to.
The Jersey City Craft Brew Fest brought out a who’s who of Jersey-based craft breweries alongside some of the big name craft breweries from across the country, such as Stone, Terrapin and New Belgium. If you’ve been looking for a new favorite brew to enjoy over the summer, this was the perfect place to try out the candidates.
Matt Czigler of Hackettstown’s Czig Meister Brewing Company quickly became one of the most sought after names on the scene with his German-inspired line-ups of hefeweizens, kölsch and Oktoberfest beers alongside their extensive line-up of IPAs, pale ales and one-off experimentals. Czigler brought along one of their year-round offerings, The Shipwright, a big-flavored IPA dry-hopped with Amarillo, El Dorado and Citra hops. Even though the calendar says late-spring, their winter seasonal, Schwarzbier, was also available. The name is German for “black beer” and this brew is similar in style to a British lite bitter.
Highs, Lows, & Jughandles
Jughandle Brewing Company, named after the very Jersey traffic pattern, was pouring a couple of their small batch beers, Cool Little Barley Brown, a sweet and smooth brown ale, and Ryes ‘n Shine, a dry-hopped IPA with Citra and Amarillo.
While the new kids on the beer block were represented, a couple of the original New Jersey breweries made sure that Jersey City Craft Brew Fest attendees were met with some familiar options. High Point Brewing Company in Butler brought along their year-around favorite, the Ramstein Double Blonde hefeweizen, and their spring seasonal Maibock, which is a darker version of a Helles Bock German-style beer.
Ed Gangi from Fairfield’s Cricket Hill Brewing poured what the people wanted, their favorite warm weather seasonal beer, the Jersey Summer Breakfast. Plus, a few other familiar names in the Jersey beer scene made their presence known during the festival. Kevin Sharpe of Asbury Park’s Dark City Brewing Company brought along two of his summer beers, Summerfield, a sour Berliner Weisse, and City Limits, an American Pale Ale. Meanwhile, the good people of Demented Brewing Company poured their strawberry cream ale, called Astarte, and the Salem, Massachussetts-inspired Gallows Hill IPA. Both offer these selections in their tap rooms.
Brotherton Brewing Company is one of the newer names in the industry. They started brewing this year, and now have taps at bars and restaurants throughout the state. While a tap room is not available, the festival allows them to get their name out there. They introduced their flagship IPA alongside their Jersey Devil Double IPA; which is the ultimate high for hop heads who want a juicy, danky strong beer that makes them feel mighty.
Matt Barbiere of Two Ton Brewing made my favorite discovery of the day, an Extra Special Chocolate Vanilla Porter. While the Linden-based brewery is sans a tap room, this milkshake-like beer is worth finding wherever it appears. Their other offering – the opposite in both taste and look – was a White IPA; which is like a Belgium wit crossed with an American IPA.
The Wild Cards
The crew of Bolero Snort Brewery is known for their wild and funky beer creations that cater to beer drinkers who want something unique. They served up their Kow Lime Pie session beer; which uses cinnamon and milk sugar during the brewing process and is then finished with key lime juice and vanilla. It’s basically pie in a glass. Also offering fruity tasting beer were the local boys of 902 Brewing based in Hoboken. They had a Kiwi Crush IPA, which doesn’t actually have any kiwi juice in it; but this New Zealand-hopped beer does have a citrusy taste.
Beer festivals are an all-win situation for attendees and breweries alike. There’s the opportunity to sample various types of beers in a safe, open environment for one low admission price. It’s a great group event, and can even lead you to your new favorite pint of beer if you’re lucky. The Jersey City Craft Brew Fest definitely fits the bill.
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All Photos: © Chris Castellani / Best of NJ