Friday, December 17, 2010
Finnegans Wake ( Benefit the Wounded Warrior Foundation)
Sunday, January 30, 2011 · 2:00pm - 5:00pm Try to imagine the ballad “Finnegan’s Wake” transformed into the Irish version of “one of those Italian Weddings,” only in place of the nuptials, there’s a funeral. This is a story about a wake, a party for the dead, held for Timothy Finnegan, who died in a fall from a ladder but was miraculously revived when accidentally splashed with whiskey.Better prepare your eulogies now for Finnegan’s Wake. You may be called on to stand up and salute the dearly departed with a joke, a song or a dance. It’s an interactive event, so you are part of the act. And be prepared to hear some great music. This is an opportunity to entertain and to be entertained - while Hailey’s Staff will host this evening of Celtic wit and merriment, you'll also have a chance to help console the poor widow. After all, this gathering is a celebration of life, not death.You'll laugh till you cry at Finnegan's Wake, simply an unforgettable experience.Tickets will be sold in advance of the event, contact the pub for details
Monday, December 13, 2010
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
When I was just a tyke, I asked my beer-and whiskey loving uncle, "How did angels get to be on top of most Christmas trees? He said, "Sit down, lad. Here's the story: "
Many years ago on a bleak, raw, rainy and generally nasty Christmas Eve, Santa was fighting a severe case of the flu. Runny nose, hacking cough, high temps and diarrhea made him miserable, and the prospect of spending the night delivering Christmas presents to the world did not seem particularly exciting.
He went out to check on his famous reindeer only to find that two of them, Dancer and Prancer, had broken out of their pen and had flown away. One, Vixen, was in the process of giving birth, and Rudolph's nose was out. His sled was leaning to one side because of a broken runner.
Santa turned to his workshop to check on the elves only to find them all sitting around, refusing to do any more work until their pay was raised and sprinkles were liberally put on the cupcakes provided by Mrs. Claus.
Santa went to inform Mrs. Claus of the dilemma, only to find her walking out of the cottage with two suitcases in her hands. "I'm leaving you and this nonsense behind," she said. "I can't take any more." And away she flew in her own sleigh.
On the verge of tears and a breakdown, Santa headed for his secret cupboard where he had stashed a bottle of 150 year-old Chivas Regal. Pulling it out from the overhead cabinet, however, he lost control of the bottle, and it crashed to the floor in pieces, spilling its precious liquid through the floor cracks.
Poor Santa went to get the broom to sweep up the broken glass shards only to discover that the straw of the broom had been eaten through by the mice. He attempted to scoop up some of the bigger pieces with his hand, stuck himself on a large sliver and jumped up, hitting his head on the corner of the cabinet door he had left open. The pain was blinding and caused him to involuntarily release some diarrhea which soiled his red pants.
At that very moment, there was a knock on Santa's cottage door, and it opened to reveal a beautiful little angel carrying a very large fir tree behind her. She asked innocently, "Santa, what should I do with this Christmas Tree?"
And that, my child, is how the angel came to be the decoration of choice for Christmas tree toppers.
I've been corresponding with Ken Hart, a fellow beer nut from Down Under for some time now. Ken's organization, The Thirsty Swagman, runs beer trips around the world that make our New Year's Eve celebration look like a church social. Ken has graciously invited me to attend one of his events, but so far the logistics haven't worked out. Someday, maybe. But until then, my readers will have to be satisfied with a special dispatch from Ken's "Swag Girl," Tash Marti. This trip sounds like so much fun, I decided to run Tash's piece as a guest column. Maybe some of you out there will get the itch, the courage and the gelt to "run with the Big Dogs" of the beer world, like Ken. One day, The PubScout himself may decide that Thailand is a beer destination he can't miss, just plunk the money down and say, "Phuket."
Herewith, Tash's guest column….
The Wettest and Wildest Party on the Planet
Speaking of epic places people go to party - Southeast Asia's Thailand is home to what is possibly the biggest and wildest water fight event in the world. Keen travelers from all over, pack their bags and head to Thailand every April, to celebrate the Thai New Year (Songkran) with a splash. During this time, don't be surprised when the whole of Thailand stops for 3 days to engage in an immense, country-wide water fight.
For the entire Songkran period, party goers line the streets and post themselves in every corner, ready with their water-filled weaponry (sometimes mixed with mentholated talc) aimed at who-ever dare pass by. ..So if you plan on walking more than 3 metres down the road during this time, expect to return nothing less than soaked from head to toe.
But why stop at a 3 day Thai New Year, massive, celebratory water fight – when you could turn this crazy travel experience into a full week of one totally unforgettable pub crawl marathon?
Buckle up beer-loving travelers and prepare yourselves for one exhilarating pub tour experience of a lifetime, handled by renowned Australian based tour operator Thirsty Swagman (www.thirstyswagman.com) the company offering a purely pub- and bar-based itinerary worldwide. Your experience starts with bar hopping your way through Sentosa Island, where feet in sand and beer in hand, you'll enjoy taking in the rays while making friends with the Thirsty crew that will soon be your new best buddies for the next action-packed week of partying.
After a day of blissful relaxation – you'll be ready to head to the heart Clarke Quay, a cluster of themed bars ranging from Moroccan fantasy, to the Scottish Hilander. But be warned - A typical night at Clarke Quay usually involves nothing less that downing 4L towers of beer at Brewerkz microbrewery and then heading straight to The Clinic. Not the kind of Clinic guys end up at after a crazy night they can't remember – this ironically themed pub had doctors and nurses treating you with syringes and drips filled with nothing but tasty alcohol, while you and your mates chill out on the slightly odd seating arrangements – hospital beds. The Clinic is definitely an unlikely pub, in a country where chewing gum is prosecutable.
The next destination is Phuket, Thailand, for a hard-core party in the Bangla Road. During the trip in Thailand, travelers get to experience Songkran, the Thai New Year, where you and hundreds of other partygoers, will be stumbling through the streets of Phuket with your water guns strapped on, in a fully-fledged, country-wide water fight! And did I mention? Soaked hotties everywhere!
One of the places in Thailand where pub travelers will dwell on is the hardest-rocking pub in the world, named Rock city, which is located on Phuket's Patong Beach. With VIP entry and drinks, you'll be raising your glass to the most authentic AC/DC, Metallica and Guns 'n' Roses cover bands you've ever heard. Along your drinking journey, you'll also get to nail drinks at Tiger bar and several other of Patong beach's best pubs and bar.
One highlight of this pub tour experience that mustn't be left out is your speedboat adventure to a private pub on the beautiful Naka Island. To give you an idea of just how amazing this island is – it's fit for a king – literally – as the Prince of Dubai recently stayed there. You'll land on a stretch of beach with nothing but white sand, crystal clear water, and two tiny beach shack pubs that serve every beer, ice cold!
Ready to party? Visit www.thirstyswagman.com
Friday, November 12, 2010
But what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a Chocolate Bock as one of the beers! I had always wanted to try this brew, and when I got home late last night I pulled one from the fridge. I read the label to discover there were "nibs" (whatever they are) from Ecuador used in the process, and that process included aging the beer on a bed of cocoa. Sounds a bit messy, but I poured the dark brew into a chalice-style glass to more fully savor what became an impressive nose, and Willy Wonka dutifully called out to my olfactory lobes.
The first sip made me think that this may be the silkiest, smoothest beer I have had in many moons, and the flavor was most rewarding. I remember treasuring chocolate egg creams at my childhood soda fountain, and this beer brought me back there. Not overly sweet, but definitely chocolatey, toasty and unbelievably smooth--and it improved as it warmed. It was liquid velvet on the tongue and palate with a finish that hung around like cigar smoke over a 1940's pool table.
I still chuckle at those Coors Light Silver Bullet commercials which attempt to convince beer folks that colder beer is better beer. What nonsense. And all you need to prove it is to pick up some of this stuff. I am disappointed that only four bottles come with this SA Winter pack, too. I'd have evicted the SA Lager (a good beer in its own right) in this collection and made room for four more of these babies. In fact, I'm probably going to see if Dan Ratti can get it in cases.
It's going to be long winter. Most days, Old Man Winter will do his best to turn my nibs blue. But he can't if they're in my Sam Adams Chocolate Bock.
Monday, November 1, 2010
By Kurt Epps—The PubScout
I love good pizza. And I love good beer.
But—confession time—I don't love them together. Don't know why, since beer and pizza seems to go as well in the minds of the general populace as beer und brats. But I never warmed to the combo, perhaps because of the breadiness factor. Pizza, no matter what you put on it, is bread, and beer is liquid bread. So I prefer a good root beer, birch beer or sarsaparilla with my pizza.
A guy, who used to take his dates out for pizza before bringing them to his place to see his, um, etchings, once told me, "Pizza is a lot like sex. Even when it's bad, it's pretty good."
Maybe. But what about when the pizza is simply out-of-this-world, like at Luna Pizzeria in Three Bridges, NJ? Following a motorcycle charity meetup for the American Heart Association at Duke Island Park, one of the organizers had us motoring (on a positively scintillating autumn day) on the back twisties of Somerset County en route to Frank Catena's place.
