Good pubs, Good Beer, Good People

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