Atlantic City means a lot of things to a lot of people. Casinos, the beach, slot machines and shows. Some think of the bygone days of big entertainment, others shake their heads at the obvious poverty in much of the area. One thing most people don’t equate with AC is good, fresh craft beer. Go into a casino and ask to see the beer list and if you are lucky – very lucky maybe the bartender with fish around in the back of the beer case for you and pull out a hidden Youngling or Sam Adams… $10 a pop plus tip for that, thank you.’
Back in the early 2000’s Tun Tavern was an oasis of fresh beer in the desert that was AC – one of the early breweries in the entire area, offering the basics – Blonde ale, Stout, Amber and an IPA – totally adequate, particularly in 2000. When I visited it in 2005, it was still unusual to find brewery at the shore. And today Tun Tavern is still there, and still adequate, but no longer a “must go” for a craft brew enthusiast. Still a nice stop when waiting for the train back to center city Philly.
When visiting the area in 2021, one day up on my browser popped “The Seed, a Living Beer Project” – a new brewery in Atlantic City – “What the what?”. The website offered a pretty intense essay on the wonders of natural life, local brewing with local ingredients, botanicals, saisons and flowers. Curious, and with not many alternatives, I ventured to their location about 8 blocks back from the casinos on Baltic Ave (once the ‘low rent’ district). Well, the moment I walked in I knew that the Seed was someplace special indeed.
I have penned quite a few stories about what makes a brew pub/brewery experience really work. It all starts with the beer of course, that has to be special, remarkable and solid. Then there’s the look and feel – is it welcoming, comfortable, a place you want to be? And of course there’s the vibe – the tone and ambience usually starting with the people that work there, the other customers, the sounds, tone of conversation. Are these people you feel comfortable with? Are people having fun, are they into the beer? Can you see the brewhouse, is it part of the space?
To say the the Seed checks all the boxes would be a disservice. The beer? Stellar – brewed with obvious focus and care. Simple ingredients well brewed, flavorful and memorable beers – hoppy enough for the IPA fanatic, with darker more mellow alternatives also available. Interesting collaboration beers, low alcohol specials and flavorful saisons. The barkeep rinsed the outside of the glass after pouring.
The staff happily welcomed our group as we stumbled into the cool inviting warehouse like space from the hot summer glare of the parking lot. Looking around, there are exotic dried plants hanging from the ceiling, rough brick accenting real wooden furnishing that looks custom made (turns out they made most of it themselves). Large open seating area surrounding a large bar – which is almost always full with people sampling beer, talking earnestly and laughing easily.
The brewhouse itself is interesting too – odd shaped untraditional brewing equipment, some we were told came from dairies. Does the oddly shaped brew kettle add some special qualities to the beer? Maybe so, maybe not, but the brewers at the Seed sure know how to use it to turn out some fine ales and lagers. (A recent favorite lager – “Can it be so Simple?” is a luscious 100% NJ pilsner malt beer hopped exclusively with the robust Saaz hop),
A recent release is “Seashells” a delicious cloudy pale ale, generously dry hopped with Citra, Cashmere and Amarillo hops, crushable at 5.4% abv – with exclusive label art by the renown craft beer artist Keith Shore. Yes, that is cool.
The story is that Amanda and Sean never really planned to start a brewery, but craft beer, it’s flavors, ingredients and recipes were deep in their souls. Amanda had brewed for nearby Tuckahoe Brewing, and Sean taught aqua-biology – and they really loved beer. They started to “tear apart” their favorite beers – Allagash, even the venerable Orval from Belgium. More locally, they examined Dogfish and Ardmore’s Tired Hands for unusual flavors, ingredients and techniques. Encouraged by their friends at a local craft distiller “Little Water”, they looked at a space next door (sandwiched between the distillery and an axe throwing studio) and thought that maybe it could work.
They opened during the pandemic, which just fell into the mix of hurdles to get over and challenges to face. But they did it, and anyone that goes there is very happy that they did. In 2021 The Seed was named “One of the 10 best new breweries in the US” by the USA Today. “It got us some publicity- which is nice, but didn’t really change anything” the bartender told us. Now in 2022 the Seed continues to grow and evolve, focused on simple recipes brewed with care featuring local ingredients.
It’s worth taking a hour or so drive (or train) from Philadelphia just to sit in their welcoming taproom, and sample the delightful brews that they create. If you are “down the shore” already – well, then you simply have to go. If it’s July, you might see me there – as I whenever I can – I am there. Here’s to craft brewing at it’s best, and now in Atlantic City.