At the entrance to the New Jersey Beer Company are large metal tanks and machinery in a section called the brew house. Further on is the tasting area with repurposed wine-barrel tables and a wooden bar built by head brewer Brendan O’Neil. The brewery is appropriately situated in an industrial neighborhood—in North Bergen just off the light rail at Tonnelle Avenue. “We always knew we would be in Hudson County, and being near the light rail was important for us,” says General Manager Kevin Napoli. “Our postcards that we give out everywhere we go show that you can jump on the light rail and get here and not have to worry about getting home.”
But if you want to stay right here in Hoboken and enjoy a New Jersey Beer Company brew, Napoli says you can find them at the Brass Rail, Stewed Cow, Little Town, Smokin’ Barrel, and the Black Bear, as well as at Cork Wine and Spirits and Sparrow.
Napoli was an early investor in the company, and local real estate developer Paul Silverman is a major investor.
Around the brewery are portraits of Silverman, Napoli, O’Neil, and staff members disguised in animal masks by street artist Sean Lugo. Bottle labels and merchandise are currently designed by Holly Tienken of Design Grace.
The brewery offers tastings and tours during which patrons observe the entire process from brew to barstool. Because it’s a small business, guests get to meet the brewers and ask questions.
“There’s something for everybody,” Napoli says, “whether you’re a craft beer nut or you’re new to it.”
Bring on the Beer Menu
Year-round offerings include LBIPA, 1787 Abbey Single Ale, Garden State Stout, and Hudson Pale Ale.
LBIPA is brewed to evoke memories of the Jersey Shore. “For us, the whole idea of this beer was about sitting on the beach and enjoying a beer,” Napoli says.
A portion of the sales from this one go toward Alliance for A Living Ocean in Ship Bottom, N.J., which is devoted to maintaining a healthy coastal environment. It would be hard to find a more aptly named town for beer booty than Ship Bottom.
“We were doing test batches for an IPA, and it was right at the time that Sandy happened,” Napoli relates. “Having three feet of water in your business is horrendous, in your home, I can’t even imagine how much worse that was.”
1787 Abbey Single Malt is a crisp, Belgian-style ale, named for the year that New Jersey became the third state in the union. “It’s kind of like a Stella,” Napoli says.
Garden State Stout is full-bodied and chocolate. “It’s a really, really tasty beer,” says Napoli, who admits to sneaking bits of the real Belgian chocolate with the other guys while they brew it.
The bright and hoppy Hudson Pale Ale gets its share of teasing. “There are a lot of jokes to be made, like people say, ‘Oh, Hudson Pale Ale, do you make that from water from the Hudson River?’ We say, ‘Absolutely! Every employee has to fill two buckets a day!’” But, he says, “There’s a lot of pride in New Jersey. We try to honor it; we think it’s a big deal to call yourself New Jersey Beer Company. You don’t want to make bad beer, and then you’re representing the whole state.
“As much as there is a ton of pride for being from New Jersey, there’s a little bit of self loathing as well,” he acknowledges. “I think people expect that a beer from Colorado or Vermont is going to be better just because. That’s not the case. We’ve got talented brewers, we buy awesome ingredients, great equipment, we’ve been at this a while. I think New Jersey, especially Northern New Jersey, is making beer happen.”
The beer was impressive enough to make Paul Silverman take notice. He teamed up with New Jersey Beer Company four years ago.
“He came to us for advice on how to open a brewery, and at that time we were starting a fundraising campaign,” Napoli says. “At a certain point it became obvious. ‘Hey, you have money and an interest in starting a brewery, and we have a brewery, and we have an interest in getting some more investment.’”
Silverman, for his part, says, “The beer is delicious, and the guys are great. I love the name. It’s also much easier than starting my own.”
For Silverman, brewing and building go hand in hand. “We are returning to our cities and to all things wholesome and hand-crafted,” he says. “Beer and beautiful places to live can both bring you happiness.”—JCM
For more info, visit njbeerco.com