NEW JERSEY – SOUTH
Inside a freestanding building at Kings Highway Commerce Center just outside Philadelphia in South Jersey’s Maple Shade lies the eighth IRON HILL franchise. Celebrating its second anniversary (July 21, 2011), this capacious red-bricked post with black awning and tinted windows was sojourned prior to crossing the Delaware River into north Philly. An upscale modern facility with dark wood furnishings, central bar (with 3 TV’s), hanging lamps, back dining, and rear brew tanks succeeds as both a sportsbar and mall eatery. Plus, a newly marketed growler machine, hooked up to each tap line, takes the load of busy bartenders by automatically filling the half-gallon containers and adding carbon dioxide.
Exquisite food, described as ‘new American cuisine,’ truly sufficed. I had the fish soft taco, a delicious catfish dish draped with pineapple, red cabbage, and jalapeno slaw on top of a flour tortilla, while imbibing ten seasonal/ specialty ales (forgoing the five house beers tried at other Iron Hill sites). Lucky patrons may purchase favorite selections in bottled versions to take home.
Brewer Chris La Pierre stopped by to say hi as I quaffed his well-rounded, finely detailed offerings. On cask, subtle medium-bodied English-styled bitter, Anvil Ale, retained a dryer reedy musk, floral-hopped chamomile or green tea sway, mild pumpernickel lick and teensy tangerine twist. The nitro version of staple Ironbound Ale, known as Kellerbound, brought soft citric-hopped bittering to creamy crystal-caramel malts and tertiary floral herbage.
Though the traditional German Pilsner seemed too mainstream, its dry-bodied maize astringency, citric sharpness, raw-honeyed bittering and buttery milling grains suit long-time lagerheads.
Three expressive Belgian-styled brews competed favorably against two German wheat beers. Light-bodied moderation, Belgian Wit, secured subtle banana-clove-coriander expectancy with candi-sugared Belgian yeast, unripe orange-tangerine tartness and herbal nuances. More impressive, Belgian IPA coaxed sharp citric-spiced bittering above sweet crystal malting, lacing floral grapefruit-peeled pineapple-pear-apricot fruiting with parched bark-dried kindling to its rye-breaded backend. Better still, tropical-fruited Cannibal, a strong Belgian pale ale, imparted a ripe banana-peach-pear conflux supplemented by white-peppered clove spicing, herbaceous splendor and sudden licorice notes.
On the Bavarian tip, delicate Hefeweizen melded clove spicing to lemony orange-banana tartness. Softly perfume-hopped Hopfenweizen benefited from its mild summery effervescence, enhancing the expectant banana-clove-coriander theme with candied pineapple and tangy orange.
A complex double IPA, crafted to celebrate Iron Hill’s anniversary, totally ignited the early afternoon crowd. Brewed with citric Japanese-bred Sorachi Ace hops, the illustrious Second Rising plied sweet whiskey warmth to mild mocha malts, picking up sugared fig, fried banana, red grape, date, almondine, and lemony coconut illusions along the way.
Nearly as good, Kryptonite coerced a full-thrust hop-embittered assault out of brisk wood-seared fruit spicing, contrasting amiable caramel, butterscotch, marzipan and vanilla sweetening.
My wife and I left her parents’ ocean front Long Beach Island domicile to pick up her mother at Philadelphia International Airport, February 2012. Along the way, we ate ultimate nachos at Maple Shade’s Iron Hill while I consumed three previously untried dark ales plus one tantalizing Belgian-styled beaut.
Luca Brasi Milk Stout really killed! Its dark-roasted Sumatran coffee bean bittering perfectly contrasted the chewy burnt caramel sweetness and ancillary black chocolate, vanilla, Kahlua and raspberry notions seeping through the charred hop roast.
Nearly as great, Belgo Black (placing flagship Pig Iron Porter in Belgian yeast) brought smoked molasses malting to Belgian chocolate spicing and fig-sugared raisin-prune nuances.
India Black IPA competed favorably with its earthen peat malts gaining cappuccino, espresso and dark chocolate tendencies above dark-fruited cherry, blackberry and fig illusions as well as ashen wood smoke.
Buttery sweet Unassisted Tripel Strong Ale gathered plum-sugared fig spicing for bubble-gummy banana-clove pleasantries.