Good pubs, Good Beer, Good People

Friday, December 25, 2009

He Sees You When You're Sleeping

Apparently, that's what I must have been doing when he checked on me...because Utopias 09 just isn't easy to come by. Thanks Santa! (and the missus and the lads!) Merry Christmas to all, and for me a (really) Good Night!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

'Tis the season...

When the tree goes up in my house, it's a testimony to the good things
in life.

I'm getting ready to savor a bottle of

Ommegang's Chocolate Indulgence as I gaze at the
handiwork of a master tree-maker. (Hat tip to Al S.) Click on the pic for a larger view.

BTW, here's my take on Chocolate Indulgence from

A nice chocolatey/coffeeish beer with which to finish a holiday meal--if you can’t get Utopias. Better yet, have both. I found it to be very pleasant to the taste and very smooth on the palate. Its flavor improved as it warmed. Nice to give as a gift to a lover of good beer--especially a stout/porter person. But infinitely better to receive...

From the PubScout's house to yours....Merry Christmas and Hoppy New Beer!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Beer Dinner? Brilliant!

Hailey's Harp and Pub will now take your reservations for their 1/18/10 Beer Dinner.

Hailey's Harp and Pub
First of Many Beer Dinners
January 18th: 6:30-9:30
$50 per seat: 45 people max
MC--Kurt Epps--The PubScout


•Melon with Prosciutto
•Corned Beef and Cabbage Rolls
•Potato Leek Soup
•Mixed Greens with Citrus Salad
•Beef Rib Roast with Fresh Rosemary
•"Kicked Up" Jameson Strawberries

Friday, December 11, 2009

Just got this memo from a Christmas Elf named this date, because it's an event you don't want to miss!

Harvest Moon Brewery/Café proudly presents the
5th Anniversary Celebration of Jimmy D’s Firehouse Red

Sunday, January 17th, 2010
2 PM til?
rain or shine…
Harvest Moon Brewery
George Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901
Special Appearance by Middlesex County Police & Fire Pipes and Drums
A portion of every pint of Jimmy D’s Firehouse Red continues going to the Art Luf Children’s Burn Camp!
To date your support has helped donate over $60,000 to the camp!
Here are some pics from a previous event!

Everybody who's anybody will be there.

Thank you!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Beer Dinner at Hailey's Harp and Pub

Chris Flynn and the folks at Hailey's Harp and Pub in Metuchen are planning a first-ever beer dinner. The date is set for Monday, January 18, 2010. As details of the menu and beers are finalized, The PubScout--who will emcee the event--will keep you posted. There may also be a very special event upcoming before that, but mum's the word until we see if the details can be worked out. If and when the event becomes reality, you'll learn about it here.

Just a tip: I visited Costco last week, and while the Senior Buffet was again outstanding, I picked up a case of Kirkland Beers. There are four styles in this case, which sells for $17.99. A German Lager, a Pale Ale, a Hefeweizen and an Amber Ale. The information on the product indicates that the East Coast version is made in Utica, NY, which usually hints at F.X. Matt. Gordon Biersch supposedly brews the Left Coast variety. The beers are surprisingly good and and eminently drinkable. The Hefeweizen is particularly good, and if you broil up some tilapia and side dishes, you'll have a meal fit for a king. All things considered, for $18, you will not go wrong. Here's another opinion, but you're certainly capable of googling "Kirkland Beers" on your own

Cheers until next time!

The PubScout

Monday, November 9, 2009

What's next? Syndication?

Check out this well done story below (with photo) by Jay Bodas of The Sentinel, which serves the communities of Edison and Metuchen, NJ.

Jay, a newcomer to the world of craft beer has captured the essence of the evening well. Who knows? If this catches on, syndication of The PubScout's column may be in the offing.

The WAY offing.


Docktoberfest takes over Metuchen | | Edison/Metuchen Sentinel

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Kudos to Uno's

November 11 is Veterans Day and our friends at Uno's deserve a pat on the back for this gesture:

"For those men and women who have supported America in service to our country, we try to show our appreciation wherever we can.
This Veteran's Day, 11/11, Uno invites all members of the military, both veterans and active duty, to join us for a free entrée or individual pizza (with an entrée or pizza purchase of equal or greater value).There's no coupon necessary, just show up in uniform, or with a picture of you in uniform, or with a military or veteran's ID – just show up! It will be our pleasure to serve you. Help us spread the word. If you know someone who would appreciate this offer, please pass this information along to them."

Consider this information spread to my readers. Hopefully, they will spread it to others.

While you're at it, check out the Deer Lake Video to the right, a tribute by my sons to all Veterans.

And to our Veterans--a mighty Thanks!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Exit 1 Beer Video

My fellow beer nut--and sometime drinking buddy--Jeff Linkous has produced an exceptional video about Flying Fish's Exit 1 Beer. Check it out. Nice work, Jeff!

Egan's? Egads!

By Kurt Epps—The PubScout

Despite one of my favorite pubs of all time—Tierney’s Tavern—being just three blocks away, I had heard enough scuttlebutt among beer nuts about Egan’s on Walnut in Montclair, NJ to entice me to visit.

I stopped in for a late lunch with two of my SubScouts, and found the place to be visually appealing, both for its multilevel design and its interesting “hang a left to get to the bar” structure. It has a comfortable pub feel, though decidedly not as cozily welcoming as Tierney’s.

An affable chap named Bill approached and inquired about our seating wishes and directed us to the outer area—where the largest TV screen is—and promised to send over someone with an exotic name I now disremember to take our order. It was, disappointingly, a long time before Ms. Exotic Name got around to us, despite a virtually empty room.

Egan’s had a decent beer list, but also promoted its own beer. There is apparently a question as to where Egan’s house beers are actually made, but more about that later. I asked the server (when she finally got there) if I could sample the featured beer before I ordered a pint. She assured me I could, then disappeared again, apparently to Venezuela.

Affable Bill wandered by eventually and I asked him the same question, whereupon he said he would set me up a “flight” though I had not requested one. He knew I was a beer and pub reviewer, though, and one of the few perqs of this business is the occasional sample flight on the house—which I later discovered was not the case.

While Affable Bill left to get the flight I hadn’t requested, another chap, somewhat older and more important looking, came over and introduced himself as Joe. Joe, apparently a manager, regaled me with facts about Egan’s being selected twice as Bar of the Month (or some such distinction) in NJ Monthly magazine, which is nice, I suppose (considering NJ Monthly doesn’t really know scheiss from shinola about beer or pubs).

But Joe went on to tell me that there was another Egan’s—an exact replica of this one—being opened in West Orange very soon, and that the owners actually own pubs in Ireland—which is where I thought Affable Bill went to get my unrequested flight, it was taking so long.

Bill arrived just as Joe was telling me that Egan’s makes all their own beer “in tanks upstairs,” prompting me to respond with, “So you’re a brewpub then?” “Yes,” Joe offered. Puzzlingly, Joe did not know the name of the brewer when I asked him, and I asked him twice. He claimed he had only been at the place for three months, which sounds to me like enough time to get to know the name of the guy who supposedly brews the beer. I discovered later that Egan’s beers may be contract brewed elsewhere, but stored in those tanks upstairs. In that case, not knowing the name of the brewer is forgivable. Misrepresenting your establishment as a bona fide brewpub if it isn't, however, is not.

Bill brought my flight and the four mini-glasses of beer were certainly drinkable—a decent transitional lager, a passable pale ale, a red and an Oktoberfest. Still in marzen mode—which this Oktoberfest was really not—and having ordered a Cottage Pie from the waitress with the exotic name during one of her pass-throughs, I ordered up an O-fest when she next made an appearance.

Ten to fifteen minutes later, with my beer still not delivered, Affable Bill passed by, and concerned that Ms. Exotic Name was nowhere to be seen, he brought my beer. It was tasty, but a true Oktoberfest it wasn’t. I could not get a straight answer as to whether this was the Oktoberfest or something called the Oddfellow—which is what I originally wanted a small taste of early in my visit, and, not coincidentally, what I was beginning to feel like.

The food was OK, though pricey. It took Ms. Exotic Name a while to bring me the $70 tab—that’s almost $25 apiece for three guys, two of whom drank only soda. I also noticed that Affable Bill had charged me $4 for the flight I didn’t ask for, so I plunked down one of the few Franklins I have left after two college tuitions. A year or so later, Ms. Exotic Name returned from Bora Bora, looked at my Franklin and boldly asked if I needed change. I hate that. Note to servers: pick up the money and say “I’ll be right back with your change.” If the patron says, “Keep it,” you’re good to go.

I responded to Ms. Exotic Name’s query with an “Absolutely.”

Bottom line: Ms. Exotic Name returned with my change just in time for me to qualify for Social Security.

