On the way back home form the Jersey shore, I was looking for a place to buy craft beers that are hard to find in our New York stores. So I googled: "craft beer jersey shore" and found J. Canals in Woodbridge, NJ. Finding the actual store would take about three phone calls and several turns coming off the Garden State Parkway. It is actually only about 100 yards from the Parkway on Rt 1 south, but there is no exit for Rt 1 coming from the GSP North. So you have to take Exit 131b to Gill ave to Rt 1 South. I tell you this because their web site does a poor job of directing you and I don't want you to get discouraged and miss this beer geek's nirvana.
Once on Rt 1 South, you can't miss the giant beer bottle in the parking lot. Upon walking in, I was a little disappointed to see isles and isles of wine and liquor. But then I met Zack Goldberg, who led me to the craft beer section at the other end of the store.
Zack is their beer manager and a true conasseur of good beer. He understands people's different tastes and has tried many, many of the beers he recommends. As a case in point, a young woman asked him for a raspberry beer and he said "It's not my favorite style of beer but here's one I've tried that is good." And he handed her a six pack of Abita Purple Haze http://abita.com/brews/purple-haze.php . As a fruit beer lover, that is the beer I would have pointed her to.
Though the majority of the store is dedicated to other alcoholic beverages, their beer selection is very extensive. The whole far wall of the store consists of coolers containing mostly micro-beers. Across from the coolers are shelves of more craft beers, many of which can be purchased individually.
I told Zack about the styles that I prefer and regions I was looking for. For each style he recomended his personal favorite. Here a some of the examples of his recommendaations and my subsequent purchases:
Brown Ale - Tommyknocker Imperial Brown $1.79/12 oz
IPA - Firestone Double IPA $8.49/750ml
Spice Beer - Dogfish Sah'tea $12.49/750ml
Bock - Troeginator $1.89/12 oz
Red Ale - Red Seal Ale $9.39/ 6 pack
Colorado - Breckenridge $1.89/12oz
Jersey - Climax - Roselle Park, NJ $9.99/ 1/2 gallon growler
The Sha'tea's price tag made me a little reluctant to purchase it. They happened to have this brew as one of the six beers on tap at there growler filling station. Zack gave us each a taste and we were sold on this pungent, flavorful beer. If we weren't so far from home I would have had fun tasting the other selections. But we had another hour to drive and a carful of new brews to sample when we returned home.