|Brewers Make a Comeback In a State They Once Left
By JOHN HOLL
New Jersey once was home to some of the largest and most respected breweries in the country. With
names like Ballantine, Rheingold and Pabst, among others, brewing was the fourth-largest industry in
Newark, and the seventh-largest in the state, nearly 100 years ago.
Today, things are quite different. With the exception of the Anheuser-Busch plant in Newark, which
produces about seven million barrels of Budweiser and Bud Light per year, all other licensed beer
manufacturers in the state are microbreweries or brewpubs -- each producing fewer than 15,000
''The state is certainly not what it used to be when it comes to beer, which is a terrible and baffling
thing,'' said Paul Gatza, director of the Association of Brewers in Boulder, Colo. ''Given the diversity
of craft beer these days, coupled with the diversity of the New York metro area, the beer industry
should be booming and creating some wonderful beers. But it is not.''
There are, however, those who believe the Garden State's taps will soon flow again with large
quantities of microbrewed beer and ale.
And so the faithful gathered in late June on a grassy field at Waterloo Village in Stanhope to
celebrate all things brew at the seventh annual Garden State Craft Brewers festival.
A showcase of the state's microbreweries and brewpubs, the festival gives ''hopheads'' and ''beer
goddesses'' a chance to taste new beers, discuss fermenting and other processes with brewers,
swap recipes and socialize with people who turn up their noses at the sight of a Bud Light.
''We're a passionate bunch when it comes to beer,'' said Joe Battaglia, 28, a home brewer from
Newark who attended with several friends. ''We're also snobs. Coors, Budweiser, Miller, all those
beers that are mainstream pale in comparison to the rich, creative, better-tasting beers presented
About a dozen of the state's 16 licensed microbreweries and brewpubs were represented at the
festival, and they doled out samples of beer and ale with names like Triumph Jewish Rye, Tun
Tavern IPA Uber, Triumph Coffee and Cream Stout and Gaslight Hopfest to hundreds of thirsty
New Jersey's beer roots go back to the 1800's, according to the New Jersey Historical Society, when
German immigrant brewers set up shop in Newark along the banks of what was then a pristine
Passaic River. By 1910, brewing in the state was a $20 million-plus business, and the brewers and
imbibers were flying high.
During World War I, many of the state's German brewers fled to the Midwest to escape persecution,
said Chad Leinaweaver, director of the library at the New Jersey Historical Society.
The breweries were dealt another blow by Prohibition, and by the 1950's only a handful of breweries
were left in the state. The Rheingold Brewery in Orange closed its doors in 1977, followed by Pabst
in Newark in 1985, leaving Anheuser-Busch as the only operating brewery in New Jersey.
Then, in the 1990's, the microbrewery craze began sweeping the nation, though it was not until 1995
that New Jersey issued its first brewpub license since Prohibition, to the Ship Inn Restaurant and
Brewery in Milford.
''It wasn't easy,'' said Ann Hall, co-owner of the Ship Inn. ''The state was and is well behind other
areas, like Seattle, Vermont and Maryland, when it comes to issuing licenses to breweries.
''At first, there were two types of breweries opening -- those who wanted a quick buck and those who
were serious about the beer,'' she said. ''Today, the brewers in the state that survived are in this for
the long haul. We are serious about beer. We know tradition.''
Ms. Hall and many brewery owners and brewers expressed frustration with what they see as the
strong grip large distributors like Budweiser and Miller have on the state.
''There are quality beers being produced in the state, and many residents don't realize that. They'll
buy Bud Light because it's what they see on television and because it is familiar,'' said Rick Reed,
brewer at the Cricket Hill brewery in Fairfield. ''We're trying to change drinkers' perception to show
them what good beer is, to go back to the roots of quality brewing.''
The best current example of brewery success in New Jersey is the Flying Fish Brewing Company of
Cherry Hill, which produces 8,500 barrels a year.
''If Flying Fish can successfully expand regionally, like Saranac or Brooklyn Beer have, then New
Jersey could be back on the map as a maker of fine beers, lose the stigma and help the other state's
brewers to make a strong push to regain some of the market,'' said Mr. Gatza of the Association of
Gregory J. Zaccardi, president of the High Point Wheat Beer Company, a microbrewery in Butler,
said: ''The future, as I see it, will be a repeat of the past. New Jersey will become a destination for
brewers and serious beer drinkers. It's happening slowly, but it's happening.''
looks at beer