All in the Family: Ship Inn Reopens as Descendants Brewing Company

Husband-and-wife team Joe and Ana David looked to the past as they charted a course for the future of this Milford institution.

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Joe and Ana David

What’s your story? Joe and Ana David want to know.

The couple had owned the Ship Inn in Milford, New Jersey’s first post-Prohibition brewery, since 2017. In early May, they reopened the inn as Descendants Brewing Company, a brewpub that encourages guests to think more about their family history.

Collectibles seen throughout come from the pre-Prohibition era and, according to Joe, “tell the story of where we came from as beer drinkers and brewery owners.” When the couple first took over, they operated the Ship Inn as it had always been. “We wanted to get to know our community and take them on this journey with us,” says Joe.

After the pandemic postponed plans to open last year, the Davids spent time reorganizing their reopening, which took place May 1. The decor tells the story of their ancestors, with postcards, maps and photos up to 150 years old highlighting the places they came from.

Full of stories and pictures, the hallway leading to the kitchen is nicknamed the “61 Bridge Street Museum” after the historic building’s address. “We didn’t just descend from our ancestors,” says Joe. “We have descended from all the businesses that came before us.”

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The remodeled interior

The Davids, inspired by genealogy, used the reopening to pay homage. Not only do the walls and decor tell a story—the food and brews do, too.

Executive chef Brian Roskow used Joe and Ana’s ancestry as inspiration across four different menus. The Home Sweet Home menu features American standards such as cheesesteaks and the Great Debate Burger (topped with Pork Roll/Taylor Ham—continuing that age-old debate). Meanwhile, the Fatherland menu honors the Belgian and Alsatian roots of Joe’s father with dishes like mussels in white wine sauce and bratwurst with sauerkraut.

Inspired by the German backgrounds of Joe’s mother and Ana, the Motherland menu includes the classic combination of pretzels, beer cheese and mustard.

Lastly, the From the Ol’ Ship menu consists of what Joe calls the brewpub’s “greatest hits.” It includes fish and chips, shepherd’s pie and Scotch eggs, all of which have been on the menu for years.

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A flight of beers

Using a seven-barrel Peter Austin brewing system, one of only two dozen in the US, Descendants is pumping out IPAs, Porters and American Pales, while their Hidden Nation menu is more experimental. The traditional Best Bitter will be on regular rotation, and Ironbound Cider, from a company only a few miles away, will be on tap—not to mention craft cocktails, wine and an extensive whiskey collection (over 160 kinds!).

This family-friendly brewpub has something for everyone—even kids, with their Boylan soda flight. On the kids menu, the Davids added a blank, four-generation family tree so little ones can ask parents and grandparents to help fill it in.

“We want to start that conversation and see if we can get people excited about learning where they come from,” says Joe. “We want to be storytellers.”

Descendants Brewing Company at the Old Ship Inn is located at 61 Bridge St. in Milford. Open Monday to Thursday at 5 pm; Friday to Sunday at noon. Check out their food and drink menus, and follow them on Instagram for updates.

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