Good pubs, Good Beer, Good People

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Taking Beer Chances...

The standard beer pairings for shrimp vary depending on what kind of shrimp dish is on the plate, but generally speaking, one can be safe with hefeweizens, pilsners, saisons, belgian whites and--if sufficiently adventurous--an imperial white ale. Most sommeliers will recoil in horror if a patron does not order white wine with a fish dish, but who cares? Wine tasters spit out what they taste. No self-respecting beer taster would even think about doing that.

So having received an invite to my buddy JJ's house to sample his "Secret Shrimp Scampi Special," I asked the missus to meet me there with three beers. To her credit she brought three of her own--Blue Moons, they were--which, after nearly three decades of close and intimate affiliation with The PubScout, she has "discovered" to be a replacement for (I can't even say it), that OTHER beer. Her Blue Moon (from Coors) would complement JJ's shrimp scampi nicely, I was sure. But for me, I asked her to bring Flying Dog Tire Bite, Troeg's Dream Weaver Wheat and one other for after dinner.

Having put in a long day announcing, I needed to slake my thirst upon arrival, and the Tire Bite and the Dream Weaver were gone even before dinner was served. The missus, who was not relinquishing her last Blue Moon regardless of what my title is, advised that my remaining beer was SA Holiday Porter, which, though one of my favorites, did not augur well for a shrimp scampi pairing. But I would somehow muddle through.

But it wasn't SA Holiday Porter. It was Anderson Valley's Winter Solstice. (Don't ask me how one confuses those two when yanking them from the fridge.) And in the spirit of conviviality--and a free dinner, I would venture to see where this pairing would take me.

The PubScout does not declare himself a food reviewer. I simply know what tastes and looks good to me and which beers complement it. But JJ's SSSS was without a doubt the finest Shrimp Scampi dish I have had in many (blue) moons. Full of flavor, with a hint if spiciness and succulent, they were served over a bed of perfectly done pasta. I was pleasantly astounded. I mean, the guy hunts with a bow, coaches wrestling and lacrosse and drinks Coors Light. I did not expect his Shrimp Scampi to be anything beyond mediocre. But it was so good, so delectable, so flavorful and so perfectly done, I refrained from my usual good-natured upbraiding of him for his own beverage selection, which is a step DOWN from that OTHER beer.

Nor did I expect my AVBC Winter Solstice to be a perfect accompaniment to that shrimp, but it was. The spice and orange flavors of the beer seemed to ignite more flavor in the dish, and the shrimp seemed to coax more flavors out of the beer--cinnamon specifically, and they worked wonderfully together.

The moral of the story is simple. Use the general food/beer guidelines as suggestions, but don't be afraid to experiment with new combinations. Beer is not a snobby beverage, and nobody, including yours truly, can tell you what you SHOULD like. If those OTHER beers are your bag, by all means enjoy them responsibly and I'll raise a glass of my own to you.

But be aware that there is a whole new beer world awaiting you.
And you might find it rewarding to explore that world more than once in a Blue Moon.

Cheers! The PubScout

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Now THIS is a good idea...

I had no idea that so many people had so many other people to talk to, either by voice or text message. In the old days, pubs and bars were places where you'd go to converse and conviviate with the local gentry. Sure, it's cheaper to buy a sixer at the liquor store and sit home by yourself to drink, but that grows stale fast, even for narcissists. Pubs and taverns were born to get people together and talking--not on their cell phone, but face to face.

To an old school pub-man like me, it's somewhat disconcerting to see so many people at so many places texting or chatting with someone far away, while there's some darned good company right in front of you waiting for some good conversation. But I'm a relic, I suppose.

For those (millions) whose cell phones are used ceaselessly, and whose batteries are in constant need of recharging, the idea below may just solve two problems at once--mine and yours.

Now your phone can get juiced right along with you. And nothing loosens the tongue like liquor.

Now if I could just figure out a way to charge my drinks bill to somebody else's phone, life would be golden.

Cheers! The PubScout

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Making his Pater Proud

Son Kacy made a video for his broadcasting class at Montclair State, and the subject was--beer. Despite my ugly mug being so prominently featured, I think he did a great job. Dave Hoffman makes a cameo appearance, too!
Maybe if he gets lucky and lands a good job after graduation, he can actually begin to re-stock my refrigerator? The project was entitled "Beer Sense (Carpe Diem)" and you can view it here. Open a good beer, relax, sit back and enjoy.

Merry Christmas and a Hoppy New Beer!

The PubScout

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Of Fascinating Depths and Delicious Heights

By Kurt Epps, The PubScout

At Delicious Heights, the menus are lit. The tap handles on the "Maya Bridges" are lit. And, if you're not careful with beers like Delirium Tremens and Mad Elf, you will be, too.

On the word of fellow biker and beer-lover Larry Deahl, I made the short trek to the three-month-old Bedminster pub and restaurant for a thorough review. Formerly known as Willie's Tavern, this 1780 structure (with a horse supposedly buried somewhere out back) was thoroughly gutted and refurbished in fine fashion by Alex Rubinstein along with co-owners Dominic and Ralph Acquaviva. It's the second Delicious Heights in the area, with the first one having opened in Berkeley Heights on the day the Giants won their last Super Bowl. While the original Heights may have produced a learning curve, it's clear that curve was instructive, as the Bedminster facility is running on all eight cylinders and is rather fabulous in many areas, not the least of which is the beer offerings.

Managing those offerings is a former record store employee turned crackerjack beerman named Jason Turon. With a sound beer knowledge, a very winning personality and a seemingly endless supply of energy and good humor, Turon keeps the twenty-four drafts lines humming, pumped, as they are, through a system known as a Maya Bridge. Said device circulates glycol through all taps and that means probably the coldest beer you can get on draft in NJ. So efficient is the system that any beer less than 4.6%--which means all "light" beers-- cannot be tapped as they would freeze. The Guinness line, therefore, has a special device surrounding it which allows it to flow freely. There's even an "ice rail" that separates the bar drinking area from the servers which allows quaffers to keep their beer cold. One of those servers, the sultry Sarah can be seen posing with her favorite PubScout in the pics on the right hand side.

Cold beer has its devotees, for sure, especially in the summer months, but what about the plethora of Winter Warmers on draft, like Sam Adams Winter Lager, Mad Elf, Celebrator, Brooklyn, Smuttynose and Anchor OSA that must pass through the lines? "There's not much we can do about that, except to pour them and let them warm up a bit," said Turon. And warm up, they do, especially when the beer drinker can pause to order some of the best food you can find in any NJ restaurant while chatting with a very friendly and very comely serving staff. Take Denise (in the pics), for example. Two kitchens run 24/7 to keep up with the demand for this high quality/medium-priced fare. I had a Panko Shrimp appetizer that came with five huge Panko-encrusted shrimp and dipping sauce for just $12. The missus gave her Panko Shrimp Salad a hearty thumbs up, not being able to converse with her mouth full. The Guacamole was fresh-made and the chips used to scoop it were still warm.

The clientele at Delicious Heights is as varied as its beer list. Twenty-somethings, thirty-somethings, heck all the way up to geezers like The PubScout pack the place, which Jason says, "…is crazy on the weekends." Not hard to see why.

