There are generally two styles of beer: lagers and ales. Lagers have been crafted since the Medieval Era, when the process known as ‘cold storage lagering’ lowered temperatures for yeast fermentation and brought about light-to-medium-bodied beers using rice, maize, barley and wheat to craft pilsner, bock, dortmunder, marzen, dunkel and schwarzbier sub-styles.
Conversely, ales are stored at warmer temperatures for yeast fermentation, commonly resulting in darker, richer, more bitter beers that may have fruitier floral flavoring to contrast or heighten the roasted grain malting.
Listed below are tautly defined beer styles matched to recommended New Jersey microbrewery and brewpub offerings. In general, the list goes from lightest to darkest in hue. This is only a small representation of the ever-expanding beer selection throughout the state. Probably not as outlandishly experimental compared to highest-rated ‘Beer States’ such as Oregon, California, Washington, New York, Vermont, Massachusetts or Pennsylvania, the Garden State nonetheless boasts such innovative brews as High Point’s German-styled Ramstein line, Flying Fish’s turnpike-inspired ‘Exit’-signed ‘big beers’ and now-defunct Heavyweight Brewery’s insanely strong malt-sugared libations.
PILSNER – Generally the lightest, palest, least alcoholic lager style, oft-times utilizing inexpensive ingredients such as corn and rice.
Brewery choice: Ramstein Pilsner – robust Keller-styled German pils with bittersweet lemony peach tang and floral-spiced banana tartness.
Pub choice: Long Valley Hookerman’s Light Pils – astringent maize-parched, orange-dried, perfume-spiced softie.
IMPERIAL PILSNER – Strong adjunct pilsner with fruity ale characteristics designed as less fussy ‘big beer.’
Brewery choice: Ramstein Imperial Pilsner – creamy, crystal-malted, yellow-fruited, biscuit-y wheat frontage appends wood-parched, horse-blanketed, hay-alfalfa dryness.
Pub choice: currently none.
LIGHT LAGER – Dry-malted amber beer with light-to-moderate body, mild hop fizz and bittersweet graining.
Brewery choice: Cricket Hill East Coast Lager – unobtrusive pale lager with sunny lemon liming, soft orange peel bittering and dry-husked wheat backbone.
Pub choice: Egan & Sons Todd’s Tipple Lager – leatherback lemon-peeled, maize-grained dry body.
BLONDE ALE – Not unlike moderate, dry-hopped golden ales, though spicier and fruitier.
Brewery choice: River Horse Summer Blonde – sourdough initiation enhances honeyed cracker sweetness, mild yellow fruit tang and clove spicing.
Pub choice: Pizzeria Uno Bootlegger Blonde – prickly, dry-hopped, lemon-bruised grapefruit sourness matches parched, wheat-chaffed maize husk.
PALE ALE – Dry-hopped, sweet-malted moderate body with spicier fruiting than blonde ales.
Brewery choice: New Jersey Beer Co. Hudson Pale Ale – unswerving, crisp-watered, hop-spiced citric intrigue befits affable crystal malting to buttery baguette bottom.
Pub choice: Krogh’s Brogdon Meadow Pale Ale – piney hops satiate dried apple, apricot and orange spicing.
WITBIER – Light-to-moderate-bodied Belgian-styled wheat ale with yellow fruit spicing.
Brewery choice: River Horse Double Wit – peppery-hopped, orange peel bittering anchors crystal-malted mandarin orange, tangerine, apricot, papaya and pineapple tropicalia.
Pub choice: Trap Rock Rock Gaarden Wit – tart, candi-sugared lemon bruising and orange peel bittering upend coriander-spiced banana souring.
WHEAT ALE – Dry-grained, wheat-husked American version discretely contrasts amber-clouded, banana-ripened, clove-spiced German styling.
Brewery choice: Ramstein Classic Wheat – affluent German weiss knockoff brings reedy dark-spiced, floral-hopped, grape-skinned, prune-plum coarsening and wispy wheat wining to cereal-grained caramel roast.
Pub choice: Basil T’s Ms. Lucy’s Weimaramer Wheat – citric, wheat-husked, dry-grained American-styled light body.
EXTRA SPECIAL BITTER – Dry-hopped, crystal-malted, copper-paled, British-styled bitter ranges from mild to aggressively bitter.
Brewery choice: Climax ESB – wispy, tangerine-spiced, butterscotch-speckled, peat-smoked dry body masks earthen maple-cedar wood tones.
Pub choice: Ship Inn Extra Special Bitter – Cascade-hopped, wood-stained, grapefruit-embittered medium body gains toasted pumpernickel musk.