The place isn't big. Three Bridges itself is so small that if you don't get stopped by a train changing cars in the town center, you might not realize you even went through the town center. But, as the saying goes, "It's not the size of the pie in the dog…" or something like that. Frank's pies, written up extensively in the Star-Ledger, are special because they're made that way. Using a special dough and ingredients obtainable only in Italy, and following a pizza code that is every bit as stringent as the Reinheitsgebot is for beer, Catena puts out some absolutely delicious and varied gourmet pies. All the ingredients in every pie are incredibly—nay, religiously—fresh, right down to the basil leaves Frank or his wife Jeannette pluck from the basil plant growing by the door.
Frank, a motorcycle buff himself who owns a number of vintage Harleys (including a 1914 model), is amiable, knowledgeable and most of all, committed to his craft, which he's been plying for only three years. He was instructed in the trade by a Master Pizzauioli (Pizza Master) who spoke only in Italian, so a translator was needed. "This guy is one of the two best in the world," says Frank, "and I follow his direction completely. My customers tell me it shows."
Indeed it does. I had slices of the Margherita, the highly acclaimed sausage and Frank's personal favorite—the White Clam Pie. Hoboken's Ol' Blue Eyes himself used to order pizza shipped to him on the Left Coast from a guy in Jersey. Frank, with some difficulty, got the guy to share the recipe, and now Frank (who tweaked the ingredients) unabashedly claims, "Mine's better."
I ate so much Luna Pizza, accompanied by root beer, that I barely had room for the special Nutella Dessert Frank made for his fellow bikers. For that delicacy, there are, simply, no words.
Sated, I paid my part of the very reasonable tab, threw my leg over the Blue Eagle and departed via the Somerset County backroads, brilliant with reds, oranges, yellows and browns all splashed by a bright sun.
I left the little town of Three Bridges and its little award-winning pizzeria in the rearview mirror
But like The Terminator, I'll be back.
Luna Restaurant...429 Main St....Three Bridges, NJ 08887
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
You could tell this one had Moshe's touch, too. Most cheese, veggie and dip courses don't have ten-year old Gouda cheese in abundance, and that the course was accompanied by Mike Sella's Scottish (NOT Scotch) ale also indicated an avant-garde approach. Moshe's Kohlsuppe, paired with Avery's Ellie's Brown Ale, was a huge crowd (and belly) pleaser, as was his Tomaten Salad. The Brat course, served with Mike's ale-based Oktoberfest was melt-in-your-mouth good, but Moshe's Rouladen entree was just killer. Accompanied by Moshe's favorite German Oktoberfest beer--Paulaner--nearly every one of the 45 person group mmmm'ed and wowed while putting it away. The Sweet Noodle Pudding came with a dollop of Vanilla Ice Cream prepared with Hailey's Ale from Hailey's Harp and Pub in Metuchen, becoming known for its beer dinners as well. Proprietor Chris Flynn was in attendance. The dish was joined by Left Hand Brewing's Milk Stout and the pairing got great praise.
Lots of new faces were at this event, but the old standbys were also well represented--Dave, Gri, Uncle Frank, Deb (and that guy she's next to, Gary), Jim and others.
There was of course, the usual Oktoberfest Music and Mayhem, but at night's end--after 10:30--everyone went home sated and happy. Uno's next beer dinner will probably take place after the hoildays, so stay tuned for notices here.
Check out the pictures top right, and for some video, head to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R39VPDI8PZw or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=95QXOZPtVG8 or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o6efE-zLcmo
TO SEND ONE REGIONAL BREWER AND ONE LOCAL BEER DRINKER
TO BELGIUM FOR COLLABORATION BREW
PHILADELPHIA, PA -- One regional brewer and one local beer drinker and will get a chance to win an all expenses paid trip to Belgium to help brew a Philly Beer Week (PBW) collaborative beer with world-renown brewer Dirk Naudts of De Proef Brouwerij. The two lucky winners will be selected during a fun party on Wednesday, November 17 starting at 7 p.m. at McGillin’s Olde Ale House (1310 Drury St., 215-735-5562) in Center City.
Beers lovers can enter a raffle ($5 per ticket or 5 tickets for $20 to benefit PBW) to select the brewer that they would like to send to Belgium. At 8:30 pm, one raffle ticket will be picked and the person who entered, along with the brewer named on their entry, will win the free trip.
A partial list of participating breweries will include: Dock Street Brewing Co., Dogfish Head, Flying Fish Brewing Company, Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant, Lancaster Brewing Company, Manayunk Brewpub, Nodding Head, Sly Fox Brewery, Stoudt’s Brewing Company, Twin Lakes Brewing Company, Troegs Brewing Co, Victory Brewing Company, Weyerbacher Brewing Company and Yards Brewing Company, whose brewers will be on hand for the drawing.
“This is a project that perfectly embodies the spirit of America’s Best Beer-Drinking City,” said Don Russell, a.k.a. Joe Sixpack, the executive director of Philly Beer Week. “Thanks to so many Belgian-style bars and locally brewed Belgian-style beers, Philadelphia has a worldwide reputation as ‘Brussels on the Schuylkill.”
In February 2011, Naudts will work with the winning duo to produce a special porter that will be unveiled during the annual celebration to be held June 3 through 12, 2011. The porter will be part of DeProef’s ongoing Brewmaster’s Collection series and will be poured alongside hundreds of other great craft beers, including another Philly Beer Week collaborative beer created by a group of the region’s brewers.
“Porter is a classic Philly style,” said Russell, who noted that, for Philly Beer Week ’10, area restaurateurs brewed the collaborative ExPorter with Sierra Nevada. “It has been brewed here since before the Revolution. It’s an extremely flexible style that allows all kinds of interpretation by inventive brewers.”
Philly Beer Week, which will be held June 3 to 12, 2011, is a 10-day celebration of the Best Beer-Drinking City in America, highlighting the region’s diverse beer scene – its world-class breweries, neighborhood taverns, trend-setting restaurants and rich beer culture and history. Established in 2008, it’s the largest beer celebration of its kind in the United States, featuring hundreds of festivals, dinners, tours, pub crawls, tastings and meet-the-brewer nights at area bars, restaurants and other locations throughout Greater Philadelphia. The event is organized and operated by Philly Beer Week Inc., a non-profit 501(c)(6) organization overseen by a board comprised of brewery owners, distributors, restaurant owners and others, to promote Philadelphia’s beer and hospitality industries.
Each year since 2007, brewmaster Dirk Naudts of De Proef Brouwerij in the village of Lochristi has collaborated with a highly regarded American brewer to create a series of one-of-a-kind ales. The beers, distributed nationally by SBS-Imports of Seattle, Washington, have met with critical acclaim and have been chosen as a monthly selection by the prestigious Michael Jackson Rare Beer Club.
“I am very excited to add Philly Beer Week to the outstanding list of partners in the De Proef Collaboration Series,” says Alan Shapiro of SBS-Imports. “PBW is the benchmark beer week throughout the U.S. and I have no doubt this beer will be highly sought after by specialty beer enthusiasts across the country.”
2007 - Signature Ale with Tomme Arthur of Port Brewing.
2008 - Les Deux Brasseurs with Jason Perkins of Allagash Brewing.
2009 - Van Twee with John Malle of Bell’s Brewing.
2010 - Monstre Rouge with Spike Bukowski of Terrapin Brewing.
2011 – Yet-to-be-named Philly Beer Week brew with yet-to-be-named brewer.
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
By Kurt Epps—The PubScout
Even in the business of emceeing beer dinners, there's a first time for everything. When I get called to emcee one, I'm used to walking into a restaurant, chatting briefly with the chef (after having previously selected the beers we'll use}, then sitting back and watching the restaurant's workers bring out the various courses and beers. I discuss the pairings, do some shtick and another group of happy beer-dinner go-ers is sated with fine food and fine beer.
My chef buddy Bob "Buddy" Dick and I have teamed up on a number of these very successful beer dinners in the past, but the recent closing of his restaurant made it look like those great events were history. For a chef of Buddy's caliber, however, there is always a market, and he got a call from a group to be a "guest chef" for one of their dinners. He, in turn, called me.
I had never heard of this group (I was late to Facebook, too), but the idea of doing a beer dinner in a VFW Hall in Kenilworth with a bunch of guys who claimed they would do the cooking ignited my interest. Buddy would be the Master Chef, and the guys would be his assistants. "What the hell," says I. "As long as the beer is there and I eat what Buddy himself prepared, I'll be all right." So I assented.
Had I had enough time (or sense) to read the background of these guys, I wouldn't have been so surprised to see fifty or so grown men in white coats and chef hats (called "toques" I later learned) hustling about at various tables, each with a different course in different stages of preparation on top. Many of the guys were "Boomers" like me, but there were quite a few younger guys chopping, cranking, molding, mixing and dusting, too, all under the watchful eye of Master Chef Buddy Dick.
They are Les Marmitons , which means chef's assistant or kitchen boy in French ( depending on whether you're talking to the chef or the assistant). Les Marmitons is "a gastronomic and social club of gentlemen who share a common interest in fine food, wine and the culinary arts…." Except this time they were doing an Oktoberfest dinner, and beer, not wine, was the beverage of choice. Hence my presence.
