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South Jersey Beer Scene Goes to Ireland With Vic!

Leprechaun: They are usually depicted as little bearded men, wearing a coat and hat, who partake in mischief. ) (Thank you Wikapedia for the info) 

Some may say this describes me, but I am not here to debate my possible resemblance to a mythological fairy, but to talk about the beer, the brewers and the breweries I encountered on my recent trip to Ireland.  

So sit back, have a pint o’ Gat, a bag o’ chips and have a grand time reading this as South Jersey Beer Scene goes to Ireland! 

DUBLIN

They call New York the city that never sleeps, but I would nominate Dublin for the prize.  They love their soccer in Dublin town and celebrate joyously, heartily and loudly! Chanting, singing,  (in tune I might add!) and trumpeting at all hours.  Did they win? “We tied 1-1, but it was a good match!”  

Pubs galore, including O’Neill’s a classic establishment on Suffolk St., near Trinity College, with over 40 beers on tap!  Tip: Don’t get there at 9 AM for breakfast, as they don’t serve alcohol until 10:30! So it happens that the first beer I had in Ireland was not, in fact, a Guinness but a Dublin Blonde from the Irishtown Brewery which I enjoyed at Madigan’s Pub on O’Connell Street. A very nice, crisp lager. Here is my conversation with the barkeep

 “I’ll have a Dublin Blonde.” 

“My wife is off today, but I’ll give her a call!” 

A very welcome interaction on a rainy day, going on 24 hours with no sleep! 

Did I mention Guinness? The Guinness Storehouse (#1 tourist attraction in Ireland. Stop #13 on the hop on hop off bus) is an experience!  A little known fact, the largest Guinness brewery in the world is not in Ireland, it is in Nigeria, which is also the second largest market for consumption of the brew. So much for not drinking stouts in warm climates!  (FYI Great Britain is first, US is 5th)

In 1759, home brewer Arthur Guinness from County Kildare decides to leave his small ale brewery and make his fortune in Dublin.  He comes upon a dilapidated brewery at St. James Gate signs a 9,000 year lease for 45 Irish Pounds per year (that’s $66) and the rest is history.  

 

We made reservations for the Guinness Connoisseur Experience, which is a 90 minute presentation in a beautiful private bar on the 3rd floor of the Storehouse. Surrounded by portraits of the Guinness family, the beer tender introduces you to the rich history of the brewery and the brand, as you taste the original Guinness drafts as well as several other variants. These include the Extra Stout, West Indies Porter and the Guinness Citra IPA, made with American hops. I enjoyed the West Indies Porter, which is based on the original Guinness Porter recipe and is a tasty higher alcohol alternative. 

The Citra IPA is produced by Open Gate Brewery, an experimental offshoot of the main Dublin site. Open Gate has been in existence for over 100 years, but is now open to the public.  But man does not live by beer alone, so I didn’t have time to visit, however, the Open Gate Brewery and Barrel House in Baltimore just recently opened, so fresh Guinness experimental brews are now only a road trip away!   

On the top floor of the Storehouse is the glass walled Gravity Bar, where you can have your free pint and a spectacular 360 degree view of the city.   

P.S. If whiskey is your drink, you have Jameson, as well as Pearse Lyons and Teeling distilleries on the various bus routes.  

THE BURREN

Traveling across country we encountered The Burren, which is a beautiful stark landscape of limestone fields and cliffs, dotted with stone walls, sheep and castles.  In the northern end of this area, not far from the Cliffs of Moher, lies the little town of Lisdoonvarna (population 739). One of its most famous residents, Pete Curtin, is the proprietor of the gastropub, The Roadside Tavern.  Pete’s family has owned the tavern since 1893 and it is it is also home to the Burren Brewery, where Pete brews his classic Irish Red, Gold and Black beer, only available on premises.   

 “What are ye standing around for, take a seat?” was my invitation from the owner as we sat and talked about brewing, super humans and IPAs. It was an educational and very entertaining conversation. 