But what you're not likely to see is the "Depths" of Delicious Heights. Jason took The PubScout and two thirty-something stunners in his party—Susan and Brooke—on a tour of the bowels of the place to see the engines that keep the place running smoothly. Wells Banana Bread Beer and selections from Innis and Gunn were patiently waiting their call to duty upstairs. There was even a crate of Infinium in the queue. If you have to ask, google that baby. Fascinating to me was the main beam of the Revolutionary War era house which was a large, wide and long tree trunk set in place to, well, hold up the place. Inasmuch as my own home has the keel of a last-century sailing ship as its main beam, I found the tour quite fascinating.

Appealing to the eye, palate and ear, dotted with flatscreens and actually somewhat labyrinthine in layout, Delicious Heights will not disappoint. There's even a separate bar room in the back just for those who prefer liquid sustenance.

Turon allowed that his beer lines are cleaned every 28 days and his beers are rotated frequently to keep up with the demands of that eclectic clientele. Constantly searching for new beers to offer, Turon abides by the message of the small tattoo on his right forearm which reads, "Stop Wasting Time."

Apparently the whole operation abides by it as well, because in just three months, Delicious Heights has been on fire, not waiting for another Giants Super Bowl win. Its ample parking lot is almost always full. You can't make a reservation here, but you should have no problem getting a seat or a table, as the place is quite large.

Bottom line is that if you like good beer, good food, friendly staff and an exceptional ambience, put Delicious Heights of Bedminster on your must-visit list, and tell them The PubScout sent you.

Even those credentials however, will probably not get you the "Depths Tour." But you can take it by seeing the You-Tube videos that yours truly was kind enough to upload here.

Cheers and Merry Christmas!

The PubScout

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Quick Hit--Oatmeal and Pumpkin in a Stout?

Stopped into Basil T's in Red Bank tonight to meet two business associates for dinner. As you know, Mike Sella (formerly of Uno's in Metuchen) has been brewing there since last summer. Now in the fourteen plus years I've known Mike, I've had every one of his beers. The guy can brew, for sure. But I've never had a beer from him like the one I had tonight--an Oatmeal Pumpkin Stout. And that's because this is the first time he's ever made one.

But I sure hope it's not the last, because this stout was delicious. Roasty, toasty--and spicy--in the nose, smooth on the palate and solid in the finish, this one's a winner. I tasted clove, nutmeg, cinnamon and, of course, pumpkin. But there were other flavors that were balanced nicely to make this a most memorable beer.

Might be worth a trip down the GSP at Exit 109 to get a growler for your Christmas dinner and attendant company. You Italian folks can even have it on Christmas Eve with the Seven Fishes. I had mine with a delicious shrimp risotto dish and it worked surprisingly well. That would make the second time in ten days I've married pumpkin and shrimp and enjoyed their connubial bliss. The first was at last week's Uno's dinner.

Anyway, it appears that Iron Mike Sella is flexing his creative muscles in his new digs, and that's good news.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Percello Era “Officially” Begins at Uno’s

By Kurt Epps--The PubScout

Chris Percello took over the brewing duties at Uno’s from Mike Sella a few months ago. But he “made his bones” last night.

It was Chris’s first attempt at what has become a treasured tradition at the Metuchen brewpub—the Uno’s Beer Dinner. Handled ably by Mike Sella and Co. for 14 years, Chris, knowing he had big shoes to fill, stepped up to the plate for his first real at-bat—and he went “yard.”

He had help, to be sure, and he’s the first to acknowledge it. From a history-making female duo in the kitchen, to Lenny and Alexis’ efficient and attentive waitstaff duties, to the presence of Chris’s own tutor—Die Biermeister Dave Hoffman, to the assistance of a blonde beauty named Natalie who made the knock-your-socks-off Scotch Ale ice cream, Chris’s support was solid.
It’s called a beer dinner for two reasons: the beer and the dinner. And in the dinner category, Chef Doreen De Paolo had some tough acts to follow herself. But the petite blonde with the perennial smile, along with female assistant Migna in the kitchen, put out dishes that were second to none—and judging by some comments—a new bar was set. Everything that came out was delicious, and the assembly of 39 ½ (Georgia counts for the half) proclaimed their approval with every course.

From Stephanie: “Love this salad, especially the cranberries.”
From Kurt Hoffman: “This pork is absolutely delicious. Bring me another lager.”
From Dave Hoffman: “I never thought pumpkin and shrimp would taste this good, but it’s “bangin!”
Also from Dave Hoffman: “Is there another one of these Scotch Ale ice creams?”

Which brings us to the beer. The standard practice is to have three Uno’s beers and three guest beers, and having Climax beers pretty much assures success. But Chris’s own interpretations of the Uno’s classics (the IPA and the Scotch Ale), stood on their own merit, as did his own, relatively new, creation of a dark lager which accompanied some incredible cheese steak rolls. Climax was represented by three beers which have earned worldwide, national and statewide recognition: Climax E.S.B., Nut Brown and Helles, in that order. But Dave Hoffman, playing Santa, brought a special gift in the form of his exclusive Bavarian Dark Lager, available only in three places in the metro area—NY (Brooklyn), NJ (Jersey City) and PA (Philadelphia). Malty, “Munich-y” and with a nose that had some guests swooning, it was a delightful and delicious surprise.

Of course, when you hit a home run in your first at-bat, people expect you to do it every time. But because there are more variables you can control, it’s a lot easier in brewpubs than in baseball, where just a hit every three at-bats is considered excellent.

Ah, the pressure of greatness.

Check out the pics above right to see some of the night’s action.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Not drinkable, but edible...

Coors Light is always promoting its coldness in commercials--you know, the Silver Bullet Train that roars through wherever, or the label that changes color when it's cold enough. What the commercial doesn't say is that the colder a beer is, the less you can actually taste of it, which, in the case of Coors Light, may be a blessing.

The article below doesn't say whether the guy who survived by "eating" Coors Light enjoyed the taste, but at least he's alive. Check it out.

(PS: There was no comment on the color of the label...)

Clifton Vial, Alaska Man Stranded In The Snow, Survives By Eating Beer

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Check Out Those Gunns

It's always good to have one of my cubs come home unexpectedly. And it's even better when he comes bearing gifts--like beer. Kaz and buddy Rob, collaborating on a film project about beer appreciation, showed up to shoot the last segments of their effort. They crossed my threshold, each bearing a bottle of Innis and Gunn Beer from Edinborough, Scotland. (Ah, the lads know the path to the PubScout's heart, for sure.)

We shared a bomber of Mad Elf (just to set the mood) and eventually had some dinner after the shoot. The missus' outstanding NushKumShmush (my favorite) was accompanied by some San Tan (AZ) Hop Shock IPA, and then it was time for dessert.

We decided to try the G&I Highland Cask, a beer aged in malt whisky oak casks--single malt, 18 years-old-- for 71 days.

A very pretty beer, its nose was redolent with oaky, woody notes and yielded some vanilla as well. In mouthfeel, it was medium bodied, but very smooth and silkier than it looked. The taste was exceptional and the finish malty.

It would make a fine dessert beer by itself, but the missus produced a loaf of her classic banana bread, and the pairing was exceptional. As Rob put it, "They complemented each other, making each different and better than it had been alone."

The kid, who's just taken the plunge into craft beer, is learning his lessons well, I'd say.

Because they had to drive back to school, I did not open the second bottle, which was Innis & Gunn's Original. Also oak-aged, it claims to be a "honey-hued beer with aromas of vanilla and toffee, and a malty, lightly oaked finish."

We'll see. I'd like to keep this baby around until Christmas, but if its brother is any indication, it probably won't make it that long.

Especially if the banana bread is still here tomorrow.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

This just in...

