NEW JERSEY – NORTH
Overlooking a side-winding creek blocks from the Delaware River in the Arcadian small-town countryside of Milford, maritime-inspired English pub, THE SHIP INN, began operations in 1995 and has bragging rights as Jersey’s first brewpub.
First visited December ’07, this tan-hued maroon-etched side-decked green-walled British-styled public house is lodged inside a historic Victorian building that was used as a busy speakeasy during prohibition. Large wooden doors open to an elongated left-hand back tile-ceilinged oak bar with wood furnishings, hanging pewters, mugs and tap handles strewn about. Backroom supper space sidled antique Peter Austin brew kettle setup while nautical paraphernalia lined the entire interior. Three formal dining rooms were available.
Typical British dishes such as fish and chips, venison stew, and shepherd’s pie accompanied excellent United Kingdom bottled-canned beer selections from Samuel Smith, Theakston’s, Mc Ewan’s, Melbourne Brothers, etc. Alongside plentiful Chicken Hot Pie (featuring shrimp, leeks, and mushrooms), consumed brewer Timothy Hall’s commendable Extra Special Bitter, a frothy-headed wood-stained Cascade-hopped dry body appending grapefruit rind bittering to rye-pumpernickel toasting and creamy residual sugars.
Nearly as great were Hall’s black chocolate-embittered coffee-roasted hop-charred crystal-malted Randy’s Panhead Porter and buttery lemon-seeded grapefruit-soured perfume-hopped black-peppered rye-honeyed walnut-seared tealeaf-tinged cask conditioned Best Bitter. Softer palates will drift towards fluffy floral-hopped grapefruit-fizzed currant-sharpened horsehide-dried Session Ale.
During May ’09 revisit, caught up with Hall once again. Tried busy tea-like Toasted Ale, with its herbal white-peppered pumpernickel surge and coffee-burnt, chocolate-roasted, hop-toasted, cherry-daubed saunter.
Ate lemon-peppered whitefish with green version of cocoa-beaned nut-shelled prune-date-smeared Randy’s Panhead Porter. Afterward, quaffed lemony baked-breaded wheat-husked herbal-soaped Golden Wheat Ale.
On an overcast Sunday in May 2011, long-time brewmaster Timothy Hall joined me as I quaffed two previously untried beers, one new year-round offering, and one rightful award-winning staple, Panhead Porter. Leaning on this British side, Hall’s distinctive handcrafted whole-grain ales really rule the rural roost.
Right in line with this rainy spring season, Spring Mild retained a delicate English-styled bitterness, placing crystal malts in a dramatic peat-smoked tobacco-dried grain setting, picking up a musty fungi earthiness along the way.
Even better, the tongue-tied Pheasant Plucker was definitely the “pleasant fucker” I laughingly requested. A busy, yet approachable, brown ale, its Scotch-splotched peat smoked malting picked up dry mocha-cocoa affluence, earthen woodsy dewiness, sinewy molasses creaming, peanut-shelled cola-walnut shard and dark-spiced kelpee seaweed oiling.
Doing me a huge favor, Hall headed downstairs to the ground level brew tank area and poured me a slightly green version of a viscous pale ale made with local honey over an Extra Special Bitter base. This supreme concoction, known as Killer Bee, brings soft-focus citric intrigue to glutinous raw honey sapping and recessive butterscotch malting. Presently set for regular rotation alongside pumpernickel-toasted Extra Special Bitter, citric-dried Best Bitter and baked-breaded Golden Wheat Light, the bees-waxed bittersweet treat will have heads floating like butterflies.
Before heading out after enjoying truly delicious drunken mussels and fish ‘n chips with beer samples, Hall informed me The Ship Inn will brew an India Pale Ale for the early summer and a bitterer offshoot, Northwest IPA, to follow.