Best in Class: NJ’s Finest Craft Beers

Our panel of experts pick their favorite Jersey beers in eight popular styles.

Photo by Scott Jones

Craft beer comes in many styles, from ubiquitous IPAs to seasonal varieties that pop up throughout the year. We asked our panel of experts to pick their favorite Jersey beers in eight popular styles. Here are our tasting notes on the winners.

BEST ALE

Tonewood Freshies (5.0% ABV)

Brewed with wheat and dry hopped with Simicoe, Amarillo and Cascade hops, Tonewood’s flagship pale ale is light, citrusy, fresh (hence the name) and easy drinking. Available in six-packs at the brewery, or on draught around the state.—SV

BEST IPA

Kane Head High (6.6% ABV)

Five Northwest hops, mostly added late in the boil or post-fermentation, give this American-style IPA a grapefruity flavor and the aromas of citrus, tropical fruit and pine. Imported pilsner malt imparts a straw color, while Kane’s house yeast strain ferments the liquid enough to give it a dry finish. Available on draught and in cans.—TN

BEST LAGER

Double Nickel Vienna Style (5.3% ABV)

The 3-year-old Pennsauken brewery uses pilsner, Vienna and Munich malts for a modern take on a classic European-style lager. The result is an easy-drinking, copper-colored beer with more body and flavor than the lighter lagers most Americans are accustomed to. Available statewide in six packs of 12-ounce cans.—KS

BEST PILSNER

Hidden Sands 800’ (5.5% ABV)

The founders of this 14-month-old brewery attribute the crisp taste of their pilsner to the water they draw from a 30,000-year-old aquifer. At deadline, their beers were found only in South Jersey bars and restaurants, but canning was to begin soon and statewide distribution should follow.—KS

Photo by Scott Jones

BEST SAISON (tie)

Cape May Misty Dawn (6.2% ABV)

This medium-bodied pale ale showcases strong fruit notes with a peppery finish. The addition of coriander and sweet orange peel to the boil, along with “a boatload” of Czech Saaz hops, reduces bitterness and adds spicy aroma. Available on draft starting in midwinter.—TN

Kane Apiary (7.4% ABV)

Brewed with rich, golden honey malts along with local wildflower honey, this Belgian-style saison displays notes of soft sweetness, fruit and pepper. Though low, the hop character presents as grassy. Available at the brewery in time for summer.—TN

BEST SOUR ALE

The Referend Bier Blendery (various beers)

These wild brews are tart, fragrant and often funky—and that’s a good thing. Expect a wide range of high-acid beers with great potential to age.—SV

BEST STOUT

Kane, A Night to End All Dawns (12.5% ABV)

This bold stout (nicknamed ANTEAD) spends more than a year aging in bourbon barrels before it is released to eager fans. The barrel aging adds vanilla, oak, chocolate and caramel notes to the roasted flavor inherent in an imperial stout. Sold at the brewery.—TN

BEST WHEAT BEER (tie)

Ramstein Blonde Hefe-weizen (5.5% ABV)

A German-style weiss beer should have an orangey hue, a bit of cloudiness and lots of fruity notes. Ramstein Blonde checks off all those boxes. The pleasant bubble gum taste makes it a nice summer refresher. Available statewide in bottles.—KS

Cape May Summer Catch (5.5% ABV)

This beer’s orange-peel notes reflect the character of a Belgian wit white ale, though the tropical fruit essence gives Summer Catch a unique twist. Citra and Amarillo hops add hints of citrus to the aroma. Sold in cans and on draught ahead of the summer season.—TN

Photo by Scott Jones

BEST BRANDING & LABELING

Cape May Brewing, Cape May

 

BEST USE OF NEW JERSEY THEMES & INGREDIENTS (tie)

Cape May Brewing, Cape May and Flying Fish, Somerdale

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