For wine lovers, swirling a glass of wine in the presence of the same grapevines that produced the fruit in your glass is the ultimate experience. As a beer enthusiast, I’ve dreamt of sipping beer while surrounded by the hop bines in my glass. That would require a trek to Washington’s vast hop fields in the Yakima Valley, right?
Nope. In fact, you don’t even have to leave the state to get this job done. Readington Brewery and Hop Farm lies just off of Route 202, in Neshanic Station. The brand new, cheerfully rustic brewery and taproom is surrounded by their three-acre hop farm. This summer, I’ll be able to sit and sip surrounded by over 700 mature and fragrant hop bines in Readington’s outside seating area. A dream come true.
A Little Help from Your Friends
When owner-operators Braun Kiess and Dan Aron obtained the property—fortuitously acquired when another bidder was out of town—they turned to the Rutgers Research Farm, in Pittstown, for help. Megan Muehlbauer, who was working on her PhD at the time, provided crucial advice about when to plant, what to plant, and even how to test the soil. Now working for the Hunterdon County Board of Agriculture, she’s still engaged. “Our farm manager, Jake Kim, talks with Megan on a regular basis regarding proper care and maintenance of our hop yard,” she said.
From Farm to Glass
The help from Rutgers paid off this year. Brewer Warren Wilson was able to conjure up their first harvest ale. Black Betty, a Black (Cascadian) IPA, was brewed entirely with Readington’s own farm-grown hops. Wilson said, “We had three pilot batches (3BBLs) of it disappear shortly after tapping, a well-received libation by patrons for sure.” I’m sorry I missed Black Betty but there’s always next year.
Readington is a 25-acre farm. Aside from hops, they also grow their own malt grains. “Next year, we hope to add to the Estate Beer by incorporating our malt as well,” Wilson told me. If soil is what imparts terroir in wine, then its counterpart in beer would be yeast. Eventually, Wilson plans to harvest yeast from around the farm and make it part of the estate beer recipe as well. “Rest assured, when this is complete we will produce the ultimate Estate Beer or beers, Reinheitsgebot style.”
Speaking of German Traditions
“We are planning to build a traditional German-style malthouse on the farm in the next few years,” Kiess told me. If all goes according to plan, they can malt the grains they are already growing right there on the farm.
“To build it, Dan and I are planning to visit Germany in the hopes of finding a German craftsman willing to come to the U.S., live on the farm, and build it—and maybe drink some beer along the way.” Clearly, authenticity is important at Readington. Until then they will continue to have their grain malted right here in New Jersey.
The farm isn’t big enough to keep all 14 taps flowing with beers made from their own ingredients. That’s more of a once-a-year event, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t tasty beer available year-round at Readington. Warren Wilson’s brewing philosophy is, well, interesting. “We look to beer origins, cities, countries, and historic people, breweries, and brewing styles to enable our creative juices to flow. Something I like to call Beerlanthropy, the study, love, and sharing of craft beer and brewing.”
The tap list includes beers inspired from a wide range of traditional styles. The rich malty Churchill ESB and the perfectly balanced Patriot IPA certainly reflect that. On the other hand, the tropical hazy Hop Bomber NEIPA and Strawberry Shortcake strawberry cream ale (limited release) show a playful side as well. It’s not hard to find something you’ll like at Readington.
Meet me in the shade of the hop bines!
Readington Brewery and Hop farm is part of the Hunterdon County Beer Trail, which we mentioned in this article.
Readington Brewery and Hop Farm
937 US Highway 202 S
Neshanic Station, NJ 08853