The Brewers Association defines a microbrewery as producing less than 15,000 barrels of beer a year, with 75 percent or more of its beer sold off-site. A nanobrewery is even smaller, with only a few barrels allowed at any one time, which can only be sold on premises or in restaurants. Meanwhile, a brewpub is a restaurant-brewery hybrid that sells at least 25 percent of its beer on-site, with beer often dispensed directly from the brewery’s storage tanks.
According to the Garden State Brewers Guild, a 2012 New Jersey state law made it possible that microbreweries could allow on-premise consumption as part of a brewery tour. This has only added to the already growing business of beer establishments throughout New Jersey offering tours, tastings and rooms for private events.
Setting the Bar
As the first-ever brewpub licensed in New Jersey, TRIUMPH BREWING COMPANY stands out as Princeton’s only brewpub and offers freshly brewed beer, sources fresh, local ingredients whenever possible and has a large enough space to house group gatherings of all sizes.
“We can accommodate groups in size ranges from 20 to 300 in the entire space,” says Eric Nutt, marketing manager with Triumph Brewing Company. “We play host to receptions, small or large corporate functions and offer state-of-the-art A/V capabilities in a comfortable private setting.”
While the bar offers tours open to the public at all times, it really specializes in private tours and tastings for groups up to 15.
“We offer a detailed three-floor tour of the brewery with the brewer, then a tutored in-room tasting of each of our seven beer samples,” Nutt says. “Beer lovers will get a lot of out it and enjoy learning about the terrific flavors they are sampling.”
Triumph offers three flagship beers that are always on tap: Honey Blonde, Amber Ale and Bengal Gold India Pale Ale. Since opening in 1995, it has brewed more than 90 different styles including Pumpkin Ale, Winter Wonder, Oktoberfest and Jewish Rye Beer. Other favorites include Small World Coffee & Cream Stout, Framboise, Abbey Trippel and German Pilsner.
Maggie Clark, operations manager for CAPE MAY BREWING CO. in Rio Grande, says the brew house offers four year-round styles and over 40 different seasonal brews that rotate throughout the year.
“Our taproom is the most accessible in the state, as we are open year-round, seven days a week for tours and tastings from noon to 8 p.m.,” she says. “Our tasting package includes four 4-oz. samples of the customer’s choice, a souvenir pint glass and a guided or self-guided tour. We also serve pints and offer 64- and 32-oz. growlers for takeout beer, with select styles available in bottles on a limited basis.”
Since the taproom is accessible to the everyday patron, the brewery only offers private parties on a limited case-by-case basis; typically after the tasting area closes. Cape May Brewing Co. has knowledgeable taproom associates onhand that guide visitors through the tasting and are happy to answer any questions that arise.
“Many people have chosen to take advantage of the fact that we are absolutely willing to work out a tour and tasting package for groups during our normal operating hours,” Clark says. “It’s great for them because there’s no room charge. We do our best to accommodate the unique needs of each booking, so no two packages are exactly alike.”
Rick Reed, owner of CRICKET HILL BREWERY, says the pub is known for its Friday tours and exquisite beers, including its Bourbon Barrel Reserve ales. With strings of lights on the ceilings and colorful vats of beer in the back, the tour offers a party atmosphere at all times.
“We hold open house tours Thursdays and Fridays from 4-7 p.m., and Saturdays noon till 4 p.m.,” Reed says. “Our tour allows small tastings of any beer on tap and pint sales for any or all of one’s favorites. The tour beer styles change from month to month as our various beer styles become available.”
Cricket Hill Brewery is available for private parties or fundraisers and can hold up to 100 people. They provide the beer and a bartender, but food must be brought in from an outside source.
TRAP ROCK RESTAURANT AND BREWERY in Berkeley Heights offers tours with its brewmaster, holds quarterly Beer Dinners, featuring five-course pairing menus, and has two beautiful rooms to host private events.
“We are a microbrewery with a world-class restaurant attached,” says Lauren Rubio, general manager of the pub. “We have a seasonal menu that utilizes local farm-to-table ingredients, and a selection of seasonal craft beers that are second to none.”
Its Brewers Room is large enough for 30 guests for a sit-down dinner or 50 guests for a cocktail party; its Garden Room can hold 50 guests for a sit-down dinner and 65 for a cocktail party.
Among its popular handcrafted ales and lagers are the award-winning Ghost Pony Helles Lager, the winter favorite Polar Vortex Porter, and the
Trickster’s Tripel, brewed with German malt and Indian Jaggery sugar.
Located in downtown Jersey City, ZEPPELIN HALL is a European-style biergarten and restaurant, boasting three large indoor rooms and an oversized outdoor garden with a capacity for 2,000, ideal for hosting parties and events.
Zeppelin Hall features communal table seating throughout, helping to create an environment that serves as a living room for the neighborhood.
Owner/Developer Peter Mocco and Operator John Argento recruited Executive Chef Franco Robazetti (of W Hotel and Bobby Vans fame) to serve up a new menu featuring both German and American dishes, including Zeppelin Hall’s signature Sausage Sampler.
“The restaurant is over [16,000 square feet] and includes a stunning garden [10,000 square feet], where guests can mingle and relax under shade trees and stars on a warm evening,” Argento says. “You will feel like you’ve been transported to another time and place.”
In addition to its eclectic menu, Zeppelin Hall offers guests a wide selection of over 156 European and American craft brews.
“It’s the number one place to go for amazing beer selections. Besides your favorites, we also offer specialty beers hand selected by staff to coincide with the season’s new draft releases,” Argento says. “With 144 options to choose from, there’s no doubt you’ll find a new favorite every time.”
Zeppelin Hall’s Rathskeller Room is available for private parties. Guests will have their own private bar and direct access to the garden, with room for up to 200 guests. The restaurant also offers a selection of catering options and open-bar packages.
IRON HILL BREWERY & RESTAURANT in Maple Shade has long-time brewer Chris LaPierre churning out its suds alongside a classic menu of pub favorites.
“We offer complimentary tours of our brewery, where guests will be guided through the educational process of producing award-winning, handcrafted ales and lagers,” he says. “This is a great opportunity for beer lovers to get to the heart of what goes into making a great beer.”
The brewery offers a banquet room large enough for cocktail and hors d’oeuvres receptions for up to 70 people, or sit-down lunches and dinners for up to 55 people.
The Size of it
Although FLOUNDER BREWING CO. in Hillsborough may be one of the smallest breweries in New Jersey, owner Jeremy Lees says that it’s not the size that matters. Instead, it’s the taste, and its unique dimensions also allow them to experiment and collaborate with a lot of other people on a small scale.
“Once a month we have a tour/tasting day and the tour provides you with a look at the brewery, the process and offers free tastings of whatever beers we have available on tap that day,” Lees says. “You can enjoy a pint of beer at the brewery or purchase growlers to go.”
Each tour offers three beer tastings, including its flagship beer, Hill Street Honey American Ale. Other tour favorites include its Murky Brown Ale, Floundering Pumpkin and Saison du Flounder. Coming soon is the unique Gingerbread Brown, which Lees describes as “an American Brown Ale with notes reminiscent of gingerbread cookies.”