2018 was a very interesting year for craft beer in the South Jersey region. We once again saw a rise in the number of breweries that are operating and expansions of many of the breweries that are making beer here in South Jersey. This was also the year that the business made front page news with all of the changes that were made, then rescinded, by former ABC Commissioner Rible. Here is our list of the top 5 news stories of 2018.
1. ABC Changes, then Reverts Back to Current Brewery Rules “Pending Further Review”
We had been hearing rumblings for years about the impending brewery rule changes and was not quite sure when they were going to happen and, when they did, what actually was going to be changed. Well, on September 21st we found out, and the changes were sweeping (You can read our article about it HERE). Public outcry was incredible, with most people backing their local breweries in fear that they would not be able to operate in the way that would allow them to continue to be profitable. The Independent Craft Brewers of NJ, a cooperative partnership formed by a group of New Jersey Brewers in the late Summer of 2018, collected a petition with over 30,000 signatures from state residents in the days following the ruling which, in addition to several state and local politicians voicing their opposition, no doubt was a factor in the suspension of the ruling.
Editor’s Note: New guidelines for licensure year 2020/2021 were released on 5/28/2019.
2. Governor Murphy Nominates James B. Graziano as new ABC Director effective November 26, 2018
In another stunning turn of events in the continuing saga of the ABC, David Rible “stepped down to pursue other opportunities ” and a new ABC Director was named. James B. Graziano assumed the role on 11/26/18 and we have not had any changes to the brewery rules that are currently being followed. We expect more news on this in the very near future.
3. New South Jersey Breweries!
- 13th Child Brewing, Williamstown
- Bonesaw Brewing Company, Glassboro
- Cross Keys Brewing Company, Williamstown
- Gusto Brewing Company, North Cape May
- Heavy Reel Brewing Company, Seaside Heights
- Hidden Sands Brewing Company, Egg Harbor Twp.
- Oyster Creek Brewing Company, Waretown
- Mudhen Brewing Company, Wildwood
- Westville Brewery, Westville
We already have had an opening this year (Coho, Cape May Court House) and several in various stages of development so this trend should continue. By our count, 53 of the states 99 breweries (excludes brewpubs) are located in the Southern Half of the State. This is a tremendous turn of events over the last 3 years where South Jersey trailed the northern part of the state in the number of operating breweries.
4. The Increased Availability of Local Beer in Cans, Bottles, and On Tap in the Region
We have seen a tremendous increase in the amount of locally brewed fresh beer in cans and bottles available not only at the breweries, but in local liquor stores and bottle shops. Several South Jersey breweries entered the self-distribution of cans and bottles this year and we have also seen the expansion of the OG canning and bottling breweries with more releases and greater availability of their brand. It is rare to go into any liquor store and not be able to find at least a few types of local craft beer available for takeout. It is also become very rare to go to a bar or restaurant and not have a few selections of locally brewed beer on tap. In the past, it was hard for local breweries to get a tap handle if the bar/restaurant already had a few local selections on. It is still a challenge, but the popularity of local beer has made it a little bit easier. Bars and Restaurants are actively marketing local brands and we have even seen many that have added lines to accommodate them without taking one of their big beer selections from the tap.
5. Continued dominance of IPA’s and the Introduction of a New Style, Brut IPA
Once again IPA’s ruled the roost this year. The dominance of this style is so strong that we don’t see when it will end. Whether it is DDH, Single Hop, DIPA, Lactose IPA, Milkshake IPA, etc, it is still #1 in the sales category, and the most sought after by Craft Beer drinkers.
The Brut IPA craze hit us in late Summer and just about every brewery made a version of it. This new style was “invented” in San Francisco, at Social Kitchen & Brewery. Brewmaster Kim Sturdavant had been using amyloglucosidase on his triple IPA to help tamp down the sugars found in that beer. He decided to use the enzyme on a traditional IPA and the result was a 0° Plato, bone-dry, super-aromatic, slightly hazy but still bright, IPA. He immediately knew he had something new and different and was going to call it “Champagne IPA”, but settled on “Brut IPA” after talking to one of his wine friends. The brewing industry went crazy and South Jersey was no exception. Some brewers feel that this is a game-changer as it will be a beer that will appeal to people that have an affinity to Champagne or Extra Dry Wines.
- Festivals were everywhere again last year, although we did see a decline in attendance to some of them. We think the trend of festivals will continue again this year, but they have become so common that we may see the attendance fall off at some of the smaller, newer events.
- The sheer amount of brands of beer available in New Jersey has exploded. We saw many sought-after brands hit New Jersey this year including Bell’s, Omnipollo, Prairie Artisan Ales, Hoof-Hearted, Evil Twin, Mikkeller, Alesong, and The Ale Apothecary to name a few.
Of course, this is just one man’s opinion. Let us know what you think!