Similar to the series of wine trails showcasing the best that New Jersey's grapes have to offer, a new piece of legislation making its way through the State House would establish at least three "brewery trails" as a new tool to promote more than 100 distinct beermakers in the Garden State.

Assemblyman Hal Wirths, R-Sussex, is a primary sponsor of the bill. He said New York state, which is in close proximity to where he lives, has been "eating our lunch" as far as making breweries tourist destinations, and fully part of the fabric of their communities.

"It's like a whole day outing," Wirths said. "The people come from as far as New York City all the time to spend time in Warwick, so hopefully this will make us more competitive and put us on a map to grow these businesses just over the border."

He said the time is right for the state to focus on this industry, while it is still warm enough outside to coordinate outdoor activities during the COVID-19 pandemic, and also while quarantine orders are in place if New Jerseyans travel to as many as 35 other states or territories.

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The influx of cash, not only through beer sales themselves but also via state and other taxes, would be significant. But that wouldn't be the only benefit, Wirths said.

"I just think it's a really neat idea, and I know that the demand is there, and (breweries) create over 8,500 jobs for these folks in the state of New Jersey," he said.

Under the legislation, the Division of Travel and Tourism would be responsible for planning out the trails and the attractions along each one, as well as rolling out a website with information on each individual brewery.

Some contextual history would be included, for good measure.

"New Jersey has a very rich history of brewing our own beer, back to the 1600s, and developed some very unique techniques, so this is going to form a minimum of three brewery trails," Wirths said.

Wirths' bill recently passed unanimously in the Assembly Oversight, Reform, and Federal Relations Committee. It's a bipartisan measure that he expects to continue gaining support on both sides of the aisle.

"When everybody runs for election, they say the most important person is the small business folks, and unfortunately I think they've been forgotten by a lot of elected officials," he said.

Patrick Lavery is New Jersey 101.5's afternoon news anchor. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email

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