I wanted change, but mostly I wanted to change my location. While I certainly wish Egan’s no ill, they will have to plod on without me. My first visit to Egan’s was also my last.
My money stays with Tierney’s the next time I’m in Montclair.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Head for the Harp

By Kurt Epps—The PubScout

It was a dark and stormy night.

No, really.

And worse, it was Halloween. So after making my way past ersatz ghouls, goblins and witches plying their craft on Metuchen's Main Street, the warm glow that came from the windows of Hailey's Harp and Pub beckoned me with the allure of a sultry siren.

There was a line to get in and a wait to be seated, so I was thankful I had an appointment with owner Chris Flynn, who, I was sure, would be able to find a place for us to sit and chat. He did, and it was right in the middle of a gaggle of ghouls, goblins, witches and—thank heaven--a few sirens, for Hailey's was celebrating its first ever Halloween party, having opened for business a few weeks ago. The pub hubbub, one of my criteria for a good pub, was appealingly, though not overbearingly, loud.

The place was packed with revelers, mostly over 30, and many were in costume, including the help. There was a pimp working the bar, and what looked like a 50-year old baby sitting at it drinking Guinness. The youthful owner Chris Flynn was celebrating what appeared to be his 30th birthday and was not in costume, though his partner Jerry Windos was.

Chris ordered me a Hailey's Ale, a ruby/brown malty ale with a fragrant nose that had a hauntingly familiar taste. Chris allowed that it was made by none other than Dave Hoffman of Climax Brewing, and that it was by far his best seller—especially with the ladies. With a tip of the hat to community service, a portion of the proceeds of every Hailey's Ale keg goes to a fund to assist the family of Mike Fuccile, a Wall St. worker who was brutally murdered by a knife-wielding nut job in Jersey City some time back.

Hailey's Harp and Pub (named for Chris's 8-year-old daughter) was born because Chris, a runner, stopped into a shop up the block on Main St. for running shoes, then casually asked where he could get a burger and a beer. When he was told that the closest place might be the Menlo Park Mall vicinity, he was incredulous. A Wall St. man, he decided that the lovely burg of Metuchen needed a real pub, and he would be the one to provide it. He wanted an authentic pub atmosphere and a family-type place (hence the absence of Crazy Shots and Red Bull) and he and his partners went to work. Used to operating in the corporate finance world, but unused to the often tortoise-paced speed of municipal approvals, Flynn said The Harp (as it is known by many patrons) was slow aborning. In fact, it hasn't even officially opened yet. That event is set for Tuesday, November 3, and will feature fife and drums, music, Irish dances and a free buffet, all commencing at 6PM. Despite this, The Pub has been packed every night since "unofficially" opening.

If the buffet is anything like the food I sampled on this visit, guests are in for a treat. Chef Johnny La Barbera, who Chris calls the heart and soul of what emanates from the scullery, produces some superb fare, and it's a few levels above normal pub stuff, too. A pint of Guinness, an Irish pub standard, is listed as the first "appetizer" on the menu. The Corned Beef and Cabbage Rolls are a must-try, as is the Potato Leek Soup, so chock full of potatoes swimming in an exceptional broth that your stomach might say, "Hold it right there. No mas."

But that would be a mistake. My gauge of a good Irish Pub lies in how well it makes a Shepherd's Pie, and Johnny La Barbera makes a great one. Made with lamb, beef and often pork, this is a gargantuan offering that will warm your cockles and more on a chilly winter's night. Coupled with a pint of Hailey's Ale, you won't find a better match. The Harp grinds its own 10 oz. burgers, and everything is hand made. Johnny, who loves to cook with beer, also seems to be a fan of experimenting with Jameson's Irish Whiskey, and you'll find it in abundance in the "Kicked Up" Strawberries, provided you have room to fit them. The Irish Car Bomb Cake, easily four times the size of this sliver, is truly the Bomb.

The service, provided by 20 + employees, is friendly and efficient, from gals like Theresa to Dot, a delightful seasoned citizen who serves as a hostess. Kevin, one of the barmen, will be happy to serve you as well, though I suspect he may be differently attired when you go. When it comes to service, Chris's credo, reinforced at staff meetings bi-weekly, is that "the Devil is in the details." He wants patrons who come to his pub to not only feel that they have a home away from home, but that an excellent experience is repeatable.

And when you do visit--as well you should—you'll be able to choose from the nine TV's that adorn the pub walls to watch your favorite sporting events—including the World Cup game between Ireland and France coming up in mid-November. There's also a currently under-utilized back room with a 1954 vintage shuffleboard that will serve nicely to host private gatherings and beer dinners, which Chris and Johnny are currently planning to sponsor. There's acoustic entertainment after 9 PM, too. You can check out the rest of the pics here.

Though it may have taken a while to get up and running, The Harp seems to be functioning on all eight cylinders now. If current crowds are any indication of what's to come, better plan to sleep over on March 16, the night before St. Patty's Day.

©Kurt Epps 2009 All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Send ‘em Home Happy—Dick’s Docktoberfest 2009

By Kurt Epps—The PubScout

Not every restaurant does an Oktoberfest beer dinner right. The recipe for success is actually pretty simple: Take one knockout menu prepared by a master chef. Add outstanding beers to complement the food. Add 45 hungry, thirsty units who want to have a good time. Sprinkle in some humor, a little Schuhplattler dance and German Oktoberfest songs. Mix well.

That, essentially, was the formula for last night's successful Dick's Docktoberfest, the thirteenth such beer dinner Bob Dick has sponsored in his Main Street (Metuchen) restaurant. Though most Oktoberfests ended weeks ago, this one either caps off the NJ season—or gets a headstart on the next.

The event began with Bob's special crabmeat mousse and Beer and Brats on the bar matched up with Spaten's wonderful Oktoberfest beer. An out-of-this-world Potato /Meat Pie appetizer was paired with Climax Nut Brown Ale and, according to everyone may have been the matchup of the night. A delicious Potato/Leek soup danced in next with Sam Adams Stock Ale, a beer many in the room had never even heard of, much less tried. An impressed Kristin said, "It tastes like the [American] Revolution1" For many, that matchup was a winner as well.

Then came Bob's Lite European Mix Salad, accompanied by Reissdorf Kolsch. This beer, made only in Koln (Cologne), Germany especially delighted Reiner from Bremen and Claudia from Austria who had flown in just for this event. The entrée was Weinerschnitzel in an anchovy/caper lemon wine sauce accompanied by a huge Kartoffel Kuche and a Turnip Soufflé. Its partner was the always reliable, always delicious, Sam Adams Octoberfest, one of America's best.

The dessert was The PubScout Float, a huge dollop of premium vanilla ice cream accompanied by Youngs' Luxury Double Chocolate Stout. Patrons could have them separately or mix the two for a delightful treat. And speaking of treats, a surprise beer, Mike Sella's Gust 'n' Gale Porter, was distributed to the delight and appreciation of the crowd.

The combination of food, beer, good spirits and a few jokes—all with genuine Oktoberfest Oompah Music providing the background—led to a plethora of smiling faces and happy voices as the night came to a close. The Dick's Dock servers, Mary Ellen and Juan, under the careful supervision of Sandy Dick, did yeoman's work getting the food and beers out on time and in a coordinated fashion. Add a host of giveaway prizes, like growlers of beer and dinners for two, and the only folks who didn't have fun were the ones who didn't come.

You can check out the pictures here and download any that will show your children how young-looking you once were. I mean, back in the day, the three letters that mattered most were K-E-G.

Now it's E-K-G.

Just sayin'.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Quaffing with The Ambassador

In this business, you get to rub elbows with some interesting people. Most are just like us, average joes--you know, the kind that built this country and make it work every day. Some, on the other hand, are special and famous individuals. Here is one such--the former US Ambassador to the UN and presidential candidate Alan Keyes. But one thing binds guys like this to guys like us: the sense of camaraderie generated by a beer.

Friday, October 23, 2009

David wins Monster Mash...

I blogged this story a week or so ago, and Don Russell sent me this update. A quote from the story:

"On Tuesday, the two sides reached a settlement that allows Rock Art to continue to market the brew, an American barley wine, anywhere in the country. In return, Rock Art agreed not to sell energy drinks, which it never intended to do, said Douglas Riley, a Rock Art lawyer."


The Associated Press: Brewer, Monster-maker settle 'Vermonster' dispute

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Borracho en el Barcalounger?

"Borracho" means "drunk" in Espanol. But who would have ever guessed you could get a DWI from your easy chair? Click below.