Great news for winterbier lovers from my Beer Buddy Don Russell, aka Joe Sixpack:

"Take a peek at the Sam Adams Winter Classics Variety Pack. They finally got the mix right by dumping fizzy Cranberry Lambic and the out-of-season White Ale and replacing them with a warming Chocolate Bock and the new Black & Brew coffee stout."

That's great news concerning those new replacements. The Chocolate Bock is a goodie, though my buddy Ty in AZ pans it. And in honor of my Jewish beer-nut friends, I will have to try He'Brew's (The Chosen Beer) Jewbilation 15, which sounds positively scrumptious.

You can read more of "Joe's" Christmas suggestions here.

Cheers! And Merry Christmas!
The PubScout

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Uno's/Climax December 6 Beer Dinner

Chris Percello, Uno's Brewer, has announced the menu and accompanying beers for his December 6 extravaganza, and it looks to be a winner. Sponsored in conjunction with Climax Brewing and Dave Hoffman[L.] (where Chris made his bones), the time is set for 7 PM.
Contact Uno's at 732-548-7979 for reservations.

The food, by the way, will make history, and when you show up, I'll tell you why.

  • 1st Course - Assorted Cheese and Crackers served with Climax ESB

  • 2nd Course - Cranberry Spinach Salad served with Climax Helles Lager

  • 3rd Course - Pumpkin Shrimp Bisque served with Ike's IPA

  • 4th Course - Cheesesteak Egg Roll served with Dark Lager

  • 5th Course - Stuffed Pork Loin with Cherry Red Wine sauce served with Climax Nut Brown Ale

  • 6th Course - Scotch Ale Ice Cream served with Scotch Ale

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Win a beer on The PubScout

Around this festive time of the beer, it seems that every beer writer/blogger and his brother comes out with a list of their 12 Beers of Christmas. If you don't believe me, google the term.

Not to throw a wet blanket on the burning peat moss, but The PubScout has a better idea (though it, too, may be far from new). Let's have the followers of the PubScout's blog do the picking.

That's right. Beer is not an elite beverage, reserved only for the gods and beerscribes. It's the drink of the average joe, and nobody knows what the average joe likes better than Joe himself.
So, Joe, try some winter beers between now and December 13, and send your selections to me at Include a brief statement (50 words) as to why this beer will be one of your Christmas favorites. Of course, using the four senses in your descriptions will help us all to decide if we're buying or trying your choice. And one general guideline is that your choice SHOULD be, as near as possible, a beer that qualifies as a "Winter" beer. That includes tripels and quadrupels as well as stouts, spiced beers, blends, lambics, barleywines and others. Experiment, explore and explain!

If your choice makes the bloglist, to be published starting December 14, you've got a beer coming on The PubScout. We'll arrange to meet, either en masse or singly, and quaff and toast the Advent, the Holiday Season and the coming New Year.

(Since the Mayans say this is the last one we'll celebrate, we might as well do it up.)

Monday, November 28, 2011

More Beer Nuts for Christmastime

The PubScout is always happy to promote the making--and enjoyment--of good, fresh beer. Check out the link below. Cheers!


Central Jersey duo launch homebrewing supply startup | |

Sunday, November 27, 2011


(H/T to Dave B. for sending this along...)

If you're like The PubScout, all that tax talk about who and what's exempt, what you can and cannot claim, and most importantly why you're paying more and more each year
becomes, well, taxing. And depressing, which is why beer helps.

Like me, all you know is you've got to pay or you go away. And, like college costs, it's always way too high, especially when there are those who pay little or nothing. But the numbers confuse this beer drinker, and the media doesn't help. Neither does the government. But you knew that.
Then, from an economist, along comes a simple explanation every beer drinker can "get his or her mind around."

The Tax System Explained in Beer:

Suppose that every day, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to $100... If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this...

The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.The fifth would pay $1.The sixth would pay $3.The seventh would pay $7.The eighth would pay $12.The ninth would pay $18.The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59. So, that's what they decided to do.

The ten men drank in the bar every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve ball. "Since you are all such good customers," he said, "I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by $20". Drinks for the ten men would now cost just $80.

The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes so the first four men were unaffected. They would still drink for free. But what about the other six men? How could they divide the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his fair share?

They realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody's share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer, since they were only paying $1 and $3.

So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man's bill by a higher percentage the poorer he was, to follow the principle of the tax system they had been using, and he proceeded to work out the amounts he suggested that each should now pay.

And so the fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% saving).The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33% saving).The seventh now paid $5 instead of $7 (28% saving).The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% saving).The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% saving).The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% saving).

Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to drink for free. But, once outside the bar, the men began to compare their savings.

"I only got a dollar out of the $20 saving," declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man,"but he got $10!"

"Yeah, that's right," exclaimed the fifth man. "I only saved a dollar too. It's unfair that he got ten times more benefit than me!"

"That's true!" shouted the seventh man. "Why should he get $10 back, when I got only $2? The wealthy get all the breaks!"

"Wait a minute," yelled the first four men in unison, "We didn't get anything at all. This new tax system exploits the poor!"

The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up. The next night the tenth man didn't show up for drinks, so the nine sat down and had their beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn't have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill!

And that, boys and girls, journalists and government ministers, is how our tax system works.

The people who already pay the highest taxes will naturally get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up anymore. In fact, they might start drinking overseas, where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier.

David R. Kamerschen, Ph.D.Professor of Economics

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanking God for good brewers

Thanksgiving at The PubScout's house is, by law, a happy, family time. The Missus outdoes herself in the kitchen, and the lads are as loud with raucous laughter and kibitzing as they were when they were tykes. It's a certain music that brings pleasure to a parent's ear (however overgrown with pinna it becomes as we age, which nobody warned us about).

The difference now is that two of the lads (who have been accompanying their father to brewpubs and breweries for many years) can legally consume, and hopefuly enjoy, the fruits of Ninkasi, the Egyptian beer goddess; and we had some outstanding examples yesterday.

We drained an entire five-litre keg of Hofbrau's Munchen Oktoberfest I had been saving for the occasion, and despite its much lighter color from that of previous years, it was delicious, on-style and Kazzy's favorite. Brett's a hophead, and he thoroughly enjoyed Hop-Shock IPA from SanTan brewing in AZ (H/T to buddy Ty for sending it) and Dave Hoffman's Climax IPA. The PubScout enjoyed a Thomas Jefferson Tavern Ale or three with Tom Turkey, and after dinner and cigars, but before dessert, I uncorked A Sam Adams American Kriek. That cork, BTW, is VERY tough to get out of the bottle, but very worth it when you do.

But the real treat of the night--with dessert--was Sam Adam's beautiful blonde barleywine called Griffin's Bow and pictured above, right. Bear in mind that barleywines are a different kind of brew and certainly not to everyone's liking. Even on the various beer rating sites, this beer gets both praised and panned. But not from The PubScout, who loved it. Poured in a snifter glass, this may be one of the prettiest beers you'll ever see, and its nose will have you sniffing far longer than customary. Fruit notes, vanilla notes oak notes all come together to make a most memorable impression--until you actually taste it. That's when the smoothness and complexity of this oak aged barleywine really shines, and for this beer drinker, guaranteed a return trip to Dan Ratti's to get more. This is simply an outstanding Fall/Winter beer, and I'd be anxious to hear reports from other lovers of the barleywine style as to how you rated it. Don't forget to use olfaction and retro-olfaction in the process, because that's when the multiple flavors explode.

In all, a most fitting ending to a wonderful day, made even better by knowing I have another Griffin's Bow in my quiver, and while everyone else is out fighting Black Friday, I'll be nurturing a blonde...

