Before the pandemic, Bhavna and I often drove out of town, at least once a month, to new breweries in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. When the restrictions was lifted I was keen to visit Odd Bird Brewing in Stockton which opened in late January 2020; just before the pandemic lockdown. Odd Bird Brewing is less than a 40 minute drive from our home. Stockton is a very small town in Hunterdon County, New Jersey across the Delaware River from New Hope, Pennsylvania. Parking can be often challenging to find but we were lucky enough to find parking just outside the brewery entrance.
Owners and brewers Adam Juncosa and Karen Malzone designed the tap room, which, while not large, is large for a community the size of Stockton. According to the brewery website:
All of the tables, bar and frames are from a single Red Oak tree, constructed and finished by us. The Hand Pulled Beer Engine was originally from a 1970s John Smith Pub in the UK and reconditioned for use over the last few years.
Adam and Karen are weirdos just like Bhavna and I, hence the name of the brewery.
Talking with Karen and Adam, it seems they prefer traditional European styles like Kölsch and smoked helles lager, from Germany, and bitters and oatmeal stouts the likes of which are popular in England. Too many breweries in New Jersey focus on more popular styles like the IPA, especially the hazy or New England IPA. At some breweries half the ales on tap are IPA.
Over the last several years, many breweries have increased the alcohol content by volume (ABV) of many of their beer to over 8%. I think this ruins the brewery experience. I want to sit and have a few pints with Bhavna or friends. Like Flounder Brewing, Odd Bird has bucked the trend by offering many beers in the 4 to 6% ABV range. Adam says that while Catbird IPA is the brewery’s best-selling brew overall, the lower-ABV beers more than hold their own in terms of popularity. Odd Bird’s offerings are a welcome change.
We started out our tour of the fancifully named beers with Bird Light, a light and refreshing Mexican-Style Pale Lager. Karen suggested I try it with a lime so I did. I think this is an excellent beer for the beach or a BBQ. Bird Light was my favourite. I got a growler to take home. Next up was a Kölsch called Joe's Garage, followed by Extraordinary Machine IPA, an IPA with Nelson Sauvin and Rakau hops. I finished my tour with Extra Stockton Bitter served from the authentic British hand pump.
It was a gorgeous day with blue skies, fully clouds, and tolerable heat and humidity. I woke Bhavna and convinced her to come with me on my continuing adventure along the Hunterdon County 57 Trail. I decided on visiting the Ironbound Farm Market in Asbury (just north of Frenchtown) which I knew was also the home of Ironbound Hard Cider. Starting from our home in Montgomery Township, we enjoyed the hour-long drive through the rolling hills and country roads of Hunterdon County. We arrived at the Ironbound Farm Market around 11:30 AM.
I immediately fell in love with the outdoor space, with picnic tables placed between young tree scattered among a gravel floor. We washed our hands at the washing station before entering the building. Bottles of colourful liquid lined a counter near the entryway. The farmstand held flowers and fresh produce but we shopped from the freezer full of meats and sausages. We bought some Hard Selzer and Hard Cider for my sister-in-law. We will be hanging out in her backyard for Father's Day.
After checking out, we explored more of the outdoor spaces. I noticed what appears to be large outdoor coal-fired barbecue pit to the rear of the structure covering some of the picnic tables. With the flowers and thoughts of live music, hard cider, and outdoor seating, I could imagine that before COVID-10, a visit to the Ironbound Farm was an incredible experience. We mentally bookmarked this one for when they start serving outdoors again.
Before leaving Ironbound I messaged our family group with this photo from my iPhone. While we driving on our way to our next destination, Bhavana's brother responded that there was a winery nearby and that he would be willing to meet us there. But we had errands so I declined. Then suddenly I remembered something. I pulled over to check my email. At the end of May, I had ordered ab bottle of rose wine for curbside pickup from Beneduce Vineyards in Pittstown. Beneduce Vineyards is also on the Hunterdon County 57 Trail and was just a ten-minute drive from Ironbound.
