Tonewood Brewing - Oaklyn, NJ
Back in March, when I wrote about The Local, I included a small excerpt about how I had had one of Tonewood Brewing's beers for the very first time and that they were now on the map for me. It took me less than 2 months to finally plan out a trip over to that side of South Jersey and venture into a brewery based on just 1 beer alone. Tonewood has been open for less than a year, but from what I saw Saturday afternoon, is well on their way to becoming another great New Jersey brewery. I was very excited to go visit but at the same time, pretty anxious, because from my neck of the woods in Jersey, I've heard very little about this brewery other than one or two comments in passing. Still, that never deters me from giving another craft beer establishment a fair shot!
Walking towards the brewery, the first thing you see is a small cordoned off area that serves as a beer garden. The open door is a garage door, which is ingenious because most breweries don't have any outdoors areas - which is a pity during days with better weather. The entrance is on the right side and will lead you into a warm and inviting taproom.
A few benches, a couch and a decent bar area await when you walk in. The brewing area is towards the back and seeing a few barrels just hanging out is a good indicator of things to come. When I arrived at about 3 PM, this is how the brewery looked on the inside. By the time I left at 5, it was absolutely packed. Make good beer, and you'll most certainly attract people.
On this day, Tonewood had 8 beers on tap, of which I was able to try 5. The prices were VERY reasonable, especially given some of the places I've visited in North Jersey and New York. I would have loved to seen an imperial stout, or stout of any kind, but for now the Revolution Porter would do. At 6.5% ABV, it's a very drinkable and enjoyable porter. It's not lying about its use of coffee. Right off the bat, the notes of it were hitting me right in the nostrils. It wasn't overbearing in that sense, definitely enjoyable and I recommend it to anyone who is a fan or porters or a coffee beer.
The other beers I was able to try were the following:
- Amber: As the suggestion says, the beer is balanced. There's nothing that makes it stand out to be one of the premier red ales in New Jersey, but then again, it seems to be a style that gets passed up in favor of other, most of the time. If you don't have access to Scarlet Knight from Demented Brewing, I'd say you could definitely appease your appetite for an Amber with the one from Tonewood.
- Session IPA: Very light, as it should be and slightly hoppy. I found myself enjoying this beer, but my overall arch with session beers ultimately left me a bit underwhelmed with this one. Don't get me wrong, it's a very approachable and drinkable session beer, but after having had a lot of exposure to sessions in 2016, I wanted this to have a bit more of a kick. It's not a knock to Tonewood's overall brewing since I'm comparing it to sessions from all over the nation.
- Chief: 5.5% ABV pale ale. I really enjoyed this beer a lot. It's nice to have a pale ale that seems to be a departure from the super hazy, turbid ales coming out a lot in the past year. Sometimes I want a nice, piney and fruity pale ale without lactose. It's definitely a resinous beer and sure to delight any hophead wanting something on the lighter side while being inviting enough to anyone wanting to try a pale ale for the first time. I'll call Chief the "gateway pale ale".
- Fuego: All bets are off here. This beer is amazing. I don't think I understand how Tonewood managed to pack so much flavor in to a 6.2% IPA. The only other time I've seen similar in New Jersey was with Conclave's Gravitational Waves and Twin Elephant's Lil Shimmy Ye, and let me tell you... that is phenomenal company! This is most definitely a New England IPA without having to rely on a higher ABV to achieve. It's insanely drinkable at that ABV and if I lived closer to Tonewood, I'd absolutely be having this all throughout the year. It's citrusy without being too much of a citrus flavor, it's hoppy but retains the NE characteristics of not being a hop bomb with its IBU's. It's absolutely tasty.
I'm not even going to lie, I took two crowlers of Fuego home. It's THAT good. Not just that, but for just $8 for a crowler of Fuego, you are getting more bang for your buck than you might be at most breweries in New Jersey. I tried making a mental list of favorite New Jersey IPA's and I'd have to say Fuego is in the conversation for top 5 as long as I'm considering the ABV to be something between 6 and 7% ABV. And as much as I am gushing about Fuego, it's easy to overlook their other offerings, but you shouldn't. I saw parties of people at the brewery that were trying every single thing. Not everyone is an IPA fan and for them, the other offerings are definitely a must try.
I really enjoyed the porter and wished I had tried the pilsner, but alas, Fuego kept calling my name. As for an overall experience, the staff are pretty awesome and friendly. The place is inviting and cozy. Unfortunately, it was raining so I got to miss out on the outdoors beer garden. For a brewery still in their infancy, they are already moving forward at light speed. It won't be long until Tonewood Brewing becomes a household name, not just in South Jersey. The scene over in that area is beginning to grow at an alarming rate and I fully believe that in a year or so, Tonewood will be at the forefront of that. I wish they had had their lager (Poolside Lager) there as well since I've been on one of those kicks now that it's spring... but if they can add some more beer styles overall to their portfolio, I see them evolving at a rapid pace. If you're from that area and you haven't visited yet, who hurt you?!? Overall, it's a must visit to anyone in the craft beer scene looking for something different, somewhere different. Salud!