The 5 best breweries for parents in Northern New Jersey
Chemistry, responsible behavior, socializing, and getting used to being out of the house and not the center of the universe, breweries have a good number of benefits for parents with small children. Parents need times to focus on something they enjoy and times to let children occupy themselves and not be the center of attention. Breweries provide these opportunities. With so many small craft breweries opening or expanding recently, even in an area that entered the brewing revolution late like Northern NJ, there are now a good number of places that work well with children. Whether it is a space that allows for strollers, accommodating dogs so the whole family can come along, or providing a warm welcoming atmosphere good for family bonding, here are my five favorite breweries in the Northern NJ area and what makes them special.
Alementary — Hackensack
I’ve never been what I would consider a regular at any business in my life before we discovered Alementary, off of RT 4 in Hackensack. From the moment we walked in and met the friendly staff and discovered they were dog friendly we have been hooked. Their friendliness toward patrons, children, and dogs — there is even a brewery dog Margie — is exceeded only by their passion for good beer. Since opening in the spring of 2016, they have quickly gained a reputation for excellent offerings and grown consistently. Throughout the winter they launched several special edition brews including a convincingly eggnog flavored stout, Figgy Pudding which tastes unsurprisingly like figs, and an imperial Stout aged for months in bourbon barrels that were housed in the taproom. Though the taproom isn’t huge, there is room for a stroller and young children will love the giant fan and Edison bulbs, at least ours do. Early weekend days are still less crowded but with their success, it can be tricky to find seating later in the day, so get in early and grab a spot. You can even bring in food from the food trucks they have often on weekends or the excellent Cosmo’s deli within walking distance.
Czig Meister — Hackettstown
Czig Meister is another great find for parents and dog owners. Similar to Alementary, they allow well behaved dogs inside and allow you to bring in food from outside. They even provide menus for the local restaurants. The beer here is also excellent and very varied across styles. The seating here tips the list especially with kids as there is room for strollers, picnic tables to prop up on, and even a couple of couches to lounge on. They also have tons of games for family entertainment. Their menu rotates frequently as well with several mainstays and a bunch of rotating seasonals and small batch pilot beers.
Jersey Girl — Hackettstown
A short drive from Czig Meister, Jersey Girl has a great deal of selection of great beer and several strong ones, though the tap room is not quite as warm or welcoming. There is a very family friendly feel, but something about the lighting and the high top tables is less child friendly. There also isn’t much room for strollers, so you might be better off with an attachable car seat or high chair though there is a couch here as well. The beer here is a strong draw, especially due to the excellent seasonals that rotate frequently. Jersey Girl isn’t afraid to experiment and your taste buds will thank you.
Cricket Hill — Fairfield
Also off of RT 46 like Czig Meister and Jersey Girl, but further east is Cricket Hill. Cricket Hill is one of the older and more prominent craft breweries in NJ and the one you are most likely to find bottles from in stores. In 2016 they celebrated 15 years. Their longevity and success is well earned thanks to a suite of tasty brews encompassing both the commercially successful standards like a breakfast ale and a lager as well as more specialty seasonal and excitement brews that are only at the taproom. The space here, though the taproom is fairly small, feels huge due to the openness of the brewery so there is plenty of room to spread out. Picnic tables are the main seating option here. The taproom and brewhouse are fairly dark and warm feeling with beer aging in barrels stacked up high, so it’s a good place for a nap. They even out out some snacks periodically as well. The brewery is a good place for kids to learn a bit more about the science of brewing and the work that goes into it as it is very open and explorable.
Pine Island — Pine Island NY
Though not actually in Northern New Jersey, Pine Island is right over the border and quick to get to from Warwick or Wawayanda State Park. It makes for a great stop to recuperate after a hike in the Appalachian Trail or park with kids too. They are also dog friendly and very kid friendly. The beer selection is not huge, but those available are excellent and varied enough that everyone will find one or two styles to enjoy. They also have a good collection of games for kids and families. The space is fairly large with a huge picnic table for larger groups and several smaller tables that work well for families. When up over the border, this is a great spot after outdoor activity to tire the kids out. The adults will love the beer too.
Breweries aren’t typically seen as child friendly locales, but the prevalence of local small craft breweries is changing that a bit. Many breweries are family friendly and improving the full experience for parents, making it easier to get out with the whole family — including the dog — and keep everyone happy. Don’t overlook these great breweries just because you have young children. Combined with a full day of activity such as hiking, visiting museums, or just getting fresh air, breweries make for an excellent pit stop or refresher. Now if only we could get more to install changing tables in the restrooms to complete the edperience. Get out there and plan a day for the whole family to enjoy.