Man pleads guilty to DWI in motorized La-Z-Boy - Yahoo! News

Dick's Dock-toberfest approaches

Master Chef Bob Dick will be hosting his annual Dick's Dock-toberfest at his Main St. Metuchen (NJ) digs on Monday evening, October 26. Yours truly will be there to eat the exceptional food, drink the exceptional beers and provide the pedestrian palaver. The pic to the left is from last year's party, and it proves two things: First, beautiful women come to this event, Second, when you're a star (with access to beer), they cling to you....

Just two blocks from NJ Transit's Northeast Corridor line (Metuchen stop), Bob's restaurant has a stellar reputation for quality victuals--especially seafood, and his German heritage makes him go all out Deutschland for his version of Oktoberfest. Call him at 732-744-1274 to see if there are any seats left. We've got a great night of food, beer and fun lined up for you!

Ein Prosit!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Humidor IPA

Radical Leftist gets it Right…

By Kurt Epps—The PubScout

Joe Skelly is a hopeless liberal, so far left in his political views that George Soros probably doesn't trust him. But when it comes to beer, I sure do.

Joe visited the Sunshine State recently—probably on the government dime—and contacted me to find out some information about a brewery and beer I had reported on in my blog. I gave him the info, and Joe did the rest. He traveled a couple hours out of his way to Tampa, and located Cigar City Brewing, the brewery no larger than a garage, that just shocked the beer world by winning a Gold Medal at the GABF for its Humidor IPA. And, after emailing me to tell me this may be the finest IPA he has ever had, he arranged to bring back a gallon (which he had to personally chaperone on the train) for his buddies to sample.

And sample they (we) did. Mike Sella, Joe and I anxiously waited for the first pour from the gallon jug (Cigar City only does gallons and quarts) and the wait was well worth it. A real treat, this IPA is aged in cedar (like fine cigars) instead of oak, and the result is a remarkably smooth, eminently drinkable and superb beer which has gentle olfactory notes of cedar and tobacco dancing through the hops. One glass and you'll know why it deserved the Gold at the GABF. Being a cigar and beer man myself, this beer and a good cigar is a perfect marriage.

If you fancy yourself an IPA man or woman—with or without cigars attached, you can do one of two things: 1. Find a place that sells this stuff, or 2. Befriend Joe when he visits Florida again. Joe was kind enough to procure a quart of this godly nectar for yours truly, and I am most grateful.

Almost grateful enough to overlook his ultra-liberal politics.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Hops in Harrisburg

Lancaster Brewing Company—Harrisburg Edition

By Kurt Epps—The PubScout


Having visited and enjoyed the Lancaster Brewing Company in 2005 at its original digs in the old tobacco warehouse on N. Plum St. in Lancaster, I was pleasantly surprised to motor past its newest edition in Harrisburg. That's where we normally stay when visiting my eldest son's college, Elizabethtown, about twenty minutes east. Paying for college these days means finding bargain motels and the Red Roof works nicely. It's clean, convenient and very reasonable, even for the rooms with indoor toilets. There's a great Irish bar right across the road from our Red Roof called Gilligan's, and we usually frequent it because it has a substantial beer menu, good food and reasonable prices. But it does not make its own beer.

So the LBC ( with its own beer ) beckoned, and being just two minutes down Eisenhower Blvd. from the Red Roof, we passed on Gilligan's this time.

The weather was brutal: windy, rainy and raw, and nothing's better than a warm and cozy pub on a night like that. The building looked rustic on the outside, and I was surprised that the interior décor of the LBC was less rustic than upscale—almost Scandinavian—in ambience, bearing a strong resemblance in appeal to the Triumph chain back east. The bar was packed—it was Friday at Happy Hour, after all—and I was glad I had made reservations, but the dining sections had available space, so our party of five was quickly seated.

Our server Allie was most efficient and friendly, but advised that neither the Hefeweizen or the Rare Rooster were available. No matter. I was looking forward to the Oktoberfest, which used to be called Franklin Fest, and one of my favorite dark beers of all time—Lancaster Milk Stout. Both were available, as was the outstanding Hop Hog and something called Shoe-Fly Porter.

The menu was eclectic, with appetizers averaging about $8-9. The Reuben Egg Rolls, recommended by both Allie and a gregarious and helpful manager named Brent, were delicious, and the missus positively raved about her Butternut/Squash soup.

My entrée was an order of Meat Loaf, gravy made with Milk Stout. The portion was about the size of Rhode Island, and after my appetizer, the ample creamy mashed potatoes topped with onions and two O-fests, I was doubting whether I would be able to finish it. Made with a mixture of lamb and beef, it would have been a sin to leave any, and taking it "home" to a Red Roof was not an option. So I finished it. The missus found that her Lump Crabcakes were good, but again the portions were so large she had to leave some behind. Cody's Filet Mignon (with Milk Stout demi-glace) was perfectly done, tender and flavorful, but also so large that even he had to leave some. That might have had something to do with the seven rolls with butter and two Sprites this growing lad consumed before the main course came, though.

None of us had any room for dessert, but the affable Brent brought over a beer concoction he called "Chocolate Covered Strawberry." It was a mixture of LBC's Strawberry Wheat, Milk Stout and a rim-shot of chocolate syrup. It sounds unusual for sure, but having had my share of ice cream porters and stout floats, I knew that what often sounds funky winds up being really tasty. That was the case with Chocolate Covered Strawberry. Surprisingly good, and perfect for the beer nut with a sweet tooth, it is probably not on the Weight-Watchers menu.

Brent also dug out a bottle of the Rare Rooster, a pale ale with a subtle rye flavor. Not a bad beer, but it needs more rye flavor. My recommendation is to ratchet up the rye so it's not too subtle. An experienced palate may detect it, but the average joe will not, unless it's more pronounced. Triumph's (NJ) Tom Stephenson made a beer some years back called Jewish Rye, and darned if it didn't taste like fresh rye bread. LBC's brewers are certainly capable enough to turn this beer into a "must have."

But aside from Hop Hog for the Hop Heads, the "must have beer at LBC remains the Milk Stout. It's everything an English sweet stout should be—including not overly sweet—with magnificent notes of roasted barley.

In all, our visit to LBC/Harrisburg was certainly worthwhile, made better by a friendly, efficient waitstaff and managers. I especially liked the walls done in a "History of Beer" motif, beginning at 4300 BC (in the year of my birth) and winding up at 2007. It's a good place with good beer and good food. Our tab for a party of five came out to about $30 each without the tip. Hammurabi would have approved.

Though the unseasonable chilly, rainy and raw weekend weather report caused Al Gore to script a new movie called "An Inconvenient Winter," knowing that LBC was going to be providing the beer the next day at Elizabethtown's Alumni Oktoberfest event the next day was as comforting as the Milk Stout.

4 out of 5 ain’t bad…

Elizabethtown Homecoming '09

By The PubScout

"The coldest winter I ever spent," Mark Twain is supposed to have said, "was a summer in San Francisco." I've been to Frisco in the summer, and Twain wasn't lying. But he obviously wasn't at Elizabethtown College in PA in the fall of '09.

Elizabethtown, a small (highly rated) private college with a huge and dedicated alumni following, held its annual Homecoming this past weekend, and it was clear that Mother Nature obviously went to Lycoming. The weather couldn't have been worse—rain, driving at times; wind, gusting up to 40 MPH and the temps dropping low enough to cause Al Gore to produce an explanatory sequel to "An Inconvenient Truth" (which, ironically, will be shown at the college next weekend).

I attended and reviewed this event three years ago, due to the beneficence of one Barry Friedly ('69) who is the head alumni honcho at E-town, as the school is affectionately known. My eldest son was entering as a freshman then, and this event would be his last (hopefully) as an E-town student, so I felt obligated to go. Barry was nice enough to extend to me yet another invitation to write up the event—realizing that I am a lot poorer now than I was three years ago, perhaps.

But, if the weather wasn't, other things were very clear. Foremost among them was an indomitable—and ubiquitous—sense of spirit and family that seemed to pervade all of those at the Oktoberfest Alumni event. Not a scowl or frown among them, and the beer tent was packed with alums sampling the fine wares of the Lancaster Brewing Company. There seemed to be more recent grads at this fest than the one I attended three years ago, but that could have been a factor of the weather. We aging boomers are reluctant to venture out in elements that might rust our walkers. Back in the day, the three letters we valued were K-E-G. Now they are E-K-G.

I did spend a delightful fifteen minutes with Blair Walker ('69) who seems to have lived three lifetimes already, and is aiming for a fourth. The Wrestlers were there in force as were a number of young alumnae who I thought should have been carded. There were even young children of alums there who were neither impressed with the beer or the company. To them, body glitter took precedence. Some alums like the Snavelys ('81) were there with their progeny, like Melinda, who were also alums. Doug and Deb met while commuting together to E-town back in the horse-and-buggy days.

