A Girlfriend’s Guide to Drinking in the (Beer) Garden State
A large part of my job here as a digital managing editor at Townsquare Media is to make articles easy to find online, using key search terms.
So you can imagine my astonishment when I typed in the phrase: “A Girlfriend’s Guide to Drinking Craft Beer” and found NOTHING on the main search page that even came close to matching those key search terms.
I got a little hopeful when I came across this blog, which was titled:“A Girlfriend’s Guide to Refilling Your Cup,” but it was actually referring to the metaphorical cup of your soul, so, without further ado, here’s your guide.
Let’s put this right out there: I ABSOLUTELY DESPISE those commercials that enforce the message that because I’m a woman I should go drink a light beer while simultaneously playing volleyball on a snowy mountaintop with my five most buxom girlfriends while we are all wearing bikinis.
I’ve toured (read here, drank at) more than 15 breweries in the past three or four years, I have a fridge full of different craft beers in my house (see photo), and I’m lucky enough to share a passion for home brewing with my husband (we have two different beers fermenting in our house right now – an IPA and a chocolate stout).
BUT, that does not make me a craft beer expert by any means.
There are a lot of women out there who are WAY more qualified than me to discuss craft beers, and a lot of them are right here in our beautiful Garden State. Women like Gretchen Schmidhausler, who is starting her own brewery, Little Dog Brewing Company, right here at the Jersey Shore. Women like Jaqcui Town, who runs Rinn Duin brewery in Toms River with her dad Chip. And don’t forget the countless sales reps, bar owners, managers, hostesses, and wait staff that work and help stock great beer bars like Maloney’s in Matawan, Tipperary Pub in Lakehurst, and Brick House Tavern in Neptune. Get out and visit them all.
For those of you are just crash coursing on craft beer before your boyfriend brings you to a wine/beer event, like the upcoming events Coney Island on Tap and Seaside on Tap, here’s my tips to trying some great area craft beers and avoid looking like a total noob.
Let’s start with the basics:
Blondes, and lagers, and ales, oh my!
As you start your journey into trying craft beers, there is nothing wrong with starting with a nice light beer, which may be more of what you are used to drinking. Kane Brewing Company in Ocean, NJ, makes a nice pale ale called Single Fin.
I LOVE Abita Strawberry Harvest, at this time of year. This is a lovely lager brewed with Louisiana strawberry juice.
After wetting your whistle with some pale ales, move on to the wheat beers, as you can’t go wrong with a nice hefeweizen. Flying Dog makes a fabulous wheat beer, known as In Heat Wheat. Check it out when you get the chance.
Remember, East Coast IPAs, or India pale ales, are going to taste different from West Coast IPAs. While I love the West Coast IPAs, there aresome great local IPAs you should check out, including: the 90 Minute IPA from Dogfish Head.
We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto.
Now that you’re feeling brave, check out some Belgians and the stouts (real craft beer nerds will tell you that Guinness doesn’t count. As an Irish woman who has actually toured the Guinness storehouse, I object to this statement, but yeah, there’s waaaaay better stouts out there). I recommend Left Hand’s Milk Stout. Chimay is one of six Belgians that is actually a Trappist beer, which means that it is made by a community of monks, who then in turn use the money for social causes.
Watch those alcohol levels!
When you are at a craft beer sampling event, don’t forget to ask about ABVs, which is the amount of alcohol in the beer. If you load up on a 10 ABV beer at the start of the event, you’ll be asleep in a half hour and won’t make it to the end.
When sampling, taste the beer with your nose first. Go on, I mean, really stick your nose right in the glass. Does the beer smell bitter? Does it smell sweet? Really notice the notes and the love that went into making what you’re drinking. That’s right, I said love. Craft brewers love what they do. It takes YEARS to turn a profit on a craft brewery, so it’s not like a lot of the people that get into craft brewing do it for big money. They do it because they simply can’t find anything else that is as personally rewarding.
When you visit their breweries or check out their stands this summer at the upcoming beer festivals, do them a favor and show them some love back. Tell them you appreciate what they created for you. And don’t be afraid to try EVERYTHING they have to offer (even if you don’t like it, you can at least say you tried it and hopefully figure out what kind ofbeer you love!).