Move over signature cocktail: There’s a whole new buzz around the bar. As smiling grooms will confirm, the craft beer craze has hit the wedding scene. And this is one aspect of planning that grooms are madly embracing. Sure, fine wines and specialty wedding cocktails are still important. But industry observers are recognizing this recent phenomenon. “It does seem to be a very popular trend right now,” says Christopher James, director of spirits and mixology at Landmark Hospitality—owner of the Ryland Inn in Whitehouse Station, Liberty House in Jersey City and the Stone House at Stirling Ridge in Warren. “I find that the younger people who come in are more keen on the craft breweries,” which is also the demographic getting married today. Over in Yardville, Kristin and Adam Polhemus, co-owners of Reverie Events, say they hardly see a wedding anymore without a few good micro-brews in attendance. Want to add some beautiful, nuanced craft beers to your own special day? Here are 5 tips for doing it right:
1. Make It Personal. Danielle Gomez, event specialist at Landmark Hospitality, advises using craft beers to lend a personal touch. “This past weekend our groom was Irish, so we did a whole Irish-themed station where we had little Guinness shooters with individual shepherd’s pie, bangers and mash and Irish soda bread.” Or, Gomez says, couples can select brews from places “they went to college or where they grew up—something that’s significant to both of them.”
2. Decide How Far You Want To Go. You could just feature craft beers at your rehearsal dinner and do a beer pairing per course, Polhemus says. An establishment like the Morris Tap & Grill in Randolph, for example, with its extensive beer selection, frequently hosts rehearsal dinners. At the reception, options range from serving several beers at cocktail hour to a full-on beer garden. One suggestion from Gomez is to “pair [beers] with some butler-passed hors-d’oeuvres or even just doing a station with it. For example, if you had a slider station, pick a really nice brew that’s going to complement.” Reverie Events, says Polhemus, can also provide customized beer coasters, menus, etc.
3. Seek Expert Advice. Ask your caterer and wedding planner for advice on food pairings and sourcing sufficient beer quantity, Polhemus says. At Landmark, says James, “We will normally get it for you unless it’s something we’re not able to acquire.” And don’t forget to discuss seasonality: “You’re not going to have Lancaster Strawberry Wheat available in December.”
4. Keep It Light. “Some of the craft beers can get a little heavy,” James says. So for wedding guests he advises to go with “something that’s not going to bog people down. We generally stay with more mild IPAs, approachable things.”
5. Go Local. Regulations affecting New Jersey brewers have recently become less restrictive and this is creating a hot local scene. “The options are continuing to get better and better,” Polhemus says, noting Jersey favorites, including Carton Brewing, River Horse Brewing Co., Flying Fish Brewing Co., Kane Brewing and Triumph Brewing Co.
And finally, have fun making these local selections. As Gomez says, “There’s a lot more than there used to be. It could take you a long time to get through everything that’s available right now.”