Close, but No Craft Beer

If you’re a kid who lives in New Jersey, you know that a nirvana of finger-popping fireworks lies just across the Pennsylvania border.  But if you’re a beer nerd who lives in New Jersey, you hardly notice all of the FIREWORKS signs as you cross the Delaware, because you’re not looking for bottle rockets, you’re looking for Bells.  You see, Pennsylvania sells a host of great craft beers that aren’t distributed in the Garden State, so a trip to PA represents an opportunity to load up the car with excellent brews you can’t get back home.  That is, if your wife will stop the minivan…

My family and I took the 90 minute trip to Pennsylvania this past weekend to celebrate my daughter’s sixth birthday at the Great Wolf Lodge, an indoor water park in the Poconos.  I like to call the place “Petri Park,” as it’s basically 380,000 gallons of recirculating human bio-matter.  But what I think doesn’t matter – my kids were excited to be there, and I was there to help them have the most fun possible.  It was their weekend, not mine.

We stayed over Sunday night into Monday, and on the way to a gourmet dinner at Friendly’s (the kid’s call), I spotted a sketchy-looking liquor store in a strip mall.  We were all starving, so I didn’t even consider stopping.  Maybe on the way back.  But then I totally pigged out on cheese and bacon covered waffle fries (who wouldn’t?!), and by the time the meal was over I was in no mood to go beer shopping at a place that didn’t look too promising to begin with. Besides, there’s always tomorrow.

The next day came, and I was a pretty crappy dad, as work stuff was blowing up and I had to keep a hand in at the office to ensure things were moving in the right direction over there.  My wife took our daughter to the water park, and my son and I stayed high and dry, hitting the arcade and mini bowling, with my nose in my phone most of the time.

When mid-afternoon rolled around, my wife had had it.  She was hungry, tired from chasing our daredevil daughter around the drowning hazards without my help, and her skin was screaming from all the chemicals in the water.  I lured our daughter out of the water with the promise of a building a stuffed animal at Great Wolf’s Build-a-Bear ripoff station, and we headed away from the water and the crowds to hit up Friendly’s once more (did I mention we let the kids call the shots this weekend?).

On the way there, I see a vision – an enormous red barn that looked to be some kind of beer distributor.  I could see long coolers lining the walls of the huge retail area as we drove past, and I figured if they had that much space, they must have an awesome selection.  But the crew was hungry and we were past the building before I realized what I was looking at, so I let it go.  Maybe on the return trip.

But something happened at Friendly’s – everyone was “done.”  We were all tired, I was still preoccupied with work, and we all just wanted to get home as quickly as possible.  But I still wanted to stop for beer, and the barn from heaven was between us and the on ramp home.

What happened next was mostly my fault, but I’ll blame my wife (who was driving) anyway.  I was distracted as we left Friendly’s, and I didn’t realize how close we were to the beer store until it was too late.  I looked up and saw it 50 yards down the road, which left little time for negotiation.  I was only able to fire a single opening salvo of “Hey, I wanna stop for…” to which she replied, “nope” and pressed the accelerator.  Beer nirvana blurred past, and the kids started to chirp that I didn’t need any more beers at home – they may be correct – and that they just wanted to get on the road.  Outvoted three to one and wanting to get home myself, I didn’t press the issue.  Had I planned better and pitched the idea of stopping over lunch, I probably could have made it happen, but my mind was mostly on work stuff so I didn’t think that far ahead.  My fault, I guess.

So now I’m back in New Jersey with no new and interesting beers in the fridge, just an interesting new rash on my belly. Gotta love Petri Park.

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Categories: Beer, Lifestyle


Craft beer nerd, frequent beer blogger and occasional home brewer.

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25 Comments on “Close, but No Craft Beer”

  1. March 27, 2012 at 12:23 pm #

    With being a dad comes responsibility. Suck it up, Buttercup. Besides, there’s always next time and you need to get out of NJ now and then.

    • March 27, 2012 at 12:52 pm #

      Agreed. That’s exactly why I didn’t fuss – it wasn’t about me yesterday.

  2. March 27, 2012 at 12:35 pm #

    This is a sad story, but wouldn’t you have had to buy a case of beer if you had purchased anything in PA?