...Barleywine, of course, just in case the missus is reading this.

That's one blonde she won't mind putting under the tree.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Gunn Control?

My son Kaz, (recently of legal age) led me to this beer site called Innis and Gunn in Scotland. Check out their beers, starting with "Original." Their tasting and food pairing notes are well done, but the Spider Graph (a variant of our own Beer Wheel) is very cool. In fact, I think I like it better than the Beer Wheel. As to how good the beer is, I cannot say as I've never had it. But it sure looks interesting.

Unless my lads surprise me for Christmas, it looks like I'll have to "slog" through Scottish offerings like Scotch Ales and Wee Heavies.

"Barman! bring me an Old Chub!"

"Not the woman, you fool! The beer!"

Happy Thanksgiving!


Friday, November 18, 2011

"Black Friday?" Heck, yeah!

Stop by The PubScout's FB page and see why Black Friday should be a day of through fifteen superb choices and make your plans now. Let somebody else Occupy Walmart.

Cheers! The PubScout

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Beer Can Save Your Life?

Until I viewed this (H/T to Gene Hoyas), I was unaware that beer actually saves lives...

...but I confess that having that guy at my elbow in a pub would discomfit me some.

Cheers! The PubScout

Monday, November 14, 2011

The First-ever PBT

By Kurt Epps—The PubScout

It should come as no surprise that beer writers get asked to review beers, and, through various contacts from NJ to AZ, I had accumulated quite a store. While I could evaluate a single beer from every source, and maybe have two or more if it was particularly outstanding, I realized that I would have quite a few “soldiers” standing at the ready, but no war to send them to.

So, with my motto of “good beer, good people” in mind, I concocted the idea of the very first PubScout’s Beer Tasting. Why not invite some of my faithful followers over to help me assess these beers?

My schedule dictated that it had to be a Sunday, and my whim dictated that it be all male, what with football on and all. So I went through my contacts list and invited an eclectic mix of manly men who had shown an interest in beer, especially in following my blog. Space limitations in my home dictated that the assembly consist of about 10-12 alpha males, one of them to be my middle son attending college who just turned 21. It’s reasonable to assume that, given his lineage, he had been exposed to beer long before this, but you know the deal—once you’re legal, it’s cool to be able to do things like this without the annoying fear (or exciting thrill) that you’re doing something wrong.

I invited a couple of wrestling coaches, friends, neighbors and motorcycle friends. To preserve their anonymity, the attendees are listed by initials: MG, JG, KM, MOK, DC, DR, HM, RD, KE, JF, LD, and RA. In all, these hardy souls sampled and evaluated twenty-four beers each in four hours. They were not certified beer judges, so the evaluation system was relatively basic—as it should be whenever average joes like us assess a beer. I provided them with prior homework on beer evaluation—to be completed before they came to “class,” and on a scale of one to five, they had to score beers on Appearance, Nose, Mouthfeel and Taste, using indicators like “olfaction” and “retro-olfaction,” on which they had been previously briefed.

My faithful soul-mate, Donna, did yeoman’s work in helping me prep for this, especially in providing the food, and her role as “Scullery Wench” deserves special commendation, as we had to rinse and clean glasses after every beer. We had a few mishaps, but in all we functioned like a well-oiled machine in the Scullery. A film crew from Montclair State University was on hand to capture the event. I’ll advise through this blog where to access the film when it becomes available.

The beers, in order, were as follows:
· Saisons—Hennepin and The Bruery’s Saison D’Lente
· Hefeweizens—Flying Dog, Troeg’s and SanTan (AZ)
· Golden Ale—Epic Brainless, Flying Dog Tire Bite
· Pilsner—Beach Haus (Pt. Pleasant, NJ) and Pilsner Urquell
· Pale Ale—Dale’s, Devil’s Ale (SanTan)
· Amber—Great Divide’s Avalanche, SanTan’s Epicenter and Flying Dog’s Amber Lager
· Black Lager—Kostritzer, Winter Rental
· IPA—Harpoon, Flying Dog, Climax
· Porter—Zywiec, Flying Dog Imperial Porter
· Stout—Yeti (Great Divide), Belgo Anise (Stone) and Ten-Fidy (Oskar Blues)

Keep in mind that not every beer had to be the taster’s favorite, but they had to evaluate it according to style. It was not take a swig, swallow and say “It’s good or it’s crap.”
Whether they choose to drink that style privately is their call. Using the categories to establish an average “Overall” assessment, the results, acquired through review of their completed judging sheets and a show of hands, revealed some very interesting info. The highest scores had to have at least six hands that rated the beer “4” or higher. One beer was actually unanimous at a near-5 rating from everyone.

The three top choices were two offerings from the East Coast Beer Co., makers of Beach Haus and Winter Rental, and the unanimous choice as top beer of the tasting was Zywiec Porter, a beer that sells at Dan Ratti’s Oak Tree Discount Liquor store in South Plainfield for just $2 for a 16-oz. bottle.

In all, it was an excellent afternoon, full of loud—at times raucous—testosterone-filled laughter as the invitees got to know each other better. Twenty-four beers had something to do with that, I’m sure. But all expressed their sincere thanks and indicated that they had learned much about beer appreciation during the four hour session. Some were kind enough to arrive bearing gifts, and for that courtesy, I thank them.

When the official session was over, we retired to the front porch for some fine conversation, more beer and a few Alvarez cigars, as The Scullery Wench has strict orders about cigars in the house.

This was an All-Peno-American event by my choice. There will be one that includes Breasted-Americans somewhere down the road, so don’t fret, ladies.

But please don’t whine.
As everyone knows, Whine doesn’t get invited to a beer tasting.

If you'd like to be invited to the next one, send me an email at

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

American Kriek

If you're a lambic fan, this is one you absolutely have to try. It's Sam Adams American Kriek, made with these special cherries called Balaton cherries. Native to Hungary (and apparently, the Hungarians know as much about cherries as they do about cuss words), this stock was transplanted to Michigan, and the result is exceptional. I believe the Spartans at Michigan State had something to do with their horticultural history, giving me another reason to like the result.

Not overly sweet or tart, there is just enough hint of deep, rich cherry flavor to make this a most appealing beer. Far better than SA's Cherry Wheat, in my humble opinion (though that beer has a valued place in summer after a lawn-mowing exercise), this is a beer that should be on everyone's Thanksgiving table. It should complement everything you put out. I had mine with a turkey and swiss sandwich, but it worked wonderfully, turning a mundane meal into something very special.

So it will appear on my Thanksgiving table...but only at my end.

Cheers! The PubScout

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Standing "O" for the Wrong Joe

So this beerwriter walks into a bar--actually a fine restaurant with craft-brewed beer--and gets a standing ovation from at least six comely lasses--and the OWNER! What you may think was a barley-and-hops induced dream was reality, but in the opinion of The PubScout, entirely backwards.

The event was designed to promote Artisan's for a TV shoot that was being done on the premises to promote what is already one of the most unique restaurants in the southern part of the state. It already holds a number of restaurant/brewpub distinctions, as well as that of hosting the best annual Octoberfest Celebration in Jersey. The recipe for that now-legendary party carries over into its daily business model. Great food, great beer and exceptional hospitality will work every time, even without an oompah band and fetching women in dirndls.

