By Kurt Epps—The PubScout
Whenever I got my summons for jury duty in the past, I'd just tell them I was a teacher, and they let me go. Somehow or other, that free pass got revoked (probably late one night) by the same state government that is currently doing its level best to empty NJ of its productive citizens, who are escaping the state in record numbers for more tax-friendly states.
I still was able to skip the jury duty thing, though, because they give you a special number to call the night before to see if you were still needed. I'd call only to receive a recorded message that "jurors from pool so-and-so with numbers higher than so-and so were excused."
Fine with me. Don't get me wrong: our justice system works because of the service of the average citizen whose duty it is to serve every so often. But it's a PITA…a necessary and compulsory PITA, but a PITA nonetheless.
But my luck ran out this month, and I hied myself to New Brunswick to do my duty. I was less than ecstatic, despite the government's willingness to pick up my parking tab and offer me the princely sum of $5.00 a day for serving. The five-spot would cover the gallon of gas I put in my car to get there, but I won't get that bank-breaker check for two weeks, when gas will probably be twice that.
But I digress. At the County Courthouse, my fellow lemmings and I shuffled in as dutifully as the old people in Soylent Green
(It's people! Soylent Green is people!). We donned our JUROR badges, watched a movie about jury duty, and sat (dutifully) until called by a judge for jury selection. That's where the judge explains the process again, reminds you of its seriousness and of the absolute need for impartiality and fairness. Then he seats eight (ours was a civil case) and asks questions of each prospective juror until the attorneys find the jury members acceptable. They can dismiss any juror they want without reason, and it's probably one of the few times arbitrary rejection feels good. Then the judge has to replace the dismissed jurors with new Soylent Green, asking them the same questions as the ones who got kicked out.
Eventually, they let you out for lunch (on your dime, of course). And once sprung, I immediately headed down to one of my favorite watering oases, the Harvest Moon Brewpub on George St. I hooked up with Brewer Matt McCord, shot the breeze and ordered one of his outstanding brews, a Hops2 Double IPA, to go with my Peppercorn TurkeyBurger Platter. The burger was delicious, though the $9 price tag was sobering enough to partially counteract the 8.5% abv of the brew. But, hey, it's Jersey and a Double Whopper with Cheese at Burger King easily breaks the $7 barrier now. Talk about some expensive gas….
The Moon's beers are really quite good, and this IPA was no exception. A bit cloudier than most, it was hoppy, crisp and refreshing, owing much to the English First Gold hops with which it was dry-hopped. If I hadn't needed to go back and seem reasonably coherent in the jury room, I would have definitely had another; but I opted instead for a sampler of Matt's Amberweisse. A full-bodied, darker wheat beer with a magnificent nose, this beer deserves more of my—and your--attention. Of course, Jimmy D's Firehouse Red was on the beer menu, but I consumed more than my fair share of that at the January Jimmy D Hoedown, where the proceeds go to a Burn Camp for kids. Elmes' Mild Manor is also an absolutely outstanding session beer that goes with just about any food. Matt also had a Raspberry Witbier, a Helles Bock Lager, a Moonlight Kolschbier and his best seller, Full Moon Pale Ale, on the menu.
The sad part of my visit to The Moon was that I had only about 45 minutes to spend before I had to get back to my rather less-than-exciting duty. I strolled back smiling, thinking that if I had to serve on a jury, at least I could come here for sustenance. At 3:45, though, I was informed that the juries for the upcoming trials had all been selected, and I didn't make the cut. I felt so bad.
They also informed me that I would be haled before the court again three years from today to start the process all over. That's three years before I have to do my civic duty again.
But I assure you I will not be waiting anywhere near that long to hit The Moon again. In fact, The Moon is proof that doing one's civic duty has its benefits.