The 16 Best Breweries in New Jersey

There’s no business like beer business—and it’s booming in New Jersey, which now boasts nearly 100 breweries. Here are the best of the best.

A collection of beers from New Jersey's top breweries. Photo by Paul Sirisalee

In little more than a decade, New Jersey’s craft-beer business has boomed from a handful of brewing pioneers to some 99 breweries and 18 brewpubs in every part of the state. We polled a panel of experts (see below) to help identify the best in terms of overall quality, variety and creativity of beers, availability and distribution, and marketing and branding excellence. The following 16 breweries (listed alphabetically) earned the highest grades from our experts.

Backward Flag Brewing Co.

Photo courtesy of Backward Flag Brewing Co.

Forked River
Opened 2015

Tucked away in an industrial complex in Lacey Township, Backward Flag is the kind of utilitarian space you’d expect to find on an Army base. That’s fitting; the brewery is owned by Army and National Guard veteran Torie Fisher and staffed almost entirely by veterans and police officers. That distinction earned the brewery a Gold Award from the U.S. Department of Labor. The beer list—with names like Morning Formation coffee stout and Oak Armored blonde ale—advances the military theme. Fisher, a certified cicerone (beer sommelier), has started a nonprofit, Arms 2 Artisans, to teach transitioning veterans the brewing trade. In 2017, Backward Flag significantly upgraded its brewing capacity—a sign this brewery is looking forward. As they say in the Army, hooah!—PC

Brix City Brewing

Little Ferry
Opened 2015

In less than four years, partners (and high school buddies) Pete Reuther and Joe Delcalzo have gone from hobbyists to busy brewers with a penchant for experimentation. “Every week we do a can release,” says Delcalzo. “We try to do at least one new beer and two other offerings we’ve done in the past.” That means at least 50 new beers every year. “Sometimes it’s small variations, sometimes it’s completely new beers.” Regulars seek out their New England-style IPAs (like Heady Jams, a citrusy, big-bodied double IPA), imperial stouts and barrel-aged sours, but Brix City’s beer menu also includes Belgian ales, porters, stouts, pilsners and lagers. “We kind of do the gamut,” says Delcalzo. Most of their beers are consumed in bars and restaurants or in the bare-bones tasting room; a limited number of cases go to select retailers around the state. The partners hope to double production over the next year.—KS

Cape May Brewing Co.

Rio Grande
Opened 2011

Recognized as the second best brewery of 2017 by The Beer Connoisseur magazine, Cape May is an ever-evolving pioneer of New Jersey beer. At deadline, it was on target to become the state’s first brewery to open an active wholesale distribution operation and, after expanding 400-times its original capacity since opening, now runs a beer-souring facility in a separate building from the main brewhouse, both located at the Cape May Airport. The company lists eight flagship beers plus a host of seasonal offerings, small-batch brews and tasting-room exclusives. Then there’s the Topsail sour blonde ale that The Beer Connoisseur rated best beer of 2017 (brewed one time only). “We’re not trying to chase trends,” says co-owner Ryan Krill. “We try to be consistent in telling our story.” For now, Cape May distributes a small amount in North Jersey, throughout South and Central Jersey and across the Philadelphia region.—TN

Carton Brewing’s Boat beer. Photo courtesy of Carton Brewing Co.

Carton Brewing Co.

Atlantic Highlands
Opened 2011

Since sailing into the New Jersey beer scene in 2011 on a 4.2 percent ABV hazy, hoppy session beer called Boat, Carton Brewing has been rocking said vessel. Now that they have finished a brewery expansion, Carton has the bandwidth to continue their exploration of flavor. A case in point is Planning Jersey Barn Beer, a wild ale fermented with yeast cultivated from local honeycombs, and made with hops grown at Oasis Farms—a Monmouth County operation that provides meaningful work for autistic adults. Rabbit Hill Farms in Shiloh will provide the malt, and the final touch of Jersey terroir will be the water. “The water is simply the greatest in the world, straight off the Atlantic Highlands aquifer,” says brewery owner Augie Carton. Barn Beer will be finished off in an oak barrel (known as a foeder) and will be ready in the spring.—PC

Conclave Brewing

Opened 2015

For 20 years, Carl Alfaro was a civil engineer on construction projects such as the Borgata. Though successful, he felt unfulfilled. In 2015, he founded Conclave Brewing with partner Tim Bouton. “Brewing is really something I love doing,” says Alfaro. “I don’t feel like it’s work.” Conclave releases cans once a month, which tend to sell out in a single weekend. Other times, fans flock to the brewery’s tasting room to fill their growlers with one of Conclave’s several IPAs, such as the hazy, New England-style Gravitational Waves or the juicy, tropical Southern Lights, made with coveted New Zealand hops. Conclave also produces pale ales, porters and stouts. Alfaro constantly experiments with different hop blends, sometimes resulting in one-off releases. Twice a year, he makes his favorite style of beer: pilsner. Later this year, Conclave will increase brewing capacity with a move into a bigger space nearby.—SV

Photo courtesy of Eight & Sand Beer Co.