As we drove through the property Bhavana kept commenting that she felt as though she was in another country. This did not look like New Jersey. Between Ironbound Farm and Beneduce Vineyards, I think I developed a strong feeling of FOMO and regret. I know that eventually, we will have a vaccine for COVID-19, but I regret not discovering these two places before COVID-19. These are two places I would love to enjoy with my friends and family. That vaccine can’t arrive soon enough.
Earlier in the week, after exploring some “mini-patio” designs on the web, I had mentioned to Bhavna that I wanted to get some tropical plants (aka house plants in the USA) for the front patio. From Pittstown, we drove to Blooms at Belle Mead, a garden centre in the Belle Mead section of our town, Montgomery Township. After some exploration, we settled on three large leaf plants, fiddle-leaf fig (Ficus lyrata), Warneckii Lemon Lime (Dracaena deremensis), and Swiss cheese plant (Monstera deliciosa). I set them up on the small patio and created a small green oasis for outdoor relaxation.
Earlier in the week, I had purchased two jars of Sourland Mountain Spirits’ High Tea at the Rick House cocktail-to-go. I wanted to pick them up but Bhavna wanted to get the frozen meats home before they thawed. She then suggested that since Sourland Mountain Spirits had opened up an outdoor bar with social distanced seating in the rear that we could pick up our cocktails and stay for a cocktail. We went home, put the meats to thaw in the refrigerator, and head over to Sourland Mountain Spirits. It was then 3 PM so I joked with our host, Erica Disch, that we had arrived just in time for TeaTime.
The businesses in the area run by creative and enterprising owners. A friend of the Disch family created a small overhang in one of the windows to serve as a makeshift bar. We ordered two cocktails, the Aloha Kung Fu and the. I enjoyed the Aloha Kung Fu so much that I ordered two more jars of cocktail-to-go.
I convinced Bhavna to come with me to the Hunterdon Land Trust Farmers’ Market. Earlier in the week, I ordered a rustic loaf of bread and a 7 year aged reserve cheddar from Bobolink Dairy and Bakehouse in Milford. I ordered online, but pick up is at the farmers' market.
Hunterdon Land Trust Farmers’ Market is hosted at the Case-Dvoor Farmstead in Flemington, about a 45-minute drive from home. We didn't know what to expect, but we pleasantly surprised. Beside Bobolink, we bought a few containers of spicy pickles from picklelicious for Kiran. She loves their pickles. I bought some native wildflower plants for my garden and roasted coffee beans.
Now for the strange bit. We stopped at one booth where a woman and her family were selling a sort of Balkan calzone and a sweet pastry which she thought I "needed". When I explained that I don't eat too many sweet things due to Type 1 diabetes, her husband, who was seated on the grass nearby perked up. He got up and insisted on praying for me to be healed. I was polite, but then it got weird when he tried to lay his hands on me. I did my best not insult the man when I insisted that I had to leave. But he persisted in explaining that disease was all in my mind and that he could cure me with prayer. Did I mention he was not wearing a mask and insisted COVID-19 was a hoax? Yup. Weird.
After the market, Bhavna wanted to go for a hike. We quickly ate our "Balkan" lunch, changed, and drove over to the St. Michael’s Farm Preserve. The last time we hiked this trail it was winter, the air was cold, and the ground was frozen. We had a blast then, but this time, we were miserable. The preserve is mostly open fields. The air was humid with temperatures just above 30ºC. We were wilting. Bhavna wanted to turn around, but we persisted and found a fork in the trail that took us into the forest. That was more fun, but the trail wasn't as beautiful as the Rocky Brook and Mount Rose trails.
I was in the kitchen when I looked out the window and saw this foal strolling across the lawn. I grabbed the Canon 70-200mm, gingerly slid open the sliding door and was able to snap some photos.