Craft brewing in Hunterdon County has boomed in the last seven years. After area veterans Conclave and Lone Eagle launched in 2015 and ‘16, respectively, five more breweries have opened in just the last three years in the rural, western NJ county.
The most recent arrival is Readington Brewery and Hop Farm, which opened in late November ’21. We stopped by for a visit this week to sample the brews and learn more about the new operation.
The Facility: The folks at RBHF are pioneers, combining a brewery and hop farm on the same grounds for the first time in New Jersey. Their ambitious endeavor has resulted in a unique experience for beer lovers and casual visitors alike. The well-appointed taproom, with its high-ceilings and open layout, is as visually entertaining as it is purposeful. To one side: rows of hulking, stainless steel tanks and an inclusive view of brewing operations. On the other: window-lined walls that invite patrons to gaze out at acres of hop bines. Visitors will find plenty of bar seating in addition to picnic benches and tables to accommodate parties of all sizes. When weather allows, large bay doors along the far wall opposite the bar open onto a covered patio with even more seating and standing room. This will be a coveted spot come springtime, no doubt.
The Beer: Considering RBHF currently has 14 varieties on tap, there’s an option for every palate. With so many offerings it was impossible to (responsibly, er… legally) sample them all, so we opted for a flight of the best sellers.
– Patriot – American IPA, 6%: Hop-forward, citrus notes, not overly bitter. Similar to a West Coast IPA like Stone, yet goes down a bit smoother.
– Churchill – Strong Bitter, 5.1%: Slightly less sweet and a little more carbonated than your average bitter. Balanced, drinkable, ABV in the sweet spot for a session ale.
– King Kong Braun – Brown Ale, 6.8%: Checks all the boxes for a brown ale, good malt presence, not too sweet, drinks easy.
– Black Betty – Black IPA, 8%: Don’t let the color fool you, this doesn’t drink like a stout or porter. Big on flavor, fairly sweet and creamy yet not heavy at all. We wanted another pour of this one.
When to Visit: Unlike some of their peers in Hunterdon, Readington Brewery is open daily for a minimum of eight hours. We recommend visiting at any time but if you’re interested in learning more about their story/process, it might behoove you to pay a trip sooner rather than later. We imagine there won’t be quite as much time to bend the ear of a friendly staff member once the fair-weather crowd comes out and word really gets around about this gem of a spot.
Looking ahead: Due to the fact that a substantial portion of hops on the farm are only now nearing full maturity (a process that takes roughly four years), this year’s harvest—with a little cooperation from nature—may prove to be a momentous occasion. In theory, this means that RBHF could start incorporating a lot more of the hops grown on premises into their beer and, possibly, develop some estate varieties. We will definitely be returning frequently to monitor their progress and, of course, sample the product.