The garage doors were rolled up one recent fall weekend afternoon at the lively corner space that is Tonewood Brewing in tiny Oaklyn. The wood community tables inside were packed with drinkers. The handmade poplar bar was full. Jimi Hendrix was jamming the blues on the stereo – the legendary guitarist's "tonewood" working to full effect. And along the light- and vine-strung sidewalk lined with picnic tables, even the cornhole boards were at full capacity. Excitement has come to this mini-downtown strip just south of Collingswood off the White Horse Pike in the form of one of my favorite new breweries.
Dare I say, the Tonewood is on fire? Make that a Fuego, the brewery's big hit, which is essentially South Jersey's dank and juicy answer to the hazy New England IPA trend — vivid with hoppy fruit flavor but without the astringent bitterness. You can buy it ice-cold at the brewery by in a six-pack of cans, as well as at a number of South Jersey retail locations.
But at the brewery, you can also taste Fuego on draft in supercharged form: its Mosaic and Citra hops amped with a "double-dry hop" dose. Whoosh! That was more hops than I need. It was while perched at that bar, however, that I was also able to sample the Tonewood's wider repertoire, and I was especially impressed with its handle on maltier classic styles, like the deep amber Dreadnaught Dunkel, a nutty Munich lager, and especially the creamy dark Barrel Bound stout full of roasty and bittersweet baker's chocolate notes. That should booze-up and mellow quite nicely once a portion is done aging in Buffalo Trace bourbon barrels, after which, of course, I'm going to need to brush up on my cornhole skills and make another trip to Oaklyn.
– Craig LaBan
Fuego, $13 a six-pack, Tonewood Brewing, 215 W. Clinton Ave., Oaklyn; 856-833-1500; tonewoodbrewing.com