It’s no exaggeration to say that New Jersey’s brewing land- scape has changed more in the last three years than in the prior
eight decades that followed the repeal
of Prohibition in 1933. In March 2013,
when New Jersey Monthly published its
first cover story on beer’s new wave—the
state had 27 independent craft breweries
and brewpubs. Today we have 43 craft
breweries—plus 15 brewpubs—with 40
more breweries expected to open in the
coming years. What’s more, many of the
breweries that existed three years ago
have moved to larger spaces or otherwise
expanded their operations.
What changed? In short, the state’s
Craft Beer Bill, signed into law in 2012.
The bill allows breweries to sell pints in
conjunction with a tour instead of limiting visitors to a few free sample ounces.
This created a significant new revenue
stream for brewers early in a heady decade that would see the number of U. S.
breweries hit an all-time high.
Since 2013, tasting rooms at craft
breweries have become magnets
for beer fans. These days, it’s
common to see entire families
enjoying lunch in a tasting room
while sipping suds or juice boxes,
as appropriate. “The law change
allowed us to open a tasting
room and make it a center for
community events, while creating a thriving brewery culture in
New Jersey,” says Gene Muller,
Would you like to taste a bold, hoppy IPA?
A creamy stout? A hearty, Belgian-style
dubbel? You’ve come to the right place:
New Jersey. By Tara Nurin
president of Flying Fish Brewing Company in Somerdale and one of the driving
forces behind the legislation.
Some brewers—including Village Idiot
in Mount Holly and Third State in Burlington—make only enough beer to serve
in their storefront tasting rooms. Both
have received widespread credit for helping revive the historic downtown streets
where they are located.
But as much as Village Idiot, Third State
and others may resemble pubs, the law
ensures that they’re not. Though guests
can bring in food, breweries are forbidden
to sell food or operate a restaurant on the
premises. The tasting rooms voluntarily
refrain from showing televised sports or
presenting live music.
“We’re not competing with bars, we’re
making beer to sell to them,” says Don
Russell, executive director of the Garden
State Craft Brewers Guild, which pushed
for the law. Russell, hired last year, is the
guild’s first paid staffer.
With the tasting-room law passed, the
guild is pushing for a new reform that
would allow in-state brewers to sell con-
tainers of fresh draft beer at farmers’
markets. “We think we’re a Jersey Fresh
product,” Russell says.
The bill will likely pass, thanks to a fa-
vorable climate for beer in the Statehouse
and because for the most part, commu-
nities—even dry ones like Collingswood
and Pitman (see story, page 18)—are
greeting craft brewers as job creators, tax
generators and community builders. The
numbers support them. According to the
Brewers Association, a national advocacy
group, the craft brewing industry made a
$1.2 billion impact on New Jersey in 2014
and accounted for 9,500 jobs. That’s up
from $77.7 million and 8,565 jobs in 2012.
Gary Monterosso, author of Artisan
Beer (Burford Books, 2011) and host of the
South Jersey TV show What’s on Tap, says
beer entrepreneurship is easy to explain.
“It’s the idea of creating something,”
he says. “You can follow that dream and
still generate a little bit of money and a P H
Great Moments in NJ Beer
History, see page 144