Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Port 44 in Newark is now brewing

For the first time in years, there is beer being brewed in Newark that's not coming from Anheuser-Busch.

After a long, frustrating wait and an accompanying share of anticipation, Port 44 Brew Pub has begun making beer.

Port 44, New Jersey's newest brewery and the second Garden State brewpub to come online in a little over a year, now has an inaugural light ale in the fermenter, and plans call for another day of brewing on Wednesday.

"The good news is, we're up and brewing," owner John Feeley says, adding that regulators signed off on Port 44's licensing on July 28th.

After months of renovation at the 44 Commerce Street location, Port 44 opened for business in late April, standing beers from guest breweries on the bar for patrons, while the owners continued to navigate the sometimes choppy waters of securing the licensing that would allow them to make their own ales.

A grand opening is planned for this Thursday, but again guest brews will be featured. Alas, the brewpub's license was not issued in time to have house-made brews ready for the event.

Feeley says Port 44 will follow up the grand opening with some sort of bash to herald the brewpub's entry into the Garden State craft beer scene.

Newark was once a big player in the brewing industry, but Prohibition (1920-33) was a death knell for a number of the city's beer-makers. Industry consolidation in the years after Prohibition's demise left Budweiser as the last brewer standing in Newark. (Pabst shut down its Newark plant in the mid-1980s.)

Until now.

Meanwhile, over the past year, New Jersey has seen its brewing landscape reshaped with the addition of the two brewpubs and a production brewery.

Iron Hill in Maple Shade dragged the state out of brewing dormancy in July 2009 when it became the first new Garden State brewer since the bar-restaurant Krogh's tucked a 5-barrel brewing system into its confines in Sparta in 1999. (For the record, contract-brewed beers also emerged in this time.)

Last spring, New Jersey Beer Company in North Bergen began turning out a pale ale, stout and abbey single as its flagship brews.

And now Port 44 boosts New Jersey count to a combined 19 production and pub brewers since craft brewing arrived in the Garden State in the mid-1990s.


JessKidden said...

Contrary to a lot of the current "beer geek" literature and websites, NJ's "craft beer era" didn't start in the mid-'90's but in the mid-1980's, with the founding of Vernon Valley Brewing Co. I note that a mention of this pioneering brewery is apparently absent from the two most recent books- "New Jersey Breweries" by Bryson and Haynie (I believe the latter wrote the "history" section of the Introduction) and the very incomplete "Jersey Brew" (which doesn't even feature an index).

Vernon Valley (which, unfortunately, was originally located on the grounds of the amusement park "Action Park") would later become known as "Clement's Brewing Co." and briefly bottled their beers a few times (under the "Old World Classic" and "Clement's" brands) but was mostly known for kegs. They later came under the ownership of a NY company that owned a few early regional craft breweries/brewpubs, Empire, which collapsed.

Michael Jackson's 2nd Edition of his World Guide to Beer (1988), had a photo and a few paragraphs about the brewery and it's German-styles beers, and proclaimed their "Dark Lager" as the best in the US "in living memory".

Also of note is that the late Jay Mission of the Triumph brewpub chain was a brewmaster at Clement's, circa 1990 (see Newark Star-Ledger story, 4/18/90).

Jeff Linkous said...

Good catch. You're right. Thanks for pointing that out. It's been a memory lapse on my part.

And yes, Jay Misson ... He did have a deep roots in Jersey Brewing, which is why the NJ guild should name that festival after him, if it does nothing else.