The Top Tap Rooms: Great Jersey Bars for Beer Connoisseurs

Thirsty? Here are 26 great watering holes to bring out the craft-beer lover in you.

Growler

Andy’s Corner Bar
257 Queen Anne Road
Bogota; 201-342-9887
andyscornerbar.blogspot.com

This low-key neighborhood stalwart is a throwback to an earlier time—save for the hip beer selection. Owners George and Barbara Gray offer 10 craft beers on tap and another 120 in the bottle. There are also two hand pumps for cask-conditioned ales. Every Wednesday is Beer Geek Night. “We try to bring in something that’s oak-aged or a sour beer or a Belgian—something unusual,” says George Gray, son of the bar’s namesake, who runs the place with his wife, Barbara. Andy’s doesn’t serve much food—just pretzels and chips—but you’re welcome to bring your own.
—Ken Schlager

Barcade
163 Newark Avenue
Jersey City; 201-332-4555
barcadejerseycity.com

This corner bar has lots of open space, natural light and 38 vintage arcade games like Asteroids and Donkey Kong. Games gobble electricity, but Barcade runs on wind power—through the normal grid, explains Paul Kermizian, one of four friends who opened the original Barcade in Brooklyn nine years ago. A chalkboard lists craft beers on tap, sandwiches and small plates such as deviled eggs ($3) and pickled shoots of the hop plant ($9). Guests order and pick up everything at the bar. —Amanda Staab

Blue Monkey Tavern
2 South Centre Street
Merchantville; 856-661-8008
bluemonkeytavern.com

Why 40 different drafts? “I’ve loved craft beer for two decades, and I wanted to share that love with everyone else,” explains Blue Monkey co-owner Halil Gungor. “Besides, it gets boring drinking the same stuff over and over.” Sidling up to the tavern’s 20-square-foot mahogany bar, customers select from the daily list of draft favorites and rarities. Blue Monkey also offers an extensive menu of reasonably priced pub food, steaks, chops and seafood.—Nick DiUlio

Brickwall Tavern & Dining Room
522 Cookman Avenue
Asbury Park; 732-774-1264
brickwalltavern.com

This industrial-chic eatery has an eclectic menu and a tap list to match. Last year, in winking tribute to the Mayan calendar countdown, Seattle’s Elysian Brewing introduced a special brew each month. The last of its hard-to-find 12 Beers of the Apocalypse series—Doom Golden Treacle Ale—was still being poured at Brickwall when we visited in January. Buy a growler of any draft and get 20 percent off your refill. Every month or so, Brickwall hosts a dinner tailored to the products of a single brewery.—Brett Savage

Carolina Blue Smokehouse & Taproom
692 Lambs Road
Pitman; 856-582-8586
carolinabluerestaurant.com

Carolina emerged from a 2008 renovation and name change as one of the best Southern-style eateries in the area. A dozen taps (and more than 40 bottled choices) range from local favorites like Flying Fish and Victory to international rarities like Lion Lager from Sri Lanka. The outside deck features a bar and a stone fire pit.—ND

Cloverleaf Tavern
395 Bloomfield Avenue
Caldwell; 973-226-9812
cloverleaftavern.com

This unpretentious, Irish-themed, family-oriented tavern has been woven into the neighborhood fabric for 80 years. The sports bar up front draws a vocal crowd, but relative quiet prevails in the separate dining areas and the open-air patio. Choose from a rotating selection of 24 drafts and more than 80 beers in the bottle. A new list is printed daily, with featured brews and themed flights (four 5-ounce servings) chosen by owner Ryan Dorchak. Every Monday through Thursday, one craft on draft is featured at $3. Cloverleaf courts enthusiasts with a beer-appreciation program and discounts on growler refills.—KS

Copper Mine Pub
323 Ridge Road
North Arlington; 201-428-1223
thecopperminepub.com

Vito Forte opened this no-frills pub within a few minutes of his home in Rutherford five years ago after developing an interest in craft beer. He keeps his 20 draft lines flowing with a rotating selection of craft brews and another 50 to 60 in bottles. The little corner bar can be packed on weekends; special events also draw good crowds on Thursdays. “We always tap a really rare keg or we do a brewery event,” says Forte. He doesn’t serve food, but customers are welcome to bring their own or order in.—KS

Firewaters
Tropicana Casino
2831 Boardwalk, Atlantic City 609-344-6699;
tropicana.net/nightlife/firewaters

Amid over-the-top Trop attractions like the Boogie Nights bar, Firewaters is an oasis of sanity—for beer lovers, at least. Behold 50 drafts and 101 bottled beers. Overwhelmed by the options? Four-ounce, four-beer samplers are just $8. The atmosphere is no-frills. It’s all about the beer, especially on weekends, when Firewaters stays open round the clock.—ND

