Summer Brews: NJ’s Craft Beers

New Jersey's craft brewers produce an array of lighter beers to slake your summer thirst.

Flying Fish's Farmhouse Summer Ale, East Coast Beer Co.'s Beach Haus, and Cricket Hill Brewery's Jersey Summer Breakfast Ale.
Photo by James Worrell

When the summer sun beats down, beer lovers naturally reach for a frosty glass of something light bodied and refreshing. In the past, that typically meant a mass-produced American lager, but with craft brewers rebooting our taste buds, mass-market suds have become synonymous with blah.

New Jersey’s craft brewers, riding that wave, are ready with a fresh crop of summer seasonals that eschew boring and wimpy. “People want flavor from their lighter, more drinkable beers,” says Glenn Lewis, vice president of sales at Kane Brewing in Ocean Township.

By developing flavorful yet relatively delicate and low-alcohol styles such as saisons, wheats, pilsners and helles lagers, New Jersey’s brewers are reviving the centuries-old tradition of French, Belgian and German farmers, who in pre-refrigeration days, pioneered malty, warm-weather beverages to slake their thirst and provide nourishment during summer breaks. [Click here to read about summer beer styles.]

Okay, so maybe you won’t be plowing the fields this summer. Whatever your activity, a Jersey-brewed summer beer can make the moment more meaningful. “Whatever the season, you can fit a beer into what’s good about that season for you,” says Chris Walsh, owner of River Horse Brewing in Ewing. “The list of great things about summer is endless—giving summer beers a leg up.”

Here’s a look at the seasonal beers Garden State brewers will release this summer.

Artisan’s Brewery & Italian Grill
Toms River
Seasonal Beers: Czech Pilsner and Hefeweizen (June); Dunkelweizen (July) Abbey Dubbel (July or August).
The Brewers: Head brewer Dave Hoffmann is releasing several styles this season, from a straw-colored and snappy Czech pils to a sugary abbey dubbel (his debut Belgian beer) that’s fermented with yeast originally sourced at Westvleteren, an abbey whose monks are considered the best brewers in the world. He returns to his German comfort zone with the hefeweizen, an unfiltered wheat beer, fermented with yeast; and a dunkelweizen that builds onto the hefeweizen with a blacker hue and notes of chocolate and banana.
Available: In the brewpub only.

Cape May Brewing
Rio Grande
Seasonal Beers: Foreshore Cherry-Lime Shandy, The Bog Cranberry Shandy, Cape May Saison
The Brewers: Taking a cue from Britain, which helped popularize the shandy over the last century, Cape May is featuring two versions of the mix of fruit juice and beer. The Bog is a light, sweet cranberry-wheat beer blended with lemonade; Foreshore blends limeade into a cherry ale. Also returning is the Cape May Saison, an ale with a yellow-orange hue and more body and punch than most of its summer brethren. Coriander infuses the beer with a spicy, though not hot, lemony tone. The Saaz hops lend even more spice.
Available: On draft in Atlantic, Burlington, Cape May and Camden counties.

Carton Brewing
Atlantic Highlands
Seasonal Beers: Monkey Chased the Weasel (June); Panzanella (July); HopPun (August)
The Brewers: Owner Augie Carton reaches into Jersey soil for summer beers derived from seasonal produce—and named to elicit curiosity. Monkey Chased the Weasel is a mulberry sour ale that gets part of its flavor from the fruit of a mulberry tree outside the brewery. A panzanella is a Tuscan bread salad, but Carton’s Panzanella is a salted ale made with locally grown tomatoes and cucumbers. The brewery describes it as bready. The hoppy HopPun Pale Ale experiments with new hops that infuse aromatics of orange, coconut, lemon and melon.
Available: On draft statewide.

Climax Brewing
Roselle Park
Seasonal Beers: Hoffmann Helles Lager; Hefeweizen
The Brewers: The Climax staff proudly nicknames the Helles Lager a “lawn-mower beer” because its slightly sweet, malty profile, light body, low alcohol (5 percent ABV) and refreshing taste make it perfect for post-lawn-care imbibing. Owner Dave Hoffmann (who also brews at Artisan’s) is readying a hefeweizen with a “huge banana nose.” He’ll create special small batches of the hefe by adding raspberries and apricots.
Available: On draft and in bottles in central and northern Jersey.

Cricket Hill Brewery
Fairfield
Seasonal Beer: Jersey Summer Breakfast Ale
The Brewers: Traditional Belgian yeast imparts a tangy fruit and clove essence to this lightly hopped, unfiltered 5 percent ABV beer. Why call it breakfast ale? “This ale is as at home with bacon and eggs as it is with your backyard barbecue,” says brewery co-owner Rick Reed.
Available: On draft and in bottles statewide.