The TV crew interviewed Yours Truly, still basking in the glow from that breathtaking welcome at the door--and the crux of my message was just that. The Petes, brothers who own Artisan's (don't ask--it was ouzo and their mother), have put their hearts and souls into this place and it shows. Executive Chef Steve Farley wields a master's hand in the kitchen, and Der Brewmeister Himself, Dave Hoffman does the same at the kettles.

Last evening for example, Dave greeted me with a goblet of his newest beer, just filtered and unavailable to the public--yet--which will be his Winter Ale. OMG. Malty, raisiny, plummy and chock full of blackstrap molasses, this baby will warm your cockles--even if you don't know where they are. Reminiscent of Samuel Smith's Winter Welcome--the one with the Shakespeare quote on the bottle--it's destined to please many a palate, and at 8.5% it deserves respect in terms of where and when you quaff it.

The missus had a dish called Butternut Squash Agnolotti and her repeated vocalizations of pleasure nearly interrupted my enjoyment of Homemade Gnocchi with Filet Mignon. I had already whetted my appetite with some delightful Lamb-Stuffed Meatballs, but the main dish was just outtasight. (Do our youth even know what outtasight means?).

Outtasight is the word that applies to watching "Panagiati" and his "daughter" do moves on the dance floor that made me think John Travolta and his dance partner from Saturday Night Fever were in the house. And it also applies to a sinfully delicious baklava that Panagiati demanded I sample. Not a dish for calorie-counters, for sure, but definitely one for those who appreciate art from the kitchen.

And Art is what Artisan's is all about. In their food, in their beer and in their hospitalty, you just won't find any better. The great shame is that folks north of the Raritan River have to drive a bit to get to it. But if you're anywhere south of the Raritan River, Artisan's awaits you with open arms, big smiles and an exceptional experience.

Don't expect a standing "O" at the door when you enter, but you may be tempted to give one when you leave.

Cheers! The PubScout

Friday, November 4, 2011

So you want to learn how to brew beer?

Check out my friends down in Freehold tomorrow! They have a FB page (from whence I copied this info), and I'm sure you'll enjoy yourself; but more importantly, they are some of the nicest folks you'll meet in the beer business! The Brewer's Apprentice comes with The PubScout's highest recommendation!

On Saturday, November 5th, The Brewers Apprentice will be conducting an all grain seminar in celebration of Teach A Friend To Brew Day!From 4pm until 7pm we'll being going through the basics of all-grain brewing... Including the equipment needed, ingredients, as well as the basic principles. We'll take the mystery out of the process by showing you every single step from building your own equipment (or what to buy), how to set up, how to prepare your grains, how to mash and sparge, etc. This will be an interactive seminar where attendees can ask questions and interact up-close with the equipment and ingredients.At designated points during the event, attendees will also be able to sample some great beer from The Brewers Apprentice! Because of the huge demand for our last all-grain event (we quickly sold out), we are going to offer 50 spots for this event. Please note that this will be the last all-grain seminar that we hold for 2011. Tickets MUST be purchased in advance... we will not honor walk-ins. Tickets are $25 each. To purchase your ticket, call us at 732-863-9411 or drop by the store. We hope to see you there!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Quick Hit: To the Dark Side

Brewer Chris Percello's doing some good things over at Uno's on Rt. 1 near Menlo Park. He just sent me a tip that he has a new "Dark Lager" ready for savoring, so I hied myself thither to try it. It's dark, but not THAT dark. Not like, say, his Porter or a Black Lager. It's actually a pretty beer. Good nose, very smooth on palate and exceptionally tasty. At 5.3% it's a great choice for a session beer that will satisfy most beer geeks, and it should complement a wide variety of foods as well.

In return, I dropped him off a bottle of "Winter Rental" from The East Coast Brewing Company in Point Pleasant. When he shares his review with me I'll share it with you. In the meantime, do yourself a favor and order up a Dark Lager at Uno's. I doubt you'll be sorry.

Cheers! The PubScout

Monday, October 24, 2011

"Winner Rennal" Time

By Kurt Epps—The PubScout

Coinciding with recent reports on the news that the average Joe or Jane can now rent out the pad where Snooki and crew took taste to new lows, comes the much better news that The East Coast Brewing Co. has a better idea.

Officially called “Winter Rental,” the title of this column refers to the way real Jersey Shorians say the phrase. By now, you probably know that ECBC founders John “Merk” Merklin and Brian Ciriaco were high school buddies, but there’s another high school link to the debut of this new Black Lager.

Tom Przyborowski, a former student of mine and his best bud from Johnson Regional in Clark, Bob Nicol, have combined to make the packaging and label for the new brew. Bobby runs a firm called Square Melon Communications which did the attractive graphic design work for the beer. It also did the label for the flagship brew Beach Haus, a classic American Pilsner reminiscent of pre-Prohibition days that has won a good deal of well-deserved acclaim among the beer cognoscenti. Marked by the signature “rolling wave” atop each bottle (to make it easier for bartenders to find in the low light of many bars), the “wave” has become the logo many now associate with quality beer.

Tom stopped by my house to share some samples (one of the perqs of being a beerwriter with a former student as a brewer), and I talked with him about it.
“Merk always wanted a beer with the title “Winter Rental," but we didn’t know just what style would get the nod,” says Tom.

The style that got the nod is a Black Lager which they hope will compete favorably with the likes of Sam Adams Black Lager, the new Black Lager offering from Guinness and of course, the classic schwarzbier from Die Faderland—Kostritzer. Tom says that Winter Rental will check in at about 5.6% ABV, as compared to Beach Haus which registers a 5.3% level. The Pubscout did an unofficial tasting some months back of Beach Haus and it won very favorable reviews from the Uno’s crowd who were invited.

Winter Rental will undergo similar scrutiny as the “cockle-warming” season approaches, but Merk says, ”[it will be] a hearty, yet soft and elegant brew that brings comfort to the late Fall and Winter months. This seasonal lager is a darker beer with roasted malts and a hint of chocolate. Less hoppy than its predecessor Beach Haus®, Winter Rental® is yet another full-flavored, accessible style to add to the East Coast Beer Co. selection. We wanted to connect people with the shore in the Fall and Winter seasons as well. The winter rental lifestyle is as unique and enjoyable as any other. We think this too should be celebrated and are doing so through drink.”

The PubScout concurs and urges my readers to try this new kid on the block. It should complement foods like Black Bean Soup, Burritos, Cheesesteaks, Buffalo Wings, Stuffed Mushrooms, Chili, Pot Roast, BBQ ribs and Venison. Devotees of raw oysters and clams might be pleasantly surprised, too.

No viewing of Jersey Shore re-runs through the winter is necessary, but that’s your call and a matter of personal taste. Me? I’m going with the better taste of Winter Rental.

P.S. look for ECBC to come out with a classic pale ale somewhere down the road.

Cheers! The PubScout

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Oktoberfest with an Irish twist

It was kind of like being at the UN.
An Irish pub, an Italian chef, a Jewish chef/biermeister and an American Indian emcee.

But unlike the UN, there was no rancor at all. Plenty of good food, good beer, good company and good times were the order of the night. No one--but no one-- left hungry, and many took home multiple "doggie bags" as well as a special beer glass. Of course, each person had to answer an amazingly difficult trivia question to get theirs, but all came through with flying colors.

The Central Jersey Motorcycle Riders Group showed up, but they caused no trouble at all, since they weren't in their "colors." Actually a pretty docile group, and more like Heck's Angels than Hell's Angels, they were the liveliest group this night.

Also on hand was Climax Brewmeister Dave Hoffman and his bride. Dave had two of his fabulous beers on the menu this night--Hailey's Ale and his outstanding Oktoberfest. Check out the photos on the right to find faces of those you may know.

