HIDDEN SANDS BREWING COMPANY

 

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EGG HARBOR, NEW JERSEY

Filling out a large 10,000 square foot aluminum warehouse in Central Jersey’s Egg Harbor, HIDDEN SANDS BREWING COMPANY opened January 2018. A multifarious high ceilinged venue with a welcoming ground floor pub, spacious table-chaired mezzanine area (with twelve draught handles) and upper level seating space, Hidden Sands utilizes a freshwater aquifier that provides a clean briskness to each handcrafted beer.

There are twelve taps at the ground level, formica-topped, ten-seat serving station. Antique beer cans line the front wall and a Hidden Sands insignia hangs down on the opposing wall while decorative barrels and five small tables fill out the concrete-floored room.

My wife and I hang around for a few hours, downing all twelve crisply clean watered suds this seasonally warm March afternoon, 2020. Not many breweries offer three pilsner-lagers, but Hidden Sands did.

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Pleasantly mild Bavarian-styled flagship, 800′ Pilsner, brought sugary pilsner malting to lightly salted lemondrop souring and daintily citric Hallertau/Tettnanger-hopped floral spicing.

Sweet orange peeled peach, tangerine and clementine fruiting glided thru mild mineral-grained Noble hop herbal bittering for crisply clean Helles Lager.

Easygoing Hidden Helles Lager placated its tangy peach-tangerine-clementine conflux with moist earthen-grained Noble hop bittering.

Maize-dried pilsner malts crisply engaged light lemon sugaring for The Kolsch, a delicately sparkling straw yellow light body.

Glistening Citra-hopped orange and grapefruit spicing added pizzazz to pilsner-lightened honey wheat as lemon-dropped floral herbage fluttered behind pale yellowed moderation, Pump Handle Honey Wheat Ale.

A milder West Coast interpretation, 107′ IPA let refreshingly citric floral-perfumed Citra-Centennial-Columbus hops enjoin coniferous pine needling and mild juniper bittering to top its dry pale malted spelt spine.

Delicate citrus-spiced tanginess, oats-flaked pilsner malting and relegated piney hop bittering set the stage for straightforward 608′ Imperial IPA.

By blending 608′ with strawberry, tart citrus piquancy and oats-flaked pilsner malts subsumed much of Strawberry Imperial IPA’s floral-bound berry essence.

Kettle-soured compost soiling seeped into tart lemon-candied peach sourness for spritzy white wined Sand Blasted Sour Peach Ale.

Just as approachable, tropical fruited lollipop, Sand Blasted Sour Guava Ale, stayed slightly sour as tart guava salting grazed lemon-candied gooseberry, passionfruit and papaya snips.

Dark-roasted coffee infiltrated maple syrup-draped First Drop Coffee Maple Baltic Porter, leaving rye-dried Black Patent malt bittering on its caramel-burnt dark chocolate bottom.

Creamy milk-sugared coffee crowded roasted chocolate malts for sweet mocha dessert, Imperial Stout, the perfect afternoon delight to close my visit.

SLACK TIDE BREWING COMPANY

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CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE, NEW JERSEY

Inside a tin-roofed, stone-based, tan aluminum barn house mall at Cape May Court House, SLACK TIDE BREWING COMPANY opened for biz during December ’15. Using locally sourced natural ingredients from the Cape May region, this three-barrel outpost owned and operated by brothers’ Jason and Taghd Campbell crafts well-rounded diversified suds.

Slack Tide’s nautically-themed tasting room features an six seat, eighteen-tap serving station with a pristine white-tiled blue wall backdrop. The cement-floored pub also contains nifty palate wood accents, fourteen chaired tables, a centered blackboard beer list and one TV. Several silver tanks, wood barrels and a canning line dot the rear.

First up this sunny February ’20 afternoon, ‘easy drinking tropical fruited’ moderation, Schoolie Pale Ale, brought sharply citric IPA briskness to the fore as spritzy lemon zest brightened grapefruit rind bittering, orange peel sweetness and pineapple tanginess above the lightly spiced salty bottom.

Then came a string of variegated India Pale Ales starting with centrist moderate-bodied flagship, Tipsy Dipsy, a durable Citra-hopped Imperial IPA (with well hidden 8% ABV) boasting lemony orange-peeled grapefruit tanginess, tart pineapple salting and subtle peach, nectarine and clementine illusions alongside lightly creamed vanilla-dabbed pale malting.

Possibly as popular, dry West Coast-styled IPA, Angry Osprey, serenaded piney grapefruit-peeled orange rind bittering with salty mango, lemony herbal notions and grassy hop astringency.  

Dry pine lacquering enjoined zesty orange-peeled lemon zest and yellow grapefruit rind bittering for double dry-hopped NEIPA, Neutral Buoyancy, a lactose-teased medium body with mild hop bittering and earthen compost surfacing latently.

Another New England IPA, The Ridge, loaded oaken vanilla-laced lactose upon tangy yellow grapefruit-juiced orange rind bittering as well as sour gooseberry-guava-passionfruit illusions, dainty peach-tangerine-mango spicing and light herbal peppering.

Mild citrus zest gained vanilla-creamed banana and clove sweetness for amber-clouded Belgian Blonde, Bell Buoy, leaving a daub of salty white-peppered herbage upon the gentle sourdough base.

Then came a cast of stellar stouts.