RED ALE – Dry-spiced, sweet-malted, moderate-to-medium body with sinewy amber haze.
Brewery choice: currently none.
Pub choice: Artisan’s Toms River Red – soured, lemon-bruised tartness transcends caramel toasting.
INDIA PALE ALE – Dry-hopped bitter ale with woody fruited spicing.
Brewery choice: River Horse Hop-A-Lot-Amus IPA – delightful fruit cocktail with juniper-soaked alcohol kick, resinous spruce-tipped pine needling and hard-candied orange-pineapple tartness above creamy caramel malting.
Pub choice: Trap Rock Chainsaw Double IPA – alcoholic grapefruit-embittered, bark-bound sharpness sidling fig, date and apricot nuances.
BROWN ALE – Nutty mocha-spiced medium-to-full body with sweet malting.
Brewery choice: Climax Nut Brown Ale – creamy mocha-malted, barley-roasted hop bittering diverts silken flow.
Pub choice: Basil T’s American Brown Ale – pine-sapped, hop-charred hazelnut roaster.
SCOTCH ALE – Fertile, copper-browned ‘wee heavy’ props, peat-smoked caramel malt sweetness above mild hop bittering.
Brewery choice: New Jersey Beer Co. Weehawken Wee Heavy – winter solstice celebrator retains black chocolate urgency, coarse resinous hop roasting and mesquite-smoked Scotch dewiness.
Pub choice: Port 44 The Cailleach Scotch Ale – peat-smoked, caramel toasting cruises through prickled hop spicing (bettered in whiskey-daubed oak-aged version).
BOCK – Rich bronze-hazed, full-bodied German-styled lager with heavy caramel malted graining.
Brewery choice: River Horse Roebling Bock – sweet-candied, barley-roasted, mocha malting drifts through dry nuttiness.
Pub choice: Pizzeria Uno Weiss N’ Bock – peculiar, rum-buttered, caramel malting picks up bruised orange, banana and fig snip.
PORTER – Rich, mocha-centered, barley-roasted, brown-hued full body.
Brewery choice: Flying Fish Porter – pungent coffee roast, blackstrap molasses sinew and sour chocolate regale bitter nuttiness.
Pub choice: Egan & Sons Chocolate Porter – coffee-burnt, dark chocolate frontage and hop-charred bittering caress vanilla and walnut illusions.
CHOCOLATE STOUT – Rich chocolate malts, roasted barley-hops and possible vanilla sweetness gain prominence over mild hop bitterness.
Brewery choice: Flying Fish Exit 13 Chocolate Stout – commendable Irish ale yeast allows Belgian chocolate, hazelnut coffee and wood-charred vanilla illusions to contrast unexpected floral fruiting.
Pub choice: Long Valley Devon’s Double Chocolate Stout – coffee-doused, medium-full body with oily-hopped cocoa bean and soy illusions.
OATMEAL STOUT – Roasted oats saddle rich chocolate malting of dark-hued full body. Couldn’t find Jersey microbrew versions, but three fine brewpub offerings exist. Milky, lactose-frothed, cocoa-dried, hazelnut-sweet Long Valley Joe’s Oatmeal Stout and nutty, espresso-milked Krogh’s Old Krush Oatmeal Stout were bolder stouts compared to soft-toned Triumph Oatmeal Stout (a coffee ice cream-like dessert treat with sugary chocolate éclair, chocolate chip cookie, praline and macadamia notes).
IMPERIAL STOUT – Sweeter Russian-styled stout with caramelized mocha thrust.
Brewery choice: Boaks Monster Mash Imperial Stout – roasted chocolate malting glazes, brown-sugared maple sapping atop anise, liqueur and chicory coffee illusions.
Pub choice: currently none.
DRY STOUT – Rich, hop-roasted coffee bittering takes precedence over chocolate malting.
Brewery choice: New Jersey Beer Co. Garden State Stout – sharp hop char, espresso-coffee pungency and tar-like molasses bittering invade brown-sugared, black chocolate theme.
Pub choice: Tun Tavern Leatherneck Stout – deviant, cedar-singed medium body placates burnt coffee frontage with ample toasted nuttiness.
COFFEE STOUT – Bitterer dry stout with prominent coffee roasting.
Brewery choice: Flying Fish Exit 1 Bayshore Oyster Stout – fresh oyster shells intrigue toasted hop dryness and mocha malt creaminess, amassing roasted coffee theme.
Pub choice: Port 44 Longy’s Black Market Stout – hop-charred, cedar-seared, espresso-bound sedation with polite coffee roast.