But Buddy Dick was also wise enough to contact Der Brewmeister himself—Roselle Park's Dave Hoffman—who provided two of the beers for the evening, and extremely insightful tableside conversation. Dave had brought along his award-winning Helles as a "Quaffer," which is part of every Marmitons dinner and what they all drink while prepping the food. "This could be interesting," I thought.
Les Marmitons are deadly serious about their work/hobby. Each is supposed to arrive with his own culinary weapons, as well as his culinary attire, which for some is adorned with colored bands, signifying a rank in the club. [See the pictures top right] It is an international organization, I learned, but in the West, the credit seems to go to a Johnny Appleseed-like character named Jean-Pierre Jobin, who, after joining the group in Canada, traveled the US countryside while working as a computer consultant, creating chapters of Les Marmitons as he traveled.
The format for this five-course Oktoberfest meal was SOP for Les Marmitons. The "team" of chefs who prepared the course, cooked it, plated it and served it, and a member of the team stood up mid-course to explain the details of the dish. Every chef at the table paid rapt attention, too. My role was to "explain" the beer choice, and as these guys are accustomed to wine accompanying their food, I had to make the necessary comparisons. "The major difference between wine experts and beer experts," I said, "is that we beer guys would never spit out what we we're drinking--unless it's bad."
The president of the group, Richard Dreher, had sent me the night's menu, complete with the recipes of every dish prepared, and I matched the various courses with beer. One, of course, was Dave Hoffman's Oktoberfest which accompanied the main course of Schwein Skotelehen mit Knockwurst. Translated, that meant Pork Chop with Knockwurst, accompanied by an out-of-this-world Carrot Souffle, Spaetzle and dark Beer Bread. Les Marmitons were as impressed with Dave's beer as we were with their food, and that was just one course. So much food came to the table, topped off by an ice cream float using Young's Double Chocolate Stout (hey, you don't see many skinny chefs or Germans) that we had to waddle away at night's end. Originally, Les Marmitons would do all the cleanup, but they were smart enough to pool their money and pay two other people to do it.
There are usually no women at these events, except around the holidays, which is in keeping with the founding idea of a gentlemen's hobby/club. There are also some strict rules regarding comportment and behavior at these events, as this entry from their website will attest: "Members share a common desire to cultivate and enjoy the gastronomic and social aspects of the club - and excessive consumption as well as the conducting of commercial business is deemed inappropriate at club events."
Les Marmitons (there are two separate chapters in NJ, one in Port Reading and this one, Les Marmitons of Cranford) have eight monthly meetings and special holiday dinners. This was the first which actually had beers as the basis for the entire menu, and it was well received by everyone present.
Anyone who has the good fortune to be invited as a guest would do well to take advantage. You may have to wear a white coat the while, but that's a small price to pay for good food, good company and a good time.
Any readers interested in participating with the Cranford Chapter should contact Richard Dreher.
©Kurt Epps 2010 All rights reserved
Friday, October 15, 2010
Until then, Ein Prosit!
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Artisan's "First" Fest another Winner
By Kurt Epps—The PubScout
You sort of knew what kind of night it would be when the crowd burst into cheers, hoots and dogbarks because the tuba player blew his first warmup note of the night.
No doubt, this crowd was primed to rock and roll at what was Artisan's first-ever Oktoberfest Beer Dinner. Though it was technically Artisan's first (because the restaurant changed its name last year), it was the eighth for The Petes, Executive Chef Steve Farley and at least three of the Artisan Dirndl Beauties. And they just keep getting better. Some folks, either newbies or those obviously affected by the excellent beers, even said they heard a few new jokes.
From a first run of 55 Festers in 2002 to an overflow of 102 last night, this event may be the premier Oktoberfest dinner in NJ in terms of attendance. The Artisan Dirndl Beauties (who really make the night run smoothly), the Firehouse Polka Band (in fine form as usual) Brewmeister Dave Hoffman and Steve Farley combined their efforts to produce yet another memorable event. I even got to meet the delightful Kim, who keeps the Cook cooking.There were folks dancing in the aisles and at least twenty rousing choruses of Ein Prosit (though, truth be told, some of the guests had some trouble pronouncing Gemutlichkeit). Nobody, however, gave a damn.
Dave Hoffman's beers are legendary among the beer cognoscenti and these didn't disappoint. His O-fest is one of my personal favorites and the beer I usually start and finish the night with. But on his suggestion, I tried his Pumpkin Ale. Really good pumpkin ales are not easy to make, as pumpkin itself has little taste sans spices. The spices then become the flavor. Dave's had both. It was not the standard—and sometimes cloying--"pumpkin pie in a glass" version, but a hearty, very well balanced and extremely tasty brew—one that could easily be a winter session beer if you don't like Belgians and Stouts. 100 pounds of pumpkins will do that.
Steve Farley's food is equally storied, and this dinner showed why the guest list has doubled at Artisan's. My tablemate Brad's comment said it all: "This is really outstanding." Though he could have applied it to all the courses, he was speaking of the RINDFLEISCH KURZEN RIPPEN, BIER SOSSO, SPATZLE, APFELMUS ODER APFELBRI, PIKANTER KOHL,KARTOFFELPUFFER ODER REIBERDATSCHI
Or for you monolingual types, the SHORT RIBS W/BEER SAUCE, SPATZLE, HOMEMADE APPLE SAUCE, SWEET & SOUR RED CABBAGE, POTATO PANCAKES
Dave and sidekick Roger (with the help of a most comely lass viewable in the pictures) tapped a keg of Dave's Oktoberfest to accompany that main course and the matchup was excellent. In fact, all of them were, according to Brad and Beth, my tablemates who were polite enough not to steal the last shrimp, unlike the pirates across from me.
Many luminaries of the beer world were in the audience as well. Beer-Stained Letter creator Jeff Linkous sat at the same table with beer artist Gregg Hinlicky and chamois-wearing Bavarian icon Kurt Hoffman, father of the brewer.
Artisan's first/eighth Oktoberfest lived up to both its billing and its reputation. Kudos to The Petes for pulling off another rousing success. More importantly, these guys have always made quality a priority, and it clearly shows. Will they be building an addition onto Artisan's to house the next Fest? Maybe arrange for a live video feed of my buddies in the Firehouse Polka Band?
With giveaways, jokes, song, dance, gorgeous servers, great food and great beer what's not to like?
Besides Parkway traffic…
©Kurt Epps 2010 All rights reserved
Thursday, October 7, 2010
Friday, October 1, 2010
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Hat Tip to my buddy Ty in AZ for this story...
Saturday, September 18, 2010
As though the Irish, or the rest of us for that matter, need practice at pubbing, meeting friends and having fun.
But Barry O'Donovan, the Cranford Leprechaun, takes both his pub and his Irish heritage seriously, so he had Brian Kennedy's lively Irish band, bagpipers and what looked to be Michael Flatley's daughters Irish-stepping to the delight of the packed house. Kennedy knew--and sang--the Clancy Brothers version of Galway Bay, a ribald rendition that brought roars of laughter from at least one patron. The video is up at my FB page, and will probably make it to YouTube shortly. The bagpipers made a grand entrance and wowed the crowd with their performance.
But packed houses at Kilkenny don't only happen on St. Practice Day with all the trimmings. Barry and his corner man Damien, along with his extremely friendly and efficient KH staff usually deal with large crowds that often spill out onto the street to sit outside if the weather permits--and sometimes even if it doesn't permit. If there's a prettier, more pleasant server than Jenny (see pics), I've yet to meet her.
The pub is very simply a welcoming, family place where the stranger is a stranger just once. That recipe is now in use successfully at many a local pub, and that suggests that pubs, especially Irish ones, have come full circle. From the corner pub in the Auld Sodde, to the corner pub in small-town America, to the Mega-Pub in the highway shopping centers, and back to the local, small-town model, delightful places like the Kilkenny House are, for many, their home-away-from-home.
Look, it's far cheaper to buy booze at a liquor store and drink it at home. But what fun is that, unless you're planning on getting totally sh!t-faced, which is not a good idea in the first place? For millennia, man has sought the company of his peers, and good pubs provide the perfect atmosphere to do that.
Besides, ever try getting your wife to Irish-Step it after fetching you your beer? Ain't happenin.'
Instead bring her to a pub like Kilkenny House. She won't have to cook, you won't have to clean up, and you'll bond as a couple.
And though you might be tempted, I'd recommend that you don't sing Galway Bay too vigorously.
Saturday, September 11, 2010
By Kurt Epps—The PubScout
Beer dinners are a lot like wedding receptions. To be memorable, you need good people on the floor, good people in the kitchen, good people at the bar and guests who want to have a good time. Add some good entertainment, and the house is ready to rock.
The house at Hailey's Harp and Pub had all the ingredients in abundance and the result was another beer dinner success. Hailey's first shot came last January and for a rookie pub, it performed very solidly. Last night's dinner showed that Chris Flynn, Jerry Windos, Johnny La Barbera and crew can now run with the big dogs.
