All About: Beer in Jersey City Pt. 2

Now, the second half of Beer in JC.

Best in show

Wurstbar

You know what you’re doing.

By far JC’s best beer bar since HopScotch closed down.  People didn’t value HopScotch despite their robust bottle program.  This is in part because there was absolutely nothing cool about the place, as was evident by the oars, Jimi Hendrix posters, and other goofy shit they had on the walls.  The food wasn’t particularly good, but they did have a real nice selection of whiskey.  But, if I’m being honest, Wurstbar has been getting some fucking FIRE over the past year, so I don’t even think HopScotch at its best could compete.

Much like the tensile steel that restrained King Kong, our nation’s first sweet prince, our state is currently restrained by archaic beer laws and burdensome taxation that prevents the same level of selection found across the river. Wurstbar manages to break through these shackles to find us amazing beer to consume.  This is the result of having someone who knows what the fuck they’re doing curate their selection instead of simply looking at the cost per barrel.  They CREATE demand instead of solely responding to it.

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I’ve had about 400 conversations that go almost exactly like this:

Rando: “Nice Things, I  want an unpasteurized plum lambic aged on oak – where should I go”

Me: “Wurstbar”

Rando: “Actually, I want a spicy imperial stout that tastes like Tres Leches”

Me: “Wurstbar”

Rando: “What about a Belgian Dark aged in Chardonnay Barrels?”

Me: “Go to Wurstbar”

Rando: “OK, sure, but I want a Basque cider thats HEAVY on the vanilla”

Me: “ Go to fucking Wurstbar”

Rando: “Alright, you cantankerous tit, I want a Swisher Sweet, but instead of smoking it, I wanna drink it”

Me: “You can go to hell.  And then you can go to Wurstbar because they fucking have that too.  It’s not good, but I don’t kink shame”

Additionally, their food is fucking great.  ‘Thoughtful’ is not typically a word I use to describe sausage, but that’s really the only way to describe their perfectly balanced offerings.  Almost every single sausage has elements of sweet, savory, sour, spicy, and a little bit of funk.  I fucking love this place, and I don’t care if it eventually becomes mobbed with amateur cicerones.  Go to Wurstbar.

Barcade

You’re new and you long for the unknown.

Barcade is the perfect beginner beer bar because of their large high-quality draft selection and the speed of their rotation.  Before you could find Cascade at your corner beer shop, Barcade had Sang Royale on tap. Still not an easy find.  Their selection will run a bit pedestrian at times, but I’m also a complete fucking snob.  You, reader, should drink your way through their rotation and discover some new shit.  Don’t be afraid to try something that sounds weird.  Your first sip of a sour will be drastically different from your 4th.  Think about what you drink.  Swirl it around your mouth and embrace the weirdness.  You will get what you give.

Honorable mention for having NBA JAM, 4 player Pac-Man, and Marvel vs Capcom.  If I hadn’t spent my twenties fist pumping in Seaside clubs and self-Edging, this trinity would  surely have given me carpal-tunnel.

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Jersey City Breweries

A few weeks back I was on Nextdoor and encountered a thread of angry locals twisting their dicks into knots about  902 opening up a big ass brewery and bar in the neighborhood. The group was split.  Half were in the full throes of passion, their loins quivering with the anticipation of being able to say “we just got a brewery”; the concept art sending them into fits of violent masturbation.  The full deluge of bodily fluids on the streets of Bergen-Lafayette suspended street cleaning for 3 whole days.  The streets have never been cleaner.

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The other cohort were angry neighbors reposting the same tired “there goes the neighborhood” response, as they’ve done so many times before.  This group longs for the days of cobbled roads and keeping the house warm with immolated horse shit.  Think of Clint Eastwood’s character from Gran Torino, now make 150 of them and give them Twitter fingers.  They’re not here for fun. These mirthless blowhards are here to spend every waking second feeling every painful inch of the life that surrounds them …and they want you to join them.

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These two insufferable groups were at odds.  And not one of them even asked if the beer was good.  So I’ll answer this question that was not asked.

902 Brewing

I can’t really say if 902 is good or bad because I’ve haven’t had explored their offerings as much as other NJ beers. However, what I have had left me pretty underwhelmed.    They deliver on the style they commit to in a predictable, dispassionate, and ultimately forgettable fashion.  They are drinkable, if you’re drinking an IPA you’re getting an IPA.  If you try their Black IPA, its going to have the roasted soil and Raisinettes profile you’d expect.  The comically named No Line is too apropos to be self-deprecating.  If you encounter these cans at a beer store they are the ones you try once and then move on.  You get it.

