Wow! 2017 was a great year for South Jersey beer and breweries. The scene has certainly exploded! What was once looked at as a “Millennial Fad” has taken root and become a big part of the South Jersey landscape. We took a look back at 2017 and these are the top 5 highlights of the year.
1. More Breweries
South Jersey saw the opening of 9 new breweries last year:
- Bucket Brigade Brewery in Cape May Court House
- Icarus Brewing in Lakewood
- Vinyl Brewing in Hammonton
- King’s Road Brewing Company in Haddonfield
- Manafirkin Brewing in Manahawkin
- Death Of The Fox Brewing in Clarksboro
- Zed’s Beer in Marlton
- Common Sense Brewing of Bordentown
- Hidden Sands Brewery of Egg Harbor Township (limited opening in 2017, full opening 1/12/18)
South Jersey now has 36 of the states 82 operating breweries and there are at least 8 more that are planning to open in 2018. This is a great indicator of the health of the beer business in South Jersey and the ability of the market to support and sustain these local businesses. The popularity of craft beer continues to grow across the state and there is plenty of room for growth. New Jersey is 42nd in the country in the number of breweries per capita at 1.26. Virginia, whose population is very similar to New Jersey’s, has 164 operating breweries (exactly twice the amount in NJ) and a per capita index of 2.7 which puts it at 20th in the country. This is a good comparison to where we are now and what we can expect to be sustainable going forward, leaving lots of room for additional growth.
2. Expansion of Existing Breweries
2017 saw major expansion for a host of breweries in South Jersey. Just about every brewery in South Jersey had some sort of expansion in 2017. Whether it was bigger systems, more fermenters, bigger tasting rooms, or additional brewing days, South Jersey Breweries have been growing bigger to meet the market demand which continues to grow. This leads us to number 3:
3. Increased Availability of Local Beer
In 2017, we saw a tremendous increase in the availability of South Jersey beer. Distribution of beer to local restaurants increased exponentially this year with virtually every local restaurant, bar, and liquor store carrying local beer. Kegs are a big part of this, but we have also seen a crazy increase in the number of local beers available in bottles and cans. The number of breweries that are canning in South Jersey has skyrocketed. Two of the oldest breweries in South Jersey, Cape May Brewing and Tuckahoe Brewing, both started canning their product this year after exclusively bottling for many years and several other locals have followed suit. Those of us who have been following craft beer for a long time see this as a game changer. If you wanted a can option in a craft beer in the past, it was probably Oskar Blues or nothing else (although Yuengling is considered Craft by the Brewers Association rules, clearly more of a legacy craft beer). The development and success of the Crowler by Oskar Blues and Ball showed that Craft Beer people would drink beer from cans if it was done properly. Also, the ease and convenience of mobile-canning companies have made the ability to can much more accessible to everyone.
4. Randalls, Randalls, Randalls Everywhere!
The Randall, an organoleptic hop transducer module developed by Dogfish Head has gained incredible popularity in South Jersey. The Randall has a double-chamber filter that you connect to a tap of your favorite beer and fill with flavor-enhancing ingredients to create new flavor profiles. Do you like your local breweries IPA? How about they run it through a Randall of Jalapeno’s or pineapple to give you new flavors to explore. We have seen many inventive combinations at a bunch of local breweries. Retailing at $298, it is a great way for brewers to showcase new flavors without incurring the cost and time of brewing up a completely new batch of beer. If you have not yet tried this you need to!
5. New Interpretations of Brewery Rules
One of biggest changes we have seen to South Jersey breweries this year is a looser interpretation of the archaic ABC rules that govern the industry here in New Jersey. Although we have seen nothing official from the brewers, the NJ Brewers Association, or the State, clearly there has been a change in the way breweries are operating. TV’s, something you never saw in a brewery, are on the walls. Live original music has been seen, and a proliferation of food trucks has invaded South Jersey and can be found in parking lots near the licensed premises. In speaking with a few brewery owners, it is not clear as to if this has helped business, but it gives them the option of deciding if they want to provide these activities. There has been much debate in the beer community about the laws, and some concern over the new ABC director and his plans for NJ breweries, as well as some complaints from Bar and Restaurant owners who feel that the rules are being interpreted wrongly and should not be allowed to continue. In speaking with brewery owners and employees, our belief is that this change in the rule interpretation has not really changed the amount of revenue that the breweries bring in, and we have seen a lot of these activities tail off as the newness has worn off. What it does do is put the Breweries on a similar, yet not equal, standing with the New Jersey Wineries, Distilleries, and the recent new rules for Cideries that are on the books. We think a lot of this will be talked about in 2018 and expect to see some changes in legislation and from the ABC as well as the rules governing breweries.
Honorable Mention 1: Festivals!
Nearly every weekend from March until November you can find a beer festival in the greater South Jersey area. We are also lucky to have one of the biggest and best right here in our backyard, the Atlantic City Beer & Music Festival put on by the gang at Good Time Tricycle Productions at the AC Convention center. This monster continues to grow every year and is recognized nationally as one of the must-attend events for beer fanatics.
Honorable Mention 2: Continued Dominance of IPA’s
Once again this year IPA’s dominated the South Jersey beer market. It is not uncommon to see multiple types of IPA’s on the board at local breweries, and it looks like the demand keeps growing. We saw more variations of IPA’s than any other beer in South Jersey this year. Also, the dry hopping, double dry hopping, and special versions of IPA’s seem to be released on an almost daily basis. We expect this to continue into 2018 and beyond.
This list is by no mean’s the gospel on what went on this year in beer here in South Jersey. Tell us what you think! Comment or reach out to us on Facebook, Instagram, or email. We would love to hear what you think!
Here’s to a great 2017 and an even better 2018! Cheers!