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Like most things in New Jersey, the beer scene often gets a bad rap. Sandwiched between Philadelphia and New York—two craft beer monoliths in their own right—and burdened with antiquated liquor laws, the Garden State bears the brunt of as many beer jokes as those that mention highway exits or garbage dumps.
But New Jersey is not all fists pumps and Real Housewives. Thanks to public demand, recent legislation has eased up on microbreweries, brewpubs, and growler sales to allow beer options in New Jersey to improve significantly. Want a taste of the new New Jersey beer scene? Check out these 5 brews.
Bolero Snort Blackhorn American Black Lager
New Jersey's newest craft brewery, Bolero Snort, is the result of two passionate home brewers gone pro. Their flagship, Blackhorn, is a full-bodied, powerfully toasty American schwarzbier with black IPA tendencies. At the core is a rich malt character but beyond the obvious is a lingering bitterness and hint of citrusy American hops with a clean lager finish.
Carton Brewing won us over with their hoppy, sessionable Kolsch—just right for the sticky summer ahead. But the most unique beer they make may be the one called G.O.R.P.
Short for Good Old Raisins and Peanuts, this "Trail Ale" is a big, dark sipper with a warm finish. There are dominant nutty notes of powdered peanut along with hints of raisin and other dark fruits. But there are also touches of coffee, dark malt, and even a bit of licorice in this complex brew. Is it a Belgian Dark Strong Ale? Perhaps an Imperial Porter? Nope, its just G.O.R.P.
River Horse Oatmeal Milk Stout
A trail-blazer on the NJ Beer Scene, Lambertville's River Horse Brewery has been turning out craft beer in the Garden States since the mid-90s. A recent addition to their line-up, their Oatmeal Milk Stout is amalgamation of two creamy, full bodied stout styles. Layers of silky-smooth oats atop luscious milk sugar result in an indulgent brew with a velvety, chocolate finish perfect for indulging.
Kane Head High IPA
It is surprising difficult to find a classic, West coast-style IPA brewed on the East coast. We tend to favor malty balance and a bit of yeast complexity over the lean grain bills and aggressive hopping techniques that characterize the famous IPAs of the West. But Kane's Head High IPA is the hop fix that Jerseyans has been looking for. Utilizing just about every "C" hop in the books—Columbus, Chinook, Cascade, Centennial and Citra—through late kettle additions, whirlpooling and dry hopping, Head High is a powerful IPA with big citrus, tropical, and pine notes and a prominent bitter finish to satisfy even the most bitter beer geek.
Flying Fish Exit 4
The original flagship of Flying Fish's limited-edition "exit series," Exit 4 is a homage to the brewery's hometown. Exit 4 is braced by a rolling, bitter finish. Fuller bodied than a traditional Belgian tripel, this beer finds favor among Belgian-style and American beer lovers alike.
Do you have a favorite Jersey-brewed beer? Tell us about it in the comments section below!