Geraghty’s Pub
148 West Broad Street
Burlington; 609-386-1121
geraghtyspub.com

The vibe is as comfy as an old pair of boots. “We’re always striving to be that nice hometown pub on the corner,” says general manager Nick Trogdon. “We also happen to serve incredible beer.” The pub rolls out 17 rotating drafts, one hand pump for cask-conditioned brews, and more than 100 beers by the bottle. Beer-pairing dinners resume each spring. On certain Wednesday nights, a brewery rep shows off five or six unique selections. All drafts are available in 64-ounce growlers. It’s fine to mix and match bottles for a six-pack to go.—ND

Good Night Irene’s
2708 Pacific Avenue
Wildwood; 609-729-3861
goodnightirenes.com

The marquee outside says it all: “Life is too short to drink crap beer.” Masquerading as a laid-back pizza joint, Good Night Irene’s is in fact a revered beer destination. Come June, the current 42 taps will be supplemented by a dozen more. “Great pizza, great beer. That’s the gist,” says co-owner Dan Stefankiewicz. “We don’t try to overcomplicate things.” To that end, the house suggests can’t-miss pizza-and-beer pairings. An outdoor beer garden opens this spring. —ND

High Street Grill
64 High Street
Mount Holly; 609-265-9199
highstreetgrill.net

High Street Grill resides in a 150-year-old building that maintains its original exposed-brick interior and attendant Dickensian charm. The only thing more captivating than the atmosphere is the list of 16 rotating drafts and one hand-pumped cask, including such rarities as Goose Island Imperial IPA and Oskar Blues’ Deviant Dales. Servers pride themselves on matching unique beers to the grill’s New American cuisine. On Thursday nights, games of Beer Geek Trivia bring on bouts of one-upmanship.—ND

Ho-Ho-Kus Inn & Tavern
1 East Franklin Turnpike
Ho-Ho-Kus; 201-445-4115
hohokusinn.com

The tavern room in this lovingly restored 18th-century mansion has four flat-screen TVs, a working fireplace, and six craft selections on tap—including the Inn’s own Tavern Ale, custom brewed by Cricket Hill. There are always at least seven more choices in the bottle. You can also enjoy your brew in the cozy library bar, on the outdoor bluestone patio in the warm months, or in one of five dining rooms, each with tasteful, period-style decor and a full dinner menu. The inn holds a beer tasting the first Wednesday of every month, featuring four or five craft brews.—KS

The Iron Monkey
99 Greene Street
Jersey City; 201-435-5756
ironmonkey.com

The name enshrines a bizarre tale told by owner Steven McIntyre. He says that when he attempted to climb a sacred mountain in China in the 1980s, he was attacked by a band of monkeys that stole—and ate—his eyeglasses. You won’t need specs to see well in the ground-floor bar, which is flooded with natural light by day, neon by night. A rooftop terrace offers views of Jersey City’s gentrified financial district—a mix of brick walk-ups and modern high-rises—as well as Lower Manhattan. The daily beer list is selected from a rotation of 39 drafts and 525 bottles. The menu mixes upscale appetizers like shredded duck confit ($11) and crabmeat dumplings ($11) with traditional pub grub. Growlers available.—AS

Maloney’s Pub & Grill
119 Main Street
Matawan; 732-583-4040
maloneyspubnj.com

With over 100 drafts and 250 bottles available at any one time, you will want to consult the beer menu, helpfully divided by category and noting ABV. The list is rich in Belgians, stouts and porters, but there is also a section devoted to Jersey beers. Beer Club members—it’s free to join—can record tasting notes in an on-site folder. Try more than 50, and you’ll be inducted into Maloney’s Beer Hall of Fame. Beer-and-food pairings, seminars and the occasional bus trip to a brewery round out the informative fun.—BS

Mohawk House
3 Sparta Junction (Rt 517)
Sparta; 973-729-6464
mohawkhouse.com

It sounds like faint praise to call Mohawk House one of the best restaurants in Sussex County, where there aren’t that many ambitious restaurants. But Mohawk’s food could hold its own on a wider stage, as could its massive, stone-and-wood lodge-like building—and its carefully curated craft-beer program. On a recent visit, 50 taps were flowing with a panoply of intriguing imports and domestics. (If you love German wheat beers, don’t miss the vivid and complex Ramstein Golden Blonde from High Point Brewing in Butler.) The best way to satisfy curiosity is with a flight of four 4-ounce pours (roughly $10-$13). Knowledgeable servers can help you choose. Or wing it—the whole list is fair game. Sundays and Mondays, growlers (32 and 64 ounces) are half price.—Eric Levin