“You Americans are hop crazy with your double and triple hopped IPAs, 13% alcohol beers.  You drink one and you pass out!”  

But to be honest, there are very few commercial hop farms in Ireland so most have to be imported. Our American hops don’t grow well in the climate and soil of Ireland, so those that do grow are of the English or German varieties. 25% of the crop was lost in 2015, so there are various clubs and organizations springing up to encourage hop growing as a community project.   

The brewery recently added another beer to the menu. “I call this Euphoria, the happy beer, because when people drink it they are overjoyed!” and Pete poured us an ancient ale called a gruit which is flavored by herbs and botanicals, rather than hops. Euphoria is brewed with 6 herbs including lemon verbena and rosemary and 3 wild yeasts. I think it was good, but I only had a small sampling, as my wife, who doesn’t like beer, liked the gruit and drank the whole glass!

As we were talking about the bar, my son mentioned that vodka is his drink of choice, not beer. At which point Pete said, “He likes that high alcohol. The man is super human.”  

We talked a little more about the history of the tavern and the town and spent some quality time drinking beers with him. With my Guinness shirt and Irish flat cap on, I asked him if this Italian guy from Jersey could pass for Irish.   

“Nahh!” he exclaimed loudly and added a few other phrases that can’t be printed here!   Unable to top that, we bid Pete a fond farewell and continued on our way. 

DINGLE PENINSULA

One of my wife’s favorite movies is “Leap Year”, which takes place in the village of Dingle (at least in the movie it does) on the southwestern end of the island. The village is as pretty as the movie, a beautiful little seaside town with great shopping, views and a lot of great pubs. They have an extensive list of local beer selections, including Stag Ban Pale Ale from 9 White Deer Brewery in County Cork, Dick Mack’s Session IPA (an IPA sighting!) and Cul Dorcha an interesting, smoky dark ale from West Kerry Brewing.  This is the second excellent beer I had encountered from West Kerry, as we had picked up a couple of bottles of their Beal Ban Golden Ale at the local convenience store.  So we went on a quest to find the brewery, which was in the village of Ballyferriter, just a short distance from Dingle.  

We took the scenic route (there’s not really any other route to take when you are in Ireland) around skinny mountain roads, with sheep and cows (bunches of cows…you had to be there) guiding us, we came to Tig Bhric Brew Pub, home of West Kerry Brewery.  As with Burren, the tap list was not as extensive as our South Jersey breweries and included a dark mild cask conditioned beer. Contrary to what some say, they do NOT serve warm beer in Ireland. The cask is conditioned in a cellar, so is served at cellar temperatures which is 50 – 55 degrees, so warmth may be in the taste of the beholder.  

I had a great conversation with Adrienne Heslin, the first woman to own a brew pub in Ireland and the only woman pub owner and brewer.  Adrienne is a major voice and proponent for the Irish craft beer industry and currently serves as Treasurer of the Independent Craft Brewers of Ireland. This association of 26 independent breweries advocates and lobbies for changes in the archaic laws governing the industry in Ireland.   (Sound familiar?) 

 

The group was instrumental in a recent law change which will allow craft breweries to sell their beer on premises. Previously they were able to conduct tours, but not able to sell their brew! 

Adrienne is also an accomplished artist and sculptor and uses many of the herbs in her garden (rose hips, elderberries, blueberries) in her beers.   She is also the only brewery in Ireland to sport a South Jersey Beer Scene AND an Ocean County Home Brewers Association sticker! 

IRELAND BEER SCENE

After some growing pains early in the 2000s, the Irish craft beer scene is on fire, with 500% growth over the last 5 years. There are 72 in operation now with more planned, each more adventurous and daring than the rest, so for you IPA lovers, the Irish Pliny the Elder may be just around the corner. Most of these smaller brews are not available right now in the US, but hopefully as the businesses continue to flourish we will see some of them hitting our shores. 

