Burlington, NJ sits upon the Delaware River and is best known for being home to numerous historical sites, dating back to Colonial times as well as the Revolutionary War. Now, this city can add Third State Brewing to its roster of must-visit spots. Offering expertly-made ales crafted with decades of brewing experience, Third State is the place to go for a cold one to close out the summer.
Third State owners and operators Jay Mahoney, John O’Brien and Bill Pozniak come from the same homebrew club, Barely Legal, which has produced a who’s who of local beer goodness.
Club members have gone on to found or brew at various New Jersey breweries. To name a few, Village Idiot, Spellbound, Cape May, Rinn Duin, Cross Keys and Flying Fish all count Barely Legal members as part of their crew.
“I think most of us have gone on to be professional brewers or appeared on police blotters,” he joked.
Mahoney is the gregarious spokesperson for the group and runs the business side of Third State. Meanwhile, Pozniak does the brewing and recipe making and O’Brien maintains the equipment. He “fixes stuff that I break, he’s like Macgyver,” jokes Mahoney.
Third State’s Beginnings
Mahoney traces his love of craft beer and brewing to his early years growing up on Long Island.
“There was a deli in Brightwater, NY and back in the mid-70s, the owners would make their own beer in the back room. Back then, it was illegal,” he shared on a Thursday night in the tap room.
“If you knew them, they would let you sneak a few sips. This would be more British styles of beer, so it gave me a taste for things beyond Budweiser.”
When Mahoney moved to Dallas for work, he picked up homebrewing as a hobby.
“Obviously, I had no idea it would lead to this,” he said with a big laugh while enjoying one of his beers.
“For 15 years, it was something to do by myself. When I moved to this area and joined Barely Legal, it was about the community.”
It was at Barely Legal that he met Jersey locals O’Brien and Pozniak. He later convinced them to join in his big beer idea.
“My dream when I got out of the army in the late 70s was that I wanted to own my own bar when I retired,” he recalled. “Then life goes on, you start a family, move around a bit, but I held onto that idea.”
When the NJ laws changed in 2012 to allow for craft breweries to have taprooms, his dream evolved into Third State Brewing.
“My love of homebrewing and my dream of owning a bar is here in Burlington,” he said.
The Brewery & The Beer
While they’d already chosen Third State (since NJ is the third state in the union) as their name, the decor came together after they found their location, an old bank. The group’s wives guided their husbands to give the brewery a Colonial-era tavern look and feel.
Any decent tavern relies on a variety of beers to keep the patrons coming. Therefore, Pozniak prefers to keep a colorful array of styles available.
Wood Street Blonde is their crisp, pleasantly-hopped American Blonde Ale that’s been around since the beginning. It’s the beer the local running club grabs when they finish their run at the taproom every Thursday.
Recently, Third State has started canning their flagship, Pour Visibility. It will soon make its way to store shelves, but is available for purchase in the taproom now. It’s a cloudy, New England-style IPA that’s generously hopped with Mosaic and Amarillo.
For something dark and different, their award-winning Boris the Younger Black IPA (their first brew) uses malted grain and is triple hopped with Amarillo that drinks like an IPA but has the smoothness and look of a dark ale.
Giving Third State fans something to cheer about, the crew is now busy preparing for their big fall event, Stout Day. As the name implies, this day celebrates all of the varieties of stouts that Pozniak can create.
Since their opening in 2015, the three owners enjoy being a part of Burlington and making the brewery a local meeting place and a destination for history buffs and beer travelers alike.
“Our goal was to not make ourselves rich from beer, we do it for the love of beer,” he said. “We wanted to build something that can make our eventual retirement fun and interesting.”
Name: Third State Brewing
Location: Burlington, Burlington County (352 High St.)
Standout Beer: Wood Street Blonde
Know Before You Go: Taproom is open for pints, flights, cans to-go, growler fills and merchandise. Parking available on the street. Outside food and pets allowed. Check Facebook for updated tap lists and events.
Don’t forget to check out the entire Brew Jersey series here.
All Photos: © Chris Castellani / Best of NJ