Vacation is a time for relaxation, and more importantly, indulgence. And while artisanal pizza is tempting, and candy-infused ice cream is fun, let’s get down to business: where’s the fancy beer?
In the last few years, craft breweries and brewpubs have popped up across the traditionally Philly-favored beach towns between Atlantic City and Cape May.
Here’s a taste of the best brews.
In 1997, Atlantic City’s first brewpub opened under the name Tun Tavern, borrowed from the famous Philadelphia brewhouse that allegedly served as the birthplace of the U.S. Marines Corps. Nearly 25 years later, the brewpub is more Hard Rock Cafe than Flying Fish, mostly playing hoppy hits for the casino and convention crowd. But it still has some spunk sprinkled among its eight in-house offerings. Its “juicy pale ale,” an entry on its Diving Horse line, combines a fruity bouquet with 5% ABV and pairs nicely with a pub burger.
The Brew Pub is committed to Avalon’s posh-coastal aesthetic. The indoor dining area (complete with empty beer kegs stuck to the ceiling) exudes country-club chic. And the outdoor dining area (dotted with palm trees) strains for beach-garden swank, even if the dunes obstruct shoreline views and the open area overlooks a loading zone on 79th Street. Nevertheless, the nearly five-year-old taproom manifests the upscale, corporate-resort vibe to which it aspires, and in spite of itself puts together a competitive beer list of five in-house offerings. A standout is the Belgian Beach Bum Witbier, which is light enough to pair with confit duck fries and a roasted pork sandwich, but spicy enough to be enjoyed by itself.
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Identical twin firefighters from Cape May decided in 2016 to upgrade their home-brewing passion into a small business. A year later, they bought the 70-year-old H.B. Christman & Sons building in Cape May Court House, and the Bucket Brigade Brewery was born. In the tasting room, relics of Christman’s auto parts store and memorabilia from other long-gone businesses adorn the walls in tribute to local history. And the brothers give their nine-deep roster of mostly ales, pilsners, and lagers firefighter-related names in honor of their colleagues. A charming outdoor patio offers plenty of seating, and occasionally a barbecue-themed food truck will make an appearance, otherwise, it’s a BYOF (bring your own food) destination. For now, they’re focused on the core mission: extinguishing thirst.
📍 205 N. Main St., Cape May Court House, 📞 609-778-2641, ✉️ firstname.lastname@example.org, 🌐 bucketbrigadebrewery.com, 📷 @bucketbrigadebrewery, 🕑 Mon.-Thu., 2-8 p.m., Fri.-Sat. noon-9 p.m., Sun. noon-8 p.m.
In business since 2011, Cape May Brewing kicked off the craft beer scene at the Jersey Shore. Ten years later, the brewery has grown into the premier, craft beer provider at the Shore. And the brewery has physically grown, adding a beer garden, “Brewtique,” and “Brewtanical Garden” to its already substantial tasting room. The brewery boasts nearly 20 taps daily, but the only downside: the Taco Shop next door is moving.
Ludlam Island Brewing opened in 2016, making use of a space recently vacated by another South Jersey brewer in Ocean View. Since then, the brewery has matured into a nine-tap pub with a wood-enclosed tasting room. They’re also known for some inventive concoctions, including Harry’s Coffee Pale Ale, in which brewers cook up a rye pale ale, walk to Harry and Beans coffee house next door and collect freshly roasted, organic Honduran coffee beans straight from the roaster, and then make a beer.
Slack Tide is a drinker’s brewery. A meat-and-potatoes kind of place, where the beer is cold and strong. The brewery, which opened in 2015, has been carefully built by its brother-owners into an award-winning enterprise. It counts six flagship beers on tap year-round, but its tasting-room tap list carries six more seasonal offerings and six new releases. Indoor and outdoor seating is available, but it gets crowded fast.
A brewery in a strip mall does raise some questions, until you try the beer. The brewery makes a baker’s dozen of accessible crafts, and the beers get as much attention for the quirky name as for the distinct tastes: M-M-My Citiva, Whose Berliner Is It Anyway, and everyone’s favorite, Walter White, named after the Breaking Bad character. The brewery, which opened in 2016, also boasts an extremely spacious tasting room.
Hidden Sands may be the most accessible brewery on our list. It’s conveniently located off the Garden State Parkway. The sours aren’t so sour, and the IPAs aren’t so harsh, specifically its popular Grapefruit DIPA. There are no hard-to-pronounce names: they serve Sandy Blue and Honey Wheat and Sand Blasted Sour Orange. Maybe it’s also because it’s one of the youngest outfits on our list, opening in 2018. At any rate, it provides a beer garden, but no food trucks. So bring snacks.
📍 6754 Washington Ave., Suite B, Egg Harbor Township, 📞 609-910-2009, ✉️ email@example.com, 🌐 hiddensands.com, 📷 @hiddensandsbeer, 🕑 Tue.-Thu. 3-8 p.m., Fri. 1-9 p.m., Sat. noon-9 p.m., Sun. noon-6 p.m.
The Somers Point brewers are beer-crazy, but they’re not dollar-foolish. That’s why you’ll find among its 12 taps a raspberry-lemonade hard seltzer, dubbed Training Wheels. But it worked out. The finance people got their diverse lineup, but the brewers can make a Milky Shake Galaxy - IPA: Milkshake, creamy to taste but sweet to smell, and carrying a 6.2% ABV. The small, industrial-styled brewery, a converted Somers Point Ice Company building, also added outdoor seating with retractable awnings and bike racks.
📍 705 W. New York Ave., Somers Point, 📞 609-788-0767, ✉️ firstname.lastname@example.org, 🌐 somerspointbrewing.com, 📷 @somerspointbrewing, 🕑 Mon.-Thu. 4-9 p.m., Fri. 2-9 p.m., Sat. 1-9 p.m., Sun. 1-6 p.m.
In 2018, Wildwood got its first and only brewpub, and considering the result, it may not need another. MudHen Brewing Company is dog-friendly, it offers live music, and hosts corn-hole tournaments. It’s spacious and has street cred for taking over an old Harley Davidson shop. It provides an array of culinary choices from various types of cuisine and produces a plethora of craft beer options for every palate. How did Wildwood get so lucky?
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