Shouts of "Sociable!" and choruses of Ein Prosit Der Gemutlichkeit reverberated through the Metuchen pub which has become a mainstay on Main Street in the Brainy Boro. Reaching out to a diverse clientele with beer dinners, whiskey dinners and other events, Hailey's Harp and Pub is reaping the benefits of a more aware drinking audience.

Not to mention a place where everybody is "Sociable!"

Monday, October 10, 2011

Serendipitous Suds

By Kurt Epps—The PubScout

On yet another "10-best day" in October, the Wilde Hogges struck out for the hypnotic, sun-splashed roads of gorgeous central Pennsylvania. Our route took us to Jim Thorpe, then Beaver Meadows, then Mahanoy and onto the legendary PA 339. We emerged near Rt 80 and Mifflinville, and Larry decided to check if nearby Berwick Brewing was open. It was, and it was just six miles away. I confess I had no experience with any product from Berwick, but the thought of a marzen on an Indian Summer day after a great ride appealed to me. And to Larry, Ron, Steve, Tom and Jesus as well. Yes, Jesus rode with us this day. And hopefully, every day.

The Hogges pulled into the place, actually around back and dismounted our trusty steeds. Laura came out to meet and greet us, and ushered us into one of the tap areas where Berwick was just concluding its 8-day Oktoberfest celebration. She filled our mugs with an exceptionally delightful –and on-style--Oktoberfest beer, and after a few pictures, we wound our way back to the Biergarten tent to slake our thirsts and enjoy some music.

Tom Clark, the owner and a brewer for a quarter-century was on-site, and I found my way back to him where I met his young brewer, Steve Zourides. We chatted beer and took a pic, and Tom suggested I try a beer called Hondo—BB's flagship beer. It was a keller-bier and very well made, though so impressed was I with the O-fest that I had a second. My mates enjoyed their IPA and a stout named High Town, expressing their approval in glowing terms.

Tom doesn't do the GABF as it's quite costly, but I hope he does other, more local beer festivals, ad his products are good. So good, in fact, that Larry and I had to stop in an ice-cream store of Rt. 80 on the home trip to say goodbye to them. It's amazing how short a 26-mile rest stop is when you don't need it, and how far it is when you do.

In all, a super day on the bikes and in Berwick Brewing.
We will be back.

Cheers! The PubScout

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Quick Hit--Long Valley Brewpub on a sparkling Autumn day

On what had to be one of the 10 best days of the year, the Blue Eagle took me up to the picturesque hills in Morris County where I made a stop at one of my favorite joints--the Long Valley Brewpub. Some of my MC cohorts made it a destination after a "Fall Colors" ride. And what to my wondering eyes should appear, but my buddy Larry Deahl and two vixens right here. That's Denise on the left and Colleen on the right, flanking the #1 Harley Rider in the world. They took home growlers of Oktoberfest and Stout, both excellent choices. Delightful gals, too. I always say you meet the nicest folks in brewpubs--and on motorcycles.

Cheers! The PubScout

Cask Time--Again--at Uno's

It was Brewer Chris Percello's debut as host brewer at this annual Fest of Cask Ales, and he had a very nice lineup of brews for cask lovers to try. On the hand pump was Climax Dave Hoffman's stellar IPA. This guy makes one helluva beer, no matter the style.

In kegs, from River Horse, came thier Special Ale and the Double IPA known as Hop-a-lot-amus. I found the Special Ale to be very intriguing, with notes of vanilla and oak-cast aging evident. A smooth-tasting and easy drinking brew, many folks at the Fest rated it very highly.

Yard's sent their Brawler, their interpretation of an English Mild session beer, and it, too won wide approval. it's not easy to make a smooth drinking, flavorful ale like this when it only comes in a hair above 4%. Their legendary Philadelphia, brewed with Pilsner malt, was also good, registering a 4.6% on the ABV scale.

Weyerbacher sent in a Winter Ale which appealed to many, but not as much as their Old Heathen Imperial Stout which garnered the most plaudits from the attendees. "Marathon Man" Jim Larkin, who arrived at noon and was still quaffing at 8PM, rated it as his top brew, with River Horse's Special Ale a close second. Of course, his opinions may vary if he's still there at closing--which is a distinct possibility.

Percello sent out Uno's perennial favorite Gust 'N' Gale Porter, and as usual, it did not disappoint.

In all, the Fest was a success again, as even erstwhile Uno's Brewer Mike Sella showed up to sample the fare (at his leisure now that he's brewing at another location, and could just stand back and enjoy). Mike was carefully cradling an Old Heathen, and smiling all the while. Check out the pics to the right.

Nice job from the new kid on Uno's block, though, and we look forward to a beer dinner. The target date is around Thanksgiving, so stay tuned to The PubScout's blog for details.

The PubScout

Friday, October 7, 2011

Hoolie sans Poolie

The Kilkenny House is back! From a notice on Facebook, I learned that Barry O'Donovan and the crew were opening up tonight, so I hied myself thither to see the rebirth of one of my favorite places. No food was served (that starts tomorrow), but the Kilkenny faithful just kept pouring in, just like the floodwaters from Hurricane Irene did some weeks ago. Barry and his crew were much happier with this latest flood, for sure. The taps were pouring, too, and the crowd was definitely in a party mood.

The fixtures, like Damien and Michelle, were all back in place, and it sure did a body good to see that Kilkenny spirit back in full vigor. Given the pictures we saw of the flood's devastation, the fact that the place is back up and running is nothing short of remarkable. Check out the pics to the right.

Just goes to show what that good old Irish stubbornness can do.

Proof positive that you can't keep a good man--or his pub--down.

Cheers to Kilkenny House!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Ken Burns | PBS Video

In case you missed this documentary, you can watch full episodes online for a limited time. If you do, let me know if you concur or disagree with my commentary below.

Cheers! The PubScout


Ken Burns | PBS Video

Ken Burns' Prohibition--a commentary

Was it just me, or was much of the lesson about this failed do-gooder plan relevant to the dangers of encroaching big government today? Sure sounded like it at times.

Dispelling the myth that the majority of "The Drys" were ultraconservative whack jobs, the show clearly explained how their motivation, organization and electoral tactics were decidedly liberal, or as they were quick to explain, "progressive" in nature.

There is also much to chew on here with respect to the legalization of drugs, considering that the wealthy bootleggers themselves were staunch opponents of repeal of the Volstead Act, aligning themselves piously with The Drys. The obscene amounts of easy money to be made providing a thirsty public with a product it craved--often in a dangerously poisoned form--is a shockingly similar parallel to today's drug culture. Can there be any doubt that the drug cartels would pump mind-boggling amounts of money into any campaign--and to any politician--that strives to keep drugs illegal? Tony Santana's Scarface comes immediately to mind, and the Capone reference is far from subtle. To deny access to a product that people having been using for millenia is quite clearly asking for trouble.

Pete Hamill's closing comments regarding human nature and forbidden fruit were as on-target as they were poignant. And the question posed in the trailers for the movie--"How could America have let this happen?" seems to serve as a warning that it could very well be happening again.

Nice job by Mr. Burns and company...

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Which is the "wettest" state when it comes to beer?

You'll never guess which US state came in tops in per capita beer consumption in this 2010 graph...Clearly we here in NJ need to work harder. You can also scroll to see four more interesting pages regarding this nectar of the gods.

Octoberfest: Where Does Beer Flow Freely? - The Daily Beast

Attention Cask Beer Nuts!

