Review – Garden State Craftbrewers Guild Festival
This year’s festival marked the 12th Annual event for the Guild. It was held on the USS Battleship New Jersey in Camden, NJ. The night before, my friend John and I were across the street at the Susquehanna Center for Pearl Jam’s concert. We took it easier than usual because we knew the beer would be flowing like crazy the following morning and we wanted to be as fresh as a daisy.
When we arrived, we decided to park over at the State Aquarium to save a few bucks and walk over to the Battleship. To my delight, there was even a shuttle that would take us so I hopped right on. John decided it was not that far and he walked, arriving a few minutes after me at the ship.
We made our way through the security, which was as tight as Ft. Knox, and up towards the ship where we were greeted by a kind Veteran from WWII. We chatted with him and he convinced us to tour the boat since the festival was not yet ready to begin. So off we went. We explored the artillery, cabins, cafeterias and more on the ship. It was a very unique experience and we were both glad we did it.
As our tour came to end, we found ourselves in a short line to enter the festival, which took place on the back of the ship under large carnival tents. As soon as we had our tasting glasses in hand, we made our way to Flying Fish to see our friends Sue and Toby. We drank a few fills of Farmhouse Summer Ale and Hopfish before we noticed a special bottle of Dubbel being poured at the Tun Tavern’s booth. Tun is a restaurant and brewery in Atlantic City, famous for their craft brews. Their Dubbel was aged and poured warm. It was a real treat. I also loved their Apricot Ale, which reminded me a little of Dogfish’s Aprihop, one of my favorite beers.
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that directly across from us was River Horse. We shoved our way through the quickly growing crowd to sample the Blonde Ale and IPA. The IPA is called Hop Hazard and is chock full of over-the-top hop flavors.
By the time we tried the other beers from Tuns and River Horse, I caught a glimpse of Rick Reed, Owner and Brew Master for Cricket Hill Brewery. If you do not know who Rick is, type his name into YouTube and commence laughing your ass off. He has got to be one of the most down to earth guys on the East Coast craft beer scene. Rick was cheerfully pouring his acclaimed Jersey Summer Breakfast Ale, which was light and very refreshing.
After chatting with the Cricket Hill folks, we shot over to Triumph to try their Jewish Rye and Bohemian Pilsner, both of which I had never had before. They were both out of this world with bold flavors. I had refills on both before leaving their booth.
Right next to Triumph was Harvest Moon, who had two styles to sample. Their Moonlight Kolsch was actually my favorite beer of the day while their double IPA was by far the worst. It tasted like a wet, smelly sneaker in a glass. I am not sure if it was just that batch, or if that was normal for that particular beer. Either way, I was not interested in trying it again on that occasion. Perhaps some other time I will give it another chance.
Next we moved on to Basil T’s, which is an Italian grill in Red Bank, NJ that specializes in craft brews. Their Maxwell Stout was delicious, but was too heavy for such a hot day. I loved their Brown Ale, which had complex malt flavors that made my mouth do a double-take. We also drank some neat beers from Pizzeria Uno, another NJ grill/restaurant that is well known for producing some excellent beers. Their Pale Bock and Belgian White stand out in my mind.
By now we had hit most breweries and sampled enough to get a whole town drunk. After we hit up J.J. Bitting’s, we decided to slow down a little bit and chat with my friend Frenchy, whom we had spotted a bit earlier. Frenchy is a faithful Buffett concert-goer and we always organize a huge party before the show. He is also a craft beer lover and has gotten his two sons involved as well. His oldest is actually a decent craft brewer.
All in all, the weather was fantastic and the beers were very tasty. Before we headed home, we had to stop by our friends at Flying Fish one last time and chug down a few for the ride home.
Special thanks to The Full Pint’s good friend Jeff Linkus for providing the pictures of the event. I forgot my camera that day.