Good pubs, Good Beer, Good People

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Uno's Cask Fest

It's always a pleasure to raise a pint with personable and knowledgeable beerscribes like Mark Haynie, Jeff Linkous and Jon Holl, which I did yesterday at the Uno's Cask fest. Mark comes all the way up from Somers Point to attend this event, but his beer travels are transcontinental, so for him this was a puddle-jump.

Brewer Mike Sella lined up a smaller-than-usual coterie of kegs to whet (and I guess "wet" works, too) the palates of cask ale lovers. Mike's solid Uno's Porter and delicious Scotch Ale was joined by two River Horse brews--Hop Hazard and brawnier cousin Hop-a-lot-amus. Weyerbacher had Hops Infusion on hand as well as Blithering Idiot, and Brooklyn's Six Point chimed in with Bengali IPA and Righteous Rye. Dave Hoffman's gold standard Nut Brown was on the hand pump.

As usual there was an ebb and flow to the crowd attending. It was sizable at noon when the event began, then thinned a bit as the first shift, sated, went home. The second shift filled it up again, and among those later caskers was Chris Flynn, owner of Metuchen's Hailey's Harp and Pub and his sidekick, Chef Johnny La Barbera. These guys, whose six-month old pub on Main Street is doing a land office business and who sell Dave Hoffman's Nut Brown as Hailey's Ale, were there to learn more about beer.

Members of the Old Bridge HS coaching staff were on hand to prove that their dedication to excellence doesn't end at the boundaries of the playing fields, gyms or mats. And it's always a plus to talk wrestling and beer with guys who know both.

In what might have been the most surprising attendee profile, two young gals in their early 20's, Chrissy and Jennifer from Rutgers U. were on hand to "sample the rack" (their words, not mine), and after chatting with them, I was surprised and happy to learn that they were also homebrewers. Hmmm. Maybe going to college is worthwhile after all?

Even erstwhile barman and beer dinner chef Moshe the Barman was on hand. He looks good and is still funny as hell.

After more than five hours of quaffing and hobnobbing, I started to feel guilty about the pile of yard work I left at home. So, emboldened by Mike's Scotch Ale, I called the missus and told her to do it.

I'm posting this from Kentucky as we speak.

Cheers till next time!
The PubScout

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Where the Boys Are

By Kurt Epps—The PubScout

March 26, 2010

Fifteen months ago, there was not a single Brick House Tavern and Tap in the US. Now there are eight, the most recent having opened in Plano, TX. And if what I experienced at the brand new South Plainfield location is typical, there will be many more very soon, and they will all, like this one, be packed.

If not, the eight that do exist will be even more crowded than the South Plainfield Pub I visited Friday night. My favorite drinking buddy (the missus) and I arrived at about 5:30 PM in order to beat the dinner crowd.

Wrong. I was astounded at the number of cars already there. After dropping her off to secure a table which I was sure entailed at least an hour's wait, I had to park ¼ mile away.

Walking in, the dearth of parking in close proximity to the BH became immediately explainable. With a sizable footprint, overstuffed chairs and couches, more than thirty flat screens (no news is EVER broadcast on them—only sports), a roaring fireplace, a huge beer and food menu—all huge food portions designed to clog every artery in your body and those of the folks at the table next to you-- and winsome, scantily-clad waitresses to attend to your needs, this place is quite simply a giant Man Cave. In fact, those words adorn one wall, along with other guy-type sayings (i.e. Alcohol…the cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems).

The pub hubbub (noise) is pleasantly deafening with good rock music serving as a backdrop to a few hundred conversations. These were also loud of necessity to compete with the aforementioned music. But this place is decidedly different than your normal loud club, because the noise works. To my great surprise, we were seated immediately. Hey, there are perqs to being a famous, though impoverished, beerwriter.

But there's more different about the BH than the overstuffed chairs. For starters, the gorgeous, scantily clad, bare-midriff waitresses are actually encouraged to sit down with you and chat. Their free time stems from the fact that they have no "side work," like bussing and cleaning up, as those duties are handled by the male "stage hands." Most places frown on such fraternization with the customers, but the BH management encourages such interaction. The place employs 120 staff, but the gals are clearly the main event. Check out the pictures on the top right or here.

Our comely waitress Marie said that such conviviality with the customers was "my favorite part of the job," and another BH girl just passing by, a stunning Diane Lane look-alike named Autumn, allowed that for a working waitress, "this place is Restaurant Heaven." The friendliness of the gals was not forced or "put on" at all, as each one who stopped by was genuinely friendly and seemed very happy to be there. That approach probably yields rewards in the form of tips at night's end, too.