East Coast Beer Co.
Opening soon in Belmar [Click here for story]
Seasonal Beer: Beach Haus Classic American Pilsner
The Brewers: Though Beach Haus Pils is available year-round at the Jersey Shore, it’s sold only seasonally elsewhere. Inspired by early German immigrants who combined old-country brewing traditions with native ingredients they found here, Beach Haus pilsner blends North American yeast with North American grains and hops. The result? A slightly floral aroma, corn-like sweetness and a medium-to-high bitterness in a crisp, pale pils.
Available: On draft and in bottles statewide.

Flying Fish Brewing Company
Somerdale
Seasonal Beer: Farmhouse Summer Ale
The Brewers: Remember those farmers mentioned earlier? Well, the sometimes peppery, earthy and funky saison style they created has a nickname—farmhouse ale—that salutes its origin. Picking up the theme, Flying Fish combines Belgian pale malts, wheat and Eastern European hops in a lightly filtered, earthy, spicy beer that pairs well with spicy foods, fish, salads and, according to Flying Fish, “anything you can put on the grill.”
Available: On draft and in bottles statewide.

High Point Brewing Co.
Butler
Seasonal Beers: Ramstein Blonde, Ramstein Double Platinum Blonde
The Brewers: High Point specializes in wheat beers and imports all of its base ingredients from Germany, so you can bet their light weizen beers are on point. Though the brewery releases its two blondes year-round, the Ramstein Blonde, at 5 percent ABV, is a perfect summer choice. Brewery president Greg Zaccardi describes it as a traditional unfiltered weissbier that exhibits a “malty wheat bouquet brimming with clove and banana aromas.” As for its more buxom 7 percent ABV sister, Platinum Blonde, she displays, “rich fruit and spicy clove aromas.”
Available: Blonde, on draft and in bottles statewide; Platinum Blonde, in bottles only.

Kane Brewing Company
Ocean Township
Seasonal Beers: Cloud Cover; Apiary
The Brewers: The recipe for Cloud Cover changes from year to year, but the constant is its inspiration: traditional witbiers, the Belgian version of a hefeweizen whose yellow, unfiltered appearance often is topped by a white, fluffy head that resembles clouds. In the past, brewers added fresh orange zest to boost the orangey-lemony flavors and aromas imparted by the yeast. Kane gives Cloud Cover a rustic feel with lemony Japanese hops and red wheat, popular with 19th-century bread bakers. Also look for a limited release of 750 ml bottles of Apiary, a dry, 7 percent ABV saison brewed with spelt, rye and honey from Monmouth and Ocean counties.
Available: On draft throughout New Jersey; Apiary also in bottles.

Krogh’s Restaurant & Brew Pub
Sparta
Seasonal Beers: Gosebier; Blum’s Belgian Wit
The Brewers: Krogh’s summer beers rotate through its taps at random. Try to get in to taste the Gosebier, a lesser-known German style that’s salty, slightly sour and carries floral and spicy coriander notes. Krogh’s version is special because it’s being brewed by the winner of last year’s New Jersey State Fair home-brew competition. Blum’s Belgian Wit is, like most wits, pale and cloudy, with flavors of orange and coriander that Krogh’s spokesperson Andrea Taylor calls “satisfyingly sweet with a zesty citrus character.” Also look for Klosterhoff Cream Ale, a clean, well-integrated beer similar to a domestic light lager, and Belgian Grand Cru, a malty, sweet beer formulated with pungent Belgian yeast and restrained German hops.
Available: In the brewpub only.

New Jersey Beer Co.
North Bergen
Seasonal Beer: LBIPA
The Brewers: With its floral nose, grapefruit flavor and sweet finish, LBIPA—a mashup of Long Beach Island and India Pale Ale—is meant to evoke summer down the Shore. The process of dry-hopping (adding hops during or after fermentation) heightens the fragrant bouquet. LBIPA took a silver medal at the Atlantic City Beer and Music Fest this year,. Despite a recipe calling for three different strains of hops, LBIPA achieved an overall balance the judges admired. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Alliance for a Living Ocean, an organization that helps keep LBI’s beaches clean.
Available: On draft and in bottles statewide.

River Horse Brewing Company
Ewing
Seasonal Beer: Summer Blonde Ale
The Brewers: Beer experts consider American blonde ale an entry-level craft beer. Indeed, River Horse’s Summer Blonde Ale is low in bitterness, not overly complex, and easy to drink. The malt base is lightly sweet and a little redolent of breads, the alcohol clocks in low at 4.5 percent ABV, and there isn’t much aftertaste or pronounced mouthfeel. There are, however, two pleasant surprises in this golden beer: hints of citrus and honey.
Available: On draft and in bottles statewide.

Tuckahoe Brewing
Ocean View
Seasonal Beer: Marshallville Wit
The Brewers: The Belgian wit style was popularized in America by Coors’s Blue Moon, often served with an orange slice in a tall, curved glass. With Marshallville Wit, you don’t need the orange slice. It brings its own flavor of citrus, coriander and mild pepper (from the addition of seeds of paradise). “We make our Marshallville Wit with warm South Jersey summer days in mind,” says brewery co-owner Jim McAfee.
Available: On draft in Cape May, Camden and Atlantic counties.

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