Twenty-five years ago, drinking fresh beer in the place where it was made was a novelty here in New Jersey. Atlantic City’s Tun Tavern was one of perhaps three or four spots in the state where this was a possibility. Like other brewpub pioneers, The Ship Inn (now Descendants Brewing, in Milford) and Basil T’s (now Birravino, in Red Bank), the Tun has a new lease on life.
Don’t expect an extreme makeover or a name change though. After all, the name Tun Tavern itself is as old as the Marine Corps! If you’d like to geek out on history like I do, you’ll find the whole story on the website. Another history lover, new head brewer Will Mink has completely revitalized the beer program. In recent years, the Tun’s beer was a bit of an unmade bed, that is, until Mink signed on in July of 2021. He has tightened up those military corners, and it’s safe to say you can bounce a quarter off of the sheets now!
Love for Lagers
While Mink comes across more like a surfer than a Marine, his great respect for tradition is unmistakeable. That’s why he loves to brew lagers. He also likes a challenge.
Lagers can be temperamental to brew and can require a lot of tweaking to get right. When you visit, do yourself a favor and check out the lager section of the menu before you charge straight for their flagship Diving Horse Hazy IPA. It’s a great example of that style, but you don’t want to miss out on some very nice lagers.
At the time of my visit, the four lagers on tap covered the spectrum from light to dark. There’s always a light lager on tap and it’s as clean as can be. The Peregrine Pils (named for the Peregrine falcons who nest on the roof) is flawless. The crispness is somewhat rounded out by the addition of Huell Melon hops to the tradition earthy German Noble hops and sports a very subtle fruity note.
The rich copper-colored Christmas lager and the Black Duck schwarzbier black lager complete the picture. Check out the website for more detailed tasting notes because they are dead accurate. These beers are what they say they are!
On the Ale Side
I’m pretty enthusiastic about the ale side of the house as well. The Churchhill stout has enticing chocolate notes and that velvety smooth mouthfeel that only a nitro tap can impart. The assertive hop kick at the end is reminiscent of black IPA.
I’ve already mentioned the Diving Horse Hazy IPA, which comes in a pale ale version with slight tweak to the hop profile and lower ABV. If you’re into West Coast IPAs, Sunrise Session IPA is packed with those pine and citrus flavors I love and punches above its weight at 4.7% ABV. Even the Blueberry Blast, a blueberry sour ale, is thoughtfully done. The blueberry is mostly in the nose and the tartness is tamped down a bit.
For all his respect for tradition and cleanly brewed lagers, Will Mink is creative, too. He’s working on a Pine Barrens themed beer. I’m pretty sure I’ve never had a beer aged on cedar. Throw in some pine nibs and cranberry and you’ve got a Jersey devil of a beer. There’s no release date yet but I’ll be looking for that one!
Tun Tavern is, of course, a brewpub, which means there’s food to go along with all that beer. The team is reworking the menu to complement the new beer program—an excellent sign of what’s to come. For instance, the meal I enjoyed when I visited, the brisket burger paired with the Christmas lager, is exactly what a great brewpub experience should be: thoughtful but not pretentious.
If Tun Tavern has fallen off your radar it might time to alter course and give it a try.
2 Convention Blvd.
Atlantic City, NJ