An Early Start to the NEW Jersey Craft Beer Movement
at The Cloverleaf Tavern
When I was 21 years old in 1996 my father, Richard Dorchak, took me to Colorado for the Great American Beer Festival. The GABF was founded in 1982 and has been growing and evolving with the American craft brewing industry ever since. Each year, it represents the largest collection of US beer ever served in a public tasting plus a private competition. It brings together the brewers and diverse beers that make the US the world’s greatest brewing nation. Back then, Colorado had 86 breweries compared to NJ’s 4. This trip not only gave me the opportunity to experience what craft beer was, but also inspired me to want to share this craft beer movement. I visited 4 of those 86 breweries on that trip and tasted another 40+ from breweries all over America at the GABF. After graduating college in 1997, I joined the family business, The Cloverleaf Tavern as the 3rd generation. I knew that once I had learned the in’s and out’s of the restaurant business that I wanted to educate my guests about what was happening with craft beer. We were always committed at the Cloverleaf to providing the best variety of craft beer we could get our hands on. In 1976, due to a customer service dispute, my father had cut ties with Budweiser, the largest brewer in America. Ever since he always wanted to have every other beer we could get our hands on. During the late 90’s that selection was a fraction of what it is today, but the landscape began to change around 2005. More people began to open up to trying new beer. In 2006, we launched the Masters of Beer Appreciation. Our beer education program took patrons through a journey of tasting 45 beers that were all unique in their own way. The intention of this program was to have guests try styles and brands of beer that they weren’t familiar with. It still gives me great pleasure to watch guests work their way through this syllabus and tell our staff what styles they like and don’t like. That’s the great thing about today’s craft beer. There is such a broad range of styles that I believe there is something out there for everyone. At least once a week, I hear a guest say “I never knew I like beer.” Now in NJ we have close to 45 operating breweries with another 25 opening in 2016. Twenty years after my inspirational trip to Colorado we haven’t even reached where they were then, but we’ll be there soon! Some say the bubble is going to burst, we say the bubble is just getting inflated. Cheers to NJ craft beer.
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