Nitrogenated Monkey Face Stout, a dry Irish Stout, retained mildly creamed nut-charred dark coffee roast and Bakers chocolate bittering.

Creamily milk-sugared French roast coffee and Vermont maple syrup combined for sweetly soothing Imperial Breakfast Stout, Morning Bite, leaving dark chocolate, maple oatmeal and toffee subsidies to fight back its lightly embittered tarry hop sear.

Like a vanilla iced coffee, lusciously decadent sweet stout, Manatee Milk, utilized Columbian coffee to amplify its Madagascar vanilla bean bittering, milky lactose-sugared chocolate syruping and spiced toffee nicety.

AVALON BREW PUB

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AVALON, NEW JERSEY

At the tony white sandy beach town of Avalon, ‘upscale casual gastropub,’ AVALON BREW PUB, was established in 2016. Specializing in efficiently traditional mid-range beers and serving sumptuous cuisine in a demurely sophisticated atmosphere, Avalon’s high profile ocean visibility makes it a prime summertime hotspot.

A small cement patio with hot weather furnishings and a couch leads patrons to the exquisite porcelain-tiled wood floor pub. Edison lights dot the ceiling alongside unique silver keg tops. There are fifteen dining tables, an eight-stool marble top bar with two TV’s, an aqua blue-painted backdrop with white Avalon insignia and a windowed brew room.

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Mild Bohemian-styled Chill Pils, placed subtle grapefruit, pineapple and orange zest next to delicate lemongrass herbage above dry pale lagered malts.

Expansive grain-toasted amber ale, Healing Sun, took on piney orange-red-yellow fruiting and dry pine resin for a vibrant IPA-like moderation.

“Sharp, twangy” witbier, Belgian Beach Bum, retained a charmingly seductive orange-peeled coriander spicing reinforced by chamomile, lemongrass and cellared funk subsidies.

Amber grain-toasted crisping and dry hop phenolics plied Red Session Ale with brisk grapefruit-orange-peach tanginess, pastry-like pale malting and dried maize astringency.

Floral citrus-spiced West Coast IPA, We Don’t Play, a brisk hometown favorite, let orange-peeled grapefruit tanginess gain pale malt sugaring in a moderate-bodied setting.

Sessionable IPA, Cooler By A Mile, a hoppier version of We Don’t Play, allowed floral-perfumed citrus zest to graze its grassy wet-grained finish.

GUSTO BREWING COMPANY

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NORTH CAPE MAY, NEW JERSEY

Taupe mall-bound GUSTO BREWING COMPANY began its journey December 21, 2018. Since then, the venturesome seven-barrel/seven-fermenter nano beerhouse has turned out over 75 different brews in fifteen short months ‘keeping it small and keeping it weird.’

Gusto head brewer Dan Petela began experimenting as a homebrewer for seven years, bartending at nearby Cape May Brewing before manning Gusto’s tanks. His glass-encased brew room turns out surefire suds for the ten draught taps at the fifteen-seat, concrete-topped, glass-crushed serving station in the brown vinyl-floored, baby blue-outlined pub. A mezzanine provides grain storage and a mill room.

I surveyed nine fine offerings during my one-hour, chilly afternoon perusal late February ’20.

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Sunny lemon zest adjoined lightly spiced grapefruit and orange briskness, winey green grape tartness and herbal wood tones for oats-based As The Crow Flies Pale Ale, the most approachable brew on hand.

Precariously offbeat pale-cleared turnabout, Soft Handshake Lager, a dry-hopped moderation, soaked Merlot grape esters in sour gooseberry-guava tropicalia, limey lemongrass herbage and harvested dill over its gentle white wheat bed – going way beyond stylistic tradition.

Mossy earthen dew gathered musty cellar funk to contrast the toffee-like Maris Otter malting of Cool Hand Lucas ESB.

Dewy English IPA-like rye malting advanced Switch Pop Shove-It , leaving earthen herbal fungi and minor pine resin upon zesty orange, dried lemon and melon rind.

Dryly citric-piney Slam Poet IPA scattered spritzy lemon zest across yellow grapefruit and orange rind bittering as well as salted mango tanginess, relegating its honeyed oats spine.

Sugar-spiced citrus juicing paved the way for Said The Joker To The Thief IPA, scattering lemon peel bittering across mild grapefruit, navel orange and clementine tanginess as well as wispy herbage.

Dried fruited candi sugaring gave cilantro-seeded Blackbird Fly Dark Saison the appeal of a  Belgian dubbel, posting prune, plum, raisin and currant notes for its dewy peat bottom.

Decadent chocolate and ‘sultry vanilla’ headlined Little Spoon: Swoon Edition, a mocha-creamed oatmeal stout with Bakers chocolate, cocoa nibs and light-roast coffee tones settling atop caramel-burnt maple oats.

Dark maple syrup coated wood-burnt black chocolate and dark-roast coffee for Oliver Bright’s Maple Caper Imperial Stout, a hazelnut-glazed barley roaster with black cherry snips. 

EVIL TWIN NYC WILD BANANA SPLIT STOUT

Chewy full-bodied dessert stout (with heady 12.5% ABV) knocks off banana split with confectionery Thai banana and roasted peanut adjuncts gathering below syrupy dark chocolate goo. Creamily mocha-topped, bourbon vanilla-centered digestif gathers sufficient blackberry brandy, burgundy, dried cherry, caramelized fig, prune and glazed hazelnut subsidies to enhance its bold warmth.

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