The “Jersey Girl” label is a proud term of endearment given to and adopted by the women of the Garden State. While those outside the state might think of high hair, thick accents and a rough attitude, those born and bred know that it means fiercely independent, strong-willed and deeply proud of their Jersey roots.
For co-owner/co-founder of Jersey Girl Brewing Co., Chuck Aaron, “Jersey Girl” means something unique.
“I think no two Jersey Girls are like. You have sweet, bitter, sour, and it all depends on your location. For us, we think no two craft beers are like,” he explained. “My wife probably thinks that she inspired the name, but we do have a lot of Jersey pride in our beer.”
Aaron and partner Mike Bigger ran with the Jersey Girl concept to create a beer line-up that will satisfy any beer fan, from those who search far and wide for hop-forward IPAs to those who want to pay tribute to Belgian, German and British styles of ales.
After a year and a half of operating, they’ve already expanded their brewing output and started canning their crowd pleasing Rake Breaker IPA and Sun Kissed Citra.
Although not originally from New Jersey, Aaron settled in the state to attend Seton Hall University and eventually started a family. As a fan of standard beers growing up, he noticed the emergence of new styles of beers from the West Coast, such as Sierra Nevada, Anchor and Lagunitas.
As a result, he paid attention to the beer being served in Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan and Belgium when he traveled overseas for work.
“I grew to appreciate the different flavors of beer more than anything,” he remembered. “It gave us a basis for what we wanted to do with Jersey Girl.”
He met Bigger via the local church and bonded over beer and, eventually, homebrewing. The two tossed around the brewery idea after the state law’s opened up to allow for brewing operation.
“Mike is the homebrewer, I’m the home drinker,” Aaron joked. “Luckily, I have a very supportive family. When I told them I was quitting my job to run a brewery, they understood that I wanted to build something that I could call my own that’s meaningful.”
Aaron felt he was ready to have a career that could keep him close to home and own a business where he could call the shots.
“At some point you have to stop talking about doing something and actually do it,” he said. “We bought a 27-gallon pilot system to create our beer recipes while we planned out the business.”
They wanted the beer drinkers to decide what their flagship, year-round beers would be, while having a rotation of seasonals. Rake Breaker IPA became their first high-coveted beer for the Amarillo and Mosaic hop blend, which gives a high-flavor and aroma of citrus fruits, apricots, melon and peach. It’s great for the hop heads, but not too outrageous for the everyday beer drinker.
Their other crush-worthy IPA that rose to the top was the Sun Kissed Citra, which goes all-in on the tropical fruit flavors while giving a decent hop bite and hint of stickiness. With their West Coast-style IPA, Gold Rush, they created a balance of hops and malt sweetness that pours with a more golden-like orange color.
While IPAs might keep the lights on, the taps at Jersey Girl Brewing are all about variety and reflect the two owners’ varying tastes. The Abbey Dubbel Trouble is a complex Belgian Trappist-style beer that evolves with every taste. You might get strong candy flavors at first, but that will change and you’ll get the rich plum and raisin undertones. Even more interesting is King Gambrinus, an aggressive 10% ABV tripel with more spice and herbal notes and a boozy aftertaste.
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“I always wanted our beer line-up to reflect variety, even within our IPAs. We’ve produced 60 varieties of beers so far, from pilsners, hefeweizens and kölsches to brown ales, red ales and extra special bitters.” said Aaron. “It fits into our Jersey Girl brand and thinking.”
When they found their location in the Hackettstown/Mt. Olive/Budd Lake area, Man Skirt and Czig Meister were also in development. While all three are within eight minutes of each other, each one has a different approach to craft beer.
Jersey Girl is variety, Man Skirt is traditional and Czig Meister is about variety and experimental, somewhat off-kilter creations.
“We all love each other’s beer, so there’s a healthy, friendly competition between us,” he said. “We all share the same goal of making this a craft beer destination.”
With the large warehouse space, Aaron and Bigger were able to build a roomy tap room, expand production, add a canning line and, in the warmer months, have a second sampling area where they hope to build garage doors that can open up to the outside. That sampling area helped on opening weekend in April 2016, where they estimated a thousand people passed through their doors.
An even bigger audience for Jersey Girl beer is at the Prudential Center in Newark where you can find them among all the big beer names. You can even be all Jersey Girl, all night when they do a tap takeover for the Dec. 12 Devils game against the LA Kings.
Although Aaron and Bigger are already planning out new, fun beers to unleash to the masses of Jersey Girls and their Jersey Guys, for Aaron, he enjoys when the brewery’s fans bring in new, fun beers for him to try.
“I don’t get out that much to try other people’s beer, so it’s great to see what else is out there. My palate is becoming more developed, so I’m always studying the beer so that we can hopefully introduce it to our fans.”
Name: Jersey Girl Brewing Co.
Location: Mt. Olive, Morris County
Standout Beer: Rake Breaker IPA
Know Before You Go: Taproom open for pints, flights, growler fills, merchandise and cans and bottles to go. Check Facebook for tap lists, updated hours, can and bottles releases and upcoming events. Pets and outside food allowed. Parking lot located in front of brewery.
Don’t forget to check out the entire Brew Jersey series here.