Happily Ever After

Southern Ocean County a Great Place for a Craft Beer Pre-Wedding Pub Crawl

Local Breweries Each Have Distinct Beers and Feels
Feb 22, 2019

Are you the best man in an upcoming wedding and wondering what would make for a unique bachelor’s party? Well, most grooms – and their friends – are fairly young, so most probably have a fondness for beer. And these days it is likely any self-respecting millennial is not satisfied with mass-produced, mass-marketed suds, but prefers craft beers. So how about organizing a pub crawl? Not just any pub crawl, but one in which serious modern-day hop heads can dip their beaks into new, unique brews to their hearts’ content.

If the wedding is going to be held in Southern Ocean County you’re in luck. The area boasts five craft brewers, with a sixth on the way. And not surprisingly, each one is distinct.

Pinelands Brewing Co., located at 140 South Seventh Ave. in Little Egg Harbor Township, was the area’s first nano-brewery, founded way back in 2014 – light years ago in the world of craft beers, where a new brewery seems to open its doors every week.

Therein lies a problem. How can a craft beer brewery stand out in a crowd?

Pinelands Brewing Co. founder and head brewer Jason Chapman had spent many of his childhood summer weekends canoeing the many waterways of the New Jersey Pine Barrens He knew the Pines sit atop a natural wonder, the Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer, which covers approximately 3,000 square miles and contains an estimated 17.7 trillion gallons of water – and not just any water, but some of the purest all-natural drinking water in the world.

That explains the company’s slogan – “Pure as the Pines.” Pinelands Brewing uses fresh, locally sourced ingredients and, of course, Kirkwood-Cohansey water – take that, Coors, with your Rocky Mountain spring water!

Pinelands Brewing often names its beers after Pinelands landmarks. Botona Trail Ale, a winter brown ale currently on tap at the brewery, takes its name after the BOTONA Trail, a 53.5-mile hiking trail through the Pine Barrens; Batsto Brown Ale Nitro borrows its sobriquet from Batsto Village, a historic village that was known for iron making from 1766 through the middle of the 19th century. Batsto became infamous in the last quarter of the century when Joseph Wharton, a Philadelphia businessman who founded the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and co-founded Bethlehem Steel, purchased 150 square miles of the New Jersey Pines, including Batsto. Why was Wharton interested in the Pines? He had a scheme to pipe Kirkwood-Cohansey water to the City of Brotherly Love, a scheme the New Jersey Legislature brought to a halt by passing a law preventing the water’s export.

Pinelands Brewery’s tasting room serves up to 10 different styles of beer every week.

Because Pinelands is the oldest craft brewery in Southern Ocean County it seems like a natural place to start your bachelor party pub crawl. And because you’ll be visiting at least five breweries and want to pace yourself, you may want to take advantage of a package that includes a tour of the brewery, four 4-ounce beer samples of your choice and a souvenir pint glass, all for a mere $10. Hey, if you fall in love with a particular concoction, you can always fill a growler so you can enjoy it another day.

Pinelands Brewing’s current hours are 5 to 8 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday, noon to 8 p.m. from Thursday through Saturday, and noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday. The taproom is closed on Wednesday. But, of course, the hours could change, especially when summer arrives, so give the Pinelands folks a call at 609-296-6169 before heading down there, or shoot them an email at info@pinelandsbrewing.com as the big day approaches.

After enjoying Pinelands Brewing Co., head north on Route 9. As you are passing through a little burg called Eagleswood, a.k.a. West Creek, keep an eye out for a place called Tip’s Hardware, which you’ll find on the right hand side of the highway. Note the location, because a new microbrewery, the Bent Elbow Brewery, is planned to be built across the side street, Dock Road, from the hardware store. Owner Bryan Tucker received approval for his plans from the Eagleswood Township Land Use Board in January.