Hope you enjoyed the read and perhaps South Jersey Beer Scene will send me back to get an Irish web page started.  Thanks to my family for indulging my beer fetishes while in Ireland and for a great time and thanks to my buddy Kevin Riley, Philly Beer Trail, for the ideas and tips.  

Slainte, all! 

Beer 101 News Road Trip

Exploring South Jersey with Joe Moore-Lucy the Elephant: A South Jersey Staple

Exploring South Jersey with Joe Moore

Lucy the Elephant:  A South Jersey Staple

Scattered around South Jersey are micro craft breweries that many of us have come to know, love, and even enjoy frequently.  Another lesser-known but equally important aspect of South Jersey is the rich history the lies here.  The premier way to enjoy both magnetic aspects of this beloved region is to mix them.  An example?  

Well… Did you happen to know South Jersey is home to the ‘World’s Greatest Elephant’?  A safe bet might have been wagered that most outsiders and even some lifelong South Jersey residents did not.

Lucy the Elephant 

Originally built as a novelty attraction in 1881, Lucy the Elephant is a unique structure that stands six stories high, and at one time, towered over everything along the Atlantic County coastline.  When first erected by James Lafferty in the late 19th century, Lucy was situated in what was known then as South Atlantic City.  

Outwardly modeled after the Asian elephant, Lucy stands east facing the Atlantic Ocean and has served in the past as a hotel, a personal residence, and among other things, a tavern that nearly caused the structure to burn to the ground due to a visiting drunkard in 1904 (we all know one or two or those).  Lucy continued as the face of Southern New Jersey as she changed hands from various owners until finally being donated to the city of Margate (present-day South Atlantic City) in 1970.  The city, along with a newly formed conservation group dubbed the Commission to Save Lucy, together would face the elephant’s most difficult challenge to date: the physical movement of the entire six-story building.

The city of Margate and the commission decided that the damage from the building sitting so close to the salt water of the Atlantic Ocean while also sitting on prime South Jersey beachfront real estate would serve as Lucy’s end if the pachyderm shaped structure was not moved just over two blocks down the shoreline road to a vacant lot purchased by the Commission to Save Lucy and the city of Margate.  This major engineering feat was completed in under 30 days to relocate Lucy the Elephant to her new home, where she still welcomes tourists and locals today.  

Lucy was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1976 and was converted into a museum where guests can tour the inside of the world’s greatest elephant and enjoy beautiful views of both the Atlantic City skyline and the Atlantic Ocean.  

Seeing this magnificent elephant costs a minor fee of $8 for adults and $4 for children 12 to 3 years old with children under the age of 2 touring for free.  Lucy the Elephant is open all year-round providing limited hours during the winter and spring months and longer touring schedules during the warmer months.  Check out LucytheElephant.org for seasonal touring schedules, for donations to the Save Lucy Commission, and the Lucy Gift shop, which stocks more things elephant than the average could be imaged.  The website dives deeper into the history of Lucy as well as serving as the primary source from which information was gathered for this article.

Atlantic City: In & Out of the Casinos

Whether you tour the inside of Lucy the Elephant, walk beneath the belly of this larger than life structure or merely admire her from the parking lot, there is only one more thing left to do from here: find a cold beer.

Out: The Back Bay Ale House

If you would like to continue your outdoor adventure, then the Back Bay Ale House located in the Gardener’s Basin section of Atlantic City should be the first and only stop.  The Gardener’s Basin section of Atlantic City is the spot locals and tourists without the urge to gamble largely find themselves in. 

Nestled between the Marina District casinos and the world famous Atlantic City Boardwalk, the Back Bay Ale House offers an entirely different vantage point, this time from within Atlantic City, while offering an impressive list of local craft beers including two brews from Flying Fish Brewery; the Back Bay Sunset Ale and the Back Bay 1858, both brewed specifically for the Back Bay Ale House.  The latter of the two was inspired by the year in which the mason jar was created and the beer, as well as all cocktails, come in a 16-ounce mason jar.  Other local craft beers on tap sample from other local breweries such as Cape May Brewing Company’s Cranberry Bog, and Dogfish Head’s flagship 60 Min IPA.

