Before shopping malls changed the landscape of New Jersey, the state was a beachfront resort destination for the well to-do. Down the road from one of America’s first malls, Cherry Hill Mall (founded 1961), is Forgotten Boardwalk, one of the state’s most popular craft breweries. The two-year old brewery uses the iconography of 1910-20s Atlantic City and Asbury Park to inspire their flavorful and hoppy beers.
The owner of this little boardwalk empire is Jamie Queli, a Jersey Girl who would spend her weekends in Asbury Park. The city now is enjoying an unprecedented revitalization as an arts, music, food and culture destination. And it’s iconic Asbury Park staple that drives her brewery: The images of Tillie (the mural of a grinning face), classic turn-of-the-century architecture, and well-dressed patrons in hoop skirts and top hats.
As with most craft breweries, Forgotten Boardwalk began as a longtime home brewing hobby. “The joke was that I got really drunk one day and said, ‘Hey, wouldn’t it be great to start my own beer company so I wouldn’t have to pay for beer all the time?'” Queli said while drinking one of her company’s beers. “My hobby was getting pretty large for my small space so I just decided to take the plunge.”
Queli left her nine-year job at Merrill Lynch to start an emergency automobile company, which taught her the ins and outs of running a small manufacturing business. When Flying Fish Brewery decided to expand and move their operation from Cherry Hill to Somerdale, she saw an opportunity to combine her love of beer and business knowledge.
The only problem was that Flying Fish took all their equipment with them, thus she had a blank slate of an space to work with at an industrial park. She was able to get the architecture plans to recreate the 30-barrel tank set-up and water sourcing while taking their storage space to make the tasting room.
While all the stars were lined up to begin, it took three years of building and development to figure out a brand name and what exactly to brew. “I originally wanted just Boardwalk Brewery, but that was taken. So I added a bunch of names before that like Abandoned Boardwalk and Forbidden Boardwalk until I settled on Forgotten,” she said. “I wanted the theme to be all things that I loved about the boardwalk.” (Their mascot, Growler the Cat, is based on the feral cats that roam Atlantic City.)
Forgotten Boardwalk scored an out-of-the-box success with one of their first creations: Funnel Cake. While it’s not brewed with freshly fried dough and powdered sugar, Funnel Cake is a cream ale made with lactose and vanilla bean. “It started off as an argument with my head brewer who wanted to do a cream ale. I didn’t think people would want it. It didn’t seem like a sexy style, but I told him to give it a shot,” Queli remembered. “Now, it’s my baby!” While cream ale is a niche style of beer (Genesee being the classic brand), Funnel Cake is available throughout the state and accounts for 42% of Forgotten Boardwalk’s business.
As a proud hop head, Queli also developed their signature IPA, 1916 Shore Shiver. The 6.9% ABV with a 65 IBU (International Bittering Units) has aromas of citrus and tropical fruits and pairs well with catfish tacos, bleu cheese or blackened steak. Their Imperial IPA, Pocket Trick, clocks in at a strong 8.5% ABV with 100 IBU.
Throughout the year, you can expect one-off pilot beers and reissues. On a recent Sunday, they released a fruity series of gose beers in cans called The Confectioner that were packaged in a long tube and wrapped in wax paper to make them resemble that shore staple, salt water taffy. “We try to create beers that are clever enough that people want to buy it and who are knowledgable enough to drink and appreciate it.”
For the fall, you can expect the return of Morro Castle, their smoked porter with hints of roasted coffee. If you know your history, the SS Morro Castle is a New York-Havana cruise ship that caught fire near Asbury Park in 1934.
There were about 25 craft brewers in New Jersey when Forgotten Boardwalk opened in 2014. Now there are more than 60 — and new breweries are expected to open within the year. Demand is growing but also the competition has become greater. The biggest challenge for Queli and for other start-ups are the licenses needed to begin. It took Queli a year to get the license to begin production and to figure out what you can or cannot do in a taproom. “There’s a lot grey area in the state’s documentation. It’s just poorly written. We’re not trying to break laws, we just don’t know what to do.”
For now, the brewery is setting its sights on next year with a White IPA, a Double IPA and more delicious, slightly salted, but fruity goses. It’s worth noting that in an increasingly crowded field, Queli is one of the few female owners in a male-dominated field. “When we first opened, not many people took me seriously. I think when people started talking to me, they discovered that I knew what I was talking about and I’m passionate about what I do. Now, it’s a non-issue.”
Name: Forgotten Boardwalk
Location: Cherry Hill
Standout Beer: Funnel Cake, a cream ale brewed with lactose and vanilla bean
Know Before You Go: Tasting room provides flights, pints, growler fills and cans to go. Bring quarters to play skeeball.
Chris Castellani writes about the NJ beer scene for BestofNJ.com. He drinks responsibly, and so should you. He also writes the travel blog Why Am I Not There?