It's worth noting, too, that many pubs and brewpubs hold their dinners on "off" nights like Mondays or Tuesdays, when the customer level is usually lower than on the weekends. Hailey's pulled theirs off on a Friday night, and despite a packed house outside, the gals on the floor in the back room, Dawn and Colleen, stayed on top of every course—both food and beer.
You can view the menu for the night in the post below this one, so there's no sense re-running it. But writing what the menu will be and tasting at when it appears are two different things. The salad was fresh and tasty and well complemented by the Blue Moon. The salmon puffs caused my seat neighbor Pete to wax poetic, although it may have been the Harp Lager that ignited his muse. The Reuben rolls, accompanied by Climax Oktoberfest produced a series of "mmmmm's" and "oooohh's."
I confess to my love for this beer, and it's going so fast, Dave had to brew more just to make it through October. That consumption is not all my doing, mind you, but "Braxator" (Latin for brewmaster) makes one helluva beer. More than one of the ladies at the table—a particularly good-looking batch this night, too-- described the Johnny's Butternut Squash soup in terms usually relegated to a Kinsey sex study. The Hennepin that I paired with it was an avant-garde move on my part. I liked it, as did most. The Lamb Shanks, presented vertically in a bed of mashed, spiced potatoes were so tender the meat fell away from the bone with just the touch of a fork. And the sauce into which we dunked said meat was out-of-this-world. Matched with Hailey's Ale (Climax Nut Brown), it was heaven. Chef Johnny even threw in a special dish of Pickled Squash that piqued many a palate.
And of course, the finale, Johnny's Black and Tan Guinness pudding (check out the pictures) was as remarkable to look at as it was to eat, and it was paired with Guinness—natch.
Big Dave Burnejko walked away with the grand raffle prize of the night—a huge and heavy Leinenkugel's cooler, but everyone went home with a gift courtesy of Chris Flynn and Hailey's Harp and Pub—two classic Guinness Pub Glasses each.
So you had pros on the floor, pros in the bar, pros in the kitchen and a group of guests who were primed for a good time.
There are, however, differences between a good wedding reception and a good beer dinner. Apart from the ones those cynical about marriage can come up with, one is the cost. Weddings can cost $200 a plate.
Hailey's was just $45, and if you went as a couple, like Megan and Mike, Harriet and Clay, Jason and Erin, Jonathan and Tracy and Moshe and Lynn it was just $75. And I'd bet those couples had just as much fun after the beer dinner as they would have after a wedding.
As I said, it's a steal. Hope to see you at the next one!
©Kurt Epps 2010 All rights reserved
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Salad: Mixed Greens with Fresh apples/pears, with crumbled bacon and a white balsamic vinaigrette dressing--Beer--Blue Moon
Course 1: Salmon Puffs with Cream Cheese drizzled with a Spicy Pesto Sauce--Beer--Harp Lager
Course 2: Reuben Rolls--Beer--Climax Oktoberfest (This beer is one of the best you'll have!)
Course 3: Butternut Squash Soup--Beer--Hennepin
Entree: Lamb Shanks with a Spicy Whiskey-infused Brown Gravy--Beer--Hailey's Ale
Dessert: Black and White Guinness Pudding--Beer--Guinness Stout
In addition, I'm told there may be a surprise course, and if it's what I think it is, you're going to love it...
So that's the lineup for Hailey's Second Beer Dinner. Dinner starts at 7, but don't be afraid to come early and socialize. as usual, there will be the standard schtick, giveaways and general fun. Chris Flynn has done something most unusual for a beer dinner in providing a "Couples' Rate" for just $75 for two. That's a steal in anybody's book. Call Hailey's now to book your spot if you haven't already done so. See you there! Ein Prosit!
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
A reservation is yours for just $45, and note that couples can attend for just $75! That's a steal. I have it on VERY good authority that Brewmeister Dave Hoffman of Climax Brewing in Roselle Park will not only be there, he'll be bringing some of his scrumpdillyumptious OktoberFest beer. If you haven't tasted it, you don't know what you're missing. But I do. You're missing Oktoberfest, and that, quite simply, is not easily forgiven...
Hope to see you there!
Friday, August 20, 2010
Good thing, too. Because just on the other side is the Riegelsville Inn. The Blue Eagle powered me to this historic (1838) site, where I gave my butt a break and hoped to slake my thirst with a good beer in a cool pub.
Having been both delighted and disappointed by other spontaneous breaks from motorcycling, my fingers were crossed at this place. Signs that it was going to fall on the "delightful" side of the ledger began with my meeting of the lovely Yolanda. She was both welcoming and friendly, and directed me straight to the pub on the first floor. Though I could have sat outside on the veranda, I usually opt for the friendly--and hopefully air-conditioned-- ambience--of a pub, especially in an old building.
This one, small and intimate, was tended by a comely young lass named Meredith, who balked at having her photo taken. Can't say as I blame her, either. A grizzly old biker, clad in jeans and a leather vest, with a camera and a line about being a writer--about beer, no less-- does little to inspire faith in these days of internet snooping, geo-mapping and online stalking. Being a gentleman (even in my biker attire), I honored her request; but I apologize to my readers for not having her picture available, as she was, quite simply, a stunner. Nice kid, too.
My disappointment was short-lived, however, as I noticed a healthy lineup of bottled beers, and, lo! Troeg's Sunshine Pils on tap! Still-camera-shy Meredith poured me one and gave me a menu.
I opted for the Riegelsville Inn homemade chili, with some fries on the side. Sweet and spicy, topped with melted cheese and sour cream this was easily one of the best chilis I have had anywhere. It worked perfectly with the Troeg's, too. And unlike that place in New Hope I panned last week, the tab for this lunch was under $15.
The building itself is so old that the floors, stairs and bannisters are pleasantly uneven. My trip up the second floor loo was a trip back through time, and I could only imagine the ghosts of all those who trod those boards.
And speaking of trips back, I took a stroll out behind the Riegelsville Inn and discovered a dining area adjacent to a canal. The canal's water was clear and fast-moving (for a canal, anyway), and I asked a worker on break if the diners back here were bothered by bugs and mosquitoes. He allowed that when the canal was not moving, the bugs were controlled by citronella candles, daisycutters and surface-to-surface missiles.
Perhaps I exaggerate, but for me nothing destroys a great meal faster than having to swat away pesky insects, and I would willingly level a place to kill that one fly that keeps landing on my food. But, the good news is now that the canal had reopened permanently, the Inn is no longer bugged by bugs.
I'd still opt for inside, though. It's so old and quaint, the very walls seem to talk. You can see the pics here.
And maybe the next time I go back, which I assuredly will, Meredith will have had a change of heart and allow me to include her photo as well.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
HAILEY’S SECOND BEER DINNER; Sept 10th
Beer dinners are one of the few events that anyone of legal drinking age can enjoy. Knowing that most of our patrons appreciate the "art" of drinking and based on the success of our first beer dinner in January, we decided to do it again! Yes, drinking beer is a key component to a beer dinner, but they also include other important things that people can enjoy -- great food, good times and entertaining conversation (that may or may not be about beer).
This time, we decided to do the beer dinner on a Friday night, so there's no need to worry about looking at your watch and wondering how many hours you have left until the alarm goes off and you have to go back to work.
Relax and enjoy the magical pairing of amazing beers with great food specially crafted by Chef Johnny O’
The beer dinner starts at 7:00 p.m. and spreads across five to six courses, including dessert, with each dish accompanied by a different brew. The menu will be posted shortly. The price will be around $45-$50, seating will be limited and reservations are required. For more information, call Hailey’s at 732-321-0777
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
There are few pleasures better for drinkers of good beer than a cool, dark air-conditioned bar on a hot summer afternoon, especially after three hours in the saddle of a V-Twin motorcycle. I journalled one of those pleasures recently after a stop at The Stockton Inn in Stockton, NJ.
But as pleasant as my experience at the Stockton was, my session at The Logan Inn was far from pleasant--or even comfortable. The Logan Inn sits on the main drag (Rt.32) in New Hope, PA. It's an impressive structure, well-appointed and it looks like it would be a great place to grab a lunch and some good beer.
Looks that way, that is, until the hot, thirsty traveler discovers that the bar is located outside, on a distinctly UN-air-conditioned patio. There were fans around the place, some of which blew some weird misty substance (water vapor, maybe?) directly AWAY from those who sat at the bar. The only breeze to grace the bar came from the plethora of flies that dive-bombed it incessantly. Given their numbers, there should have been more of a breeze.
Still, being thirsty and hot, and discovering Dogfish Head's 60-Minute IPA on tap, I figured I could survive for a half hour. Not being related to Bernie Madoff, I swallowed hard when I saw the price list at The Logan Inn bar menu, and the best deal seemed like four 2.5-inch hamburger "sliders" for $13. True, they were supposedly Kobe beef, but $3.25 a pop for a burger shorter than my index finger might not have made Kobe flinch, but I don't make an NBA superstar's salary. In fairness, the little mini-investments were decent when I could swat the flies away, wipe the sweat from my brow and take a bite.