 

In: A Dam Good Sports Bar

If crowds and casinos are more your scene, then there is no other finishing point to an adventure, than A Dam Good Sports Bar located on the third floor of The Quarter in the Tropicana Hotel & Casino, just a short drive from Lucy the Elephant.

It comes as clear convenience that A Dam Good Sports Bar happens to be housed within the casino closest to Lucy, but there it is and offers many delectable craft brews on tap.  Some of the local craft options on tap are Glasstown Brewing Company’s 609 IPA, Ludlam Brewing Company’s Island Big Dirty Double IPA, and Dogfish Head’s 60 Min IPA.  

 

Breweries Road Trip

Road Trip: Berwick Brewing With Tom

On our camping trip over the 4th of July holiday, we decided to escape the madness of the Jersey Shore, and head to Ricketts Glen State Park. We stayed at Whispering Pines Camping Estates, which I highly recommend. They are located within 20-30 minutes of plenty of hikes, and attractions. They even had their own fireworks display that could be viewed from our campsite and lasted almost an hour. Our main reason that we stayed at Ricketts Glen was to hike the Falls Trail which brings you by 22 named waterfalls that are really awesome. After the mildly difficult 3 hour hike on the Falls Trail, we were hungry and thirsty, so it was time for us to sit down and grab a beer and something to eat.

Whenever we go camping I’m always on the lookout for a brewery nearby that serves food, which is something you can’t find in New Jersey. While Turkey Hill Brewing was the better-known brewery we opted for the lesser known Berwick Brewing.   Tom Clark, who was previously the owner of the now-closed Red Bank Brewery in Red Bank, NJ, brought his great recipes and food menu to the banks of the Susquehanna River in upstate Pennsylvania when he opened up Berwick Brewing in late 2007.  The inside of the Brewery could easily seat 100 people, and the outside Bier Garten could easily accommodate another 100. With at least 20 beers on tap at all times, there is something for everyone. For someone who is new to the craft beer scene, the Berwick Lager would fit the bill.  Speaking of Bills, the Grumpy Bill’s Porter was extremely good and represented the style admirably. Although I tried almost everything in our 2 visits the one I enjoyed was the Berwick IPA, and the Front Street Wheat. Berwick IPA was very good with not much bitterness on the back end. Wheat beers are probably my favorite style, and Front Street Wheat did not disappoint and went down smooth. The one beer that seemed to go over well with our camping group was the West End Pale Ale. It had everything you want in a Pale Ale with good aroma and a sweet finish. In addition to great beers, Berwick has a great menu. Who doesn’t like fried cheese curds? They were a big hit with our group! What really stood out the most was the incredibly delicious pizza. The crust was sweet and tasty while the cheeses Tom used were definitely high quality. Our first trip was so good that we had to plan to go back the next day. Berwick Brewing is a great brewery with a friendly and knowledgeable staff. I can’t wait to go back to the area camping again, have some more great beer and pizza. It was also a nice surprise to see some local breweries stickers on the wall!

Berwick Brewing is definitely a place you should stop at if you are ever in the area.  They have a great room, great food, and fantastic beer.  For more information on Berwick Brewery follow them check out the links below!

Enjoy Your Pour!

Visit Berwick Brewing on the web www.berwickbrewing.com

Follow Berwick Brewing on Facebook  HERE

Follow Berwick Brewing on Instagram berwickbrewing

Follow Berwick Brewing on Twitter @BerwickBrewing

 

10 Questions With... Breweries Road Trip

Road Trip! 10 Questions With…Brett Cracco of St. John Brewers in The US Virgin Islands

Welcome to our “Road Trip” edition of “10 Questions With…”.  We go a little south of South Jersey for this one….well, actually WAY south, about 1,500 miles as we visit the beautiful island of St. John in the US Virgin Islands and the Tap Room at St. John Brewers.

