You know she thrills me with all her charms
When I’m wrapped up in my baby’s arms…
In this blog, I’m going talk about something very dear to my heart; beer.
I can remember a time in my life when the selection of beers on offer (at least in Australia) was depressingly small. There were the big breweries which pumped out mass-produced swill full of chemicals that all tasted exactly the effing same and that was pretty much it.
Don’t get me wrong, those beers are still the most popular on the market. They have a loyal following among those who believe real men only drink beer that tastes like piss (hence the term “getting pissed”). It’s supposed to prove how tough, working class, and patriotic you are or somesuch BS (I think this is the actual reason women live longer).
England, where I lived for a spell in the early 80’s, was a different matter. There they had a fine tradition of pubs that brewed their own local beers and so you could get away from the generic blandness of the big brewers and experience a wider variety…. of beers drunk at room temperature.
Back again in Australia, things were (very slowly) beginning to get more interesting. A small(ish) brewer in South Australia called Coopers was producing a line of pure beers that were more than drinkable. I switched gratefully from dishcloth brews like Victoria Bitter (VB as it is lovingly known by its brain-damaged acolytes) to Coopers and, for a while, all was well.
Then one of the majors bought up Coopers and that fine beer was very soon close to indistinguishable from the VBs and Carltons. Amazing how thoroughly mass production screws shit up.
All beers produced in NSW are garbage btw and don’t let anyone tell you different.
By the 90’s the horizon was less bleak. Microbreweries were emerging in the back lanes of Melbourne (probably Sydney too but who cares?). Small pubs started experimenting with their own house brews and before long there was a plethora of not too terrible beers popping up. I alas, cannot remember the name of a single one of them.
‘Boutique’ beers really took off in the 2000’s (I refuse to say naughties). In Australia, Belgian style Beer Bars were all the rage and every pretentious wanker worth his salt was swanning around with a surgically decapitated Hoegaarden to go with his neatly trimmed designer stubble.
It all seemed to be about imported beers at that point. The disaster of 2008 was a few years away yet and confidence was still OK. People were willing to shell out a bit on imported brews to show their mates how well they were doing.
Craft beers (as they’d come to be known) really seemed to explode after the GFC but it wasn’t until I first visited America that I really saw how big they’d become. My mind was blown by the sheer volume of choice in every liquor store I visited. Back home, you generally had to go to one of the big warehouse booze emporiums to see that much choice.
I eagerly dove in. Each visit (and, if you remember, there were five of them) I would expand my repertoire of craft breweries. Flying Dog, with their amazing Ralph Steadman, can designs, were a fave for a while but I eventually moved on from there. Two Roads Brewery was the next to catch my eye and I found several of their beers to be top notch. However, for some reason, the stores around our area just don’t seem to want to stock the good ones.
We, that’s Jersey girl and I, eventually started specifically seeking out New Jersey brews. We found a great IPA from a brewery called Brotherton which would turn up on draft in various places only to vanish after a week or so. We tried to find it in bottles but the brewery was so small they weren’t bottling yet*.
Asbury Park Brewery does some nice beers but not quite the style we’ve been looking for.
I even kept searching while I was back in Melbourne, looking online for news of new breweries in NJ. Which is how I found the winner. A small brewery in Hackettstown was just about to start canning. They’d been around for three or four years and were finally about to release their first canned beer intriguingly called Rake Breaker. Hackettstown is very close to home and so I was pretty excited to get back to Jersey and try it.
And what was the name of this fledgeling brewery?
You just know I was going to be won over by that, right? When I came back (this time to stay) we started looking all over for signs of Rake Breaker in the stores. To no avail. We started to plan our visit to the Brewery tap room but it seemed that every time we had a chance to go something came up. It was becoming a source of no small frustration.
Then, one evening, we were in a tap room restaurant in Princeton and there on the beer menu was Jersy Girl. By this time they had another IPA out called Sun Kissed Citra. We fell over ourselves to order and, there in a cellar in Princeton, had our very first taste of a Jersey Girl beer.
And lo, it was very, very good.
A few weeks later, the cans started turning up in the stores and we got to sample Rake Breaker at long last. It was, if anything, better than Citra.
We’ve since visited the Taproom at Hackettstown several times It’s a great little spot tucked away in a fairly bland commercial park. They have big comfy sofas and board games to while away the time and a very nice selection of beer adventures to sample. They also sell their brews in refillable Growlers, which is nice.
We’ve found our Alpha beer. We still stray into unknown territory fairly regularly, but the fridge at home always has a few cans of Jersey Girl on the shelf.
Ah, life’s simple pleasures**.
Here, for anyone interested, is the Brewery website.
*That situation has apparently now been rectified.
**And yes, It is my ambition to sit with Jersey girl at Jersey Girl, drinking Jersey Girl, while listening to Jersey Girl (they’ve played Springsteen while we were there but not that song – I would happily take the Tom Waits version).