Of course, we don’t know when you’ll be making your epic beer tasting journey, so who knows, maybe Tucker will have navigated the confusing course of obtaining state and federal licenses and actually have his brewery constructed by the time you drive through Eagleswood. If so, you’ll be able to enjoy brews with names such as Crick Water and Overboard (remember, Eagleswood is also called West Creek) or Devil’s Coffin (likely a reference to the Jersey Devil). You’ll have to keep an eye out for the Bent Elbow Brewery considering it doesn’t have a phone number yet, but it does have a rudimentary website at bentelbowbrewery.com, where you can follow its progress.

The next stop on your tour will be the ManaFirkin Brewing Co., located at 450 East Bay Ave., Suite 2, Manahawkin, just a couple of blocks from Route 9.

If you are a craft beef connoisseur, you can probably figure out how the company’s name came to be. The Mana part comes from the name of the town it is located in; a firkin is a British unit of capacity used for the sale of beer, with a firkin being equal to a quarter of a barrel.

Donn Hoosack and Todd Hunt were beer connoisseurs, having visited breweries up and down the East Coast. They dreamed of turning their passion into a career; luckily, they had understanding and encouraging wives in Lisa and Michelle when they decided to launch their own brewery in 2016.

ManaFirkin opened its doors in May 2017, and there have been plenty of people coming through those doors since.

Carl Hasson, a satisfied customer, said ManaFirkin has “a very friendly staff.” He added the “place looks amazing and it’s kid friendly, too! Nineteen different beers on tap is shore to please – get what I did there with shore? Anyway had a blast, kids played games, three big screens for a variety of sports ...  awesome just awesome!”

ManaFirkin may be located on the mainland, but Manahawkin, also known as Stafford Township, is connected to Long Beach Island by a causeway and bridges, so it isn’t surprising that surfboards are key to the taproom’s relaxed décor. Indeed, ManaFirkin’s slogan is “The Next Wave in Craft Beer.” Toss in the fact that ManaFirkin offers a large selection of board games with which to entertain children, is a BYOF (bring your own food) establishment, and is dog-friendly and you’ve surely got yourself a kicked-back destination.

ManaFirkin’s current hours are from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursday, 3 to 9 on Friday, noon to 10 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday. It is closed Monday through Wednesday. But again, hours can change, especially with the change of seasons, so call 609-756-4798 or visit manafirkin.com online to keep up with any changes .

If you can manage to pull yourself and your bachelor party crew out of ManaFirkin and head north, your next destination will be the Oyster Creek Brewing Co., located at 529 Route 9, Unit 5, in Waretown.

Now, after West Creek you’re probably thinking, “How many creeks do they have in Ocean County?” The truth is there is an actual Oyster Creek. But most people in these parts think of the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station in Waretown, the oldest operating nuke plant in the U.S. before it shut down for good last September, when they hear the words Oyster Creek. And that’s why Oyster Creek Brewing Co. offers beers with names such as YELLOWcake Cream Ale, PLUTONIUM94 Black IPA, RADIUM88 Rye and MELTdown Habanero DIPA on its menu, has maps with the location of every nuclear generator in the tri-State area embedded on its table tops, and owners Kris and Colleen Lewis picked “Generating Great Beer” as its slogan when it opened in 2018.

Oyster Creek Brewing Co.’s tasting room is currently open from 5 to 9 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays, noon to 9 p.m. on Saturdays and noon to 6 p.m. on Sundays. Call 609-622-2944 or visit oystercreekbrewing.com to make sure those times are the same as the date of your bachelor party nears.

Just a couple miles north of OCBC is the Backward Flag Brewing Co., located at 699 Challenger Way (again, just off Route 9) in Forked River. The name of the company comes from the flag patches worn on U.S. Army uniforms.

“Army Regulation 670-1, ‘Wear and Appearance of Army Uniforms and Insignia,’ updated most recently September 5, 2003, addressed explicitly the proper and lawful placement of the U.S. flag patch on the Army uniform,” reads a blurb on the Department of Defense website.

