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  • Writer's pictureMary Ann

New Jersey's 1st post-Prohibition Brewery & Brewpub Sets a New Course for the Future

Rooted in the Past and Moving Toward the Future after COVID delayed their 2020 Launch

Credit: Kuhlken Photographers

The Ship Inn (61 Bridge Street, Milford, NJ) New Jersey’s 1st Brewery and Brewpub, where the state’s first craft beer was legally brewed and poured from a tap after Prohibition on January 3, 1995, is entering a new era as Descendants Brewing Company. In 2017, Joe and Ana David (and their partners, Aaron and Jaime Forste and Brett and Dena Dew) purchased The Ship Inn from its prior owners, the Halls. Joe and Ana, a young couple starting their own family, had a vision for the business tied to their strong family values and ancestry. Rooted in history and growing towards the future, they have been thoughtfully transitioning the historic Ship Inn into their vision until the COVID pandemic halted their April 2020 launch plans. After a long, challenging year of working hard to keep the business operating and finalizing updates, they are now ready to launch as Descendants Brewing Company (Descendants) as of May 1, 2021.

Joe David, an owner, states, “Despite all the hardships we faced due to the pandemic, we felt it was important for us to be there for our employees and the community and try to keep the momentum going. We quickly found our team and community were also there to support us through this difficult time. We are grateful and excited to be able to finally realize our vision, launching as Descendants Brewing Company at the Old Ship Inn and celebrate with our extended family.”

On Saturday, May 1, 2021, Descendants held their official grand opening and ribbon cutting to celebrate the evolution and new updates, including renovations to the space, new Chef and menus, brewhouse and new craft beers and creation of a whiskey program, craft cocktails, global wines and other features.

Descendants Brewing's concept is based on family, ancestry, and the four primary beer cultures (German, Belgian, British, and American). Joe and Ana’s family trees are fortuitously connected to all these roots. The legacy Ship Inn built has laid the foundation for the future, and Descendants will continue to honor and build upon it. Similar to the Ship Inn, Descendants is a family-run business where you will find Joe and Ana overseeing the day-today management and where you will find Joe brewing the signature craft beer.

Descendants has weekly live entertainment with popular bands and other regular, fun promotions, including Mugger Monday, where the new beer of the week is released; Open Mic Night on Tuesdays; Family Night/Whiskey Wednesdays; and every Thursday, guests can look forward to a new Burger & Bar special. Special events such as food and beverage pairing dinners will also occur regularly. There is a little something for everyone at Descendants.

Credit: Kuhlken Photographers

THE FOOD The new Executive Chef, Brian Roskow (formerly of Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant, Cambridge Brewing, Portsmouth Brewing) and Sous Chefs Ryan Benner and Rob Pausch, have created a menu that epitomizes the new concept with dishes hailing from America, The Fatherland (a nod to Joe’s Belgian and Alsatian roots), and The Motherland (Ana’s home country of Germany), and of course, they’ll keep some Ship Inn classics like signature Fish & Chips and Shepherd’s Pie along with the addition of several gluten-free and vegan/vegetarian items. Fortunately, being located in the heart of the Garden State surrounded by a wealth of farms, including neighboring Bobolink, Chef will have a bounty of fresh, local seasonal ingredients at his disposal.

In addition to using the flagship beer in traditional ways like beer batter for the fish and chips, slow braising the beef for the Shepherd’s Pie, Chef Brian is also employing interesting techniques such as creating malted syrups from the “wort” for use in the crème brulee, dressings, doughs, breads and ice creams. After an election year full of debates, Descendants is having a little fun creating The Great Debate Burger, which may finally end the classic local Jersey debate of “pork roll vs. Taylor ham.” You can ask Joe about who is winning that one.

In line with the strong family identity (Joe, Ana and their three children can be found on-site most days), kids are certainly not an afterthought at Descendants. Going beyond a Kids Menu, they have created a “Kids in Flight” program to join the grown-ups in indulging in a flight of beverages and receive a certificate of completion. While the adults indulge in craft beer flights, kids will enjoy their very own flight of Boylan’s sodas – birch beer, root beer or fresh juices. Kids will also receive a blank family tree that they can fill out over dinner with their parents, opening a dialog about their family history.