Another thing that stood in stark contrast to the miserable weather was the outstanding brew offered by the aforementioned LBC. In addition to their Oktoberfest (formerly called Franklin Fest), Josh Broonell ( an apt name, that) of LBC was pouring Strawberry Wheat, Rare Rooster ( a rye ale) and what I consider to be their flagship beer—Lancaster Milk Stout. He was ably assisted by Sigourney (Weaver) McCleaf, a Millersville senior, and Katie Owen, a U of Tennessee Volunteer!

The beer and the spirit were matched by the wonderful food Barry and his aides put out—a raft of sausages, pork, veggies, kraut, potatoes and a sinfully rich chocolate cake (made with Lancaster Milk Stout).

The fourth area the weather couldn't impact was the friendliness of absolutely everyone on the E-town campus, from those in charge to those in their charge. Smiles abounded despite the gloomy overcast skies, and the visitor got a sense of family everywhere, especially under the heating mushrooms. The school has fewer than 2200 students, so "family" may come naturally, and it may account for the alum attitude that was unanimous in stating that they would feel very happy and comfortable if their own kids came here.

Had the weather not put a damper on the celebration and other activities, this E-Town Homecoming '09 would have been a 5 out of 5.

But, to borrow a phrase from Meat Loaf, 4 out of 5 ain't bad.

And the Milk Stout still gets a 5 out of 5.

© Kurt Epps 2009 All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

“Wir Trinken Gutes Bier!”

By Kurt Epps—the PubScout

The big crowd at Uno's would respond in unison when asked, "Was machst du denn hier?" Of course, as the night wore on the chant would become somewhat more raucous and perhaps a bit juxtaposed, but it signified that a good time was had by all who attended Mike Sella's Uno's-OktoberFest last evening .

Moshe the Barman once again used his passion for cooking and his culinary expertise to fashion a menu that was traditionally German—a delicious beer-cooked wurst in cabbage, an incredible apple-leek soup, an interesting and remarkable salad, a Jagerschnitzel mit Spaetzle to die for and an Apfel Strudel to blow your noodle.

The beers were mostly marzen with Brooklyn, Spaten, Flying Dog and Uno's Oktoberfest all complementing their respective dishes beautifully. Mike's 32- inning Ale and Porter finished out the lineup. The Spaten and the Flying Dog each had their diehard devotees, and Mike's O-fest, made this year with a lager yeast, also drew much praise.

The convivial crowd tolerated the twisted humor of yours truly, competed for Lenny's carefully selected prizes and sang numerous refrains of Ein Prosit after Moshe introduced each of his dishes. This dinner saw many first-time beer dinner guests, too, and they all came away with high praise for the event. Jill and Linda, for example, won the hearts of all the men in the room, except for Leo who sat with a girl from St. Pauli all night.

But no matter. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves and came away with full bellies and satisfied smiles. That's probably why Mike's beer dinners have recently been sold out. No word yet on when the next one will be, but the timing indicates a target date somewhere around the holidays.

Anyway, check out the photos of the event here. You may comment on them (keep it respectable), download them to your computer for distribution or even order prints.

Cheers till next time!

The PubScout

Monster vs. Vermonster

Does anyone really think we'd confuse a beer with an energy drink? Monster, the energy drink maker, has threatened action against a small artisanal craft brewery in Vermont for using the name Vermonster in its product line. It looks like the "people" are rallying around the little below for the story.

Monster-maker to Vt. brewer: No 'Vermonster' beer

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Diamond Dave De Beers

Good brewers are committed to making good--and often great--beers. But to think they are all the same in approach to the task is a mistake. As in most other artisan endeavors, personality also plays a role. Fresh off his recent smashing Oktoberfest success down in Toms River, we learn that Dave is cloning his his approach to brewing. We'll settle for that rather than a cloning of himself, because Der Biermeister is, quite simply, sui generis.

Now there's an idea, Dave. A new beer from Hoffman called Sui Generis.

Click the link below for the story and big props to Dave!

Climax Brewing Company in Roselle Park trains brewers Local New Jersey News - -

Friday, October 9, 2009

The PubScout: Ahead of the Curve Again?

My buddy Don Russell (Joe Sixpack) sends me his weekly column. Below is a link to one of the features in today's column about a Dogfish head beer called "Chicha," a beer brewed with spit.

It's written with regard to a new book called "Uncorking the Past," an account of ancient past--and current--brewing techniques. That reminded me of a column I did way back in 2002 about a brewing practice called "Leinting." Read it here before drinking and eating. And check the bottle of your next beer for ingredients.

In case any of you are wondering what's the difference between Joe Sixpack and The PubScout, it's simple.

He gets paid handsomely to write.

Cheers till next time!

The PubScout

Joe Sixpack - Reporting and drinking beer in Philly and beyond

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

An (almost, and nearly sacrilegious) Non-Beer Related Post

I love old ships. This magnificent three-master docked for a few days in my hometown of Perth Amboy. It will be here till Sunday Oct. 11, then heads for exotic ports of call. Tours are free. Check out the pictures here. And learn about the Peacemaker here.

So what does this have to do with beer?

When I finished the tour, I walked the two blocks back to my cave (singing a raft of sea-shanties the while) and had a Spaten Oktoberfest. I sure hope I never meet a Cape Cod Girl...

Ein Prosit und Smooth Sailing!

The PubScout

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Two upcoming Oktoberfests

I know it's early October, but November will be upon us before we know it, and we'll be talking about trimming the turkey, then trimming the tree. So while you're still in a Marzen state of mind, keep Monday October 12 (Uno's Grill and Brewery) and Monday October 26 (Dick's Dock, Main St. Metuchen) clear on your calendar. Contact the restaurants for information and tickets. Dick's Dock number is 732-744-1274.

Ein Prosit!

Sad News, Good News

First the "sad" news: Last evening's Oktoberfest was the last one that will ever be celebrated at the venerated brewpub. The Basil T's Dirndl Beauties made their last appearance as such. The Fire House Polka Band, which has put the oomph in Basil T's Oompah for several years. has played its last lederhosen-clad "Ein Prosit!" And yours truly will no longer have the honor of emceeing an event which has become so successful the owners had to redecorate and put in more seats in just to accommodate the crowds for this event, which have blossomed from 45 in its first event to 107 for last night's extravaganza.

Now for the Good news. The reason for the sad news above is that Basil T's Toms River is shedding its name and adopting a new one. "It's time," said both owners named Pete (don't ask), "to establish our own identity." As readers will probably know, there have been two Basil T's for some time now. But that comes to an end on January 1, 2010 when the new name--

The Artisan Brewery and Italian Grill--goes up on the marquee.

But the name change will have no effect on the quality and concern for customer satisfaction that has marked this place since The Petes took over. They are "hands-on" owners who treat their staff with respect--and even love (in a non-Letterman way)--and because of that their staff is not only highly efficient, but supremely loyal. The distaff side of that staff is also something else--gorgeous. Check the pictures out.

While a soft economy has many places feeling the pinch, the Petes say they really haven't been adversely affected, and are actually seeing an increase in business. They have developed a loyal customer base that, like the attendance at the annual Oktoberfest dinner, seems to be increasing each year. Customers come because they can count on certain things from the Petes' Place. Quality food by Master Chef Steve Farley, exceptional beer by nationally known Biermeister Dave Hoffman, an attentive, efficient staff and a decor that is reminiscent of Tuscany.

That said, the name choice is apt because there is artisanship at virtually every level of the operation, from food to beer to staff to ownership.

And nowhere was that artisanship more in evidence than at last night's beer dinner. So many people wanted tickets that the Firehouse Polka Band had to set up in single file to ply their trade, as tables of revelers bracketed them.

The event was peppered with beer cognoscenti, from Star-Ledger Columnist Paul Mulshine, to beer writer and Jersey beer promoter Jeff Linkous, to Beer Artist Greg Hinlicky to Dave Hoffman's dad Kurt in full Bavarian regalia.

Steve Farley's food from the first course Bavarian Shrimp to the dessert was done in his signature style--superb. Dave Hoffman's selection of beers went very well with each course, though I confess that I stayed with his knockout Oktoberfest the whole night, and it went well with everything, too.

The pictures tell the story. Multiple "Ein Prosits" and a rousing "God Bless America" still reverberate, accompanied by smiles all around with good beer raised in celebration of good food and good company. Next year's event--The Artisan Brewery and Italian Grill Oktoberfest Celebration--will likely be a sellout, as this one was.

And they may have to start ticket sales for next year's blast on January 2, 2010, right after the new marquee goes up.
The smart money says "Buy early."

Cheers till next time!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Beer and Cigars: Heaven in Tampa

After the missus and my three lads, beer and cigars rank pretty high in my life. Comes now news of a seven-month-old brewery in Tampa walking off with a Gold  Medal at the GABF for a beer that tastes like a cigar box.

