Troon Brewing & Brick Farm Tavern - Hopewell, NJ
It wasn't until recently that I found out about Brick Farm Tavern, and that is mostly due to the fact that Troon Brewing opened, literally in a building right behind it, two months ago. Located on Double Brook Farm in Hopewell - there are three different premises at this location: Brick Farm Tavern, Troon Brewing, and Sourland Mountain Spirits. I was fortunate enough to visit two of these locations and was very impressed! Brick Farm Tavern is a farm-to-table restaurant that proudly touts its relationship with local farmers and is proud in delivering the highest quality ingredients, not just with their food, but with their drinks as well. It's this attitude that makes their pairing with Troon Brewing all the better and perfect.
The bar inside is a beautiful spot and I'll admit, I wasted no time ordering a flight of Troon Brewing offerings that were on the menu. A flight of four will ring in at $10 ($2.50 per taster) and was enjoyable from beginning to end. The following four where available at the time I visited - pictured above from bottom to top:
- Patriarchy (7.3% ABV): Out of the four, this was my least favorite and even this one was good. A nice IPA, balanced, nuanced, it got me into the flight quite smoothly.
- Sweating Through Your Clown Paint (10.3% ABV): Described as a sweet stout, I'd actually leave this imperial stout for last. It's VERY enjoyable and if you have a chance to grab the coffee/cinnamon version at the brewery - do yourself that favor.
- Buried Without Your Funny Bone (6.3%): A very hoppy and yet enjoyable smooth beer. I loved this one and saved this to be my third beer within the flight. This beer hides the ABV remarkably well and almost has a subtle creamsicle mouthfeel to it.
- Migratory Tentshow (8.8%): Akin to a Double IPA, this beer is a bit boozier than Patriarchy, but I enjoyed this one slightly more than it's lower ABV "counter-part".
I know that I'll usually write specifically about restaurants with amazing food and carefully curated beer lists, but for this visit, I need to make a side "rant". Watching Dan, bartender at Brick Farm Tavern, prepare mixed drinks was a visual treat. It's been quite a while since I've seen someone make cocktails with such flair and passion, and yet, the flavor of anything he made matched the aesthetics from within the glass. If you consider yourself a connoisseur of cocktails or even remotely curious about trying something you've never had before, this is absolutely the place to do it. My suggestion: Ask Dan to make you something...anything, it'll make it well worth your while.
After being at the bar area of Brick Farm for a bit, I decided to wander off to Troon Brewing and check the place out. Troon is just a short stroll away from the restaurant, so I promise that you won't get lost. Once you walk inside this brewery, you'll walk right into the growler filling station. On this day, I was greeted immediately by Alex and his sister, Julia. If you want to talk about class act people within the brewing business, Alex and Julia are definitely at the top. At no point were they unwilling to speak with me about the brewery or their wonderful liquid product... even when I snuck back in right before closing time to speak with Alex again.
Honestly, I was intrigued because I thought Troon was open for much longer than 2 months and was pleasantly surprised to find out that this wasn't the case. For the amount of time they have opened, they really are surprising me with the quality of brews that they are pumping out. I've heard of them consistently throughout forums, social media, and word of mouth. The praise is very well deserved and I wish more breweries in New Jersey would dial in their recipes this early in the infancy of the business. I already want to come back, not just for the beer, but for the quality of the people behind the beer. This is how you begin a brewery in New Jersey: Dialed-in recipes without overextending yourself massively. People WILL come.
For those wondering about Troon's "tasting room", there isn't any. Luckily, Brick Farm Tavern is just a few feet away to give you a flight, BUT... Alex has quite a few different creations not on tap at the restaurant that are at the brewery. I was lucky enough to try Obligate Scavenger - Troon's newest DIPA (8.5%) - and absolutely loved so much of the taste that I had, that I took a new growler home filled with it. I also was able to taste a variant of their sweet stout, Sweating Through Your Clown Paint that was brewed with coffee and cinnamon. This variant made me want breakfast almost immediately, but alas, I was to walk back to Brick Farm Tavern to order actual food. I also want to extend my appreciation to Alex and Julia for giving me suggestions on what to order at Brick Farm, you were both right.
The Thistle Creek Devon Burger - Alex's pick - was a very nice, well-made burger. The bacon jam and the egg on top to go along with a perfectly cooked "medium-rare" transformed a simple burger into excellence on a bun. It comes in at the pricier end for a burger at $18. Is it worth the price of admission? I think it does. The farm-to-table experience really shines here because of the freshness of everything within this burger. The patty is a nice, thick patty that challenges cooking temperature but was also a challenge accepted and conquered. The fried egg is a bonus. I like to cut my burger in half and once the knife cuts through the middle of the yolk, it coats the burger and top bun very nicely. I would definitely have this again.
These are the fries that come with the burger. They are delicious and a fantastic complement to the burger that was devoured. As a side-note, I came to Brick Farm Tavern without really looking at the menu or even the restaurant times. The bar does have a separate and smaller menu and is open the entire day, but the actual restaurant seating has times during the weekend for lunch and dinner - it isn't continuous. Luckily, the bar is my natural habitat and the menu wasn't found lacking at all! Kudos to executive chef Greg Vassos and his team.
So how do I write about the empanadas without absolutely gushing about them? I CAN'T. This was Julia's pick and she was right - completely nailed it. As a Hispanic male, I've had hundreds of empanadas throughout the course of my life and I don't think I've ever had any like these. For $14, I can actually say this is a very sizable portion. These empanadas are jam packed with shredded berkshire pork. The three empanadas were easily a meal for me, especially since these may very well be the first time I've ever had any that used up almost 100% of the space inside. It always seems inevitable for empanadas to have some air in them - not these, they are stuffed full of delicious pork.
There are now two downsides to having these empanadas: (1) Next time I go back, I won't want to try anything else, (2) Every other place that makes empanadas now have a higher standard to live up to, as far as my palate is concerned. Order them and share with friends or have them by yourself, they are not going to disappoint. Having these along with a Buried Without Your Funny Bone was a dream pairing.
If anyone were to ask me if visiting Troon Brewing and Brick Farm Tavern is a must, I'd reply with, "Why haven't you been there yet?" and, "What are you waiting for - go ASAP!". Between both Troon and Brick Farm Tavern, the quality of service was top notch. I absolutely cannot wait to go back and visit. Troon Brewing is very likely one of... if not THE... top breweries in New Jersey to watch in 2017. As controversial as that may sound to some, I think it's actually a very safe pick. If the quality of beer located at the restaurant and the brewery, than Alex is going to have his hands full in 2017 - sky's the limit.
Go for the brewery, stay for the food at Brick Farm Tavern. If you're an avid craft beer drinker, you definitely need to come and have a flight. If you're with people who aren't into beer, Dan's got you covered at the bar. Either way, there's something for everyone at Brick Farm Tavern and Troon Brewing. Hopefully, I'll be able to come back and try the distillery as well. Hopewell is definitely on the map for me and should soon be for very many others.