Thursday, September 4, 2008

Finally: Iron Hill in New Jersey

Uncle Jack is reporting at the Beer Yard site that Iron Hill will be opening their 8th brewpub sometime in spring of '09 (roughly...) in -- finally! -- New Jersey: 124 Kings Highway, Maple Shade, NJ, to be precise. Close enough to Flying Fish that if I was standing in the parking lot and Casey Hughes told me he was buying a car, they could hear me laugh, with a following wind.

As Jack mentioned in his blog post, procuring a liquor license was the tough part of this. Liquor licenses in this part of NJ are ridiculously pricey, and, I maintain, part of the problem of nuisance drinking. High liquor license prices put comfy, relaxed corner bars out of business. They also make it tough for brewpubs to open; competition in this densely-populated market is so tough that opening as a beer-only operation is daunting.

The most exciting part of this news -- and I mean that, I am excited -- is that Iron Hill planting the craft beer flag in this part of New Jersey is bound to have a rising tide effect on South Jersey. Flying Fish has done very well in Philly, but continues to hit resistance here because of a lack of an on-premise outlet; Cork has an excellent small beer selection, but is primarily a restaurant with limited bar space, Rat's the same; and sorry, but P.J. Whelihan's just doesn't cut it as much more than a flash bar with a few big crafts, a kind of NJ-equivalent of a J.D. Wetherspoon's pub. Overall, this area is shockingly free of specialty beer taps and bottle selections, particularly given its proximity to the wonderful diversity and thick net of choices that is southeastern Pennsylvania.

Iron Hill should change that. It's the Fort Apache theory: plant an outpost of craft beer in an area, and if it doesn't go under -- and you know Iron Hill won't -- more places will serve craft beer, more places will shift to a craft menu. That's probably going to mean that we'll see NJ fewer faces in the Philly beer scene. But that's a change I'm willing to go through if it means they're happier at home. Even if it does mean that New Jersey Breweries will be out of date this time next year!

14 comments:

Jim_McMenamin said...

as a long time resident of Maple Shade this is great news

very easy for people to get to and heavily traveled area

who would have ever thought our little town in South Jersey could be at the beginning of something big in the micro scene

hope Iron Hill does well and other brewers follow their lead and cross over the bridge

Brew.Drink.Repeat. said...

I couldn't agree more with everything you said. A brewpub in this part of southern NJ is long overdue, and I feel that once the door is opened (along with people's eyes) the local beer scene will improve. Right now it's a total wasteland, with few options (Cork, Pizzeria Uno and the High Street Grill are about it -- sorry Lew, Rat's doesn't count as southern NJ. If that were the case we'd have to count Triumph as well). PJ's could be sooooo much better than it is, given their clout, but they seem to be oblivious. And there's really nowhere else that offers anything outside of the macros.

BTW there is already another brewpub supposedly coming to my town (Merchantville, to the building where the PNC Bank is currenly located). Not sure who it is yet but the (unconfirmed) word around town is that they will be affiliated with a large Philadelphia-area brewery whose first letter is Y and whose second letter is not U. I'm not sure I beleive that, but I don't really care. A brewpub within walking distance to my house is a super-welcomed addition in my book.

And considering Iron Hill is pretty much my favorite brewpub (chain or otherwise) in the local area I'm very stoked that I'll soon have one less than 10 minutes from my house and my work. Aaaahhhhhh... see you there on opening day!

Lew Bryson said...

Oh, no, you don't: I am not getting into a "Where's south NJ begin?" argument!

I heard that same Merchantville rumor...and wondered where "that brewery" was going to find the money, given their current situation (and more on that, soon).

Scoats said...

Regarding your comment: "They also make it tough for brewpubs to open; competition in this densely-populated market is so tough that opening as a beer-only operation is daunting."

Actually I believe quite the opposite is true. From what I read, Iron Hill NJ will be full liquor license restaurant. If they wanted to sell their beer only (like Victory was and maybe still is), a brewpub license would be enough.

Richard said...

Lew, one little bit of info wrt PJ's attempt to make craft beer available at their locations in NJ is their relationship with Victory Brewing Company. Two Victory beers, the Festbier and Sunrise, are contracted to PJ's. The Festbier is called Copper Lager (IMO a great name) and has been sold year round for about three years and Sunrise, which is called Whelihan's Wheat and is a seasonal beer, started being available in June (see the attached link http://www.pjsbrew.com/)

My understanding is that both beers are very popular. So it appears that PJ's management realizes that craft beer is a preferred beverage option to offer their costumers and to differentiate their operation from other competitors, especially in NJ.

Lew Bryson said...

Scoats,

That's what I'm saying: opening as a beer-only operation would be tough to make work, so they need that liquor license...which is wicked expensive. Getting a beer-only bar or brewpub license; actually, I'm not even sure that's an option in NJ. Anyone know?

We're in agreement in the assessment of the situation.

Lew Bryson said...

Richard,
Didn't mean (and didn't say) that PJ's had no craft. Said they had a few "big crafts", and yeah, they do have the house beers you mention. Wetherspoon's pubs, which I compared them to, almost always have cask ales. But PJ's craft offerings, and the way they present them, are not going to do much to "raise the tide." IMO, of course, but...it's my blog, IMO's what it's all about!

JessKidden said...

In NJ, the "Brew Pub" license (called a Restricted Brewery License) is only given to "...a person or entity that identically owns a Plenary Retail Consumption License..." according to NJ ABC rules, and there is no separate "beer" or "beer/wine" "Class C" retail license from what I can read (or have ever seen).

http://www.nj.gov/oag/abc/abc-hb-eng-esp.html

Lew Bryson said...

Thanks, JK!

Anonymous said...

Yes, NJ is incredibly anti-business in general, and definitely anti-alcohol-business in particular. Yet we keep voting the same fools into office over and over and over again...

Casey said...

I happen to be going car shopping on Saturday, not for me but its still car shopping.

Lew Bryson said...

HA HA HA!!

Can you hear me now?

geoffrobinson said...

Late to the thread, but let me say that PJ's commitment is getting better and I think they are getting it. They were advertising Sixpoint last time I passed by.

Anonymous said...

I'd love to see a brew pub in Merchantville and i think it would do great things for its downtown if it did well. Sadly I don't see it happening for one reason which is the Merchantville police department. I lived there for over 10 years and I still won't go there for a drink in fear of being pulled over. Its the typical case of a small town police force with too much time on their hands. I just picture the police sitting out front waiting for people to leave the place.