"Cigar City's Humidor Series India Pale Ale won gold in the "Wood-Aged Beer" category. The company entered seven of its styles in its first year of competing at the festival. The Humidor brew bested 32 other beers in the category.

It's the second award the brewery has won this year. In February, brewer Wayne Wambles won a first-place ribbon in the Atlanta Cask Ale Tasting for his Mayan Chocolate Imperial Stout."

Click on the link below to read the story. I've contacted the brewery to see if they'll ship some up this way so I can report on it officially. I could probably go to NYC to get some, but then I'd be a temporary New Yorker. Today, at least, I'd rather be in Tampa. What DO they call people from Tampa, anyway....


Cigar City Brewing wins gold in national beer competition

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Flying Fish Flying High

As per a recent press release:


CHERRY HILL, NJ – New Jersey’s largest craft brewery, Flying Fish Brewing Company (1940 Olney Avenue, 856-489-0061), recently returned from the annual Great American Beer Festival (GABF) in Denver, CO with two medals for its acclaimed beers. The medals, including a gold for their Exit 4 American Tripel, come on the heels of Men’s Journal magazine naming Exit 4 “Best Belgian-Style Beer in America.”
“At Flying Fish, we’re proud to hail from the great state of New Jersey, and we’re even more proud to bring recognition to our home state at the GABF and in the pages of Men’s Journal,” says Muller. “We said that the Exit Series would be one-and-done beers, but if we get overwhelmed with requests for more, there's a good chance people will see Exit 4 in 6 packs early next year.”
In addition to honoring Exit 4 American Tripel with a gold medal for “American Belgo-Style Ale,” the GABF judges awarded Flying Fish’s popular Hopfish a bronze medal for “Classic English Style Pale Ale.”
Created by head brewer Casey Hughes, Exit 4 American Tripel is named for the exit nearest Flying Fish Brewing Company’s headquarters, and is Belgian-inspired to represent their role as one of America’s first craft breweries to embrace Belgian-style beers. The series will continue with three or four beers a year to eventually encompass all turnpike exits; other entries have included Exit 11 Hoppy American Wheat.
Flying Fish was the world’s first ‘virtual’ microbrewery, establishing an Internet presence as early as 1995. That presence helped to generate press interest and woo investors to the fledgling brewery, which would not open for business until late 1996. Today, Muller and his team oversee four full-time styles, as well as a variety of seasonal beers. Their brews have been featured at the Great British Beer Festival, Oregon Brewers Festival and Canada’s Biere de Mondial Festival. They have won medals at the Great American Beer Festival, Real Ale Festival and the World Beer Championships, and are the only New Jersey brewery featured in Best American Beers. Flying Fish was recently named “Local Hero: Beverage Artisan of 2009” by Edible Jersey magazine.
For more information about Exit 4, Hopfish or any of Flying Fish’s beers, please visit them online at or call (856) 489-0061.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Trap Rock celebrates Oktoberfest

I just got this information from Melissa at one of my favorite Jersey brewpubs--Trap Rock in Berkeley Heights. To my great dismay, I will be unable to participate due to a prior engagement, but I heartily recommend this place.

Herewith, Melissa's missive:

Hi guys!

Some of you may have already heard, but we have scheduled (and RE-scheduled) our Octoberfest Beer Dinner for Tuesday, October 27th at 6:30 p.m.

This year's Trap Rock Octoberfest Beer Dinner will feature brews from Stone Brewery in California.

The dinner is $65 per person, including 6 courses, tax, gratuity, and of course, ENDLESS BEER!

My list is already growing rather quickly, so sign up ASAP!

You can either call Trap Rock and ask for me (Melissa) (908) 665-1755

or call Amanda, our party-planner, at (908) 418-2195

OR just belly up to the bar and I'll sign you up while you swill some of Captain Dunkin's Scottish Ale (which is tasting mighty fine this year...)

Here's the menu:

Salad of Pickled Beets

Kholrabi & Goat Cheese Ravioli

Poached Trout

Chanterelles & Chamomile

Monkfish "Schnitzel"

Braised Red Cabbage, Lemon & Caper

Confit of Moulard Duck

Warm Salad of Poached Pears, Duck Prosciutto, & Frisee

Red Wine Poached Pork Loin

Poppy Seed Spaetzle & Cognac Prunes

(Desert TBD...)

To all you Veggies - You know we'll accommodate your needs, just please let us know beforehand.

Hope to see you all there!


If you can make this event, I doubt you will be disappointed in any way.

Ein Prosit der Gemutlichkeit!

This Friday, October 2...Basil T's Toms River..THE definitive NJ Oktoberfest! Dirndl Beauties, Oompah Band, Steve Farley's exceptional cuisine, Dave Hoffman's superb brews, two owners with the same name--what's not to like!

Click on the link above and call today to reserve!

Ein Prosit der Gemutlichkeit!

(and an Opa!-Opa!)

Friday, September 25, 2009

Only if you're a BIG beer dog...

My Down-Under beer buddy Ken Hart has a site that all serious beer nuts with a yen for travel need to see...

And if you can't hunt with the big dogs, stay on the porch.


Pub Crawls, Beer Trips & Tours, Beer Travel & Holidays, Australian Pub Crawls, European Beer Tours, Oktoberfest, Around The World Beer Festivals & Vacations

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Big Boys of Media get on Board--only a decade late..

I noticed the video link below as I was trolling for news this morning, and I couldn't stifle a chuckle. There was a video story about the only BOP (Brew on Premise) operation in NJ--The Brewer's Apprentice in Freehold. I hearkened back to 1998, when I published the first story about this remarkable place and the remarkable women who run it. It was titled "The Women Clean Up" and, to this day, the ladies at the BA feature that story which helped promote this most unique idea. Fun, rewarding and educational for the customer, profitable for the proprietors and definitely worthy of more publicity--even a decade late--The Brewer's Apprentice experience is a worthwhile one for all beer lovers.

You can read my column about it--FROM 11 YEARS AGO--here. And here's hoping the gals at BA are well and doing well!


The Brewer's Apprentice lets customers make their own beer - Video | The Star-Ledger Videos -

Monday, September 21, 2009

Hailey's Harp and Pub still MIA

I made a quick trip out to beautiful downtown Metuchen Saturday night in hopes of walking into a brand new, much-anticipated Irish Pub.

No deal.

The place was dark and boarded up with nothing in the way of notice as to when it should be up and running. I didn't even see a Coming Soon! sign. Shame, too.

I had a parking spot right in front of the place.

Oh well. Good things come to those who wait, I suppose. In the meantime, you can get your own updates here.

Judging by those pics, we may be waiting until Thanksgiving.

Don't Forget the Cask Session Saturday!

Mike Sella and the Uno's crew are prepping for their September Cask Session at the Rt. 1 Brewery. Go here for details!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Happy Oktoberfest!

Pop open a Spaten or a SA O-fest, click below and enjoy these pictures of the world's largest folk festival...

Click the Chevy Chase link to the right for a good laugh!

Happy Oktoberfest

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Make Room for Daddy at the CJB!

By Kurt Epps—The PubScout

On a sparkling Indian (can we still say that, or is there some more PC term now?) Summer day that has to be among the best five days of 2009 so far, and after spending five hours of it at Parker Press Park in Woodbridge, NJ, three things have become crystal clear to this American Indian writer:

First, God must have His own barstool at JJ Bittings, because it's obvious that Mike Cerami and God are on a first-name basis regarding the weather. Second, As quaint, shady and convenient as it is, Parker Press Park may have to yield its spot to a larger venue that can accommodate a lot more NJ beer lovers. And third, any Jersey brewer who doesn't jump on this Beer Bandwagon is only hurting itself.

Last year's fest was a winner by anyone's reckoning, and word of its success undoubtedly led to the overflow crowds that attended this one. The lines to get in snaked outside the park and up Woodbridge Ave. all the way to Main Street. Even at 2:30 PM with the Fest almost half over, there were patrons lined up to gain access to the beers of seven brewers smart enough to show up. Had those brewers anticipated the numbers of the crowd this day, they undoubtedly would have brought much more beer to satisfy the thirsty throngs. As it was, three of the seven had to check out early because their supplies ran out. And by 4:30 Only three diehards remained: Bittings, Boak's and Uno's. Harvest Moon, River Horse, Tun and Cricket Hill had exhausted their brew and packed it in an hour early.

The lines for beer stretched across the midriff of this pocket park, from the taps to the food concessions, often intermingling with each other. But nobody was complaining because the lines moved pretty quickly, the attendees were extraordinarily convivial, and the cause was a good one, as all proceeds went to a family who lost their two-year-old child to cancer, racking up some formidable bills during the battle.