St John Brewers tale starts in 2001, when 2 University of Vermont grads, Kevin Chipman and Chirag (Cheech) Vyas decided to leave the corporate world and move to the paradise that is St. John. Kevin and Cheech worked as waiters, bartenders and other jobs in the tourism industry to sustain them while they worked on their craft. After much experimentation, they arrived at what would be their flagship brew, a pale ale with island grown mango, a true local beer.

Serving as their own distributors, the beer exploded on the scene and the demand soon outpaced the production ability of the small brewery, so they reached an agreement with Shipyard Brewing in Portland, Maine to be their bottling and distributing partner. They also established what is now an island staple, the Tap Room. While the original Tap Room burned down in a fire in 2015, the partners soon rebuilt and a new 2 level Tap Room is expected to be ready soon, enabling the small 2 barrel brewery to more than double in size.

St. John Brewers beers are now available throughout the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, as well as in 4 states…including New Jersey!   Although the bottling and distributing are done in Maine, all the recipes are concocted, tested and approved on the island. All draft production is also done on the island.

Kevin and Cheech were not available when I visited, but I got the opportunity to meet with Brett Cracco, Sales and Marketing Manager. Brett was with the Tap Room a while ago, but recently returned to the island and is a brew industry veteran in his own right, having worked as Senior Brewer and Specialty Projects Manager at Heavy Seas Brewing in Maryland.

What was the First Beer you brewed? How was it?

Tropical Mango Pale Ale….brewed with mangoes right from the island. Outstanding!

What is your favorite style to brew and why?

A session IPA, drinkable with while still having some flexibility with your hops.

Do you look at ratings on Untapped, Beer Advocate, Rate Beer and if you do how does it influence your recipes?

We haven’t a lot in the past but we are starting to now. Part of my job is partnering with Social Media and increasing awareness of our product.

How do you stay connected with the local area in relation to sourcing ingredients?

Obviously our Tropical Mango was originally inspired and sourced from our local fruit, but we also just brewed a Passion Fruit Gose (sorry that was kicked just before you got here) and our Toasted Coconut will be ready next week (sorry you will be gone by then) and others that are only available in the Tap Room. The island is very small and very limited fresh water supply, which limits what we can brew.  We can’t grow the grain or hops on the island and we also have to import any outside yeast we use, so that creates some challenges. 

What is the one tip you would give to home brewers to make better beer?

Temperature control is key, consistency of process is also very important. Lastly, repeat and refine your recipes…master one before you move on to another. 

What is the one piece of advice you would give to someone who wants to open a brewery?

Don’t look to get too huge too fast. At least in the beginning, keep it in house, keep it small.

If there were a beer that you could brew, with no regard to cost, production or sales, what would it be?

Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale by Boulevard Brewing Company. Just because it is my favorite beer. Fantastic!

Looking back on opening day forward, what was the one thing that surprised you the most?

Ever since I started with the company, it has always amazed me that the entire community has supported St. John Brewers.  Through the past 13 years we have always had that support, so when the fire burned down our tap room in 2015, the owners knew it was only a speed bump and that they would be able to rebuild and still have the locals standing by our side the whole time.  That is why I love this island!

Other than your beer, what is your “go to” drink after a long day at the brewery?

Whatever someone wants to buy me!

Where do you see the brewery in one year…five years?

Where do you see the brewery in a year? 5 years? 
A year…new Tap Room being opened for business. 5 years…with the success of the expanded brewery being able to supply more kegs to more bars and restaurants on the island. 