I had a chance to meet and chat with Bob Ross, Director of Operations for all the BH houses in the country, and the Boston native was every bit as cordial as his waitstaff. From explaining the BH's philosophy ("We think Brick House is sexy"), to the philosophy that selects the BH girls ("We want them to be the girl next door") to their passion for quality victual ("We really care about the food"), Ross was a gregarious, if self-deprecating, representative of the company. "We take the Brick House [concept] very seriously. We don't take ourselves very seriously." Such candor was evident in his admission that they sell PBR (Pabst Blue Ribbon) and Yuengling in cans for $2—and they serve them in brown paper bags.

Which brings me to the beer. BH has a beer menu that is so vast and varied, it would take more space than I am allotted to list them all. Just go to the website yourself and check them out. I had an Allagash White for starters, a Victory HopDevil with my Man Burger and a Duvel—in an authentic Duvel goblet with center etching, no less—to end the night. The beers are also available in Beer Bongs, a giant tube of beer, the price of which is determined by the beer that goes inside. A full bong of Bud (if you consider Bud beer) for example, goes for $18. You need to have four drinkers at the table to order one, but they are quite an impressive sight to behold. BH's quality bongs are shipped from Slovakia, and apparently other chains are emulating BH's model in offering them. But BH came first.

On this night, they even had Sly Fox's Pikeland Pils on the hand pump. Somebody, it's clear, knows their beer here.

They also sell mini "kegs" of beer, complete with red Solo cups so those who have fond memories of their college (or high school) days can reminisce in a similar ambience. The BH modus operandi is to simulate a giant, noisy house party, and the model works flawlessly. Huge, soft recliners in the Rec Room face more flat screens and you can be served there as well. There's a well-heated outdoor patio with a huge firepit to sit around while jawboning and quaffing, and even on this chilly March night, it was packed with jawboners and quaffers seemingly oblivious to the temperature of the outside air.

Quite simply, the Brick House Tavern and Tap is a guy's place, and they're proud of it. Even the clever menu is sexually suggestive. One section is dubbed "Gotta Have My Meat and Potatoes." Another is called "I like Big Bowls." And with one of those denim-shorted, cleavage-revealing beauties taking your order and smiling, it's not hard to see that this place is Guy Heaven. Even the name Brick House evokes memories of "that lady's stacked, and that's a fact, she ain't holdin' nothin' back."

Back in the 80's and 90's the clubs would cater to the ladies with gimmicks like "Ladies drink for $1.00" or even "Ladies Drink Free" The idea was that the guys will go where the ladies are. The BH takes the opposite approach with the novel idea that the ladies will go where the boys are. They sure did on this night anyway. There is no children's menu and there are no high chairs, however. A young family place it's not.

The food was outstanding and reasonably priced and the portions are huge. Try the incredible Deviled Eggs with a touch of Tabasco for a real treat. There's a breakfast menu called The Cure available all the time. A collection of manly named burgers provides great variety. I had a hefty Bleu Cheese Burger in the shape of a brick, naturally, that came with a pile of fries. The Missus allowed that her Sam Adams battered Fish and Chips were the best she's ever had, and she had to leave behind a "bazillion" French fries in order to ingest the four massive pieces of perfectly done pollock on her plate. She's not usually a fan of loud, noisy places, but she positively loved the BH.

Except for the paucity of toilets (just 3) in the ladies' loo. That was her only negative, and the BH girls we spoke with concurred, albeit fetchingly. If the ladies come en masse where the boys are en masse, and they drink beer en masse, they're going to need "outlets" en masse.

But since when do us guys care about lines in the ladies room? There's never a line in the men's room. All we care about is ourselves. We're loud, selfish, boorish, sexist Neanderthals.

It's about time a restaurant recognized that and played to it, and the Brick House does a masterful job. If you're a man's man who likes good beer, good food and eye candy who provide superb service, you need to get there.

Especially if you ever watched The Man Show and envied Jimmy and Adam.

Brick House Tavern and Tap

4905 Stelton Rd.

South Plainfield, NJ 07080


© Kurt Epps 2010 All rights reserved

Friday, March 26, 2010

Homebrewing for Dummies

What with the anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition just days away (April 7), I thought it might be fun to show you how one guy has been producing his own Nectar of the Gods for 15 years now. Check out this site and the Curt Stock video. It's short but informative. I couldn't help but notice that the guy has obviously put more money into his beer hobby than he has into plastering his basement walls. Now that's a man with the right priorities....

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Note Corrected dates for CASA below!