Don't forget this Saturday's Cask Event at Uno's in Metuchen. It starts at noon. I just spoke with Brewer Chris Percello and the line up sounds great! Here's a teaser: Climax, Weyerbacher and Yard's will be on hand, among others.

See you there!

The PubScout

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Time to Double-Down on Artisan’s O-Fest?

By Kurt Epps, The PubScout

Some things are consistent at NJ's premier Oktoberfest dinner: Dave Hoffman's beers, Steve Farley's cuisine, the beauty of the Artisan Dirndl Madschens, the party mood of the guests and, I hope, the entertainment.

What isn't consistent is the size of the crowd. Starting out with 45 guests eight years ago, this annual south Jersey tribute to beer, food and fun had to pack 111 fannies into the seats last night. (That's why I offered my lap to so many comely lasses, as the pictures at right will attest.)

But other than directing the sound from the front room, where all the mayhem was taking place, into the back room where more mayhem was taking place, nobody seemed to mind the numbers. They did, however lead The Petes Gregorakis to consider the possibility of making this a two-night event so they don't have to turn away people like they did this year. There was even some fanciful talk about renting out AC's Convention Hall, but fun parties with an abundance of alcohol will generate ideas like that. It was my idea, by the way.

Speaking of alcohol, specifically beer, if you haven't yet sampled Dave Hoffman's Pumpkin Ale, do so before it's gone. Perhaps the finest PA in the state, it actually supplanted my most anticipated brew of the night—Hoffman's Oktoberfest—for two mugs. An excellent blend of spices, malt and hops make this an exceptionally clean brew, perfect for Autumn and Thanksgiving. Then Antoinette brought me a mug of O-Fest and it was all over. Until Dave gave me some of his 15 year Anniversary barleywine. At 11.1%. Then it really was all over.

Chef Extraordinaire Steve Farley lived up to every bit of his billing, producing yet another flawless, delicious German menu. The Dirndl Beauties served both beer and food with their trademark smiles, and the FireHouse Polka Band—2011 Edition—kept the oompah music and the Ein Prosits pumping, and the crowd was equally juiced.

As it should be. This is an Oktoberfest party not to be missed. Celebrity guests like artist Greg Hinlicky and Star Ledger columnist Paul Mulshine were seen singing rousing choruses of "Ein Prosit!" One guest commented, "The only thing missing from this event is the 100-foot long table like in Germany." Yeah, well, that and the sausage Kurt Hoffman used in the story about him and his buddy Hans growing up in Die Faderland—but that's an inside joke for those of you in the front room. Just like the one about The Petes in their Halloween Cow Costume.

Maybe next year, the sound system at Convention Hall will be able to let everybody in on the jokes, because the two-night in a row idea won't work for guys like 76-year old Josef-with-an-F from the band.

Or me.

Check here for videos: The Petes

Steve Farley

Tapping the Keg

©Kurt Epps 2011 All rights reserved

Friday, September 30, 2011

Prohibition Special by Ken Burns: Must Viewing

How could something like Prohibition have ever happened? Yours truly will be watching to find the link below.


Oct. 2, 3 and 4 at 8 p.m. EDT on PBS

Prohibition | History of an American Calamity | Television Review by Dorothy Rabinowitz -

Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Beer Challenge

Let's have some fun. Take this Beer Quiz and see how you do.

Of course, The PubScout got a Perfect Score... but--no pressure.

The PubScout

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Mark your Calendars for 10/18!

Oktoberfest Dinner

Quick Hits

Yep, new word for y'all--sapid. Means very tasty with a pleasing flavor, kind of the opposite of vapid, meaning flat, lacking taste or flavor, which logofiles like me find pretty neat--and an easy way to remember the two. Sapid. Yup.

Now where was I? Oh, yes...suds. Stopped by Uno's Grill and Brewery to sample new brewer Chris Percello's Oktoberfest, a lager, and the first beer that is truly his. Result? A nice job--gorgeous color, malty with a hint of nuttiness and balanced by a nice hop notes. I don't know why (the hell I don't), but you might get the notion that he worked under a Roselle Park brewer known for his outstanding Oktoberfests. But in all, a very creditable first attempt and a sapid seasonal beer.

Next up an offering from Trader Joe's called, unsurprisingly, Oktoberfest. It's brewed by Gordon Biersch. Most of the beer cognoscenti give it a "B" or something in that range, but The PubScout likes it a helluva lot better than what Sam Adams gave us this year, which came closer to vapid than sapid. So I'd give it an A minus. Hallertau hops and dark-roasted Munich malts give it a very sapid flavor. Good color, excellent nose and, at $5.99 a sixer, great for your wallet. You might even have some left over for a wedding gift for Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese. Their anniversary is coming up on October 12. It will be their 201st, in case you were wondering. I hear there's a sale on aluminum walkers if you need an idea.

Regardless, drink up and enjoy these two excellent examples of sapidity!

Cheers! The PubScout

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Damned Fine Time Down East or A Merry Time in The Maritimes

It was a long overdue anniversary-celebration vacation, and for the first time ever on such an occasion, The PubScout and the missus did not head south to the Caribbean. Instead, we hopped on a cruise ship out of Cape Liberty, NJ (it was Bayonne when I was growing up) and headed North to Maine and the Canadian Maritimes—New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. They have some pretty good beer up yonder, and I had always pestered my family about the natural phenomenon known as the Bay of Fundy, especially after I put it on my bucket list. I was willing, then, to sacrifice a boatful of bikini-clad babes for a port-ful of porters and a bay-ful of Fundies. Herewith the report:

First Port: Portland, Maine
Of the many places suggested by our friends at Beer Advocate above, time limitations and tours demanded that I select only a few, though Lord knows I wanted to hit them all. One of them was Gritty McDuff’s, where we ate and quaffed first. A very neat, quirky and welcoming pub, populated with a nice array of beers, McDuff’s was offering its Halloween Ale, a darker, malty brew with some amazing flavors of caramel, toffee and raisins. It’s listed as an Extra Special Bitter, and it deserves the sobriquet. At 6% ABV, it should only be scary to a canoe-beer drinker. Having been born in Ringwood, Hampshire, England, the brews based on the Ringwood yeast strain—it’s a pub that makes English style ales, after all—and the operation is both efficient and effective. The food was good quality pubgrub, too.
I made the acquaintance of a guy named Jimmy Hendricks (no, not that one) and his wife Sheila who advised me that there was a special beer session going on a block and a half away at a place called Novare Res Bier Café. This was a very cool joint, reminiscent of a Belgian Biergarten of the 1940’s or earlier. On this day, a Cantillon session called Zwanze Day 2011 was taking place, sadly at a time later than I could stay. But we went in to sample the wares anyway. Owner Eric greeted us and suggested a black beer of 21% ABV (served in an eight-ounce glass to prevent guys like me from missing our tours). It’s not on this list, but it was quite impressive and started with the word “Black.” After the 21%, that's all I can remember. I’d have loved to stay, but the quaint little town of Kennebunkport was calling me, so we headed for the tour bus.

