is a member of the North
American Guild of Beer
Writers and a two time
winner of their Quil &
Tankard writing award.
Vince's column is now a
regular feature of
To say it was a monsoon might be a bit overstated but not by much. At the very least however it was more of a storm
of Ms. Daniels at her stormiest. The deluge had slowed traffic to the point where you were almost able to watch
grass grown on the highway medium between puddles the size of Lake Erie. If there ever was an afternoon best
spent warm and dry in a pub this was it but I was on a mission, a beer mission. At exactly 4:02 PM I pulled into a
large industrial area just off Rt.46 in Fairfield, NJ searching for one of the hottest breweries in the state, Magnify
which according to their posted hours had opened only 2 minutes earlier.
With the brewery located at the end of the complex, well over a quarter of a mile in. I was soon thoroughly shaken,
not stirred, thanks to bouncing over more speed bumps than there are letters in a can of Campbell’s Alphabet Soup
Approaching the last section of offices and store front I came upon what looked like a long conga line of swamp
creatures only recently removed from the Black Lagoon. Impervious to the downpour they stood there drippingly
drenched, patiently waiting for something. Their line stretched for well over a football field in length though
admittedly it was hard to see even with my windshield wipers on double super high speed. Slowly driving forward I
finally saw where the line ended. It ended where I wanted to begin – at the door of Magnify Brewing.
It seems that this Wednesday, as in most other Wednesdays, Magnify was having a can release. And since it’s a ”
limited” release from a touted brewery a line is an intended consequence thanks to the craft beer rule: Brew It and
They Will Come. In defense of these waterlogged New Jersey beer drinkers it should be noted that they are just part
of a common phenomenon in the upper echelons of the craft beer world. Many of the best breweries in the nation
release small batches of fresh new beers, mainly New England IPAs, to hundreds of their most devoted fans who
have no problem waiting in line for hours and sometimes days. These beers always sell out quickly despite most
places imposing a one or two case limit. All of which means it’s nearly impossible for the average craft beer guy to
score something from Other Half, Trillium, Tree House, Toppling Goliath, Bissell Brothers, Lawson’s and other cult
favorites. Now, albeit only on a small local level, Magnify has joined the ranks of those iconic names.
Card carrying members of any beer cult expect a level of suffering to get their beer; even a bout of rain induced triple
pneumonia is a small price to pay for it. One price that is not small however is the cost of these wait-in-line- beers.
Magnify was selling 4 packs of various NE Double IPAs for $18 -$22 per four pack and a two pack of a barrel aged
Imperial Stout for a lofty $18.
The several hundred people lined up meant that parking was at a premium even in such a large complex. The only
parking spot I found was appropriately near the end of the line which was where I’d have to begin my pilgrimage. I
carefully pulled my rain jacket’s hood over my head, stepped out of the car then immediately went back in as a
lightning bolt most likely throw by Ninkasi and Dionysus in the name of beer sanity crossed the dark sky.
From my dry car interior, feeling safe that under me were four rubber tires, I watched the line crawl along several
inches every 5 minutes. At that point I couldn’t help but wonder why all those folks were really there. Granted
Magnify makes outstanding New England IPAs which you can only buy at the brewery but there had to be more than
just that especially considering that the marketplace is saturated with similar offerings. I fondly hoped that those in
line were there to actually drink the beer and not use it for trade bait. I’m not a beer trader but am willing to give
anyone out there a six pack of Bud Light for an equal amount of Heady Topper, Dark Lord, or Pliny. Make that two
six packs just because I’m a generous guy.
I’m just a tad reluctant to admit it but deep down my admiration began to grow for those in the line. Their tenacity and
willingness to endure Mother Nature’s worst just to reach that golden doorway to Beer Nirvana is beyond most
people, including me. I don’t have the patience for a two hour wait to buy beer or anything else for that matter
though I admit to doing just that one time. In fact that’s one of the reasons I was offered a position at BeerNexus .
During my job interview I confided to the editor that I waited four hours to have Sam Calagione autograph a bottle of
Dogfish 120. Before he thought I was really crazy I was sure to mention that it was an empty bottle.
The rain and was now joined by pellets of hail. Together they played a song on my car’s roof that sounded exactly
like the drinking song from The Student Prince with a touch of La traviata’s Brindisi in the background. It was at that
point a different thought struck me. Those well meaning folks in line were philosophically doing something to beer
that was likely unacceptable to massive numbers of legitimate beer lovers. They were making great craft beer into
something it never was and never should be: unaffordable, unwelcoming, and essentially unattainable. Part of beer’s
charm is that it is inclusive by nature, but lines only exist to exclude.
Knowing that indeed the sun will come up tomorrow, though I wouldn’t bet my bottom dollar on it, I left the complex a
bit disappointed in not getting any Magnify but content in knowing that the next day I would be heading to one of the
best classic neighborhood, bars around for their first “Beer Brunch”. The place was Northside Lounge in Manville, NJ
home of, well, the Northside Lounge. And no the town next to it is not Womanville .
Northside is the local bar for craft drinkers not only because they have an outstanding array of excellent beers on
draft but they also brew their own in the pub’s basement. The brewery is called Brooks and the Northside is the only
place in the world you can drink it. They don’t distribute, they don’t bottle; they just serve it upstairs. Head brewer
Arty Hanneman and assistant Arny Lands are producing magic on their small system. Not only are their beers
intrinsically outstanding they also are mystical totems with transformational powers. Before Arty took over the
brewing reigns at Brooks most of the bar regulars were committed Bud and Coors drinkers. Now this evangelist of
craft brewing has changed most of them into exclusive Brooks’s drinkers. To quote Al Michaels in his famous
Olympic hockey broadcast. "Do you believe in miracles?! YES!" .
The Beer Brunch featured terrific beers from Lone Eagle and Cape May Brewing along with some special gems from
Brooks, one of which was a wild banana pale ale on a Randall. Yummy, even without the Cheerios. As an added
bonus Arty, an accomplished chef in his own right, personally prepared all the food for the brunch. It was a virtuoso
one person performance. The only thing he didn’t do was sing to entertain the crowd (for which we thank him).
I arrived a bit early so was able to secure a seat at the bar which served as the hub of event activity. Whoever said
location, location, location was right, I never had to leave my chair for beer. Whatever I wanted was served at the bar
by an incredibly efficient wait staff. Once your empty glass (or still filled for that matter) hit the bar they immediately
asked what you’d like next. Pours were in rounded 4.5 ounce glasses filled to the brim. Each refill came in a new
glass which meant no fighting your way to a washing station. After many a beer and a stomach filled with perfectly
prepared food it was easy to come to the conclusion that good beer deserves the Northside and Northside deserves
The Northside Lounge cares about serious beer and just as importantly, they care about the people who come to
Oh, if you’re wondering about the cost of the Beer Brunch, well it was the same as two four packs at Magnify and
you didn’t have to stand in the rain to get in.
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