Morris Tap & Grill
500 Route 10 West
Randolph; 973-891-1776
morristapandgrill.com

“People who know beer and like beer are going with the IPAs,” reports Craig Michaels, head bartender at this tastefully appointed, 8,000-square-foot bar and restaurant. Michaels always has plenty of hoppy IPAs among his 24 craft beers on tap and 75 in the bottle. The list changes twice weekly. MTG, which opened in July 2011 at the site of the old Stonefire Grill, holds monthly pairing dinners and themed beer days (such as a recent IPA day) and has a booming home brewers’ club. A recent stout week put 10 of the malty, mellow darks on tap. Chef Eric LeVine’s food is always special; don’t miss his signature short ribs, paired perhaps with a robust porter.—KS

Mussel Bar
Revel Resort
500 Boardwalk
Atlantic City; 609-225-9851
musselbar.com/revel

Chef Robert Wiedmaier’s Mussel Bar offers an unparalleled selection of mostly Belgian beers, which ideally complement the restaurant’s signature pots of roasted mussels (available in five mind-bending preparations, each $26) and its pizza-
like Belgian flatbread tarts. There are 35 taps, and the choices include enticing obscurities like 11 percent abv Kasteel Tripel from Belgium. These are supplemented by more than 150 bottled brews arranged by category. The sophisticated atmosphere, with its gleaming open kitchen, pokes fun at itself with whimsies like beer-bottle sconces, chairs hanging from the ceiling and an actual chopper-style motorcycle suspended above the bar.—ND

Old Bay Restaurant
61-63 Church Street
New Brunswick; 732-246-3111
oldbayrest.com

A pioneering promoter of craft beer, Old Bay has occupied the same converted 19th-century Bank of New Jersey building for 25 years. It’s an unusual space: a warren of small rooms on several levels, its lavender walls decorated with posters and Mardi Gras masks. The Cajun/Creole menu mates well with the 24 beers on tap, listed with descriptions on a sheet prepared each day by manager Pat Pipi. Favorites include Founders Breakfast Stout, a chocolaty brew from Michigan, and N’Ice Chouffe, a dark ale from Belgium. There’s live music on weekends and $3 drafts starting at 10 pm on Wednesdays.
—Merrill Noden

Pilsener Haus Biergarten
1422 Grand Street
Hoboken; 201-683-5465
pilsenerhaus.com

With its suspender-wearing waitstaff lofting frothing steins to patrons at long communal tables, Pilsener Haus evokes an Eastern European brewpub. The two indoor halls and the outdoor biergarten occupy the ground floor of a 1920s brick industrial building that bolsters the retro atmosphere. Beers on tap, mostly German, include Belgian, Austrian and American brews. Half-liters are $7, pints, up to $20. American craft beers and a range of imports are available in bottles. Weekdays (except Mondays) chef Thomas Ferlesch serves burly Austro-Hungarian comfort foods like beef goulash ($15) and chicken paprikash ($15). At the large, open grill, people line up every day for kielbasa, bratwurst, frankfurters, rotisserie chicken and burgers. Saturdays are busiest but the most fun, thanks to the gregarious crowd.—AS

The Pour House
124 Haddon Avenue
Westmont; 856-869-4600
pjspourhouse.com

Since opening in 2009, the Pour House has attracted attention for its 20 rotating drafts (plus one hand-pumped cask) and 140 varieties by the bottle. Spring favorites at this sprawling pub include Dogfish Head’s hoppy fruit beer, Aprihop, and Troegs’s Nugget Nectar. Local brewer Flying Fish always commands at least one tap, often more. According to general manager Remo Croce, Pour House sells more Flying Fish than any other bar. Stop by on Wednesdays for $3.50 drafts all day.—ND

The Shepherd & the Knucklehead
529 Belmont Avenue
Haledon; 973-942-8666
theshepnj.com

When Christopher Schiavo opened the Shepherd & the Knucklehead 15 years ago, he named it for his first novel—a meditation on the duality of man. You want duality? At this brick-walled pub, Jack Kerouac is commemorated as the patron saint but craft beer is clearly king. There are an incredible 90 taps, with special attention to local brewers like Cricket Hill (from nearby Fairfield), Kane and Carton. “We do not carry the big guys,” manager Adam Bird proudly declares. How does such sudsy sophistication play in blue-collar Haledon? “We’re a destination place,” says Schiavo—and a favorite of faculty from neighboring William Paterson University. The dinner menu is limited but well-executed.—KS

