NJ’s First Post-Prohibition Brewpub Reopens as Descendants Brewing Company

by Kevin Hurler

The Earth stood still in 2020, alongside Descendants Brewing Company‘s plans for a grand opening in Milford, NJ. Team leaders Joe and Ana David, alongside members Aaron and Jaime Forste and Brett and Dena Dew, were gearing up for an April 2020 grand opening of the revamped Ship’s Inn brewery—now home to Descendants Brewing Company at the Old Ship’s Inn. But the team was forced to fall back and regroup in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and shutdown. The Ship’s Inn has a monumental place within New Jersey’s colorful history with alcohol, becoming the state’s first brewery after the end of Prohibition in the 1930s. Likewise, the brewery is the site where the state’s first craft beer was brewed and poured. In May 2021, Descendants Brewing Company was finally able to reopen as Milford’s newest brewpub.

Descendants Brewing Company is built upon family, specifically on Joe and Ana’s German, Belgian, British, and American ancestry – all of which happen to be the four, primary beer cultures. The young couple oversees all of the day-to-day responsibilities and operation of the brewery while starting their own family. “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,” explains Joe. “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.” 

Joe and Ana David at Descendants Brewing Company l Courtesy of Kuhlken Photographers

The Food

The eclectic brewery menu is the brainchild of executive chef Brian Roskow and sous chefs Ryan Benner and Rob Bausch. The Fatherland and Motherland menus further explore the DNA of Descendants. “From The Fatherland” features dishes inspired by Joe’s Alsatian and German heritage, with dishes like the grilled brie appetizer and the “Crispy Mister,” which features black forest ham, gruyere, and dijon mustard served on thick Texas toast. “From the Motherland” meanwhile pays homage to Ana’s German routes. Drunken fig salad, German pretzels, kielbasa, and chicken schnitzel make up the Germanic spread. 

The menu is inspired by the Old Ship Inn, as well as New Jersey itself. The “Home Sweet Home” menu is made up of classic New Jersey dishes like chicken wings and mozzarella sticks, as well as the “Great Debate Burger,” served with a sunny-side-up egg and New Jersey’s famous pork roll. “From the Old Ship” offers patrons a dive into some cuisine inspired by history. “The Ship’s Fish and Chips” and “Ann’s Cottage Pie” are Old Ship Inn classics, carried into the present by Descendants Brewing Company. 

descendants brewing

The Great Debate Burger by Descendants Brewing Company l Courtesy of Kuhlken Photographers

The Drinks

At Descendants Brewing Company, beer is second only to family. The brewery continues to use a rare microbrewery system to craft their signature beer, along with a list of classic recipes Joe David found tucked away in one of the Inn’s closets. Their offerings run the gamut from light and crisp American Blondes to maltier Pilsners. Local collaborations like Ironbound Cider and the No Place Like Homestead Porter (brewed with Homestead Coffee Roasters’ signature coffee) are also available on tap. Monthly and seasonal beers will also rotate in and out of the brewery’s menu.

The brewpub also emphasizes its extensive collection of cocktails and spirits. With over 160 different whiskeys to choose from, Descendants has unveiled the Whiskey Club, which grants members exclusive perks for reaching certain tasting milestones. Their cocktail menu is inspired by the speakeasies of the 1920s. Concoctions include the High Society (FEW Rye, St. Germaine, Cynar, lemon peel) and the August in Manhattan (Widow Jane Applewood Rye, Amaro Nardini, cardamom and cherry). 

descendants brewing

August in Manhattan by Descendants Brewing Company l Courtesy of Kuhlken Photographers

The Future

Although the brewpub just opened, the Descendants team has big plans for the future. Most notably, with the addition of new fermenters, the brewery’s extensive beer list will only grow. Tours of the brewery are being planned for later this year. The staff is also developing a “whiskey bible” for a more comprehensive whiskey tasting experience. Also, the brewery is only a stone’s throw away from Ringing Rocks State Park, where the rocks ring like bells. As such, Descendants is in the process of crafting their own, custom hammer for a visit to this local geologic anomaly. 

Are you planning a visit to Descendants Brewing Company at the Old Ship’s Inn? Let us know in the comments below.

Featured image courtesy of Kuhlken Photographers

About the Author/s

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I'm a scientist obsessed with New Jersey's environment and geology. I'm probably reading science fiction. Or watering my plants.

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