Paul Mulshine called me to let me know that the original date given for that CASA/Beer event at the Harvest Moon was incorrect. The correct date, as fixed below in the story, is Saturday March 27--not Thursday March 25. Makes more sense, too, when you think about it, as normal working folks wouldn't normally be available for quaffing--even for a good cause-- at 2 PM on a weekday (St. Patty's Day revelers excepted...).

Hope we caught you in time, which we should have, since Thursday's tomorrow, and you can look forward to staying at work to earn the money you'll need to stay solvent in NJ.

Cheers till next time!
The PubScout

Monday, March 22, 2010

Ireland's latest drinking problem

What with St. Patrick's Day safely behind us, and our reverence for things Irish put in the closet for a week, comes now news from the Emerald Isle that is most disturbing. Especially if our own economy doesn't recover. Settle back with a pint of Murphy's Stout, and ponder the news item below.

Why, it's enough to make King Brian of Knocknasheega put the "comehither" on ya, it is.

Ireland's drinks industry faces up to sober times - Yahoo! News

Cask Ale Event at Uno's

Mike Sella, brewer at Uno's on Rt. 1 in Metuchen, reminds us that this Saturday 3/27 will bring another of his highly successful Cask Ale Sessions. Start time is at noon, and he doesn't have an end time, which should tell you something. Hope to see you all there!

Cheers till next time!
The PubScout

Saturday, March 20, 2010

I like to share the best places to buy beer--IMHO, of course, and this is one of them. In fact, I buy most of my beer here, and not just because of the great selections. Dan Ratti and his beerstaff are some of the nicest, friendliest--and most knowledgeable--beerfolks you'll find anywhere. Here's a sample of what he sent me this week. And if you're jealous, get on his beer list, and he'll send one to you, too.

Left Hand 400 Pond Monkey

Long Trail Coffee Stout

Victory St. Victorious

Victory St. Boisterous

Flying Dog Raging Bitch

Dogfish Head Aprihop

Flying Fish Exit 16

The Bruery Saison de Lente

New Holland Golden Cap

Rogue Double Mocha Porter

Hofstetten Barleywine

HaandBryggeriet Dobbel Dram

HaandBryggeriet Hesjeol

HaandBryggeriet Odin’s Tipple

HaandBryggeriet Haandbakk

HaandBryggeriet Wild Thing

HaandBryggeriet Dark Force

HaandBryggeriet Norwegian Wood

HaandBryggeriet Akevitt Porter (Barrel-Aged Porter)

B. Nektar Wildflower Mead

B. Nektar Orange Blossom Mead

B. Nektar Bourbon Barrel Aged Mead

Axum Tej Honey Wine

Dan Ratti
Oaktree Beer, Wine and Spirits
902 Oaktree AveSouth Plainfield, NJ, 07080

Cheers till next time!
The PubScout

Monday, March 8, 2010

March 27 for A Good Cause (and a Beer, of course!)

I got this attachment from my beer buddy Paul Mulshine over at the Star Ledger...

March 4, 2010

All –

Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Middlesex County, Inc. is an independent, non-profit organization (501c3) committed to advocating for the best interest of at risk children in out-of-home-placement who are victims of abuse and neglect. We recruit and train volunteers who ensure that needed services and assistance are made available, in a timely fashion, to children in placement while helping to move them as quickly as possible toward safe and permanent homes. Currently in Middlesex County, there are over 500 children in foster care.

A donation from you would mean an easier life for children stuck in between the court and the child welfare system. Every year, more than 100,000 children are reported abused or neglected in New Jersey. Despite the state's attempts to help, more than 10,000 of these kids each year become trapped between the court and child welfare systems and can spend their childhood moving from one temporary shelter to another. Our cases go throughout the year and a volunteer must commit to at least 12 months to a case.

CASA of Middlesex County, Inc. knows that volunteers are people with a desire to help abused children and will see that every one of these children is placed into a safe, permanent home and to give them hope for a better life. Every child that needs a CASA should have a CASA. Your generous contribution could make our dream a reality.

We need your help and support to ensure that every child has a permanent home.


Henry Plotkin

Middlesex Board Member

Development Assistant

P.S. Foster care children need CASA volunteers to have a "Voice in Court" and you can help make that happen.

Thus ends Henry's letter. In a separate note he adds:

There are two ways you can support CASA - purchase a ticket for our "Beer Tasting" fundraiser ($30) which will be held on March 27th at 2:00 at Harvest Moon restaurant in New Brunswick or you can just contribute to CASA. Information about how to make contributions can be found on our website: - (if the hyperlinks fail to work just put CASA Middlesex County in Google search.) There is PayPal access (you do not have to join PayPal to make a donation) to simplify the process.

I know times are difficult, but I hope you will be able to help.



OK Beer Lovers…your move.

Cheers till next time…

The PubScout