For more information on St. John Brewers, visit them on the web at www.stjohnbrewers.com

Visit St. John Brewers on Facebook @StJohnBrewers

Follow St. John Brewers on Instagram @stjohnbrewers

Follow St. John Brewers on Twitter @StJohnBrewers

 

Road Trip Tours

Road Trip: Commonwealth Brewing of Virginia Beach with Tuckahoe Brewing’s Rob Callaghan

When the camper gets hooked up it is vacation time, and my favorite thing to do on vacation is to visit other breweries. The trip to Virginia Beach is one of my favorites. I have made this trip many times with my wife and our dogs and it never disappoints. We always stay at First Landing State Park and, I have to say, Virginia State Parks are outstanding. I love this particular state park for 2 reasons. First, the campsites are a walk over the dunes to the Chesapeake Bay and, second, its close proximity to breweries! Within 12 miles of our campsite, there are at least 7 breweries including Back Bay Brewing, Pleasure House Brewing, Reaver Beach Brewing, Young Veterans Brewing, Green Flash Brewing, Smart Mouth Brewing, and my personal favorite Commonwealth Brewing Company!

The last 3 times I have been to Virginia Beach I have ended up at Commonwealth. They have excellent beers and the all-around vibe of the brewery is terrific. The brewery is located in an old firehouse in the Chic’s (or Chick’s) Beach section of Virginia Beach. The tasting room is located in what was the garage section of the old firehouse and houses a 30’ bar with 28 taps. The room has communal tables with a beer rail along the wall. There is a great view of the brewery on the back wall. The garage doors are glass and allow you to get a look at the outside patio which, when it is nice out, are left open. Tucked in the back of the brewery is the brewhouse and a barrel aging room. The barrel aging room is also used for private events for up to 70 people.

Now let’s move on to the beer! Let me start by saying I am already looking forward to our next trip back! Commonwealth has many standout beers which, I believe, has to do with the brewery’s mantra described on their site by owner Jeramy Biggie as “a tight-knit band of like-minded people who believe beer should be adventurous, diverse, extremely drinkable, and defy boundaries”. They nailed it! We sampled a flight on this trip which consisted of 6 beers, 5 oz. each served on a holder made from a barrel. They did not disappoint!

The first beer we sampled was Big Papi, a Double IPA checking in at 8% ABV. It is the big brother of their IPA, Paps Chulo. It is a hazy, fruit forward beer with low bitterness. It was my favorite of the flight rating an A+.

Next up was Marvolo, an Imperial Chocolate Stout checking in at 8.5% ABV made with cold brewed coffee, toasted coconut, and Dutch cocoa. All of these flavors blend together creating a bold and dark beer that is so easily drinkable it could be dangerous! It is by far my wife’s favorite and was a close second for me. I would rate this an A.

The third beer was The Wealth, a blond saison at 5.1% ABV, with notes of fruit, spices, and bread. Another excellent, highly drinkable beer that I would rate a B+.

We then sampled Burgundy, a Belgian Dubbel checking in at 8.4% ABV. This beer is made with 3 different types of Belgian candi syrup and open fermented, with notes of ripe fruit and rich malt. This beer reminded me of our Fete Du Roi, a beer we brew at Tuckahoe Brewing Company. I graded this as an A.

Our next sample was Sophrosyne, an aged saison that checked in at 5.8%. It is a 100% folder fermented beer aged 6 months, then blended with their house Solera. I would describe it as tart, light, and funky, exactly how a sour should be. I rated this a solid B.

The final beer of our flight was Trishna, a Gose with hints of blood orange, lemon, lime and Buddha’s Hand, a Chinese fruit. It has a strong forward flavor that dissipates over time. The beer was an excellent finish for me and rated and A.

I really feel the Commonwealth Vibe runs through all the selections we had, and I am sure if you were to visit you would feel the same way!

If you get a chance to Virginia Beach, take it! It is a beer lover’s paradise with excellent breweries, terrific restaurants, and beautiful beaches. It is also in close to Norfolk which is also home to some awesome breweries, but I will save that for the next Road Trip article! Sitting here writing this has me longing to head back!

Cheers!

Rob Callaghan

 

Rob Callaghan is the Sales Manager for Tuckahoe Brewing Company.  

Follow Rob on Instagram @iselltuckahoebeer

Follow Tuckahoe Brewing Company on Twitter @tuckahoeco

For more about Tuckahoe Brewing Company, visit them at www.tuckahoebrewing.com