    • March 27, 2012 at 12:53 pm #

      Not sure, but I wouldn’t mind picking up a case of Bells Two Hearted…

  3. johnking82
    March 27, 2012 at 12:46 pm #


    • March 27, 2012 at 12:53 pm #

      You damn whippersnappers!

  4. March 27, 2012 at 12:59 pm #

    See you next week! Want any special Hoosier beers?

    • March 27, 2012 at 1:14 pm #

      Hmm…maybe something rom Three Floyds, but if that won’t fit in your suitcase, Two Floyds will do! 🙂

      • March 27, 2012 at 1:16 pm #

        We’re driving so I will pack accordingly. 🙂 And Don! Where is my grumpy bear buddy? I miss him!

        • March 27, 2012 at 1:22 pm #

          I miss him, too, and I don’t even like him!!

      • johnking82
        March 27, 2012 at 1:16 pm #

        WHAT?!?!?! It’s over Jim.

        • March 27, 2012 at 1:23 pm #

          Hey, beggers can’t be choosers (I secretly hoping she surprises me with FOUR Floyds! Score!!)

        • March 27, 2012 at 1:23 pm #

          John – you and Ashley should come with me. Road trip! On second thought….nevermind.

    • March 27, 2012 at 1:36 pm #

      Bring him some Sun King! Good to see a fellow hoosier beer geek!

      • March 27, 2012 at 2:02 pm #

        Will do! I think the plan is a sampling of:

        Three Floyds
        Sun King
        Mad Anthony
        Great Crescent

        P.S. I’m not a Hoosier Beer Geek. Those guys are doing great things for the state!

  5. March 27, 2012 at 1:05 pm #

    Thanks for that – now I have PPDWPSD aggravated by a similar case of CBW. As you know, PPDWPSD, otherwise known as Post Petri Dish Water Park Stress Disorder is often encountered in conjunction with CBW, yes, Craft Beer Withdrawal, so I know I’m not alone here.

    The weekend before last we had a strikingly similar, child-driven weekend; however, our “water park” was a glorified set of indoor pools at the Willow Valley Inn in Lancaster, PA. All due respect to the Amish and Menonites and the quiant little black buggies – occasionally modded out with evergreen car fresheners – they don’t exactly value a purveyor of wide and cutting edge craft beers. I was lucky enough to find a tap handle displaying DH60 and gladly accepted its offerring only to recognize that the tap keeper probably spent much more time cleaning up after horses than cleaning tap lines. Lesson learned…

    On a lighter note (and directly related to your post), I’m lucky enough to live across the river from Philly so I have a couple of great bottle shops (The Foodery and Beer Heaven) reasonably at my disposal and even State Line Liquors and their massive craft beer inventory is an easy 45 minute drive.

    And while I agree that the selections available in PA or MD are better than they are here, we’ve seen some nice improvements over recent months with the likes of Lost Abbey/Port Brewing and Ballast Point to name a couple.

    Now go rub some R.J. Rockers Fish Paralyzer on that rash and pour the rest in a tulip glass. Wait, you can’t get that in NJ….



  6. March 27, 2012 at 1:16 pm #

    Ha ha, and ouch there at the end!

  7. March 27, 2012 at 3:57 pm #

    Ok, so all that sounds like justification for an adult weekend. Find a sitter and go get you some beer this coming weekend!

    • March 27, 2012 at 4:01 pm #

      No, no – this coming weekend is my daughter’s party for the entire family, there’ll be no “adult time” to be had!! Instead, we’ll be enjoying a unicorn-themed affair, complete with red-dyed Sprite serving as the unicorn blood we’ll be drinking.

      Did I mention that my daughter is just about the coolest almost-six-year-old in the world? The unicorn blood was all her idea…

  8. jf1smith
    March 27, 2012 at 10:18 pm #

    I feel your pain but that’ll teach you to leave the driving to others !!! One of many reasons I am loath to relinquish the keys. We’d hit every outlet mall and greenhouse we encountered otherwise. Classic pic on the post… Can’t remember what the hell that green monster is…

    • Don
      March 27, 2012 at 10:30 pm #

      It’s the “Family Truckster” 🙂

  9. March 28, 2012 at 12:00 pm #

    I’m heading to the Poke-your-nose for Easter and would love to do my part by scouting this beervana barn, if you can narrow the location?


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