I’m finally there! All of the brewpubs I’ve ever been to are now uploaded and catalogued to 50 States of Brew. I say almost, because I’ve neglected visits within the past couple of months as well as a very select few I’ve been saving. So now it is time for the top ten list.
Ship Inn Brewery
61 Bridge Street
Milford, New Jersey
Visited on November 7, 2008
For brewpub number eight, we head out of the Midwest all the way to the east coast. My one and only brewpub of New Jersey just happened to be an awesome one. And British. Go figure.
I was only there for an hour or so, but I loved The Ship Inn. The building is an old, weathered house that’s been retrofitted into a restaurant. The dark, hard wood throughout is just gorgeous. And believe it or not, the English food rocks. Sure, everything I had was deep-fried and heavily sauced with the British version of A1, but I still found it tasty. Add to that some malt-forward, not over-hopped, not American versions of true classic styles, and you’ve got yourself a great small brewpub.
Walking up to the Ship Inn Brewery is like walking up to a quaint boat house in a small village where you’d expect to find nothing more than canoes and cobwebs. Set along the edge of a small river, the old building may well have been a boat house at one time, but today, it is a first-rate English-style microbrewery.
The first step inside the building feels like home. Dark timber tones dominate the main dining room adorned with nostalgic memorabilia of sailing days of yore. Simple tables line one side of the dining room while the other is dominated by a small yet assertive bar. Further back in the restaurant, which seems like a long and thin line of continuing tables, lies the restrooms, offices and likely the brewing equipment.
The food is absolutely outstanding, which probably means that it tastes nothing like real British food because if it did, nobody would be making jokes about it. I thoroughly enjoyed a British sampler that came with a hardboiled egg surrounded in homemade sausage and deep fried, a piece of “pie” in a flaky puff pastry pouch filled with potatoes, onions, and cheese, another pastry dish filled with yet more sausage, and a final layered casserole filled with yet more sausage and cheese. It was a heart attack on a plate, but it was oh so delicious. I’m craving more as I type!
The beer is simple, yet elegant and outstanding. Like most English brews, they’re not trying to reinvent the wheel. They know what’s good and are simply trying to perfect the tried and true styles. The ESB and Light Lager were both exceptional session beers and the stout was dry, flavorful, and creamily infused with nitrogen as it should be. But the real winner was the Scottish Ale, which the English friend I made sitting at the bar informed me is only released once a year. Unlike its Americanized counterparts, this ale was subtly sweet with delightful undertones of caramel and roasted barley. It was so much more by being so much less. My one complaint is that there were only four house beers available, but I’ve been told they usually have around six during their peak times.
Another plus of the English pub in Jersey was the fact that the server really was British. True, she’d lived in America for 20 years or so, but she was still British. Unfortunatley, she was also not quite all there that day and was pretty slow on the service. Luckily, her demeanor and personality made up for most of it.