But, the most important item worth mentioning is that 902 is cucking Jersey City.  Two of their beers P.A.T.H (stands for Pale Ale True Hoboken) and Heaven, Hell or Hoboken, have fucking Hoboken in the title which is probably not great for a self-proclaimed Jersey City brewery, which their homepage says they are.  What’s more painful is that those are their two flagship beers.  I’m not a full on Hoboken hater, but if you want me to fly a flag for my local beer it better not have another city’s name on it.   This is what is supposed to get people in the door so they can try all the really good stuff at the taphouse, even if the taphouse is only a concept at this point.  They’ve also managed to shout out New Zealand on their cans before memorializing the city they are based in.

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902 is a caricature of gentrification.  They’ve moved to JC presumably because its cheaper, they plan on profiting off of a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood, and brand themselves as HOBOKEN.  I’m not drinking another one of these beers, the beers that I’m already not drinking, until I get Jersey City in that fucking title.

Take us out of the friend zone you fucking boners.

Departed Soles

Departed Soles does not suffer from this problem.  They embrace JC.   However, this doesn’t make them immune from criticism.

My gripe with DS is that they make so much weird shit that it’s hard to pinpoint what brews are thoughtfully crafted and which are a joke.  Some of their stuff tastes like a home brew, which is not a compliment and typically not something anyone ever pays for.   If you can’t get a good pale ale down then you probably don’t have any business canning a biere de garde.  They seem to get caught up in the gimmicks, like adding peeps into their beer or the rum barrel brews they had on for their 3rd anniversary.

This whole brewery lacks concentration and subtlety, which is why you’ll get beaten over the head with any additive put into their beer.  I wanna shove Adderall in their fucking mouth and watch them brew.  I’ll stand by their side and rap their knuckles with a ruler every time they reach for guava paste, or croissants, or a nest of angry hornets, or whatever weird shit they plan on throwing in these beers, until they can develop a desirable base to build off of.

You can see their potential in The Philosoraptor, what I’d consider their best and most popular beer, which has the refinement and balance that you would willingly pay for.  It’s clear these guys are having fun and being creative, but some attention to refining their core brews are needed.

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On a different note, their taphouse is a good hang and the beers are cheap, which makes up for a lot.  The dudes who run Departed Soles are super chill and not pretentious beer snobs, which is something that adds an insane amount of value to their place.  I’ve never had a bad time at Departed Soles and I’m going to keep spending my dollars there despite the short comings with the beer.

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With both of these breweries it’s easy to get into a dick measuring contest with the competition at other bars and beer shops, but it’s important to remember that these are two relatively young breweries and they are both trying to make good beer.  902 is starting to take a page out of Other Half’s playbook by releasing more NEIPA’s and showcasing single hop varietals. Departed Soles is following closer to Carton, another respectable NJ brewery, by attempting creative brews that push the boundaries of your comfort zone.  And this is the place where I find hope.

Both of these breweries are trying to make good beer and are being thoughtful throughout the process.  Creativity is a bold thing to attempt when your business is on the line, so in these instances it’s important that we award the attempt. Both of them started out making hot trash and have elevated their game to a place that warrants honest criticism instead of a participation trophy.  They know what good beer tastes like and are sailing both their ships towards that north star.  They are clearly hungry to develop their styles and hone their craft.

Beer can be challenging in this area because it takes a lot of time to get this stuff down right.  Additionally, experimentation takes time because beer takes time.  Unlike a restaurant, you can’t tonight’s staff meal into tomorrows special.  If you age a beer in a rum barrel for 48 hrs its only going to taste like disappointment.

As long as these guys do not get complacent they will make more beers you crave, and create more excitement when you see their cans in your local cold case.  I plan on continuing to support these guys until they stop giving a shit.  Except for 902.  My support for them is currently blindfolded, gagged, and being broadcasted live on Al-Jazeera until our demands are met.

*****

A few programming notes to wrap this up.

This blog isn’t possible without the feedback of all the people who read and support Nice Things.  Please continue to share your opinions and suggestions with me so that Nice Things can be a nicer thing.  Feedback, whether positive or negative, is essential to advancing whatever craft you are attempting to practice and I sincerely thank all the readers who have provided their thoughts.  All are welcome and I can certainly take what I dish out.

Second, the sole promotional component of Nice Things is you.  I don’t push or promote this blog, I don’t do sponsored content, I don’t buy followers to manipulate algorithms.  The SEO widget was an extra $9 a month on WordPress and even that was a bridge too far.  All this goes to say that if you like what you reading here you should like or share the blog with your friends.  You are the only reason anyone knows about this…well, and me obsessively following anyone who takes a picture of a JC meal on Instagram.

Last, If you’re feeling what I’m saying, I want you to be part of this.  If you’ve got an idea for a story, if you’ve heard about some insane shit that you’d like to speak on under the cover of anonymity, or if you just feel so passionate about something that you want to devote 1,000 words to it, I want to give you access to this platform.  So, I’m opening up Nice Things to guest contributors.  If you’re interested in writing some stuff, send it to NiceThingsJC@gmail.com and I’ll take a look at it.

I really do believe that things like Nice Things have the power to influence the decision making process and raise the bar that’s been set in JC.

