February 27, 2009

For the love of St. Gambrinus...more craft beer hits Haddon Ave. in NJ

I spent two days in New Jersey this week. Pretty much surveying the market, comparative pricing, how we look in stores, etc...and one of the highlights was lunch at Dock Hoppers on Haddon Ave. I didn't get a chance to meet him but the GM there, (who is also a GM at their sister bar PJ whelihans) is the resident beer geek. Sure Blue Moon and Miller Lite are stationed on the right tower, but on the left Stone Pale Ale, Victory Prima Pils, Bear Republic Hop Red Rye, Flying Fish Mild (from 2nd runnings of Espresso Porter with a Belgian Yeast Strain), Dogfish 60 minute, Founders Red Rye and Troegs Hop Back Amber.

Even though Sly Fox Pikeland Pilsner wasn't mentioned in the above listing, I found it encouraging that in such a bleak on premise market, there are people that are adding craft.

In speaking with one of the reps at Hunterdon (the craft wholesaler for NJ) he mentioned that NJ beer drinkers are in this "Beginner's Stage" where it's all about the hops. I guess they still want to be "hit over the head with the humulus lupulus. There's no other explanation why
out of 7 craft handles only one isn't hoppy (The Flying Fish). Even Prima is the hoppiest pils out there.

I am not sure if this crowd even understands that. It seems they want to got for the beers that literally say IPA.

This is where the bartenders come in. We had an amazingly cheerful and hospitable bartender, Kelly. She was actually from Philadelphia. I liked her immediately. She's the kind of bartender any manager would want on duty if they were away from the restaurant. There are too many bartenders out their with righteous attitudes. It drives Lance nuts. Ask him about it sometime.

She told me of their renovation plans. They are actually changing the name from Dock Hoppers so it identifies better with their brand family of PJ Whelihans. They might go with PJ's Pourhouse.

They want the name to reflect the changes they have made to the beer list.
The bartender even mentioned that Tom Peters, of Monks, a local resident might help train some of the Dock hopper dames on the beer list.

They are now pouring over 30 craft and belgians (draft and blt). But why just Belgian?
Where's the Aventinus? I'm just playing devil's advocate. They're doing a good job...Jake has made a guide with descriptions as well.

If PJ's has seen the light...my hope is the ol' monkey see, chimp follows comes into effect, and smaller bars like Tom Fisher's will have a foxtail on their tower sometime soon.

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