Speaking of the food concessions, a newcomer called Fun Food Concessions did a land office business, providing what Amy of Hillsborough said was "absolutely the best cheesesteak I've ever had." This cheesesteak lover would concur. The husband and wife team of Vinnie and Lisa Torio cranked out food continuously, varying their fare from the aforementioned cheesesteaks to sausage sandwiches to funnel cakes to Fried Oreo cookies. Vinnie's a carpenter by trade but he should have a very profitable sideline gig in the food business, too.

As happened last year, Boak's was the clear choice of many of the Festgoers early on, and the affable, lanky Brian brought plenty of his exceptional brews to satisfy his increasing number of devotees. Two Blind Monks, Double BW, Abbey Brown (7% ABV) and Monster Mash (10% ABV) saw tremendous action as Brian, at times imitating a carnival barker, lured people in to hear all about his beers. Those beers will now be distributed by Kohler Distributing to the seven northern NJ counties Boak calls his "catchment area." Two Blind Monks won a Bronze medal out at the LA Beer Competition a while back, and he's got Jan's Porter coming out soon. The Abbey Brown is not technically true to style, as Boak only brews beers that he likes to drink. "It's lighter and thinner than a true Abbey, without the syrupy sweetness commonly associated with the style," said Boak. "It's less cloying." His Monster Mash, a Russian Imperial Stout, was 21 months old, and was an absolute joy to taste. Boak screens his potential customers, and is not averse to directing them to another brewer when they ask for something specific—like a pale ale. "Go to that guy," he advises, pointing to the next booth, "because I don't make that beer."

Another brewer who sported long, long lines was Mike Sella of Uno's on Rt. 1 near Menlo Park Mall. Mike had his Oktoberfest on tap and it was clearly a crowd favorite. His recipe for this year's version changed from his usual ale yeast to a genuine lager yeast, and the difference was clearly noticeable. Ordinarily a good Oktoberfest beer, this year's qualifies as an exceptional one, and should please a lot of palates at Uno's October 12 beer dinner—cooking courtesy of Moshe. The always-reliable Ike's IPA and 32-inning Ale were also on hand.

Bitting's brews were big crowd faves , too, though Augie Lightfoot heard plenty of disappointed voices when they discovered his award-winning Bad Boy Oktoberfest was not yet ready for prime time. They might be even more disappointed when they learn that Augie himself is getting ready to turn his job over to someone else as he's "burned out," and wants to spend more time with his kids. Augie's been good for Bittings, and though Mike Cerami will surely miss him, Mike will get a brewer who can continue Bittings' fine brewing traditions.

Beer writer par excellence Mark Haynie was up from Atlantic County, helping Tun Tavern with its distribution. Tun's dark was a very interesting and tasty beer that would make a great session beer. Harvest Moon's sole offering, a Pumpkin Ale, was remarkably good, even for those, like yours truly, who aren't normally big pumpkin fans. I could easily see this beer on my Thanksgiving table and on the coffee table helping me deal with another loss by the Detroit Lions.

Mike Cerami, the fest organizer, was joined by Woodbridge Mayor John McCormack and Councilmen Greg Ficarra and Rick Dalina when all took part in helping distribute beer for the cause. Cerami, asked if this fest exceeded his expectations, responded with, "Definitely! It's been great! Excellent, in fact!" Pics here.

This writer would agree. And giving credit where it's due, the Porta-Pottie situaton was MUCH better this year, as no one was left doing a Two-Step Fandango while waiting for an open loo. My only complaint in that area is why the porta-pottie people designed their booths without a single flat surface to rest your beer on. I mean, a guy has to be able to set his beer down while he tends to business, Mr. John. Yeah, he could bring a buddy, but guys don't hit the head en masse like the gals do. So you either set your beer down and hope nobody even lightly jostles the Loo, or you hold your beer in one hand and take care of business with the other. Either way, it's not a condfidence-building situation....

As I did last year, I bicycled to the Fest from my home. Parking was a breeze, and I avoided any chance of a DWI. But if this Fest gets any bigger, I may have to change my mode of transportation.

I ain't biking to the Meadowlands.

©Kurt Epps 2009 All rights reserved

Friday, September 18, 2009

Spaten Still Rocks the Oktoberfest Haus

If you've been paying attention, you know that this is Oktoberfest season. If you need a refresher, check out Joe Sixpack's (Don Russell's) column today. Marzens, especially at this wonderful Indian Summer time of the year, are my favorites. I've talked about Dave Hoffman's superb rendering of the style, I've paid homage to Jim Koch and his Octoberfest, and I anxiously await tomorrow's Central Jersey BeerFest, where I expect to sample some of Augie Lightfoot's (JJ Bittings) Bad Boy and Mike Sella's (Uno's) Oktoberfest.


But a mandatory trip to Costco recently caused me to stumble upon a real treasure: Spaten Ur-Marzen (Oktoberfest). What's more, it was selling for $23.99 a case—a buck a bottle! For my money, it is still the champion of German Marzens, and for THAT money, it's crazy not to buy ten cases and start your own Oktoberfest celebration right in your neighborhood.


I'm not alone in that assessment of Spaten either. Dave "Ein Prosit" Hoffman and his father Kurt "Gemutlichkeit" Hoffman both contend that Spaten stands in a class by itself among the Marzens of Die Faderland. Coincidentally, Joe Sixpack himself featured Spaten as his beer of the week today.


Now I don't get a penny from Spaten for saying this, but don't let late September or October go by without trying this baby. As you might expect, it goes great with brats of any kind and complements chicken exceptionally well. I like it with Sauerbraten and Weinerschnitzel, too. I like it alone. A lot.


If you want to see what an authentic Oktoberfest tastes like, pick up some Spaten Ur-Marzen. At Costco, you'll save big bucks, and you might even see the new line of Kirkland Beers—a hefe, an amber, a pale and a German lager—brewed by The New York Brewery in Utica, NY. (That usually indicates a contract brew by F.X. Matt.) A case of Kirkland is just $18.99.


I was going to try some. Really. But there was no room in my cart with all the Spaten. And the missus insisted that we actually purchase some food.


I'll try it next time—maybe. Because while the Kirkland will probably always be available, the Spaten may not.


Ein Prosit Der Gemutlichkeit!

Friday, September 11, 2009

The "Stupid" Drink idea

My buddy Don Russell (aka Joe Sixpack) offers up this gem for consideration in the attempt to combat underage abuse of beer. I have long maintained that that particular demographic has just said "No!" to the "Just Say No" approach. Maybe The Stupid Drink idea will catch on. I especially liked his checklist at the end. See if you do by clicking the link below.

Cheers till next time!


Joe Sixpack - Reporting and drinking beer in Philly and beyond

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Pub Grand Opening Pushed Back

Hailey's Harp and Pub, set to open its doors on Metuchen's Main Street this Saturday (9/12) has announced that their Grand opening will be pushed back one week to September 19. Might be a good place to hit after spending the afternoon at the Central Jersey BeerFest in Woodbridge's Parker Press Park....


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

2009 Central Jersey Beer Fest

Beer lovers, you don't have to be from Central Jersey to enjoy this fabulous festival. In fact, if you can access NJ Transit's North Jersey Coast Line, you don't even have to drive, as the event is adjacent to the Woodbridge Train Station stop on that venerated line. That also makes the voyage home safer. All manner of beer cognoscenti attend this fest to sample some of the best beers in the state, and the money is donated to a local charity.

Last year's BeerFest was virtually perfect and the Fall weather was outstanding. My only suggestion is to make sure there are more Porta-Potties to make sure the revelers are not "outstanding," if you get my drift.

See you there!



2009 Central Jersey Beer Fest

Monday, August 31, 2009

Sam's a Damn Fine 'Fest

Jim Koch is a helluva nice guy. I know, because I've spent time with him in pubs from Denver to Philadelphia. He's also a damned good marketing man who knows good beer. I know this because I've had every beer he's ever made, and there hasn't been a single one that didn't measure up to the style guide. My favorite marketing pitch is the one for Sam Adams Light. You know, the one that says that SA Light won a Gold Medal in some German Beer Competition. And there was no Light Beer category.That's a kicka$$ advert. And though I'm not a Light beer fan, I could handle a few SA Lights without looking for the water fountain.

For sure, there are many Sam's Brews I prefer above other Sam's Brews, but Jim's beers never disappoint. His brewers are top-drawer, his product is affordable and his beers are remarkably consistent. Pop the top on any Sam's and you're guaranteed two things--quality and consistency.

And I'm not tooting Jim's horn just because he sends me twenty-four cases of beer a year, either. Because he doesn't. I just said that to see if you were paying attention. Unless Joe Skelly is at my elbow or Lenny or Moshe is in front of me, I have to pay for every Sam Adams brew I get, barring presents.