-NT

I created Nice Things because I want us to have nice things. So if you enjoyed what you read, share it with your friends.  You can follow me on Instagram @NiceThingsJC

18 thoughts on “All About: Beer in Jersey City Pt. 2

  1. Wurstbar is also one of the only places where I’ve found Pilsner Urquell on tap.

    So while they have a bunch of insane, weird beers to choose from the one boring Central European lager they have is supposedly THE ORIGINAL pale lager that the rest of the continent eventually emulated. It’s not an exciting style but I think it’s a very good example of the style, especially on tap in a big wide mug.

    I think that speaks to the thoughtful curation of their selection you mentioned.

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      1. I think that’s what I was served when I visited Prague, but it was long enough ago that I can’t remember how it differed from pasteurized.

        Do you know anywhere that serves it near JC?

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      2. Pilsner Haus will get it on special occasions. Bierocracy in LIC had it for a bit. Not super rare, but you def gotta look for it.

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    1. Hahha. While i feel like I’m on the Comedy Central show roasted, i laughed plenty. I own 902, and i can kinda see where you’re coming from. I’ll explain.

      We started in Hoboken years ago, we tried to open in Hoboken years ago, and we fell flat on our faces. Looking back, our first few brews probably fell flat on their faces, too.

      That being said, we did center the brand around where we started (902 Washington Street). As in any business, shit changes. We’ve been operating out of a warehouse on Monitor street in Jersey City for the past two years. Operating meaning gypsy brewing out of other facilities and storing our beer there. During that two years we looked at a ton of warehouses in JC, from the heights to mcginley to Bergen Lafayette. We didn’t preemptively brand anything as Jersey City because of how Hoboken backfired on us. Didn’t want to have the same mess on our hands. Well, the ink on the lease is dry and the labels are in process. We’ve got a ton of JC centric brands in development now that we know where home is going to be for the next 15+ years.

      I hope we don’t fuck up a cool neighborhood. We’ve met some awesome people in it over the last couple years of working there. Half of us live in Jersey City. Half of us were born there. My great grandpa was a tugboat captain that lived and worked outta JC. I don’t think that buys us any street credit for moving to Pacific Ave, but what really would? Anyway, funny article, i hear your concerns, and i hope you’ll come by the tap room once it’s built. I hope the whole neighborhood comes by. We’re not some rich assholes investing in a shiny new toy, we’re hardworking people putting it all on the line. I’d like to think that the new facility will look and feel like that. First beers on me, cheers.

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      1. A+ Fucking class act! Are you running for Congress????? Thanks for reaching out with a really thoughtful response. Will totally come buy when you’re up an running, and anxiously waiting a JC beer.

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  2. WurstBar is fucking delicious. 902 Brewing are cool guys & the fact that they chose Bergen Lafayette makes them even cooler IMHO – keep in mind Hoboken is about the size of the Heights or Greenville with JC 5 or 6 times the size therefore much more open space.

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  3. It took me physically visiting their place and chatting with the people to shake off being too much of an overly smug dickhead over Departed Souls, it also helped seeing them physically improve over time considering they used to be a pretty solid meh for awhile. I used to think of them as super bootleg Carton pulling names from Evil Genius but considering there’s not much in the way of local places, it’s kinda a take what you can get sort of scenario. I don’t hate them.

    Bonus mention for Barcade as more or less being a defacto place at times for a few active alternative group meetups. Not really many places I can think of really acted as a placeholder for these sorts of things and it’s good people have an option when there’s really not much in the mix. Being slightly intentionally vague not to necessarily blow people’s cover.

    Opening the platform up, eh? So can we expect the inevitable collab with a certain legume who’s recent social awareness posts have been as eyeroll inducing as the made up scenarios posted by the parody twitter account Lena Dunham Apologizes? I’m just kidding, don’t want this blog getting too slick.

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  4. Dude, you make me upset that I moved out of JC after 8 years. Despite your criticisms, you at least give everything a solid chance. Totally with you on all points. Departed Soles also has a good representation at Prudential Center for Devils games, but they need like two solid go tos, which they don’t have yet. They had a special for the playoffs called “Playoff Beered” – it tasted like gnat’s piss. Sad.

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  5. No mention of Iron Monkey? One of the first places I went to when I got here… and they’ve been here for 20 plus years Great selection. Growlers before anybody knew what the fuck that was. And locally owned by a brother and sister since the beginning. I live much further west in JC now but I miss that place, especially in the winter.

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  6. You are hilarious and your blog is awesome, please keep the content coming! I really enjoyed this two-parter. I learned so much about beer!

    If you can make it to SubCulture, I’d love to hear your thoughts on that. It was the literal worst food I’ve ever eaten, but I gave them two stars on Yelp because they’re new and I felt guilty. Then the owner sent an absolute dick message to my friend. Now they 100% deserve the roast. Especially because they are obviously padding their own reviews and I hate that misleading bullshit!

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