Saint Patrick’s Day is almost here and for better or for worse, beer plays a major role in it’s celebration. All across the state, revelers will flock to every joint with a “Mc” or “O’” on the sign, stand three or four deep at the bar, and drink their fill of the holy trinity. That is, Guinness, Smithwick‘s and Harp (dyed green of course). Then they’ll choke down some Corned Beef and Cabbage and say what a grand day it was.
There’s another way folks. What’s more Irish than having a quiet pint with your friends? Not possible on Saint Patrick’s Day you say? While everyone is reviewing the endless “Irish” pubs in New Jersey, I’d like to introduce you to a couple of places that are serious about their beer and, God Forbid, not Irish! You see, that’s the sneaky part. While everyone else is pushing their way into O’Grady’s or some such, you can be comfortably seated at the bar in an atmosphere where you can actually have a conversation and only have to eat Corned Beef if you really, really want to.
The Twin Lights Taphouse in Highlands is new on my list of favorite beer hideaways. They’re proof positive that you don’t have to have 100 taps and a bazillion bottles to be a great beer destination. With only 9 taps and a modest (but growing) bottle list, each offering is obviously well thought out. On my recent visit, I tried a Southern Tier Unearthly Imperial IPA, a Weyerbacher Verboten Belgian Pale Ale and a Victory Headwaters Pale Ale. Check out the Twin Lights Taphouse website for a complete list. Grab a bite to eat too. The Taphouse style wings with a glaze of pale ale, honey and garlic are a nice alternative to palate killing Buffalo style. For those who read my article about Flying Fish Exit 9, turn up on Thursday for Flying Fish night! The Twin Lights Taphouse is a casually elegant little gastro pub that’s also beer geek heaven.
Speaking of twins, the Shipwreck Point in Point Pleasant Beach and their sister location, Shipwreck Grille across the river in Brielle are quietly harboring some great beer selections. At the Grille, you’ll usually find a couple of good taps (Dogfishhead Red and White is on now) and if you’re in the mood for fish, they do it perfectly every time. On the other hand, the Point is billed as a steakhouse. In true NYC steakhouse tradition everything is alla carte and it’s pricey but worth it. They also have a small number of taps and our bartender, Anthony, tells us it’s an uphill battle not having Bud as one of them. Offerings include La Chouffe, Troegs Hopback Amber and Javahead Stoudt, Dogfishhead 60 Minute IPA, Flying Fish Amber, and Cricket Hill Barrel Aged Porter. The best part about both locations: no TV’s. You can sit and talk to someone across the bar about beer or the current weather up in Portland Maine. Cozy is the operative word.
Those are my picks for getting away from the maddening crowd this coming Thursday. How about adding a comment and suggesting your favorite place for a great pint that might be “under the radar”?
On a final note, I have two favors to ask of you this Saint Patrick’s day:
1. Whatever you do, please do it responsibly.
2. Just say no to green beer.
Peter Culos is the editor of “Beer Bites,” a new monthly feature about breweries, bars and good beer in the garden state. A graphic designer by day, and a life long New Jersey resident, Peter was first introduced to the novel idea that beer could actually have flavor during several visits to the UK. He’s been riding the craft beer bus ever since. It has been called the ultimate social lubricant and Peter’s philosophy on beer is, “I’d rather split my last good beer with a friend than drink the whole thing by myself.” Besides beer he also likes history, dogs, Jeeps and painting. In the past, he has written a History and Art blog for the Weider History Group and occasionally contributes to his own blog, history-geek.com. Life is short. Drink good beer.