The appeal of brewery tasting rooms is a big factor in the growth of New Jersey’s craft-beer business—and in the success of individual breweries. In addition to tasting the brewery’s various beers on tap, you can also take a tour and purchase beer to go, often in growlers—those large, resealable jugs. New Jersey law prohibits tasting rooms from selling food, but many allow you to bring your own, or even have food delivered. Tours are generally free, and kids are often welcome. Here are New Jersey’s top three tasting rooms, according to our voting panel.
More than just a place to sample beer, Cape May’s tasting room (at the Cape May Airport) is a mini-adventure for adults and kids. Greeted by an ambassador upon entry, visitors can turn toward the growler station, the bar, the roomy retail shop (where a clerk pours samples), or one of four seating areas. You can also enjoy your tasting on a tented patio. There are two different guided tours, one for the sour brewery and another for the main production brewery, as well as a self-guided tour that encourages interaction as it should be: Touch and smell real malts, take a picture inside a faux fermentation vessel, and play a game to see who buys the first round. Check the website for frequent special events. Open daily, noon-8 pm; 1288 Hornet Road, Cape May.—TN
Located in Jersey City’s Powerhouse Arts District, Departed Soles reflects its urban setting with colorful, street-style murals by local artists bursting on the interior walls. Artwork also adorns an actual subway-car door. A chalk wall invites customers to fill in the blank of “Before I die I want to…” Sneakers dangle from mock telephone wires. Beer flights are served on skateboards. Customers play board games at tables fabricated from repurposed materials. Despite the industrial feel, Departed Soles is cozy, with a capacity of 49 people. It’s dog friendly, but they have a 21-and-older policy (little ones okay in a stroller or carrying device). Open Wednesday-Thursday, 5-9 pm; Friday, 4-10 pm; Saturday, 2-10 pm; and Sunday, 1-7 pm; 150 Bay Street, Jersey City.—PC
Michael Kane finds it amusing that our judges honored his tasting room. The warehouse space consists of a long bar, a cramped retail shop and a few picnic tables inside the brewhouse. And, as Kane points out, “it’s not air conditioned in the summer and not heated in the winter.” But that doesn’t stop fans from lining up all year to sample special releases. Visitors can take guided tours (weekends only) and may even be invited to visit the souring facility across the parking lot. If the space seems cramped, that’s because Kane opened before tasting rooms became an attraction. “We hope the beer makes up for it,” Kane jokes. Open Thursday-Friday, 5-8 pm; Saturday, noon-7 pm; and Sunday, noon-5 pm; 1750 Bloomsbury Avenue, Ocean Township.—TNClick here to leave a comment