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 Even if it does mean that New Jersey Breweries will be out of date this time next year!