One of New Jersey’s brewing mainstays, Cricket Hill Brewery has been turning out high quality beers in Fairfield since 2002. They produce four year-round brews, three seasonals and a number of small-batch and reserve beers. Their tasting room is open with a self-guided tour of the brewhouse on Thursday and Friday evenings and Saturday afternoon.
Cricket Hill is available on draft at many North Jersey bars and restaurants, and their year-round beers are also available in bottles at many area liquor stores. I’d had many of their beers over the years, but never made it to the brewery, despite them being one of the nearest to me. I recently stopped in to rectify that situation.
The four year-round beers are East Coast Lager, American Pale Ale, Hopnotic IPA and Colonel Blides ESB. All are fine examples of their style, especially the Colonel Blides, but where the brewery really shines is with its seasonal, small-batch and reserve beers. Unfortunately beers at the brewery are only sold in 12-oz pours, not flights, so I wasn’t able to try as many as I would have liked. (They will pour you a 2-oz sample of a beer upon request.) The Jersey Devil Imperial Red Ale was excellent, far better than some of the more recent examples of this (relatively new) style I’ve tried from larger, better-known breweries. The Abbey Cherry Tripel was a brilliant Belgian Tripel with a little something extra to it. They also sell a bourbon-barrel aged version of this beer in 22-oz bomber bottles so I brought one home, but I haven’t tried it yet. I also tasted Barleywine Ale and Double Wit. The barleywine tasted and felt right but wasn’t as boozy as is typical for that style. That’s likely due to its 8.5% ABV, which is pretty low by barleywine standards. The Double Wit (a double witbier, naturally) was more spice-forward than most wits, giving it a nice kick. I didn’t get to try the Nocturne Chocolate Ale, Sim-Jerko Jamaican Hot Pepper Ale, or Bourbon-Barrel-Aged Imperial Porter, though I did buy a bottle of the latter to try at home. I guess I’ll just have to go back.