Like the one the missus came home with two days ago--a case of Sam Adams Octoberfest. At this time of the waning year, O-fests are my go-to brews and I'm delighted to report that not a single one I've had so far failed to measure up. That includes styles from locally-brewed Hoffman (Climax) Oktoberfest, to Flying Dog Dogtoberfest, to Flying Fish's Octoberfish to Sly-Fox's hoppy version to--well, too many to recount. The only O-fests I haven't enjoyed this fall? Ones that I haven't tried yet. I look forward to Mike Sella's (Uno's) and Augie Lightfoot's (JJ Bittings) respective versions

Most people don't realize that the largest American-owned brewery (after the sale of AB to InBev) is none other than Jim Koch's Boston Beer Co., makers of Sam Adams. And "mass-produced" Sam Adams Octoberfest is a damned fine brew, comparable to many in my end-of-summer repertoire. This beer is beautiful to look at, has a distinct malty nose and is smooth as silk in the mouth. In Jim Koch's special glass created for his Boston Lager, it tastes even better. It's a classic Marzen that is definitely worth your time.

There is one thing about it that bothers me, though. The spelling of Oktoberfest with a "C" on the label rankles my sensibilities. I know it's the Americanized version of the word. But the "K" just seems so much more authentic when you're quaffing and watching handsome gals in dirndls heft five huge mugs per hand. I'm going to have to mention that to Jim the next time we throw a few down together.

But "C" or "K," SA Octoberfest is worth the trip to wherever you need to go to get it.

Ein Prosit! Der Gemutlichkeit!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Not the Best of Times...

Off-Night at Killmeyer's? Let's hope…

Everybody's entitled to have an off-night, I suppose. But in the world of service or entertainment, you're only as good as your last gig. And my experience last night at one of my favorite places--Killmeyer's Old Bavaria Inn on Staten Island--did not leave me longing for a return.

For starters, many of the beers offered on the "Spring '09" beer menu were unavailable, as were some on the more extensive menu. When I go to a place like Killmeyer's, the German beer is the main reason. Though my first beer was available--a Spaten Optimator-- many others weren't. If I wanted a Blue Moon Honeymoon, I could get it cheaper on this side of the Arthur Kill.

Besides being disappointing, it can sometimes make me forget my manners. I asked the waitress what Oktoberfest beers were available. She came back with this information from the bartender: "Oktoberfest beer isn't in the country yet."

Huh? I confess that I wasn't as refined as I probably should have been when I replied, "He's full of sh!t." Fortunately, I knew the waitress from a previous visit, so I doubt she was offended in any way. Her smile and attitude, in fact, were the brightest parts of the visit.

But here was an obvious case of a barkeep trying to BS a customer. Barkeeps not only need to be truthful, they need to be aware that some of their customers may actually know beer. If Oktoberfest beer isn't in the country yet, I must have been drinking and reviewing Ersatz-Marzen these past weeks.

Then there was the disappointment with the food menu. Online, Killmeyer's offers Crab Cakes--a major draw for two members of my party. But on this night they were, like many of the beers, MIA. Instead, there was something called Crab Nuggets. Not bad, I was told, but not Crab Cakes, either. That meant that two of my party had to switch gears, despite being lured to Killmeyer's by my promise of Crab Cakes being on the menu. My reputation as being knowledgeable about the places I visit and review took a serious hit.

It took another hit when, after promising my party that there would be hamburgers on the menu, I was told that while they were available, they weren't allowed to be served in the dining area.

Huh? They could be served outside or at the bar, we were advised, but not here sitting down under Franz's (a stuffed moose) gaze. The logic of that misguided policy defies common sense—not to mention Winter, and the waitress allowed that it frequently costs her customers.

And while I'm on the subject of losing customers, let me say that had this been my first visit to Killmeyer's, it would certainly have been my last. When I visit places that don't satisfy, I don't write about them and pass them on to my readership. "Better left alone" is my reviewing philosophy in cases like that. But in this case, Killmeyer's has performed admirably in the past, and as such, deserves an "off-night" pass. My party did enjoy the food they ordered, though the regular beer snafus didn't do much to complement what they ate.

However, if he's promoting Killmeyer's as "a family place that has everything from escargot to hot dogs," Ken Tirado needs to ditch that Bizarre Burger Doctrine ASAP. He also needs to insure that what is advertised on both the beer and food menus is--with rare exception--actually available.

Ditto Oktoberfest beers in late August.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Don't Forget...

"We found that light to moderate drinkers were 28 percent less likely to develop Alzheimers than non-drinkers, 25 per cent less likely to develop vascular dementia, and 26 per cent less likely to develop any dementia," Anstey said in a statement.

I'll drink to that. As our Greek philosophers advised, moderation is key.

Click below.


Moderate drinking late in life can ward off dementia: study | Lifestyle | Reuters

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Epps Boys hard at work

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Crime, Punisherment and Beer

The Punisher bashes into McGillin's

By Kurt Epps—The PubScout


My favorite Philly pub—McGillin's Old Ale House—hosted the third of its Author Series last night, and judging by the crowd that packed the place, the idea is a homerun. It was The PubScout's first such session, so there is nothing to which last night's festivities can be compared. My guess, however, is that the featured author on this night—Duane Swierczynski—had a lot to do with the size of the crowd.

Let's face it. Duane Swierczynski's name is not (yet) synonymous (nor pronounceable) with Raymond Chandler, Steven King, or even Shakespeare. And I doubt seriously whether those who came to Philly's oldest pub last night were there because they had read Duane's (Swierczynski's too tough to type any more) first foray into the world of beer writing with his Big Book O' Beer. I penned a most favorable review of that classic more than half a decade ago, and that book, which resides in a place of honor in my house, was the reason I made the trek to McGillin's.

My assessment was that most in the house, however—like my two sons--were fans of Duane's connection to comic book characters like Frank Castle—a.k.a. The Punisher. Duane has also written other characters for Marvel—Cable, Wolverine and Deadpool. The author admits he is attracted to the "darker" characters, though, in his public persona at least, he's the complete opposite of "dark." Creative, quick-witted, amiable and funny, Duane broke into comics by writing crime novels. His rather cherubic appearance is misleading, but, conceding that The Punisher movies might not have been the pinnacle of greatness, he confesses that he thoroughly enjoyed them all. He also admitted that he became a writer so he wouldn't have to speak in front of audiences, though it was clear he connected with the one at McGillin's last night.

He is married to the former Meredith Paul from Wilkes-Barre, who allows that she knew how to spell her new last name long before she could pronounce it. She, 14, and Duane, 17 were pen pals in 1989 until they came face to face at a high school jazz band concert in 1995. They married in 1997 and have two children—7 and 6. Duane dedicated The Big Book O' Beer to his daughter Sarah.

So, besides the Author Series, why was Duane at McGillin's? Some of his stories use the iconic tavern, though it takes on the pub name of Interesting Times. The art work, however, leaves no doubt that McGillin's is the place. Duane sat signing books next to the mullioned window that The Punisher crashed through in one of his stories. Duane also had a special deal: if you bought one of his comics, you got a McGillin's special anniversary 1860 IPA on him. That beer is a good one, by the way. Made by Stoudt's, it's not overly hoppy, and owner Chris Mullins the Youger says it's an IPA for those who are just getting into the style. The beer will be available in bottles and for takeout soon.

Typical of his engaging and self-deprecating style, Duane publicly admitted, "Hey, the beer only costs me two bucks, but it's the thought…."

If you missed the event, fear not. You can still get Duane's work at Brave New Worlds, whose reps were on hand. Check out pics here.

Marvel and comic book fans in general who also happen to be fans of good beer should also check out The Big Book O' Beer. I took my copy to McGillin's and had Duane sign it. Now it goes back to its place of honor in my Loo Library.

Don't laugh. That place, like McGillin's, is my sacred sanctuary. But my sons won't let me put The Punisher in there.

They say one punisher per bathroom is enough.

©Kurt E. Epps 2009 All Rights reserved

Monday, August 24, 2009

Gals, scratch Malaysia off your O-Fest list

It appears that the "Religion of Peace" doesn't exactly embrace Ben Franklin's famous quote about beer being "proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy."


Beer-Drinking Muslim Model's Caning Delayed - Asia | Travel | Map -

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Festa di Ottobre at Basil T's Toms River

In what has to be a first in NJ, Basil T's (Toms River) two Greek brothers, both named Pete, have advertised their spectacular German Oktoberfest Event on their Facebook Page--in Italian.

Why are two brothers both named Pete? Something to do with their mother and a shipment of ouzo....

No matter. it's an Oktoberfest like no other, and the smart money reserves a seat or ten.

Check out Steve Farley's menu, Dave Hoffman's beers--and the Italian words--here.