Eight & Sand Beer Co.

Opened 2016

Last year Eight & Sand, named for a saying among train engineers that means, “to quick and safe travels,” was named a top-10 U.S. brewery by USA Today and brought home a prestigious silver medal from the Great American Beer Festival for its Bad Hombre chili stout. Just before its first anniversary, Eight & Sand doubled its capacity to 10 barrels per batch, and just before turning two expanded its distribution beyond South Jersey into the Philadelphia area. Producers at the eco-friendly brewery focus on low-alcohol classic styles like Monkey & the Engineer Hefeweizen and Munich-style Zug Lager.—TN

Glasstown Brewing Co.

Opened 2013

Located on the grounds of the Millville Airport, Cumberland County’s oldest modern craft brewery is a popular community gathering space with plenty of room outside to toss a frisbee or play garden games with the kids. Attendees at the 2018 Atlantic City Beer & Music Festival voted Glasstown the best brewery at the fest. Though Glasstown produces core beers like its 609 IPA and 856 double IPA (note the South Jersey area codes), they encourage tasting-room patrons to mix and match flavors, like, turning a combination of two American IPAs—Super C and Mosaic Man—into a super-hoppy Superman. Co-owners Paul and Jen Simmons plan to increase distribution beyond New Jersey’s eight southernmost counties.—TN

Icarus Brewing

Opened 2017

Head brewer/owner Jason Goldstein, 29, has worked in beer since he was 18. He started with cleaning tanks, moved up to the bottling line, then studied food science at Ohio State University and brewing in England at breweries like Heineken and Newcastle. He’s also worked at Rinn Duin Brewing in Toms River. When it came time to open his own brewery, the native New Yorker set his eyes on New Jersey. Goldstein’s beer knowledge is on full display at Icarus, where he crafts IPAs, stouts, pale ales, triples and farmhouse ales—some of which are barrel aged. Icarus’s eye-catching labels stand out in a crowded beer fridge. Their most desired beer, the Yacht Juice Imperial IPA, is citrusy, creamy and crisp. The brewery often hosts food trucks. Four-packs are available inside the tasting room and in stores around the state.—SV

“Pulling nails” from a beer barrel at Kane Brewing. Photo by Scott Jones

Kane Brewing

Ocean Township
Opened 2011

Voted the best brewery in New Jersey by our panel of experts, Kane stands out for its consistency and superior quality in its three flagships (Head High IPA, Overhead DIPA and Sneak Box pale ale) as well as its boozy stouts, which generate buzz and lines at taprooms around the state during their periodic releases. Before opening his eponymous brewery, co-owner Michael Kane was an award-winning home brewer; he still writes or approves every recipe. Available in cans and on draught all over the state.—TN

Magnify Brewing Co.

Opened 2015

The last time New Jersey Monthly ranked beers in 2016, Magnify was voted best new brewery. Since then, “we have doubled our capacity and team and have a much larger distribution footprint in New Jersey,” reports owner Eric Ruta. Indeed, Magnify is in more than 100 retail locations and more than 150 restaurants around the state. Brewing continues at warp speed. Each week, there’s a can release of two to four different beers. That velocity allows them to “experiment and play around with new or different hops, yeast strains, fermentation profiles and so on,” says Ruta. Hopheads love them for their hop-forward beers, but Magnify still sneaks in stouts, porters and some interesting wild ales. The busy taproom is open six days a week (closed on Monday).—PC

Beers in the tasting room at the Referend Bier Blendery. Photo by Scott Jones

The Referend Bier Blendery

Opened 2016

Unlike most breweries, the Referend Bier Blendery is entirely dedicated to producing lambic-inspired brews. Channeling an old-world, sour style of beer made in Belgium, owner James Priest utilizes spontaneous fermentation to craft acidic and complex beers. All beers mature in barrels, resulting in taste profiles that are more similar to dry wine or cider. Some are fermented with other ingredients, sourced locally when possible, including grüner veltliner, chambourcin and cabernet franc wine grapes, blackberries, and raspberries, which add another layer of complexity. If you’re unfamiliar with this style of beer, the low-alcohol Berliner Messe is a tart and refreshing introduction.—SV

Slack Tide Brewing Co.