“The regulation states that when authorized for application to the proper uniform the American flag patch is to be worn, right or left shoulder, so that the star field faces forward, to the flag’s own right. When worn in this manner, the flag is facing the observer’s right, and gives the effect of the flag flying in the breeze as the wearer moves forward.”

Backward Flag Brewing Co. was founded in 2015 by Torie Fisher, a 13-year veteran of the U.S. Army and National Guard and a Blackhawk helicopter crew chief with several overseas tours of duty. She started brewing her own beer while in the service, learning from a pilot, so it wasn’t brewing that had her anxious when she decided to open her business, but rather opening a business itself, considering that she had zero/nadda/zippo business experience. But she joined the Brewers Association so she could get advice from other brewery owners and found a mentor through a local SCORE office (a resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Association). One thing a Blackhawk vet doesn’t lack is guts, so Fisher’s dream became a reality.

It shouldn’t be a shock that Backward Flag Brewing Co. tends to give its brews military names, such as Yellow Ribbon Golden Ale, Lil R&R Blonde Ale, Armored Ale and Port Arms Porter, although it won’t turn away from a name with local connections such as Forked River Mountain Stout. It also shouldn’t be a surprise that Backward Flag, which has a history of hiring veterans and raising money for veterans’ charities, attracts many vets and first responders.

Backward Flag’s normal hours – at least in the winter as this is being written – are 4 to 9 p.m. on Thursday, 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday, noon to 9 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday. But, once again, if you are planning a summer or fall visit you might want to check the hours online at backwardflagbrewing.com or by calling 609-622-8911.

All things must pass, as George Harrison sang, and if you’ve done the Southern Ocean County craft beer pub crawl this far – even if you’re being driven by designated drivers, which, of course, you should be – you’re probably ready to head home. Home for many a wedding/bachelor party/bachelorette party – yes, women also enjoy craft beverages – in Southern Ocean County is Long Beach Island. So finish your day and evening out at the Ship Bottom Brewery.

Actually, you’ll be headed to Beach Haven. That’s right, the Ship Bottom Brewery is located in the Queen City, in the Bay Village complex located at 830 North Bay Ave.

Ship Bottom Brewery’s owner/founder, Rob Zarko, spent many of his summers in Ship Bottom. He loved Ship Bottom! But when he, after years of home brewing, decided to enter the craft beer business, he couldn’t find an appropriate spot in that municipality. He did, however, find a home at Bay Village. Still, his loyalty to Ship Bottom ran strong, so he kept the name.

The names of several of Zarko’s beers reference LBI landmarks. His Shack IPA, for example, is a tribute to The Shack, an old hunters’ cottage on the Causeway from the mainland to the Island that, despite being in disrepair for decades, alerted visitors they were approaching LBI before the landmark was wiped out by Superstorm Sandy. Then there are the Beach Patrol Hefeweizen Ale, the Blueberry Bikini Bottom Wheat Ale and the Wooden Jetty Whiskey Barrel Aged Stout. Finally, there’s the Chicken or the Egg Collaboration IPA, also known as the Killer Bee Sting, which is brewed with that Beach Haven eatery’s famous honey-dosed wing hot sauce.

Ship Bottom Brewery’s winter hours are short – noon to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday. But expect the brewery to be open on many more days in the summer – LBI’s traditional wedding season – and even the fall – now a popular wedding time on the Island, considering everything is booked during the height of the season. Call 609-207-6331 or visit shipbottombrewery.com to check out the hours as your craft beer party/journey approaches.

Of course you can start on LBI, head north and then south, whatever, during your craft beer tour. Or, alternatively, you can scout out the pack and pick one or two breweries for your party. Indeed, you can probably arrange a private party at any of the above breweries if you give them a phone call far in advance.

By the way, it is worth repeating that this isn’t just an idea for a bachelor party. A craft beer pub crawl (OK, women would probably like to call it a tour instead of a crawl) is a perfect theme for a bachelorette party, too.

And most importantly, remember designated drivers are an absolute must. A DWI could play havoc with a wedding!

— Rick Mellerup

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.