The Jersey shore, birthplace of some of America’s most important cultural institutions (notably the Miss America bikini scholarship pageant and the death-defying Steel Pier Diving Horse) is also home to one of America’s noblest beer-drinking innovations.
I refer, of course, to the old seven-beers-for-a-buck deal at Somers Point’s Anchorage Tavern. This buzz-inducing bargain – surpassed only by the complimentary drinks the casinos distribute to their suckers, er, patrons – introduced thousands of teen-agers to the wonderful world of mass beer consumption and concomitant suds spewing. Back when Jersey’s legal drinking age was a mere 18 (which effectively meant 16 at shore bars), the 7-for-1 deal was a rite of summer.
Sadly, the evolution of brew down the shore has since focused only on quantity, not quality.
During extensive beach scavenging this summer, Joe Sixpack found few signs of progress amidst the Boardwalk beer bongs and those Homer Simpsonesque dual-can beer hats that are de rigueur Senior Week gear. The fare at most bars is giant mugs of Bud Light and happy-hour tacos. In my search for a decent ale, I called John Fogarty, who owns What’s Brewin’, the shore’s only homebrew shop.
Fogarty, a longtime homebrewer, quit his job as an accountant about a year and a half ago and opened his brew shop at the London Square shopping center in Northfield, on the mainland side of Atlantic City. He’s doing a decent business, especially among homebrewers trying to make their own version of the increasingly scarce Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.
Fogarty almost spit into his wort when I asked him where I could find a good beer at the shore.
He aimed me toward one decent joint, Schooner’s on Route 9 in Somers Point. It has a pool table and 24 taps, about half of which are micros, including Rogue Dead Guy Ale and Victory Hop Devil.
“Not to criticize the Jersey shore,” Fogarty told me, “but we’re sort of the end of a dead-end street. The beer revolution is just starting to come here. To be honest with you, when I’m looking for a good beer bar, I head back up to Philadelphia – to Manayunk Brewing or the Valley Forge brewpub.
“I can’t really blame people down here, though,” Fogarty added. “It’s summertime and people are looking for refreshment in their beer. On a hot summer day, you can’t go wrong with water, which is pretty much what you’re getting with Coors and the other light beers.”
So what does Fogarty pack for the beach on a hot summer day?
“My own homebrew, of course,” he answered. “I make a lemon wheat that’s perfect for the heat.”
Note to law-abiding citizens: Consumption of beer and other alcoholic beverages on the beach is strictly forbidden by local statute. Joe Sixpack does not (publicly) endorse the practice.
The shore should be getting its first brewpub by the end of the month. Kokomo’s, at the site of the old Urie’s restaurant in Wildwood, is expected to be serving its own beer by Aug. 22.
A few miles northwest, in Egg Harbor City, Tuckahoe Malt Brewing is hoping to open by the end of the year. And next year, the Tropicana in Atlantic City should open its long-awaited casino brewpub.
If you’re stocking the fridge at your summer house, the shore has several liquor stores with excellent selections. Check out Circle Liquors, on the circle at Somers Point, and Collier’s at Jackson and Lafayette in Cape May. Don’t be surprised if you find a leftover Oktoberfest, though – freshness is not a strong point at the shore.
(If you favor something stronger to watch the bayside sunset, stop by Community Liquors, 137 N. Dorsett Ave., Ventnor. At last count, the shop carried more 60 different varieties of single-malt Scotch whisky.)
Congrats to the local medalists in the 1997 American Homebrewers Association National Homebrew Competition. Alan L. Folsom Jr., a member of Keystone HOPS who lives in Warrington, took a bronze in the English and Scottish strong ale category for his Kirkpatrick’s Kilt ale. And Ted Johnston of Beer Unlimited Zany Zymurgists (BUZZ) in Phoenixville won a bronze in the English bitter category for his Henley Bear Bitter.
SEAT YOURSELF – FREE
Yo, Phillies fans – join Joe Sixpack at the Vet on Aug. 27 for an afternoon in the cheap seats. The Phils will face the San Diego Padres at 1:05 p.m., and yours truly will be the official lifeguard at the ballpark’s Bleacher Beach.
The Daily News has free tix, on a first-come, first-served basis. Call 215-854-2600 or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org for the details.
Be warned, though: Joe Sixpack takes his lifeguard duties seriously. I’ll whistle you if I see ya with lousy beer.