Opened 2015

Brothers Jason and Tadhg Campbell strive for perfection, consistency and stylistic accuracy in every beer they brew. It may be this attention to detail that won their Avalon Amber red ale a coveted bronze medal last year at the Great American Beer Festival. “If a customer orders a pale ale, they want a pale ale, and they want it to taste the same each time,” says Jason. Plans for 2019 include the purchase of three 20-barrel fermenters to add to the brewery’s recent investment in a canning line, as well as expanding its distribution beyond its current 85 or so accounts in South Jersey. Flagships include Angry Osprey American IPA, Bell Buoy Belgian blonde, 5 Fathom Pale ale and Tipsy Dipsy American DIPA.—TN

Spellbound Brewing

Mount Holly
Opened 2014

Since winning a Great American Beer Festival silver medal for its Palo Santo wood-aged porter within a year of opening (the porter won gold two years later), Spellbound has grown into a formidable 20-barrel brewhouse with an adjacent space for barrel aging and a silo that holds 60,000 pounds of grain. The sales team sells four core year-round brands (IPA, pale ale, porter and Palo Santo wood-aged porter) and has offered other big, bold, unusual styles like Corned Beef pale ale and Belgian Tripel Cherry across central and southern New Jersey.—TN

Brewer/co-owner Taylor Facchinei checks in on the brewing process at Tonewood Brewing. Photo by Scott Jones

Tonewood Brewing

Opened 2016

After a successful run at Telluride Brewing in Colorado, brewer Eli Facchinei returned to his home state to open Tonewood with his brother, Taylor. The Atco natives chose a corner spot in downtown Oaklyn. The brewery is a slamdunk, and the family- and- dog-friendly taproom has become a beloved hangout for locals (outside food is allowed). There, you can sample more than a dozen brews, including the flagships Fuego, an American IPA, and Freshies, a pale ale; a hefeweizen called the OG Haze; or one of the beers that are part of the brewery’s single-hopped Monotone series. Tonewood sells select beers in six-packs; growlers and crowler refills are available for non-canned beers only. You can also find Tonewood on draught at bars and restaurants around the state.—SV

Troon Brewing

Photo courtesy of Troon Brewing.

Opened 2016

To get cans or bottles from this small brewery that sits in an old barn, you first need to check Troon’s Instagram page (@troonbrewing). This is the only place owner and head brewer Alex Helms, who worked a stint at cult-favorite Jester King Brewery in Austin, Texas, announces beer releases. Next, you have to get to the brewery and join the long line before they sell out, which sometimes happens within an hour. There are no taps at the brewery, so no growlers can be filled, but you can try full pours and flights of Troon’s wildly popular hazy IPAs, hoppy ales and other beers at Brick Farm Tavern, on the same property.—SV

Twin Elephant

Opened 2016

Photo courtesy of Twin Elephant

After home brewing together for a decade, friends Scott McLuskey, Tim Besecker and Cindy DeRama (Besecker’s wife) opened Twin Elephant, Chatham’s first brewery, in 2016. Located in the back of a warehouse-style complex, the brewery turns out an evolving selection of beers. Twin Elephant doesn’t specialize in any single beer, and they’re always experimenting with new recipes, but you can always expect to find a mix of handcrafted ales and lagers in the often-busy taproom—including American IPAs, cream ales, stouts, Belgian-inspired blonde ales and sours. Growler fills are always offered; canned beer is only available on occasion.—SV

Our Panel of Experts:

Our list of the top New Jersey craft brewers is based on the votes of these 14 New Jersey beer experts: Hillary Barile, head maltster, Rabbit Hill Malthouse; Jason Carty, executive director, Arms 2 Artisans, a brewing education project for veterans; Peter Culos, beer editor, Jersey Bites; John Couchoud, cofounder, South Jersey Beer Scene; Mark Haynie, NJ columnist for MidAtlantic Brewing News, “The Beer Guy” blogger, The Press of Atlantic City; editor/partner, New Jersey Brew magazine; Jonathan Hirsch, food & beverage manager, Harry’s Bar & Grille/The Wine Cellar, Cape May; John Holl, senior editor, Craft Beer & Brewing magazine and co-host, Steal This Beer podcast; John Kleinchester, launched #beertography, now with more than 1.7 million posts on Instagram; Gary Monterosso, host, What’s on Tap radio show; author, Artisan Beer; Tara Nurin, correspondent and Libations columnist, New Jersey Monthly; Jeff Quinn, contributor, Craft Beer & Brewing magazine; certified Beer Judge Certification Program judge; Dana Russo, bartender and certified cicerone, Cloverleaf Tavern in Caldwell; Shelby Vittek, associate editor, New Jersey Monthly; and Jason Wilson, beverage, food and travel writer/author.

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  1. bardicverse

    I have a feeling you guys haven’t tried Jughandle Brewery (Tinton Falls) or Last Wave Brewery (Point Pleasant Beach) to not have them on this list. Big selections that you can’t go wrong with. I will say the King Porter Stomp from Cape May Brewery is my new favorite beer of all time.