Good pubs, Good Beer, Good People

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