After all these years Jersey City has its own brewery. It’s surprising that more haven’t opened as the city has grown over the last 20 years, but New Jersey liquor laws can pose challenges. And that’s why Departed Soles is the only one around.
The brewery opened in 2015 in the old factory area in downtown Jersey City that has been redeveloped into an arts district. It started out as a gluten-free brewery in honor of the brewer’s friend who had Celiac disease — they have a lot more traditional beer now, but still have at least two gluten-free options at the tasting room.
The gluten-free options at Departed Soles are better than most, but they do not have the flavor of traditionally-brewed beer. I avoid the gluten-free beer, but I know there are people who go to the tasting room specifically for this option.
The Departed Soles Brewery and tasting room is convenient — it’s right near the Grove St. PATH station on Bay St. And it’s walking distance from just about anywhere downtown and even from the waterfront.
I had put off visiting Departed Soles for a while, partly because I thought it was on a different block of Bay St. and I couldn’t find it the first time I went looking. It took a while before I decided to seek it out again, and I’m glad I did.
The bar area is welcoming and well lit, with plenty of seating to enjoy the beer, and they usually have good music playing — though on my most recent visit, they had karaoke and I almost walked out if not for an adorable dog that convinced me to stay. There’s also a gelato shop right next to the brewery for a little snack.
The best part about the brewery is that you can get a tasting set of four beers, and it comes with a full pint as well — you can have a pint of one of the beers you already chose or something else after you’ve had your tastes. For $10, that’s probably the best deal in Jersey City. And just to make things fun, the four tasting glasses are served on a skateboard (the tables are level, so the skateboard won’t roll away).
My first introduction to Departed Soles beers was a couple years ago, and I was unimpressed — the beer wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t anything that made me think I should continue trying more. I definitely had the gluten-free beers that lacked flavor for the most part. Despite that first experience, I gave the brewery another chance or three. And I’m glad I did.
It’s still a young brewery, and Departed Soles is experimenting with mixed results. But they have refined a few of their beers that I had tried early on. The best beers I’ve had from them are IPAs — they’ve made a good variety, particularly the NEIPAs like their Autohops and Hose Play IPA. The best of their dark beers is the S’mo ‘n Joe, an imperial milk stout with a bit of coffee. They also brew a few fruit / sour ales that are pretty good, like Singles Awareness (made for Valentine’s Day) that was more of a light sour beer.
There is not set tour at Departed Soles. The brewery is pretty much open for anyone to see. However, if visitors want to learn more about the brewery and the beer-making process, the staff is willing to give a “tour” of sorts when it isn’t busy.
It’s comfortable place to relax with friends or even meet some new ones. The biggest attraction is that their beers are at least a dollar cheaper than at any bar in town.