ABBEY DUBBEL – Boaks Two Blind Monks Ale – resilient candi-sugared caramel malting sidles fig-spiced pureed cherry, burgundy-port wining and blackberry bramble.
ABBEY SINGLE – New Jersey Beer Co. 1787 Abbey Single – adjunct ‘golden sessionable’ witbier (sans wheat expectancy) brings grassy-hopped white peppering to herbal-spiced rye malting and banana breading.
ABBEY TRIPEL – Flying Fish Exit 4 American Trippel – strong Belgian-styled amber ale with gin-soaked currant bittering, vanilla-extracted banana liqueur subsidy, caraway-seeded clove-coriander spicing and white-peppered red fruiting betters Flying Fish’s abstruse Tripel Horse (where wintry pine-hop peppering belies tarter summer fruiting).
ALTBIER – Port 44 Ziegelstadt Alt – sharp-hopped, dark-roasted caramel malting underscores orange compote, boysenberry and gooseberry tartness.
BARLEYWINE – Harvest Moon Moonshine Barleywine – mild bourbon-burgundy-affected caramel buttering coats dried fruited sashay. JJ Bitting’s Cask Barleywine
competes favorably with its soft-focus, dark-fruited burgundy wining.
BELGIAN PALE ALE – Flying Fish Exit 6 Wallonian Rye Belgian Ale – strong adjunct ale blends Belgian yeast and American hops as lemon-seeded orange peel bittering contrasts candi-sugared apple, peach, melon and honeydew fruiting atop firm rye wheat bed.
CREAM ALE – Climax Cream Ale – sparkling yellow-fruited seltzer fizz and mild hop spicing reach crystal malted sugaring, bettering effervescent, citric-spiced River Horse Cream Ale by a grain.
DOPPELBOCK – Ramstein Winter Wheat Doppelbock – German-styled full body decorates chocolate-roasted coffee frame with dry raisin-prune-plum souring, black cherry-pureed red grape tang and coarse nuttiness. Harvest Moon Doppelbock also sufficed with its bourbon-themed, brandy-wined candy sugaring.
DORTMUNDER – Ramstein Revelation Golden Lager – robust Bavarian lager with earthen, peat fungi soiling and wheat-cracked, barleycorn dryness not unlike English ESB.
DUNKELWEIZEN – Cricket Hill Crickets Nocturne Dark Lager – effective Munich dunkel contrasts cocoa-seeded, black chocolate chalking and peat-smoked molasses malting against coarse, hop-roasted rye breading.
GRAND CRU – Tun Tavern Grand Cru – terrific medicinal-honeyed Belgian-styled ale with caramelized apple hook, Drambuie liqueur line, and bruised banana-orange sinker overriding brown-sugared clove-coriander. Another worthy nominee, Flying Fish Grand Cru Winter Reserve, pleats sharply alcoholic corn-sugared Scotch malting with orange-spiced peach tang.
GRUIT – Tun Tavern Gruit-styled Winter Warmer – easy-flowing curative with primary sassafras theme overlaying eucalyptus, caraway seed, dried fig and radish illusions.
HEFEWEIZEN – Ramstein Platinum Blonde – peerless, yellow-fruited, perfume-wafted German wheat ale with expectant, banana-clove-coriander frontage given lemon meringue-pied, orange-tangerine marmalade glaze over soft-hopped pep.
IRISH RED ALE – Artisan’s Irish Red – an earthen, coffee-roasted, orange-dried, fennel-tapered charmer.
IRISH STOUT – Port 44 Black Bodhran Irish Stout – creamy milk chocolate and kiln-roasted coffee reach dry nutty bottom.
MAIBOCK – Ramstein Maibock – dewy, leafy-hopped gourd-like autumnal crispness spreads across red-fruited apple spicing and peppery, rye-dried lip-smack.
POMEGRANATE WHEAT – Port 44 Pomegranate Wit – lemony, cherry-soured raspberry vinaigrette pucker infiltrates blanched wheat base.
PUMPKIN ALE – River Horse Hipp-O Lantern Imperial Pumpkin – sharp-hopped mulling spices increase mighty pumpkin theme as banana-bruised, apple-candied black cherry tang surges to medicinal finish.
RASPBERRY WHEAT – JJ Bitting Raspberry Wheat – mildly bitter raspberry-seeded fructose dessert beer.
TOASTED LAGER – River Horse Lager – obliging, chocolate-malted, almond toasting seeps into tobacco-leafed crisping and lemon-spiced apricot and orange.