Surf Taco
21 Hope Chapel Road
Jackson; 732-364-8226
surftaco.com/locations/jackson

The only branch of the Surf Taco empire with a liquor license, the brightly colored Jackson outpost is an oasis for craft beer lovers. Surf Taco has 10 taps; eight rotate often to stave off aficionado apathy. The roughly 100 members of Surf Taco’s Growler Club receive discounts and VIP treatment at events like the monthly cask tappings when brewery reps pump away and are pumped with questions.—MN

Taphouse Grille
344 French Hill Road
Wayne; 973-832-4141
taphousenj.com

On a recent visit, this modern, busy neighborhood tavern had 24 craft beers on tap, including notable Jersey brews such as Kane Rye Head High, a fruity IPA brewed with rye, and Carton Epitome, a muscular dark ale with 10.3 percent ABV. A flight of four 5-ounce pours is $10. Each beer is succinctly described on a one-page sheet, but you can do just as well quizzing the knowledgeable servers. The food is top-notch.—KS

The Tap Room
200 Liberty Corner Road
Warren Township
908-660-4506
thesomersethillshotel.com

Off the lobby of the Somerset Hills Hotel, a cherry-mahogany bar and lush brown carpeting beckons you to the beer room rated number 1 in New Jersey by beernexus.com. Beverage manager Kevin Torpey stocks his 11 rotating taps with lesser-known gems like Hibernation Ale from Denver’s Great Divide Brewing Company. Be sure to ask about Kevin’s secret bottle stash, a trove of some 20 to 25 rarities. The pub food is rewarding, bands play on weekends, and in good weather you can roll a game of bocci on the patio.—MN

Tipperary Pub
2313 County Route 547
Lakehurst; 732-323-0007
tipperarypub.com

Once a roadhouse dive, today’s Tipperary aims for a traditional Irish experience. Except for the five flat-screens over the bar, it gets there. The room, airy and larger than most, has a working fireplace, framed photos of the Emerald Isle and Irish flags festooning the corners. The daily list of 16 rotating beers on tap range from carefully chosen local brews like Kane Head High IPA to far-flung notables like Angry Orchard from Boston. Newly listed beers are $1 off during happy hour.—MN

Yankee Doodle Tap Room
Nassau Inn
10 Palmer Square East
Princeton; 609-921-7500
nassauinn.com

From the huge “Yankee Doodle Dandy” mural behind the bar—a gift from its creator, Norman Rockwell—to the photos of famous Princeton grads like Jimmy Stewart and Michelle Obama, the Tap Room exudes Tiger lore. Nurse your pint at one of the old oak tables where Princetonians have carved their names, a guy named Albert Einstein among them. Choose from 16 taps. Meet the Brewers events take place in spring and summer when the patio is hopping. In winter, pull up a chair before a roaring fire, admire the patina of the old oak ceiling beams and feel transported to a time before anyone knew that E=MC².—MN

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Growlers Roar Again
In the beer world, a growler is not a wild animal, but it did get its name from making noise. Before beer was bottled and sold in stores, consumers would walk to their local tavern to purchase or refill a jug of a favorite brew secured by a rubber stopper. On the way home, as the suds sloshed around, a strange sound came from the jug. Hence, the name “growler.”
With the resurgence of local breweries, growlers have made a comeback. “More people are coming in and asking for anything from the local brewery,” says Cloverleaf Tavern’s Dana Russo. Many craft beers are available only on draft, so numerous tap rooms and some retailers (such as Joe Canal’s of West Deptford, left) have started growler programs. Jugs ranging in size from 32 ounces to two liters are sold and refilled, usually at a discount, so beer lovers can enjoy the craft experience at home. —Amanda Staab

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Cask-Conditioning: Alive On Arrival
At the end of the brewing process, commercial beers are pasteurized, and even in most craft beers, the yeasts—the engines of fermentation—are filtered out. From that moment on, whatever the keg or bottle contains is what it is. But if that keg has been cask-conditioned, its unfiltered, unpasteurized contents are, in a sense, alive. At the bottom of the (usually) wooden barrel, the yeasts are still whistling while they work, nudging along what’s called a secondary fermentation. The result is a beverage that connoisseurs prize for its light carbonation, lacy head and unique mouth feel, all enhanced by being served cool rather than cold. Add to that the illusion of time travel. Cask ales, or real ales, as they are known, harken back to the way all beers were made—and tasted—before the modern era of refrigeration and pressurized steel kegs. In fact, because cask-conditioned kegs are not pressurized, they can’t be served through regular tap lines, but have to be pumped by hand—an old-fashioned task bartenders take ceremonial pride in performing.—Nick DiUlio

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