And speaking of "taking a bite," I was a tad surprised at the tab for my two IPA's--$7 a pint each. Hey, I'm all for supporting the craft beer industry, but this was beyond the pale (ale).
I did not dine inside the joint with the Madoffs and the Kobes, where there was A/C and probably no flies--and no bar. But I'm betting the tabs were just as pricey. New Hope has a rep as being exorbitantly expensive, but $7 for a beer? Where do they think they are? Yankee Stadium?
My tab for two brews and four sliders came to $27--over $30 with the tip for the barmaid. In all, it was an expensive, uncomfortable afternoon, but a valuable tuition. That's the way it goes, sometimes. I will not be slaking my thirst or patronizing The Logan Inn again.
Especially with The Stockton Inn ten minutes upriver.
And a slew of White Castles on the way home.
Sunday, August 8, 2010
By Kurt Epps—the PubScout
One of the wonderful things about solo motorcycling is the discovery of a hidden Jersey gem. Not precious or semi-precious stones, mind you, but a little out-of-the-way place—a spectacular view from an off-the-beaten path mountain road, a tranquil, crystal-clear river hard by a one-lane bridge.
And cool taverns.
As is my wont, I took a Sunday ride on a beautiful day out to Somerset/Hunterdon/Sussex/Warren counties. No specific destination in mind, and purposely sans GPS, but in search of my favorite motorcycle roads—two-lane blacktop, shaded by overhanging trees (preferably adjacent to a river or canal) or bordered by sun-splashed fields with expansive vistas—and no (or very little) other traffic. It's why four wheels move the body, but two wheels move the soul.
Hunterdon County Road 523 is a remarkably scenic and wonderful road to ride, especially from Flemington to its terminus in the little river town of Stockton, NJ. The roads on either side of the Delaware are wonderful motorcycle roads, and just the kind I seek. Having stopped more than once at the towns of Lambertville, NJ (RiverHorse Brewing), New Hope, PA, Frenchtown, NJ and Milford, NJ (The Ship Inn), I decide to take 523 into Stockton in search of lunch—and a good pub with good beer.
The Gods of Victuals and Beer were with me, as my exit from 523 onto NJ 29 deposited me just outside a place called the Stockton Inn, a place I had—inexplicably-- passed countless times before on my River Rides.
I pulled the Blue Eagle around the back of the place and beheld what looked to be a terraced, covered garden. The burbling of water, produced by two waterfalls, and profuse greenery provided the backdrop to the sounds of diners enjoying their lunches and drinks. So I headed inside.
And I stepped back more than two centuries in time. Wide-plank wood flooring, it authenticity validated by its unevenness, delightful murals on the walls and the unmistakable ambience of a Revolutionary décor were just the predecessors to an inside bar tabbed "The Farmer's Bar." With its original tin ceilings and rich mahogany wood trimmings, one could easily imagine quaffing a pint with General Washington himself as he crossed the Delaware into Pennsy from this very spot—known then as Howell's Ferry. That crossing, of course, led to a far more famous—and historic—one some miles downriver when GW's attack on Trenton on a Christmas night turned the very tide of The Revolution.
The literature of The Stockton Inn suggests its beginnings circa 1710, which predates even Washington's birth. And the interior of this architectural gem gives no reason to doubt the date. You can read all about it here.
As Fate would have it, the current owner, Fred Strackhouse, was on premise, and Fred was kind enough to give me a tour of the place. A bit of consubstantiation and background from me to Fred (most owners are not likely to accept a vested, dungaree'd, beerdrinking biker as a legit columnist) yielded a special bond between us. As it turns out, Fred was a former wrestler (my kind of guy) who toiled on the mats for the Nittany Lions way back when. After we concurred that wrestling is the only sport (everything else is just a game), he introduced me to his daughter Sara, currently attending Lehigh (and maybe on a first-name basis with Cael?). This knockout 20 year-old has crafted her own major at the prestigious engineering school involving Graphic Design and other studies, but here she was waiting tables in her dad's joint. That she is conscientious about it goes without saying, because Fred had to drag her kicking and screaming to be in the pictures. She had customers to attend to, you see, and work to be done. (Ah, the progeny of wrestlers…)
Enough about the place and the people. What about the food and the beer?
Chimay on tap. If that doesn't get your attention, go have a Corona. Also, Dogfish head's 60-minute IPA, Smuttynose's Old Brown Dog (was a perfect complement to the Chicken Pot Pie, by the way), Yuengling (natch) and Stella Artois. And that was just on tap. A host of others was available in bottles. I had a Smuttynose with my Chicken Pot Pie, and both were delicious.
The full menu is here on the website, and if you're tired, you can even stay here in some of the guest rooms. Many famous people besides you have done just that. The History link at the website tells us: Band leader Paul Whiteman kept a regular table at Colligan's and signed off his radio and TV shows announcing he was "going to dinner at Ma Colligan's". The Inn became a mecca for writers, artists, and thespians. A table favored by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, Damon Runyon and S. J. Perleman became known as the "Algonquin Roundtable" in honor of their New York City hangout. Add some of the famous writers who covered the Lindbergh Baby Kidnapping trial in Flemington to that list, and you're in some elite company. The Inn has even had the bands of Marshall Tucker and Gerry Garcia perform there. Yes, there's entertainment, too.
Whether you stay the night or not, check out the Silver Dollar Bar and the Silver Dollar floors. Fred Strackhouse had the bar "re-silver-dollared" and Sara planted one of her own in it. The terraced gardens, abutted by those aforementioned waterfalls, are a delightful place for lunch, dinner or just a few Chimays and a cigar or two. It melds nature and civilization in a perfect blend of ambience, and was likely the reason for the ancient appeal of the place.
Though The PubScout normally eschews wine (unless it's real cheap sangria that I can doctor), The Wine Cave, a small convex room with as vast a collection of wines as you're likely to find anywhere, has its own history, too. Be sure to ask about it. Fred is obviously in this venture for the long haul, as he confided that he has about 2,000 bottles of vintage wine on hold which should be maturing perfectly in a decade or so.
And while this was a midsummer visit, one can imagine what ambience the holidays bring to the Stockton Inn. Here's a sampler. The PubScout only had a few beers and a lunch on this serendipitous visit, but, rest assured, he will be visiting again. You should, too.
©Kurt E. Epps 2010 All rights reserved.
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
By Kurt Epps—The PubScout
I have never actually met former Jerseyan-Now-Oklahoman John Karmazin, though he and the missus were schoolmates in HS back in the days when you had to get up from your chair to change the TV channel. And when they re-connected on FaceBook, the missus discovered that John was a homebrewer. Being a dutiful wife who knows of my penchant for, um, things Oklahoman, she suggested John as friend.
And what a friend to have. After some initial consubstantiation, John arranged to have some of his Beer Snob Brewery beer sent halfway across the fruited plain (by private courier, of course) to me for sampling. Sending homebrew, especially "live" stuff, is an "iffy" prospect, even under the most watchful of eyes.
It got here. But it didn't stay long.
John sent four styles: a Belgian Dubbel, a northern English Brown Ale, an "experimental" IPA, and a Pale Bock.
The dubbel was brewed in memory of Karmazin's beloved Akita, Kuma. Translated as "Little Bear," that's the name of the beer—though, at 7.8% ABV, it is far from a little beer. A wonderful example of the style, it had a delightful nose and an exceptionally smooth mouthfeel, augmented by that Belgian candi sugar that graces some of the best Belgians. John says it has won many medals in the HB competitions he enters, and it's not hard to see why.
The Brown Ale was also absolutely true to style and absolutely delicious, especially as it warmed a bit. At 5.2% ABV, and with a nutty, chocolate finish, this could be a wonderful session beer for many a quaffer.
But The PubScout's choice for a session beer from this shipment would have to be what Karmazin called LK50. Named in honor of his wife Lori's 50th birthday, this beer was inspired by Sierra Nevada's Pale Bock. A distinct, though not overbearing, spicy hop note does not alter the smoothness of this exceptional beer. Produced from a decoction mash and lagered for FIVE months, this baby weighs in at 7.5% ABV, so the smart beerlover makes this a session beer only in his home.
Karmazin's last offering was an experimental IPA that he admits he was "not pleased with." But what does he know? He adds that "All of my friends really liked it. Hey, when it's free…" Add The PubScout to that friends' list, as I thought it was superb. A nicely balanced beer with hops predominant (as per the style), its 8.2% ABV is hardly noticeable—until later. If this is what "experimental" means, then let's hear it for experimentation.
Homebrewer John Karmazin of Oklahoma: ya done good, son! But his location poses a problem. Unless you're in John's circle of Sooner friends or a beer judge ( or a hack, like me), you ain't getting' this stuff.
And what good is a great beer if beer lovers across America can't get it? Therefore, to solve this problem, I am recommending to John Karmazin that he enters his beers into the Sam Adams national "Longshot" competition. I think he's more than a Longshot.
So thanks much for your work and your generosity, John. If you make any more, send it along.
The Better, the Sooner.
©Kurt E. Epps—The PubScout--2010
Friday, July 23, 2010
Sunday, July 18, 2010
By Kurt Epps—The PubScout
For the Boomer Generation, the town of Hoboken, NJ conjures up just two words, and one of them is "Frank." If I have to tell you the other, you ain't a Boomer. Hell, you may not even be an American.