Ein Prosit!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Punisher does Oktoberfest?


Month-long celebration: August 25 - October 3

From German beer & comic books to Beer Garden at Midtown Village Fall Festival

PHILADELPHIA (August 19, 2009) -- Local breweries start producing Octoberfest beers in late August. Instead of storing it for a month - McGillin's Olde Ale House will start pouring the coveted seasonal brews on Tuesday, August 25. Adding to the festivities on August 25, American Crime Novelist Duane Swierczynski will be on-hand to discuss the newly-released trade paperback about Frank Castle's escapades in Philadelphia for Marvel Comic's "The Punisher." Besides modeling the décor of the pub in his comic book after McGillin's, Swierczynski is also well-versed in its beer, having written The Big Book o' Beer: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Greatest Beverage on Earth. In fact, he plans to buy a pint of McGillin's 1860 IPA for anyone who buys his book that night.

The event on August 25 featuring Swierczynski and German beers begins at 6 p.m. No cover. Pints of the newly-released McGillin's 1860 IPA by Stoudt's Brewing reduced to $2. Plus, McGillin's newly installed beer tower will be stocked with Stoudt's Festbier, Flying Fish's Octoberphish, Victory's Fest, Jack's Pumpkin Spice, plus a variety of rotating Octoberfest and other seasonal beers.

The Octoberfest beers and German cuisine will be served at McGillin's Olde Ale House, Philadelphia's oldest continuously operating tavern, from August 25 through October 3. The lunch and dinner menus will feature German cuisine including Mussels steamed in Octoberfest Lager and served over Hay and Straw Noodles with German-style Toasted Cheese Bread; Grilled Pork Loin served with Sweet and Sour Cherry Sauce, Braised Cabbage, Apples and Potato Dumpling; and German Style Grilled Sausage Platter with Bratwurst and Knockwurst with Red Cabbage and Warm German Potato Salad served with German-style Cheese Toast and Dark Mustard; and Kasebrotchen Chicken, Chicken Breast topped with German style Spread (Ale, Brown Mustard, Sharp Cheddar Cheese) baked to a bubbly finish and served with Heaven and Earth (Himmel Und Erde), Potatoes sautéed with Apples and Bacon, served also with Red cabbage and German-style Cheese Toast.

Gott im Himmel!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

2 for 2 in O-fest beers

No sooner do I finish singing the well-deserved praises of Dave Hoffman's Oktoberfest beer, than I come across another that's a knockout as well. It's a Flying Dog (as opposed to Flying Fish) product called DogToberFest Marzen. Read all about its mystical lore on the FD site. A tad darker than Dave's, this excellent example of the style is smooth as silk with a caramel finish you'll savor for a while. Beautiful to look at with a wonderful nose, this one will complement any wurst platter you can concoct, and should dance very nicely with Sauerbraten, Spaetzle, Jagerschnitzel, Rouladen or Farmer's Feast. It's only 5.3% ABV, so it's a perfect session beer for those late Summer/early Fall afternoons and evenings. And mornings, truth be told.

So men, break out the lederhosen! Ladies, tighten up your disselstoppemfumfloppen! (That's the German word for brassiere...) Strike up the Oompah Band! And get ready to dance The Schuhplattler! Remember Chevy Chase in National Lampoon's European Vacation?

DogToberFest won a Gold Medal at the 2008 GABF, and it's not hard to see why.
This one's a clear wiener (ouch!) in the PubScout's BBOO (Best Beers of Oktoberfest) category.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Oktoberfest in August

One of the greatest misunderstandings among those who aren't tuned into the beer world is when Oktoberfest happens. You can be forgiven if you think Oktoberfest is in Oktober, but only if you're not a beer geek.

Oktoberfest starts now, and will last through the first few weeks of Oktober--er, October. And, to get me on my way to one of my favorite beer seasons (the others being Winter, Summer and Spring and Autumn), I sit here typing next to a pint of Dave Hoffman's Oktoberfest. Dave's brewery, Climax Brewing Co. in tiny Roselle Park, NJ has been putting out quality beers for more than a decade, and his beers have been featured in some of the best beer books in the world--including Michael Jackson's Ultimate Beer Book.

But while I enjoy many of Dave's regular brews (you won't find a better Nut Brown or Helles), I have to confess that my favorite Hoffman brew is the one I'm enjoying right now--and that's his Oktoberfest beer. From its orange-amber color to its incredibly bready/fruity nose to its nonpareil mouthfeel and finish, this is an O-fest lover's Oktoberfest.

I'm not here to blow smoke up Dave's butt, as he has heard me wax poetic about this beer in person in his shop. And I'm sure not looking to score a free growler at the upcoming Basil T's (Toms River) set for Oktober-er, October 2nd, though if he has an extra, I won't turn it down.

I've had and enjoyed many Oktoberfest beers. But none better than the one I'm currently drinking. There is, quite frankly, no better way to usher in this best of beer seasons than with Dave Hoffman's Oktoberfest. Dan Ratti's Oak Tree Buy-Rite Discount Liquors has it.

To the brewer: Ein Prosit! Und Gemutlichkeit!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Irish pub coming to Metuchen

Looks as though Metuchen's Main Street will be the home of a brand new Irish Pub as Hailey's Harp & Pub will debut on September 12 at 400 Main St. Click on the link below for more information.

The PubScout will visit and report back as soon as the place is up and running. You might recall I reviewed The Shannon Rose on the first day it opened, and within 30 minutes of the doors swinging wide. (And just for the record, I think The Shannon Rose is within ten miles of Hailey's, but who's counting?)

Slainte! to the new owners of Hailey's Harp & Pub.

One of my favorite Irish prayers:

May those that love us, love us, and those that don't love us, may God turn their hearts.

And if he canna turn their hearts, let Him turn their ankles, so we might recognize them by their limping...

Irish pub, other establishments set to move to downtown Metuchen

Monday, August 10, 2009

Killmeyer’s Old Bavaria Inn

The More things Change…

By Kurt Epps—The PubScout

…the more they stay the same. Thank heavens that maxim applies to Killmeyer's Old Bavaria Inn on Staten Island. I last visited the place in its infancy, twelve years ago, so being a lover of German food and beer, I felt a revisit was in order.

My buddy Tom Froehlich (now there's a Deutsch-handle if ever there was one) and I made the quick trip across the Outerbridge Crossing from my hometown of Perth Amboy to see if sole owner Ken Tirado, a co-owner twelve years ago, had effected any changes to the place.

Thankfully, in the main hall he has not, apart from increasing the availability of some exceptional brews from the Fatherland and other countries as well. Time was when Killmeyer's would only serve beers that came from countries contiguous with Germany, and it also had the distinction of being the largest purveyor of Spaten beers in NYC. Ken doesn't know if that distinction is still extant, but it's of little consequence, as Spaten lovers can still get their favorites at the Inn. Now, fifteen countries have their beers on Ken's menu.

Ken has also expanded the outdoor Biergarten, covering it in the event of inclement weather and adding seating to accommodate the crowds that show up, not only during the six-week Oktoberfest Season, but all year long. A wide variety of bands are booked to satisfy the listening needs of what Tirado describes as a "family" place that has everything from escargots to hot dogs.

Indeed, on our visit, many families were enjoying the indoor ambience and that exceptional Killmeyer's food, overseen by Franz the Moose, who has remained faithfully on the wall where he attends to his round-the-clock vigil. Franz watched Tom and me carefully as we ordered our beers from the extensive beer menu. Tom ordered a Reissdorf Kolsch to start, and yours truly had an Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Marzen. We ordered up the Forest Wives' Mushroom appetizer that captured me back in the day. It was excellent then and remains a must-try now. Tom, an expert on food, confided that he could make a meal of this tasty appetizer alone.

Tom was enamored of his Sauerbraten main course and a Radeberger Pilsner, and I enjoyed my Weinerschnitzel, especially after Laura ladled some of the Forest Wives' Mushroom Sauce on it. It matched up nicely with my Eggenberg Urbock.

Dinner done and bellies full, we ordered up a few more beers—a Weihanstephaner Original for Tom and an Ommegang Three Philosophers for me--and retired to the outside Biergarten to enjoy some chat and a couple of Romeo y Julietas Tom had somehow managed to score.

Our stay was made even more pleasant by the attentive staff at Killmeyer's, from Delores the hostess (definitely a grandma with the Mostest) and dirndl-wearing Laura, our server. Laura, an ethnic mixture of Spanish and Italian was as helpful, friendly and attentive as anyone could want, with a winning smile and an attitude that showed she really enjoyed working here. That sentiment was prominent twelve years ago when former servers Melissa and Suzanne allowed that Killmeyer's was a great place to work.

We'll buy that. And it's still also a great place to eat and drink, especially if you're a Deutsch-o-phile.