The Somerset site upon which newly opened Bottle Republic sits used to be a Drug Fair. From 2002 on, I would stop in occasionally for various items, mostly Gatorade for my sons during wrestling season at Rutgers Prep. But in 2009, the company--headquartered in Somerset-- filed for bankruptcy, and the building sat vacant for years.
A couple of months ago, and after seeing construction going on, I noticed a big red bottle on the facade as I drove to and from wrestling practice, and I learned from my older, now-beer drinking sons (and to my great pleasure, I might add) that the place, initially dubbed Bottle Craft, was brimming with quality craft beer. Given my mission for finding meccas of good beer and sharing them with my readers, a stop was clearly necessary. And yesterday was the day.
Upon entering, I was presented with the sight of a very long beer aisle, with refrigerated stuff on the right and and warm stuff on the left. The cold case was organized by region of the country for domestic beer--Northeast, West Coast, etc., everything in between. Countries, for imports, have their own sections too. That's pretty convenient, methought, and pretty smart marketing-wise. Looking for a West Coast IPA, there's the section. Looking for Jersey beers?There they are. (You got a problem with that?) Their variety case section also features some very prominent, though hard-to-find, offerings.
I began to feel like a kid in a candy store. Owner Drew Patel said he and beer manager Mark Cummings select their beers based upon what's moving, and if it isn't, it goes. They got a new shipment in during my visit, and I pulled a mixer of Founders Azacca off the dolley to take home, along with Six Point The Crisp, Firestone Walker Easy Jack IPA, Oskar Blues Pinner and Mama's Little Yella Pils. He has close to two hundred different breweries represented in the store, and well over six hundred different beers. That means if you can't find a beer or a cider you like, you're probably a wine drinker.
There is a problem for the serious craft beer drinker here, though, and that's putting a leash on your wallet to keep you from spending all the grocery money. Kids in candy stores, at least when I was growing up, were usually limited by the amount of change in their pockets. If you've got plastic, you'll use it here for sure, though the prices are not outlandish. All my sixers were $10 and the Azacca was $11. If you're looking for a place to stock up before the Giant Snowstorm heading our way, this is it, though they do not carry bread, milk or eggs.
Patel said business is getting steadily better as people learn that Bottle Republic is a bona fide craft beer destination. The PubScout is happy to spread that word, and he envisions many stops at this place.
Especially during wrestling season.
1760 Easton Ave.