But in the event you haven't been paying attention, Hoboken today is the place to be for Generation Everybody. Upscale, chic, bustling and close to the Big Apple sans the NYC prices, Hoboken is simply a hopping, happening place. Ol' Blue Eyes himself might never have imagined how his hometown could have evolved into what it is.
But it is something to see. Chock full of fine restaurants, beer bars, coffee shops and a host of boutiques and businesses, it's even billed as The Home of the Cake Boss, and the long lines to get into Carlo's Bakery on 1st and Washington Sts. testify to Hoboken Quality. Those lines, by the way, are equaled by the number of applicants for admission to the highly selective Stevens Institute of Technology, which makes its home atop Castle Point Terrace on Hudson in the heart of the city.
Ironically, it was a week-long stay at Stevens Wrestling camp for my RPS wrestlers that sparked my investigation of quality restaurants and beer bars in the city. While they were doing impossible Navy SEAL workouts under the auspices of Coach Mike "Maniac" Clayton, I was thinking about places to eat and drink good beer.
With my 26th anniversary approaching, I thought it might be a nice change of pace to bring the missus to the city—and a restaurant-- with the best view of The Big Apple, and my search yielded a gem in a place known simply as 3-Forty Grill. That happens to be its address on Frank Sinatra Way (hence the My-Way Highway), and if outstanding food expertly prepared and presented, superb service, some very good beers and eye-popping views are your bag, do yourself a favor and get there. Tell them The PubScout sent you.
Tammy, the assistant manager, was as pretty as she was affable and accommodating, and truth be told, the entire staff was both friendly and efficient. Our server Michael (himself a former wrestler for Don Bosco Prep) was an expert at pouring, and he filled my pilsner glass perfectly (three times, I confess) with the exceptional Brooklyn East India Pale Ale served at exactly the right temperature. My first sips, while looking out across the river at the building King Kong once climbed on, made me know I was in the right place at the right time—just before sundown.
The Brooklyn East India Pale Ale happened to be an exceptional match for 3-Forty's appetizer of Asian Style BBQ Gulf Shrimp—a portion large enough to have made it a stand-alone meal. Five perfectly cooked Jumbo Shrimp in a tantalizing Asian sauce made a wonderful introduction to what was to be a most memorable Hoboken meal. The missus, drinking wine this evening (hey, there's only so much I can do), had a Slow Roasted Beet and Crispy Warm Goat Cheese Salad. To say she raved about it is an understatement. In fact, she talked about it all the way home. She is still talking about it, and we've been home for an hour.
For my entrée, I chose the Asiago-Crusted Chicken Medallions (knowing full well they would pair perfectly with my BEIPA) and the presentation of this dish was only outdone by its taste. Thin-sliced, tender chicken, encrusted with an out-of-this-world Asiago coating, over a bed of orgasmic risotto, made this dish a winner. The missus had the Crab Cakes with the same risotto and had nothing but good things to say about it.
So full were we after the entrees, that we couldn't even entertain thoughts of dessert, and the dessert menu is fabulous. So we repaired to the Hoboken Waterfront—directly across the street-- with its spectacular views of NYC, where I waxed nostalgic over that exceptional meal with a fine, hand-made Alvarez cigar. As I soaked in the view, I quietly thanked 3-Forty owner Jerry Maher for setting up shop on the My-Way Highway. His outside seating areas are perfect for that early lunch or post-sunset meal. That's when the city lights come on. Even if you think you've seen the skyline before, it's magnificent.
Parking in Hoboken can be challenging to say the least—even on a Sunday night. But the Anniversary Gods smiled on us by providing a spot directly across from the restaurant. If they don't smile on you, you can park in the Littleman Garage around the corner on 3rd St. between River and Sinatra and have your ticket validated by 3-Forty which makes it an even better value.
There's something magical about viewing NYC from a short distance away, especially when the lights of the Empire State Building come on, and 3-Forty is the optimum spot for doing so. Couple that location with an outstanding meal, exceptional service and a chic ambience, and you'll know why 3-Forty is a prime spot in Hoboken.
We will definitely be visiting 3-Forty again. Maybe we should celebrate anniversaries more than once a year?
Not a bad idea at all. And maybe next time we'll save room for dessert.
Sunday, July 11, 2010
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Seattle, WA. July 7, 2010 - SBS Imports of Seattle, Washington and Terrapin Beer Company of Athens, GA are pleased to announce the arrival of Monstre Rouge, the recent De Proef-Terrapin Collaboration. Terrapin's Brian "Spike" Buckowski and De Proef Owner-Brewmaster Dirk Naudts brewed Monstre Rouge together this past March at De Proef in Lochristi, Belgium.
Monstre Rouge (Red Monster) is loosely based on Terrapin's Big Hoppy Monster with a Belgian twist. It is an Imperial Flanders Red Ale of 8.5%, fermented with brettanomyces and aged with toasted American oak. The malt profile includes a range of Crystal malts, Munich and Terrapin's signature Rye. It is hopped to 55 ibu's with a blend of American hops. It is a deep amber-red color capped by rocky off-white foam. It has a complex flavor profile - tart, sweet, sour, hoppy and woody. This limited production beer is available in cases of 6/750ml cork-finished bottles and 30L kegs. Suggested retail price is $15.99 per bottle
"I am very pleased to welcome Terrapin to the collaboration series," noted SBS Founder and President Alan Shapiro. "I believe Spike & Dirk have created something truly unique that will be enjoyed by discerning Belgian beer consumers."
"We consider it a great honor to be invited to partner on this beer," added Terrapin Co-Founder and Brewmaster Spike Buckowski. "It is a truly impressive list of brewers who have come before us and it has been a great experience to work with De Proef and SBS."
Each year SBS invites a noted brewer from different regions to co-design a beer and travel to Belgium to brew at De Proef. Monstre Rouge is the fourth beer in the De Proef Collaboration Series. Previous partners included Tomme Arthur of Port Brewing/Lost Abbey (2007); Jason Perkins of Allagash (2008); and John Mallet of Bell's (2009). The 2011 partner (from the Northwest) will be officially announced in September.
The beer will be launched and made available exclusively for two weeks prior to general distribution through The Rare Beer of the Month Club, the country’s most exclusive and prestigious beer club. “We’ve featured several past products from Alan’s collaboration series, and each has been an enormous hit with our very discerning customer base. Monstre Rouge embodies exactly what we’re going after in The Rare Beer Club, limited release, creative, outstanding craft beers.” http://www.beermonthclub.com/.
Highly regarded Belgian brewing engineer and professor, Dirk Naudts, founded the De Proefbrouwerij in 1996. He crafts each batch in an 11HL (9 U.S.barrel) brewhouse that blends state-of-the-art technology with traditional methods. Prior to creating DeProef, Naudts was the Brewmaster at Roman Brewery in Oudenaarde, Belgium and Brewmaster at the prestigious St. Lieven brewing program in Gent, Belgium.
Terrapin Beer company of Athens, GA was created by brewers Spike Buckowski and John Cochran in 2002. They are regarded as perhaps the most creative and adventurous brewer in their region. Terrapin beers are now available in
9 states. For more information visit: http://www.terrapinbeer.com/.
SBS Imports is based in Seattle, Washington and was founded by specialty beer industry veteran Alan Shapiro in 2002. In addition to De Proef, SBS also imports Aspall Cyders from Suffolk, England, Batemans Ales from Lincolnshire, England, and Bellegem's Bruin from the Bockor Brewery in West Flanders, Belgium. More information is available at http://www.sbs-imports.com/.
Saturday, July 3, 2010
The first is going to take place at one of my favorite NJ Irish pubs--Hailey's Harp and Pub on Main Street, and it comes straight from The Sporin himself..
Calling All Parrotheads (and anyone else looking for a good time!)
Friday, July 16th is Hailey's 1st official "Metuchenville" nite because its Five O’ clock somewhere! Join us for a selection of margaritas, Karma tequila (and Landshark specials, plus Chef Johnny’s unique creations, including, cheeseburgers in a paradise, a raw bar,
and finally Key Lime pie or nibble on sponge cake to end the night. Sounds of Buffett and giveaways will echo until Come Monday .
Now that's my kind of small town celebration. Wonder if they'll have Boat Drinks...
The other news, however, is not so good.
One of my favorite seafood places of all time--Dick's Dock, also on Main St.--has announced that its doors will be closing after thirteen years as a Brainyboro fixture. I haven't spoken with Bob (known as Bud to his patrons) or Sandy since the announcement was posted on their front window, so I can't share the reasons, if they're shareable.
In any event, Dick's Dock has been the scene of many a great meal and Beer Dinner and has sent countless numbers of diners and beerfesters out into the Metuchen night air fully sated from Bob's food and Sandy's hospitality. A BYO, Dick's Dock placed an emphasis on the freshness of its fare, especially its seafood, and Bob has a well-deserved reputation as being a wizard in the kitchen.
They will be missed for sure. Here's a pint raised to all the good folks--and good times-- at Dick's Dock. Good luck and Godspeed!
