Thursday, September 18, 2014

Catching Microbrew Fever

Thanks to Vin from Bier Battered for the idea of a "Throwback Thursday" post where we write on our introduction to craft beer and the first microbrews we remember drinking.  Enjoy, and feel free to share your story!

If there is one thing beer nerds like to do, its to recount their craft beer origins.  Swapping stories about their first Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, or their first Anchor Steam, or perhaps their first Pete's Wicked Ale.  For me, it wasn't any of these.  Rather, I found my way into craft beers in Maine, and the first craft beers I discovered were from Atlantic Brewing, Bar Harbor Brewing, Shipyard and Maine Coast Brewing.

It was on vacation in Bar Harbor, Maine where I happened upon these beers, probably around 2004. In this bustling tourist town, with lobsters and clam chowder aplenty, Maine beer was sold everywhere.  And more important, it was good!  Much better than the standard light lager I was used to drinking.

Atlantic Brewing Co.

You know those brochure displays that hotels in touristy areas usually have in the their office?  Well, in Bar Harbor, Maine they had one for a a brewery tour at Bar Harbor's own Atlantic Brewing Company.....Perfect for a Rainy Day!  One day when rain was imminent, my family and I decided to go on this tour, and I was hooked.  I remember touring their small facility, and learning what wort was and that it's spelled "wort" but pronounced like "wert."  I remember the tour guide giving a story of a time their brewmaster thought that a particular batch of beer wasn't quite up to snuff, so he dumped the whole fermenter.

I was hooked.  From there, the tour group went into the tasting room, where we sampled the beers Atlantic Brewing had to offer.  If my memory serves me right, they had Real Ale, Coal Porter, Island Ginger and Blueberry Ale available to try, and I loved them all.  I couldn't wait to bring some of these home with me and show them off to my friends.  (you can find a blogpost I wrote while on a later trip to Atlantic Brewing Co. here)

Show them off I did, but then a thought occurred to me.....I wonder if there are any microbreweries in NJ?  They were called microbreweries back then, not craft breweries.  I still wish they were just called microbreweries, and that the whole "craft" descriptor never came to be.  Either way, I did some internet searches and found several I could go check out.  There was Harvest Moon in New Brunswick, Triumph in Princeton, River Horse in Lambertville, and Weyerbacher in Easton (a little bit over the Delaware River in PA).

Weyerbacher was the first brewery in the area I remember visiting.  The tour was great, and the samples were aplenty.  I can recall Weyerbacher's mix-a-case policy, and bringing home 12 oz. bottles of Merry Monks, Hops Infusion, Blithering Idiot, Black Hole and others.  My palate definitely wasn't quite ready for beers like Merry Monks and Blithering Idiot, but I remember getting through the case and learning a lot about the different beers.

There was no turning back.  Eventually, I discovered liquor stores that had great microbrew selection, such as Petrock's in Hillsborough and the beer department in the Wegmans grocery store.  I was trying to try every beer I could, ticking beers before ticking beers was a thing.

I wouldn't change a thing!


  1. Awesome. My Maine vacation turned me on to many beers as well. But my first was at JJ Bittings in Woodbridge. I used to go there after work all the time!!

    1. I was just telling my wife the other day that I want to stop in JJ Bittings sometime. I've lived within 30 miles of it ever since I was of drinking age, but just have never given it a shot!

      And by the way, I've been meaning to email you!

    2. LOL go for it, it's an awesome bar with great beer and AMAZING food. That was my home away from home 5 years ago lol.

      And yes shoot me an email! I'm lining some things up for the next couple weeks.

  2. While I got my intro into craft beer locally (Pete's Wicked hitting NJ), one of my first "beer trips" was to Maine. So many breweries; Atlantic, Bar Harbor, Sea Dog, Gritty's, Sunday River, Bray's. If only everything in Maine wasn't 45 minutes away from everything else ;). And I still tell people that the Sea Dog in Topsham is one of the most amazing looking brewer locations I've ever been to. Thanks for the memories!