THE BEER, WHISKEY & BEVERAGE PROGRAM One essential component that will remain in place is the original Peter Austin brewing system that Joe will continue to use to brew signature craft beer. There are only about two dozen of these exclusive historic systems remaining in the US. He is expanding the brewery with new fermenters. Joe also stumbled upon a true treasure when he found a box in a closet containing all the original beer recipes. With ten (10) traditional taps and three (3) hand pumps, they plan on keeping two of the authentic British style ales on regular rotation, the Best Bitter, a cask-conditioned, hand-pumped beer, and the ESB (extra special bitter). Joe will also expand these offerings to include more styles from the four pillar beer cultures and explore other cultures as part of the Hidden Nation Brewing lineup. New monthly, seasonal beers will be added in rotation along with Ironbound Cider on tap, locally produced just a few miles away. Local coffee from Homestead Coffee Roasters is used to make the No Place Like Homestead Porter.

In addition to the house brews, an exclusive “Origins” menu of bottled beers from the pillar beer cultures of Germany, Belgium and the UK, along with Trappist breweries, are available. While Descendants’ house-brewed craft beer is undoubtedly the focus, they also have a full liquor license and offer a robust beverage program. In fact, they now offer a collection of over 160 whiskeys, the most extensive selection within an hour radius, offering a great selection of Scottish, Irish and American expressions, as well as some very rare Welsh whiskeys, Austrian single malts and some “Silly Whiskeys”-- fun, flavored whiskeys.

The cocktail menu includes selections that descend from and are inspired by the prohibition era cocktails of the 1920s, with a few featured “Ale-Tails” incorporating house beer along with new whiskey cocktails. A well-curated wine list also boasts unique offerings tied to the four pillar countries by the bottle and glass.

Descendants has an established Mug Club and Whiskey Club that offer perks to members who achieve specific tasting landmarks. A whiskey bible is forthcoming for those who want to dive deeper into the crafting of these whiskies and their tasting notes.

Descendants hosts seasonal beer releases and monthly beer, whiskey, wine or spirits pairing dinners. They even have an absinthe fountain that makes an appearance for special occasions. Brewery tours are planned for the future.

THE SPACE The large, historic Victorian building they occupy dates back to 1879 and has enjoyed a rich history housing several conventional and some not so conventional businesses, including a general store, bakery, ice cream parlor, Prohibition-era speakeasy (and rumored brothel), Town Tavern, and most recently The Ship Inn. Exterior and interior updates were made to bring the Descendants vision to life. As you enter, the front wall with nostalgic imagery pays tribute to the history and prior incarnations of the space. Across from the brewery, there is new bier hall style communal seating for up to 30 people. Some “Sacred elements” were preserved including the exposed brick wall, original tin ceiling and old bowling alley repurposed as the bar top, speakeasy door and the old mugs. A line of Descendants merchandise is available, and some vintage Ship Inn goodies will also be available from time to time.

The restrooms will feature Retro 50’s beer commercials streaming to screens, as well as imagery from the uber-popular Miss Rheingold contests held back in the day. (Fun fact: it was the most voted-on competition in the US next to the Presidency, and it was held every year from 1941 to 1964, not every four).

Descendants is convenient to popular day trip spots including Frenchtown (3 miles away), New Hope, Lambertville, Easton and Phillipsburg for antiquing, dining, biking, birdwatching, and other outdoor activities. Descendants will make their own hammer to “ring the rocks” at nearby Ringing Rocks State Park. A railroad Dining Car from Phillipsburg to Lehigh Valley is another tourist attraction coming soon. An onsite Airbnb space is planned that will be ideal for guests who want to stay and host any private events on location.

ABOUT DESCENDANTS BREWING COMPANY (at the Old Ship Inn): Descendants Brewing Company is housed in a large historic Victorian building dating back to 1879 that sits at 61 Bridge Street, Milford, New Jersey. Situated on the very western border of New Jersey, Descendants Brewing Company at the Old Ship Inn was the site of the first brewery and brewpub after Prohibition in New Jersey where the first craft beer was legally brewed and poured from a tap on January 3, 1995. Located just steps from the Delaware River and the popular scenic Lehigh Valley corridor of Pennsylvania, Descendants Brewing Company is a prime food, drink and entertainment destination.

Descendants Brewing Company / 61 Bridge St, Milford, NJ 08848 / (908) 995-0188 / @descendantsbrewingcompany


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