Monday, June 21, 2010
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
In addition, a Flip Video of a very accomplished, multilingual beauty named Christina is in the processing stage. Check my FaceBook page for updates, and don't forget to become a Fan of the Pubscout!
In all, another nice night at Uno's Grill and Brewery, made that way by the food, the grog, the folks in attendance and the hospitality of the pub. Lenny's talking about an outdoor BBQ for the next one, so stay tuned to this channel for details. The pics are here. Hope to see you at the next one!
Cheers till next time!
Saturday, June 12, 2010
By Kurt Epps--The PubScout
So my sons and I had one last night together before my eldest went off to Harrisburg, PA to start his adult life and a new job. (Not a bad place, Harrisburg, either—Troeg's is there.) To do a proper sendoff, we went out to a place that I have reviewed before, and to which I have often returned—the Brick House Tavern and Tap in South Plainfield. It's a Man-cave with eye-candy everywhere you look, pure and simple.
Fortune smiled on us immediately by guiding us to an empty parking space right near the Famous FirePit, which was packed with revelers. Apparently cognizant of the solemnity of the occasion, Fortune also guided us to four empty Naugahyde Barcaloungers in front of two widescreen HDTV's, where a very comely lass named Kelly waited on us hand and foot. It was her first week after training and she was working very hard to impress and become a "regular" Brick girl. Since I have never seen a Brick Girl who has performed poorly (and I've seen and met many), Kelly will have no problems establishing herself as a star server.
Marie, Autumn, Taylor, Jamie, Brittany, Lindsay, DJ and a host of others stopped by our Barcaloungers to pay their respects. Nor am I naïve or conceited enough to ever think they were coming to talk to me. Three young studs with rugged good looks (from their mother) and the solid builds of wrestlers were the chick magnets on this night.
Man-food—big sloppy, artery-clogging burgers and cheesesteaks-- was served to us on trays that stuck right into the arms of our Barcaloungers, with a well for our beers or sodas on the opposite side. With the caliber of feminine pulchritude serving and visiting us, it was, quite simply, Heaven.
In all, it was a most delightful night and a good sendoff to my first-born, who snapped a picture of me standing in the ladies room loo line. The loud music, the exceptional camaraderie, the ambience of a great place, the magnificent, efficient and drop-dead gorgeous servers all combined to make it a memorable, albeit bittersweet, night.
I'm happy my eldest has a job and wants to start his own life, but he's my first-born, and I just kind of thought I'd have him around forever. I know, I know. You have to let them spread their wings and fly. But I always thought he'd be flying around my house. The Victory Brewing Golden Monkey had me waxing nostalgic for the old days, when I was his hero.
No matter. We had a great time, and I'd recommend the Brick House Tavern and Tap to anyone who calls himself a man.
Even if there's a trace of a tear in your eye as you drive home.
©Kurt Epps 2010 All rights reserved.
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Chilled Potato Leek Soup
Mussels in White Wine and Fresh Herbs
Mesclun Salad with Chevre Crouton, Apples and Whole Mustard Vinaigrette
Short Ribs Braised in Red Wine
Apple Tart with Cream Anglais
Of course, the beers are a surprise, but they are sure to complement that avant-garde menu. If you want to go, reserve a spot by calling Uno's at (732) 548-7979
Cheers till then!
Monday, June 7, 2010
By Kurt Epps—The PubScout
The GABF it wasn't. But it wasn't intended to be.
A grand total of twelve beers were entered in Metuchen's Hailey's Harp and Pub First-Ever Homebrew Contest. But the paucity of beers was hardly a factor when it came to judging. Five Judges—Keith, Dave, Nate, Jim and Eddie—(their last names are under lock and key to deter any potential homebrew stalkers) gave every submission a thorough, detailed and scrupulous look as though it were in the final judging at that classic American beer festival. The first submission alone, evaluated at about 11:30 AM was subjected to an analysis so thorough-going that I fully expected the whole event to last till sunset. It didn't, of course, but I mention the dedication of the judges to fairly judge each beer because I was duly impressed.
Were any of these beers going to make Sam Adams' Longshot Series? Nope. But every one of the judges treated each beer as though it might. Moreover, the comments they made on their evaluation sheets were as constructively critical as they were honest. The consensus of all judges was quite simple: evaluate honestly, but, in the process, give this beermaker guidance as to how to make better beer. That approach revealed much about the judges and their commitment to good beer.
Each entry was the subject of extensive commentary about what the beer had—and didn't have. The judging sheets and the style books the judges consulted to make their determinations were excruciatingly involved. Comments about diacetyls, phenolics, fusel alcohol, oxidation, etc., were beyond what most average joes—including yours truly-- know about this beverage. Guys like me know basically two things: what we like and what we don't. Which is fine, because that's what beer is all about. No one should tell any beer drinker what he should or shouldn't like. If you like it, run with it.
But these guys were technicians. It's like me looking at an HD flat screen TV and deciding whether the picture is good or not. An HD TV technician will tell you WHY it is or isn't good.
They avoided written comments about personal preference and offered only comments about whether a beer was true to style or not—and why. And their assessments were always close to each other. They were unanimously convinced that prospective homebrewers should start simply, making good, drinkable, normal beers before branching off to more challenging specialty areas, however. Judge Dave said, "Make me a beer I want to drink ten of. Then try something more complex." Sounded like good advice to me.
Beermeister Tom Paffrath was the moderator, and Chris Flynn, Hailey's Publican, had it all organized to perfection.
The winners were: 1st Place—John Zirkel; 2nd Place—Keith Seguine; 3rd Place—Ben Bakelaar.
The top prize was $200 worth of homebrewing supplies.
An old friend of mine, Steve Gale, once told me that unless you make beer, you can only love it. To become intimate with it, you have to make it. It's a daunting task, I can tell you, having tried myself. So I suppose I have to relegate myself to the "Lovers" category.
Ben Franklin's famous quote about beer being proof that God loves us is still true. But the guys who make it must be on God's A-List. And the guys who judge it (like these guys judged it) must be God's deputies.
Hailey's will be hosting another fest in the Fall, this time opening it up to entries from more counties and possibly statewide, according to Chris Flynn. Check this blog to see when that event will be going off.
It's an education in beer the average joe should see once in his life. Maybe I'll video the next one, provided I have more than two hours of filming available on my Flip Video.
And by all means, try brewing your own, if for no other reason than to appreciate what goes into it.
By Kurt Epps—The PubScout
June 7, 2010
Let's be clear at the outset. McGillin's is The PubScout's favorite Philly pub. Its age has a lot to do with that, because age and character often go hand in hand when it comes to pubs. When you come into the Drury St. ale house, you not only feel that character, you get the feeling that you're quaffing with all those who have sat in the room raising pints since it was the Bell-in-Hand.
And yesterday's No-Holds Barred, all-out Gala Bash celebrating 150 years of welcoming thirsty visitors was completely fitting, showing very clearly that the McGillin's folks know how to party. With Drury St. tented and shut down completely (at considerable expense, mind you) , revelers came from far and wide, attired in everything from formal wear to underwear. (See pic).
The food was plentiful and good, from bangers and mash, Shepherd's Pie (outstanding), Seafood Newburg, Pierogies, fat pretzels with mustard and Lord knows what else. The grog flowed freely, with McGillin's 1860 IPA (made by Stoudt's Brewing) seeming—and deserving-- to get the lion's share of attention. The Irish fiddler, Boston's Patsy Whalen, his partner on guitar and Bagpiper Sharon (a dead ringer for Carol Stoudt, I thought) set the tone for a wild Irish party, and their music seemed to captivate, as well as motivate, everyone, inside and out.
At least until the special guests showed up. With a Philly Police escort, up Chestnut St. they clopped majestically, their gold-studded harnesses, collars and traces sparkling in the late afternoon sunshine. Steered by two horsemen and guided by special handlers and perhaps the most recognizable Dalmatian in the country, the magnificently huge Budweiser Clydesdales turned onto Juniper St. to a loud roar of approval from the fest-goers at McGillin's who spilled out of the pub to witness the approach, and the awestruck astonishment of pedestrians who were unaware of the event. Say what you want about that pro football team from Texas, these horses are the real "America's Team." Chris Mullins, Sr. clad in a spiffy white tux jacket, salmon vest—and Bermuda shorts and sandals—leapt into the driver's seat to deliver a rousing call to celebration—if not sartorial creativity.
Everybody who was anybody was there, and I met and chatted with some delightful folks, from Joe SixPack (the inimitable Don Russell) himself, to Miles Moser and Jessica, Lance and Katrina, Kevin and Tricia. I also had the distinct pleasure of (finally) meeting Irene Levy Baker, the Spotlight PR whiz kid who looks like she just graduated high school. The self-effacing Irene had much to do with the success of this event, though she steadfastly refuses to take any of the credit. So It's up to me to give her some.
The party lasted from 5 PM until 8, supposedly, but I probably wouldn't be going out on a limb to say it was likely longer than that, and may still be going on. Even the weather, which had caused some early consternation about tornados, cooperated properly. In all, it was a well-planned, well-organized apt tribute to a Philly Phixture, attended by those for whom McGillin's holds a special affection.
