That's right, New Jersey Breweries is now officially out of date, and Mark and I could not be happier. It's out of date because Iron Hill Maple Shade officially opened last night (there was a soft opening over the weekend, Iron Hill's usual gig), and it was a pretty solid success. Mark and I joined the pre-opening throng for a couple beers and dinner (India Black Ale, an IPA with roasted malt; Kellerbound, an unfiltered Ironbound ale on nitro (!); and my go-to Iron Hill tap choice, Pig Iron Porter; I had a simple, delish bowl of pasta bolognese (that's our waitress, Nancy, at top middle of the picture below, flanked by drinking co-founder Mark Edelson and hard-working Maple Shade brewer Chris LaPierre)).
But hey, there was a lot more to this than just drinking and eating and saying congratulations. This, as I mentioned to IH co-founder Kevin Finn, was epochal: this is a solidly financed, experienced brewpub opening in South Jersey, in a beer wasteland so sparsely dotted with good beerspots that it is legend in southern PA. I have no doubt that this will affect the business at Philly beer bars, because there will be a lot of NJ beervolk who will no longer feel the need to cross the Delaware as often. Iron Hill Maple Shade was hopping last night, and I'm sure they're going to do very well.
I am also convinced that this will change the rules in this area entirely, those rules being "stick to what sells, don't get that fancy micro-shit beer." Iron Hill is going to show South Jersey bar owners and restaurateurs that craft beer not only sells, it sells well at a higher price; Iron Hill is going to rub their noses in that. And those rules will change, and there are going to be new bars, and new beer selections. You bet there are. This is very big, and will affect Philly bars, will affect Flying Fish, Yards, and Philadelphia Brewing (and every other packaging brewer who's ready to capitalize on it).
If you live in South Jersey, and you've been waiting for this for years...welcome home. Your brewpub just arrived.