14th Annual Garden State Brewers' Guild Festival
Battleship New Jersey
Camden, NJ

It was a picture-perfect day...lots of sun and warm temps with no chance of rain; a nice breeze crossed the tent-covered fantail of the battleship and the crowds came to enjoy the best beers the Garden State has to offer. 767 tickets were sold for the event and the thirsty throngs arrived taking advantage of the free tour of the ship as well as the beers. There is a lot of history in this old ship and exemplifies the saying "if only these walls could talk...". I remember seeing her at the Philadelphia Naval Yard in 1967 in mothballs before they refitted her for service in Viet Nam...what a sight! But I digress.....(to quote a famous friend of ours).
My friend George decided to accompany me on his first beer festival as my wife was otherwise disposed. Not being shy, he didn't seem to mind that I had to do my work as the Mid-Atlantic Brewing News reporter and get all the latest scoops from the brewers for my looming deadline. I also got to see some old friends and make some new ones.

This was a welcoming of Trap Rock Brewpub back into the Guild fold and debut of the newest brewery, NJ Beer Co from North Bergen. Owner Matt Steinberg was there to meet and greet and help the team pour their 3 beers, Hudson Pale Ale, Garden State Stout and 1787 Abbey Single, both on cask and on CO2....a great first showing. Charlie Schroeder of Trap Rock was also in attendance showing the crowd that a trip to Berkeley Heights is well-warranted.
Also, for the first time, I got to meet the new brewer at The Ship Inn in Milford, Jim Waters. The owner/former brewer, Tim Hall, has always been elusive and press shy. I like the new attitude with JW at the helm. Being a lover of English cask ales, I always enjoyed visiting the brewpub even though it is quite a hike for me. The authentic British pub experience you get here is certainly worth the trip from anywhere!
Of course, all the usual suspects were there: Flying Fish, Cricket Hill, Basil T's, Triumph, Tun Tavern, Gaslight, High Point, Pizzeria Uno and Iron Hill.

Guild President, Gretchen Schmidhausler of Basil T's, had brought a wonderful Chocolate IPA, Coco B. Ware, which was a hit for me. Flying Fish served their latest in the Exit series, Exit 6, a Wallonian Rye Ale, as well as some of the Exit 4 and their other fine beers. High Point is always a hit in the summer with their wide selection of refreshing wheat beers! Greg Zaccardi is always expanding and improving his repertoire and will be offering 22oz bottles for most of his line in the near future.
Gaslight really kicked it up a notch this year and brought some outstanding brews with them: Coffee Stout, Abbey Normal and Eliminator...what a treat.
Cricket Hill had the crowd-pleaser of the day, though. Their first high grav beer, a barleywine, was released this winter and was a rare commodity. They announced that at 3PM, the pouring would begin. The queue started forming early and I was lucky enough to get right up front for my share. I gave it a 3+ stars. Not to be their last either! New limited releases will be making appearances regularly.
I even got a chance to meet Ben Battiata of Turtle Stone Brewing who is waiting to procure a permanent site for his brewing system that is sitting in Oregon ready to make the trip east when that occurs. We wish him luck.
My good friend and fellow journalist, Jeff Linkous, was on hand to document this latest event on video, interviewing the beer cogniscenti for his blogsite, Beer Stained Letter. Jeff keeps his ear to the ground, his eyes wide open and his hand on the pulse of NJ beer.
This event transpires every June and should be on your to-do list. So many great beers and a chance to converse with the brewers! Come early and enjoy touring the battleship and then tasting the beers. (Be advised they don't allow it the other way around.)