Which presents a problem.
If McGillin's waits another 50 years to party like that, most of those present will already be at Pa McGillin's side at The Publick House in the Sky. So I pulled aside an excited, exasperated and emotionally spent Chris the Younger and suggested to him that he do a 151-year celebration.
He may still be laughing.
©Kurt E.Epps All rights reserved 2010
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
It is a supreme irony that the region credited with the invention of beer has a religious restriction on the consumption of it. But these Palestinians are Christians, hence they adhere to Benjamin Franklin's classic dictum about God, us and beer. Read below:
Saturday, May 15, 2010
By Kurt Epps—The PubScout
This was my first-ever visit to the Kilkenny House on South Ave. in Cranford. But it wasn't the first time I was in the building that houses it. Before Barry O'Donovan's warm and welcoming publick house, there was a simply great beer bar run by Tony and Danny Bartone called Antone's. The Bartones are now profitably ensconced in The Ark in Pt. Pleasant, but Antone's, with its Wall of 45 Beer Taps, had a great ambience and appeal while they owned it.
Though the ownership and ambience have changed (good Irish pubs have a distinctive atmosphere), the appeal certainly hasn't. The place was packed out on a recent Friday night by 7 PM, and the overflow crowd of the Main Room filled the Back Room—not a "Snug" in the strictest sense of the word, but cozy enough-- to capacity.
Certainly a big reason for that lies in the personality of its effervescent owner, Barry O'Donovan. Barry made his bones in the business in Bay Ridge, and, in the words of PR man John Mooney, "Barry is Old School." Mooney defines that as a hands-on owner on the premises who not only knows his customers by name, he even knows their birthdays. That much was evident as I witnessed O'Donovan personally singing Happy Birthday to a colleen of about 4 at the table with her family. "Barry makes it a point to know families and to make them feel welcome," said Mooney. Indeed, the clientele on this night was extraordinarily diverse, with older families, young families, Generation X-ers, Y-ers, Z-ers and a plethora of Boomers.
O'Donovan, who is delightfully (and Irish-ly) garrulous, doesn't call his style "Old School." He terms it the "Only School." "Treat your customers as you would want to be treated," says Barry. "The most important phrases are "Welcome" and "Thank you for coming." You can catch a snippet of O'Donovan's lilting accent and sparkling eyes in the movie on The PubScout's Page. True to his heritage (he's actually from Kilkenny), O'Donovan is a master storyteller who regaled us with historical tidbits from the Old Sod that were both new and fascinating—like his declaration that the Irish back home don't eat corned beef and cabbage. According to him, they eat ham, but back when the Irish had their Great Migration to America, they couldn't afford ham, so corned beef—which was less expensive—got the nod.
You'll also meet John Mooney, whose major public relations claim to fame was his banning of the singing of "Danny Boy" at Foley's Pub in NYC, a move which yielded extensive TV and media coverage for his client; and House Manager Damien Owens, whose impressive curriculae vitae includes a fifteen-year stint managing the fabled Rainbow Room in Rockefeller Center. Owens, with a Dublin twinkle in his eye, asserts "The Kilkenny House manages me; I don't manage it."
Plenty of good beers are on tap at the Kilkenny House, but I chose Dave Hoffman's IPA, made at Climax Brewing right up the road in Roselle Park. Dave also supplied Antone's with his exceptional beers. It was not only outstanding, but it matched perfectly with a dish called Harkin's Curry Chicken. This particular dish was laden with flavor and was not overly spicy; it was in fact on the sweet side—delightfully so. It was absolutely delicious, and it made me glad that I eschewed my usual Shepherd's Pie—though I reserve the right to return and try it.
The missus enjoyed her Crab Cake salad and Arugula salad immensely, almost as much as she savored her Caramel-Apple Tart dessert. A pint of Guinness would have made that a perfect match, but the missus drinks…um… a more…er… mainstream swill beer.
O'Donovan knows the value of offering good food in his pub, and he does so with the help of his indispensable master chef, Carlos Galvez. This guy cooks Irish food so well he should be awarded an honorary O' in front of his last name.
Like Antone's before it, the Kilkenny House is a happening place. I like my Irish pubs noisy and filled with "pub hubbub," and the Kilkenny House does not disappoint. There are even tables outside, where, upon leaving, I passed by a group of mature, but young-looking, colleens who were doing their level best to match the noise level inside. And why? Because The Leprechaun O'Donovan was out there entertaining them. They absolutely loved him, and he returned the favor. And, of course, he knew them all.
O'Donovan loves Cranford too, and, if Friday night was any indication, the feeling is mutual. But you don't have to be from Cranford to go there. Cranfordians just have a headstart on everybody else when it comes to finding an open table.
Go to the Kilkenny House.
You'll be a stranger just once, and a friend ever after.
©Kurt E. Epps 2010 All rights reserved.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
My good friend Irene Levy Baker sent me this to share with all you beer lovers, and especially you lovers of my favorite Philly pub—McGillin's Old Ale House. Does this mean you have to wear a tux? Nah. Just get "creative" with a black tie. In fact, if you can find the right tie, you might be able to just wear that…
I hope to see you there, as I will be in attendance!
PHILADELPHIA (April 22, 2010) - McGillin's Olde Ale House, Philadelphia's oldest continuously operating tavern, will throw a Creative "Black Tie" Beef & Beer Dinner to celebrate its 150th anniversary, starting at 5 p.m. on Sunday, June 6. The massive gala, which takes place during Philly Beer Week, will be the biggest event McGillin's has ever thrown - with partying outside and on both floors of the tavern, which is located at 1310 Drury Street. A portion of the proceeds will benefit immigrants to Philadelphia, like Irishman William "Pa" McGillin was before opening his tavern in 1860.
The 2-story, inside/outside, ticketed gala will feature an 3-hour open bar (with craft beer, wine and cocktails), an opportunity to meet local brewers, a hearty dinner of comfort foods (featuring Carved Beef, an Irish Potato Bar, Salad Station, and a "Flavors of McGillin's" Station with wings, Tacos, Shepherd's Pie, German Sausage Bites & other favorites), entertainment and prizes for the most creative black tie dressers.
Only 300 tickets are available, at $45 per person. Tickets include a 3-hour open bar, hearty dinner, entertainment, prizes and the opportunity to meet local brewers, beer geeks and even a Ma McGillin look-a-like. To reserve tickets contact Chris Mullins, co-owner of McGillin's, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians, which works to integrate immigrants (like the McGillin family) into the social, economic and cultural fiber of the city.
Cheers till next time!
By Kurt Epps—The PubScout
May 9, 2010
I belong to a motorcycle riders group called CJMRG—kind of a Hell's Angels Very Lite--Heck's Angels, perhaps, and the group had scheduled a "meetup." We were to ride the back roads of Somerset and Hunterdon counties in order to attend an event called "Art of the Bike" in Frenchtown, NJ. It's a great little town, even without a festival, on the Jersey side of the Delaware River opposite the sleepy little PA town of Erwinna. The weather at the scheduled morning start time, however, was less than ideal, so I headed out solo some time after noon.
I will not attempt to engage the reader with the reasons why those of us who love motorcycles love them. You either know it in your soul or you don't. But this ride through the farmlands and quaint, out-of-the-way towns on this sunny, breezy day was one of the reasons. And the festival was another. A bevy of vintage motorcycles was on display, from what must have been the Wright Brothers' bike to the huge, rolling two-wheel living room, technology-laden modern "dressers." And of course, a wide assortment of all kinds of bikes and trikes that clogged Frenchtown's Main Street for the event, many of which were just as fascinating as the ones on display.
As usual, the folks who come to these events are some of the nicest, friendliest folks you could meet, the diametrically opposed version of the stereotypical headbangers and outlaws many associate with motorcycles. The friendly, Frenchtown Constabulary had the event under control, from the detours around the festival to the special parking for bikes. You can check out the photos here.
As is my wont, I seek out special taverns and pubs in such towns, because you can learn a lot about the character of a town by getting a bite and quaffing a pint or two inside the local pub. Frenchtown has a few watering holes, but the one I first walked to—the Frenchtown Inn, adjacent to the festival—politely informed me that food would not be served until 4 PM. A bit on the hungry and thirsty side from my sojourn through the farmlands and up the incredibly pretty Rt. 29 alongside the Delaware, I headed up to Flemington's National Hotel. This well-kept, inviting hotel is obviously an old one, probably on the register of historic places. I jumped up on a barstool and met the friendly bar-gal Kasey, who rattled off the beer list flawlessly. A Harpoon IPA seemed most attractive at the moment and my luncheon was on.
After a second Harpoon IPA, I said my goodbyes to the bar-gal and my seat neighbor, Jane, with whom I had struck up one of those "small-world-isn't-it?" conversations.
I sauntered back to the bike-fest, enjoying an after-meal cigar, the general camaraderie and the remarkable weather. In all, it was what I call a "Bank Day." That's a day that you store in the memory bank and take out in the bleak mid-winter to warm your soul.
And to get you excited for the next riding season.