Once home to hundreds of breweries clustered around its river cities, New Jersey lagged behind all of its neighboring states when it came to the nationwide – and even worldwide — craft brewery boom.
But state lawmakers changed that in 2012 when they overhauled Prohibition-era brewery laws and spurred a flood of entrepreneurs to open cottage brewing businesses.
According to Sen. Tom Kean Jr. (R-Westfield), who sponsored 2012’s brewery reform bill, these small, independent companies have a $776.9 million annual economic impact on New Jersey.
New Jersey has welcomed more new breweries in 2015 than at any time in modern history, and dozens more are in various stages of planning.
[related]Here are the ones that have opened to the public since January 1, 2015.
Backward Flag Brewing – Ocean County
Founded by two men and a woman who brews and plans to run nightly sessions at the brewery to teach people about all aspects of beer, Backward Flag’s name derives from the American flag that graces the right shoulder of U.S. military uniforms. The three veterans brew novelties like a smoked red ale and an imperial coffee cream stout with blueberries and cherries. Scheduled to open this month. 699 Challenger Way, Forked River, 267-253-0465, www.backwardflagbrewing.com
Beach Haus Brewery – Monmouth County
After five years of contracting its brewing to a production facility out of state, the company whose branding plays on the rich traditions of the Jersey Shore finally has its own house — right by the beach. Opening in the old Freedman’s bakery in downtown Belmar, Beach Haus distributes 10 styles – including an Irish coffee stout – and in-season generally welcomes visitors to the tap room every day but Monday. 801 Main St., Belmar, 732-202-7782, www.beachhausbeer.com
Brix City Brewing — Bergen County
Like many homebrewers of a certain age, Brix City’s co-founder Pete Reuther discovered flavorful beers as an Army soldier stationed in Germany. This particular brewer successfully transitioned into commercial production, which in his case features bold flavors like sours and imperial India Pale Ales (IPAs). Tasting room open Thursday–Sunday. 4 Alsan Way, Little Ferry, 201-440-0865, www.brixcitybrewing.com
Conclave Brewing — Hunterdon County
Long-time homebrewer Carl Alfaro and friend Tim Bouton opened this 3.5 BBL nano-brewery in a former coffee roaster warehouse in July. Using the relocated roaster’s beans, the pair brews an espresso milk stout and a variation, Mexican Morning, brewed with dried red chile de arbol peppers, vanilla beans, cinnamon and cocoa nibs. A pale ale and a hoppy saison round out the current draft-only offerings. Open Friday and Saturday. 15 Minneakoning Road, Suite 202, Raritan Township, 908-392-0893, conclavebrewing.com
Cypress Brewing — Middlesex County
Three homebrewers launched this 2 BBL (1 BBL= 31.5 gallons) industrial-park nano-brewery in July with almost a dozen beers on tap. Unusual offerings include Northern English Nut Brown (a style not popular in this country since the 1990s) and Double Chocolate Imperial Oatmeal Stout, which was sold out on a recent visit. Select bars in Central Jersey carry Cypress beers. Open daily. 30 Nixon Lane, Unit E, Edison, www.cypressbrewing.com
Demented Brewing — Middlesex County
Though it only opened this year, Demented has already ordered equipment to more than double its production. Once it’s capable of fermenting 50 barrels at a time, the brewery will distribute a few year-round beers throughout the state and reserve its seasonal specialties for the tasting room, whose ghoulish imagery appropriately matches the name. Visitors will notice that Demented’s owners name most of their beers after dark myths and history, like the Litha wheat ale named for the Wiccan celebration of the summer solstice. Open daily. 600 Lincoln Blvd., Middlesex, 732-428-5275, www.dementedbrewing.com
Departed Soles Brewing — Hudson County
Several things distinguish Jersey City’s first brewery: It’s the first in New Jersey to produce exclusively gluten-free beers (its owner, Brian Kulbacki, left his family’s funeral home business to study at the prestigious American Brewers Guild), and it’s named for Kulbacki’s best friend and would-be co-owner who was killed in a car accident in 2010. That friend had been diagnosed with celiac disease shortly before his death. Departed Soles (a reference to the sneaker habit both men shared) is easily accessible by NJ Transit, PATH, Light Rail, ferry, and bus. Tasting room to open in November; beers currently on sale elsewhere. 150 Bay St., Suite 2A, Jersey City, 201-479-8578, www.departedsoles.com
Magnify Brewing — Essex County
The addition of Magnify to Fairfield rounds out what’s already becoming a tourist destination for drinkers. Joining Cricket Hill Brewing and Jersey Artisan Distillers, Magnify “magnifies” the scene by pouring four core beers (an IPA, saison, black wheat ale and a pale ale) and releasing a new experimental beer every 4-6 weeks. Head brewer Erich Carrle brings experience from respected breweries KelSo Beer Co. in Brooklyn and Almanac Beer Co. and Speakeasy Ales & Lagers, both in San Francisco. Open daily except Monday and Tuesday. 1275 Bloomfield Ave., Building 7, Unit 40C, Fairfield, www.magnifybrewing.com
Screamin’ Hill Brewery — Monmouth County
New Jersey’s first brewery located on a farm grows its own barley, wheat, rye and hops, and brews its pumpkin ale with the crop that’s been growing on the farm for 20 years. Its member-based Harvest Club includes discounts on those pumpkins and Christmas trees. Open Friday and Saturday. 83 Emleys Hill Rd., Cream Ridge, www.screaminhill.com
Third State Brewing — Burlington County
Three friends who met as members of South Jersey’s Barley Legal homebrewing club got together to open a storefront brewery in Burlington City, where they brew a wide variety of ales like porter, IPA, pale ale and stout. Open Friday-Sunday. 352 High St., Burlington, 609-387-1620, www.thirdstatebrewing.com