Want to find the best beverages in the area? Here’s how.

Officials boost efforts to promote local wineries, breweries and distilleries

Kimberly Redmond//November 7, 2022

Want to find the best beverages in the area? Here’s how.

Officials boost efforts to promote local wineries, breweries and distilleries

Kimberly Redmond//November 7, 2022

Monmouth County officials are stepping up efforts to help promote local wineries, breweries and distilleries. The Board of County Commissioners recently announced the kickoff of “Brewed & Distilled in Monmouth County,” an initiative that will help residents and visitors find information about the area’s different beverage establishments.

During an Oct. 19 news conference at Red Tank Brewing Co. in Red Bank, the county launched the first part of the campaign, a user-friendly website with maps, contact details, and information on local restaurants and businesses surrounding the breweries, distilleries and wineries.

“The idea of having all of the establishments in one place allows residents and visitors to plan a day of enjoying the local products made in these facilities. It’s our job as government officials to help these small businesses thrive in our communities,” Commissioner Director Thomas Arnone said.

On a statewide level, lawmakers in Trenton are considering a bill that would establish a trail signage program for alcohol manufacturers as a way to highlight the businesses.

New Jersey is home to more than 200 wineries, breweries and distilleries, an industry that collectively employs more than 2,200 workers and has an economic impact of more than $1.8 billion annually, according to the New Jersey Brewer’s Association.

Monmouth County Commissioner Director Thomas Arnone outlines the Brewed & Distilled in Monmouth County program at Red Tank Brewing in Red Bank.
Monmouth County Commissioner Director Thomas Arnone outlines the Brewed & Distilled in Monmouth County program at Red Tank Brewing in Red Bank.


Sponsored by state Sens. Vin Gopal, D-11th District, and James Beach, D-6th District, Senate Bill 916 would create a “Brewery, Cidery, Distillery and Meadery Trail Sign Program” to provide awareness of, and directional guidance to, alcohol manufacturers through roadway signs.

Specifically, the state Department of Transportation, in consultation with the Division of Travel & Tourism and the Department of Law & Public Safety’s Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control, would create the trail-like path, according to the proposal.

To be considered for inclusion, applicants would submit a request to the Transportation Department. Special consideration would be granted to establishments that are in close geographic proximity to other alcohol manufacturers or tourist destinations.

Under the bill, the DOT would produce and install signs, as well as handle any maintenance costs associated with the program. It also calls for the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, within the Department of State, to launch a competition to gather original artwork to be placed on trail signs.

After passing the Senate unanimously Oct. 17, the bill was sent to the Assembly, where it was referred to the Oversight, Reform and Federal Relations Committee for review.

“In both New Jersey and neighboring states, we’ve seen that craft alcohol manufacturers are a draw for tourists,” Gopal explained. “In the past decade, we’ve seen the emergence of hundreds of local craft alcohol manufacturers and the statewide trail would serve to highlight these homegrown businesses and their products for visitors.”

He continued, “New Jersey should be proud of the breweries that have developed here and this program, I hope, will help our breweries compete with breweries in neighboring states when it comes to attracting out-of-state tourists.”

Rising costs

The moves come as businesses continue to deal with challenges like inflation and supply chain issues driving up costs. Breweries, like most businesses in the hospitality industry, are also still dealing with the aftershocks of the COVID-19 pandemic, making it even more important to “support them and ensure they recover fully,” Gopal said.

There have been other efforts recently to give a boost to the industry. In September 2021, Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law a bill requiring the Division of Travel & Tourism to advertise and promote tours of breweries across the state.

Under the measure, the Division of Travel & Tourism was directed to create at least three brewery trails linked geographically or thematically by surrounding arts, cultural, historical, entertainment or other tourism destinations.

Published on VisitNJ.org, New Jersey’s Ale Trail consists of paths for the Gateway Region in northern New Jersey, the central part of the state, and in Burlington and Camden counties and the southern shore area of Cumberland and Cape May counties. The itineraries also include surrounding attractions, lodging, restaurants and entertainment options.

Following Murphy’s enactment of the law, the New Jersey Business & Industry Association praised the legislation, saying it “will undoubtedly promote economic activity in the state.” In a statement last fall, NJBIA Chief Government Affairs Officer Chrissy Buteas said, “New Jersey’s breweries are growing at a faster rate than our neighbors in Pennsylvania, but at a slower rate than in New York. Promotion of our well-regarded breweries will help New Jersey improve regional competitiveness in this industry.”

Over the past decade, the state’s brewing industry has experienced tremendous growth, with the number of breweries jumping from 25 in 2012 to 141 today.

In addition to economic challenges, Gopal said breweries face “a more fundamental” hurdle related to how they are defined in New Jersey.

Twin Elephant’s owner Cindy Derama
Twin Elephant owner Cindy Derama says new regulations imposed by the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control that limit the number of events microbreweries can host hinder their ability to engage with their communities. Read the story by clicking here.

After a 2019 special ruling by the state’s Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control meant to balance the interests of full retail license holders, such as restaurants and bars, and the craft brewing industry, a new set of rules for craft brewery operations went into effect July 1.

The regulations include a limit of 25 special events per year, no more than 52 private parties and no more than 12 special off-site events.

Additionally, businesses can no longer serve food or coordinate with food trucks or vendors and they can’t serve coffee. New Jersey law only allows breweries to provide token food items, such as potato chips or crackers — all of which must be prepackaged.

Breweries are also now required to give a walking or virtual tour of the facility before allowing patrons to consume alcohol.

In response to concerns from brewery owners that the new rules could put them out of business or force them to move across state borders, lawmakers are looking to roll back some of the restrictions as a way to ensure New Jersey’s brewing industry can compete with neighboring states.

On Sept. 22, Gopal, along with state Sen. Linda Greenstein, D-14th District, introduced Senate Bill 3038, which aims to ease the regulations on breweries while also providing more clarity to state regulators. A companion bill is being backed by Assemblymen Clinton Calabrese, D-36th District; Raj Mukherji, D-33rd District; and Paul Moriarty, D-4th District.

The legislation is focused on the restrictions on the number of special events a brewery can host each year, which can be a major source of revenue for the businesses. It also removes a restriction on breweries working with food vendors.

“When the state created licenses for breweries a decade ago, the legislation defined them primarily as manufacturers. Since then, we’ve seen their operations evolve beyond what I think the Legislature envisioned in that 2021 legislation. I think providing a clearer definition of how breweries fit into New Jersey’s hospitality industry will help guide their continued growth in the state,” Gopal said.

“I’ve had extensive conversations with state regulators, fellow lawmakers, brewery owners, and bar and restaurant license holders. Based on those conversations, I’m confident this bill is a fair compromise that ensures breweries remain distinct from bars and restaurants,” he said.