VIDEO: Forget the beaches, A.C. Beer Fest. proves N.J. is now about its beer

Food and beverage critic Lisa Howard-Fusco remembers what the six-year-old Atlantic City Beer Festival used to be like: lots of college kids and lots of Bud. She wants people to know that New Jersey has more to offer than beaches and tomatoes.

Jersey makes beer — innovative and fresh craft beers from brand-new breweries that have been popping up over the past few months.

At the 2012 A.C. Beer Festival, companies such as Cape May Brewing Co. and Tuckahoe Brewing are bringing some new competition to the N.J. craft brewery category. Both companies have been brewing for less than a year.

The newest, Turtle Stone Brewing Company, received their license just two weeks ago. The festival was the grand debut for Turtle Stone, delighting drinkers with Red Rye Ale and their smooth, rich Chocolate Milk Stout (brewed without a stitch of the title ingredient). The company also has plans to brew a fall beer using Garden State-grown sweet potatoes and maple syrup.

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All of these breweries are dedicated to using local ingredients. The Cape May Brewing Co. Honey Porter uses local honey, and Tuckahoe makes their Coffee Stout using South Jersey organic coffee roaster Harry & Beans.

Tuckahoe’s Chris Konicki says he hopes the breweries can convince more farmers to grow hops and grains. “I can’t see why they wouldn’t, once they see what we’re producing and what our need is,” he said.

“We have so many resources, so many farms,” said Howard-Fusco. “A lot of the craft breweries, especially the smaller ones, are trying to put together co-ops so that they can go with local farmers.” She also knows Jersey chefs who are looking to pair meals with Jersey wines and beers.

Ryan Krill, co-owner of Cape May, which started brewing just last summer, is excited about the exploding Jersey beer scene, not just for his business but also for love of craft beer.

Says Krill: “My favorite beer is always a beer I’ve never tried.”

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