Welcome to the fifth month of my year drinking Jersey brings us November, the bridge from fall to the holiday season. As we’ll see, it’s not always just about the beer. I might be a little lost, but I’m definitely not lost.
Appreciated festive brown ale
Magic Brew, Mount Holly
I’ve always considered Spellbound to be one of the OG breweries in New Jersey. They’ve been serving up a solid and at times spectacular lineup since 2014. Cherished, a spiced brown ale, certainly approaches the latter category. It’s Christmas time in a jar.
Cherished suits from Thanksgiving to Ball Drop. The gentle spice notes of cinnamon and clove help define this experience. And a pleasant hint of vanilla and a hint of bitterness at the end make me think Cherished would pair well with the rich flavors of the items on your holiday table.
Lone Eagle Brewing, Flemington
Fall and winter are great times to visit historic Flemington. Lone Eagle is on Stangl Road in the Feed Mill Station store collection. This is directly across from the Skunktown Distillery which is also well worth a visit! The extensive tap list includes a variety of styles, a nitro tap, and some fantastic cask aged offerings.
Lone Eagle’s Rauchbier is a dark amber lager with cherry smoked malt. It’s a low-key take on the style that can taste like a liquid fireplace at times. I love the stone fruit notes you get in a dark amber lager. They definitely show through the light smoke on this one. It would be just the thing for a holiday ham.
The Harrison Cider line: Newark Cider, Newark Cider Royal and Harrison’s Sparkling Newark Cider
Ironbound Farm and Ciderhouse, Asbury
Located in rural Hunterdon County, Ironbound is a regenerative farm that respects the land, the people who work it, and a very special apple. Fire pits line the outdoor seating areas, which resemble one at night game of Thrones set to. You’ll find the tasting room in a huge barn with rustic hewn beams and high ceilings. It’s a stunning scene. The food is fresh and great. And it’s made in a food truck!
The Harrison apple was revered in early colonial times for its rich, aromatic juice, which produced “the champagne of cider.” Harrison trees were once abundant in the Newark area but have disappeared over the centuries. Well, they’re almost gone.
In 1976, a lone Harrison apple tree was discovered and cultivated in Livingston, NJ. Ironbound founder Charles Rosen now has hundreds of trees on the farm and has distributed thousands to other farms that supply his cider house. You can learn more about this great story on her website and in a story we previously wrote about her. It’s really inspiring.
Cider maker Cameron Stark calls the Harrison apple juice the “most complete” he’s ever seen. He’s certainly produced a stunning lineup. Actually a blend of three 18th century apples (including Harrison), Newark Cider is deliciously crisp and dry with a distinctive pear character.
Newark Cider Royal is another departure from the craft beer path I’m usually on. You could actually call it a cocktail. Ironbound does. Hard cider is blended with Applejack, this wonderful iconic New Jersey spirit made from distilled apple juice and then aged in oak barrels for a year to create Royal. It’s a beautiful light copper color with fresh apple on the nose and a pleasant hint of vanilla from the oak. Silky and smooth: Drink it like a brandy.
Harrison’s Sparkling Newark Cider is made exclusively from the Harrison apple. It is richer and earthier than Newark Cider and bottle fermentation creates the effervescence. Sparkling cider pairs perfectly with almost any hearty holiday dish.
The Harrison line of apples is a real taste of history. Seriously, who said history is boring?