Kennebunkport, Maine
This is a neat place and pretty near picture-perfect, especially on a gorgeous, warm fall day like the one we enjoyed. After meandering a bit to check out the shops, we walked back across the short bridge to a place in neighboring Kennebunk called Federal Jack’s, where Shipyard Ales began their journey to beer fame. It was Shipyard’s Pumpkinhead Ale season, and though I did not have sufficient time to visit the brewery in Portland, Federal Jack’s would suffice. Rimming the lip of the pint glass with a concoction of cinnamon, brown sugar, nutmeg and probably allspice (a technique destined to affront the purist), the pumpkin ale won over the missus immediately—and she’s a diehard canoe-beer lover. It was quite tasty, and the effect was to give a hint of autumn to come in this picturesque fishing village. That former President George “Daddy” Bush lives outside the town proper in some seriously gorgeous digs on a spectacular promontory doesn’t hurt the ambience either. That sure is some beautiful country up there.

Bar Harbor, Maine
Our next stop on the trip was in beautiful Bar Harbor (pronounced by the locals as BaHaba). It is a supremely neat little town laden with all kinds of shops—including my favorite: The Man Store. Bar Harbor Brewing—which was bought two years ago by Atlantic Brewing Co.—wasn’t open when we arrived, and wouldn’t be by the time our whale watching catamaran pulled out. So we vowed to hit some pubs when we got back from seeing the giants of the sea. We actually saw six of them—two, a mother and a calf, came within ten feet of the boat, and we celebrated our good fortune by sidling into the the Finback Ale House, which had quite a selection of beers from Black Bear Brewing. As it happened, our bartender Eric was best friends with the BB brewer from childhood, and the business connection was made. Everybody seems to go blueberry nuts while in Maine, and BB had a fine blueberry beer, according to our drinking companions. But I opted for something called Drop Dead Red, a smooth malty, roasty session beer that had a gorgeous deep red color and an exquisite nose. It also matched up quite well with the Scallop Taco I had upon the recommendation of the barman.
The Crown and Kettle (aboard our ship-the Explorer of the Seas)
Before we venture into Canadian territory, I would be remiss if I did not give a hat tip to the Beverage director aboard our ship. At one of the ship’s many drinking emporiums—though its only true pub—there was a menu of fine beers that would have made any land-based tavern proud. Sam Adams Imperial White was absolutely delicious, and at 10.3% ABV, quite impressive. And it was only one of many, including Chimay, that demonstrated the growing nod mainstream places are giving to finer beer. That’s most heartening to see.

Canada—The Maritime Provinces
Saint John, New Brunswick was our first port of call in The Maritimes, but it was a morning tour of the area and a boat ride on the famous Reversing Rapids that dictated the schedule, and a very impressive natural phenomenon it was. On the way I passed what looked to be a very interesting pub called The Saint John’s Ale House, but as it was not yet open for business, you’ll have to rely on the reviews posted by Trip Advisor here. I did, however, manage to jump off a separate tour bus at the Old Market to sample some excellent beer at Billy’s Seafood Company from a brewery called Pump House, located in Monckton. A delightful bar lass recommended the Fire Chief’s Red Ale, and an excellent recommendation it was, though The PubScout had to gently direct the comely wench in the art of the proper draw, a lesson which she gratefully and graciously accepted. The beer was very smooth, malty—almost nutty—with a nicely defined hop presence, I was chagrined that I could not stay for another.

Then it was on to Halifax across the legendary Bay of Fundy and into Nova Scotia. Once again, the weather cooperated fully, and after a beautiful tour to the picturesque Peggy’s Cove, we returned to the ship for another tour—The Sou’Wester Pub Tour—which required the wearing of those yellow Sou’Wester rain hats. Our group drew much attention—and bemused looks-- as we toured the streets of Halifax, piped into three different pubs by a kilted Irish bagpiper. At each pub, beer was proffered and we listened to an itinerant Irish band playing sing-along Irish drinking songs. The PubScout himself held forth with a solo verse of the famous “Galway Bay” to thunderous applause from his besotted fellow travelers. We also learned of an Irish custom, perhaps unique to the Maritimes since I never heard of it here, wherein any Sou’Wester pubber could yell out the word “Sociable!” This utterance required everyone else in the party to respond with “Sociable!” as they downed their glasses. The practice made for a most interesting afternoon, as it continued at all three pubs.

The first, The Red Stag, was located in what we were told was the oldest continuously operating brewery in North America—Alexander Keith’s. This information caused the PubScout some distress, as I had been under the presumption that that title was held by Molson, but after a few “Sociables!” the discrepancy seemed to matter less and less. It was by every measure an excellent pub, and one which I would gladly visit again.
The second stop was The Split Crow a few blocks away, but we were transported by bus to a distance which would enable our piper to pipe us in again. More beers, more “Sociables!” and sing-along’s had everyone greased for the short—but piped-- walk to our third pub, The Lower Deck. More songs, more beer, more “Sociables!” (and easy access to a much-needed loo) helped us finish the tour and march—reasonably sober—to our bus for the ride back to the ship. You can check out some of the videos here.

In terms of fun, The Pub Tour was outstanding, but it was also pricey—roughly $80 per person. It provided great memories, however. And you got to keep the hat.
Right at pierside was another brewery called Garrison’s which, besides free WiFi, also offered excellent beers for pierwalkers and those who were leaving or returning to the ship. For $2, you could buy a six ounce cup of beer, and that way, you could try a few before you had to stumble either into Halifax or back aboard ship.

Back in the USA: Boston, MA
There were just three things on my Bucket List for Boston: to eat and quaff at the Cheers Bar, to see a bit of this historic City, especially Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall and to find a Starbuck’s. Not so much for their coffee, but for their WiFi, as the cost to go online on the ship borders on the usurious. In addition, download speeds for web pages are practically glacial. And who knew I’d have 807 emails in just ten days?
Of course, there was not enough time to read, let alone answer, them. But with that task down, and an excruciating trolley tour of the city (the narrator had the most annoying voice and delivery in history) behind us as well, we struck out for Quincy Market nearby. And we stumbled upon a pub that should NOT be missed called Dick’s Last Resort. The décor is college-freshman-dorm-room and the intentional prevailing attitude of the staff is just this side of sophomoric and completely insulting.

And funny as hell. As is my wont, I walked in to survey the place, and a staffer asked if he could help me. I said I was just looking around. He responded, “Well, now you’ve looked around, so get the hell out.” We headed straight for the bar. We ordered up two Sam Adams beers—hey, it was Boston, ya Tory bastard—and this particular beer, SA Brick Red, was only available in Boston. It was delightful to look at and a solid combination of malty smoothness with a pleasant, well-balanced hop presence. Proceeds from its sale go to helping SA with a promotion to “Brew The American Dream.” After listening to a waiter ask a wench who hopefully had ordered chicken, “How are your breasts?” we wended our way to the place in Beacon Hill “where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.”

There are actually three “Cheers bars,” one of which is a replica of the set right in Quincy Market. You’ll see pics in the Bull and Finch link below. The other replica, much smaller and tighter than the set you see on TV, is above the below-street-level pub you see in the opening credits of the hit show. That pub is technically called The Bull and Finch after a fellow named Bulfinch, who apparently was related to Norm. For the PubScout, a longtime fan of the show, it was a special treat to descend the legendary steps into the pub, grab a seat and order up a brew, a bold IPA from Wachusett Brewing called, appropriately The Green Monsta. Served in a large mug rather than a pint glass, it was, in a word, outstanding if you’re an IPA fan. The food was excellent and the ambiance was, well, captivating, for me anyway. Now I can say I’ve been there, done that and got the mugs and the t-shirts.

And, followed by a fine Alvarez Cigar for the walk back to the ship shuttle, it was the perfect way to conclude my Northeastern American Pub Tour.

Be sure to check out the pics on the right side.

Cheers! The PubScout
©Kurt Epps 2011 All rights reserved

Monday, September 12, 2011

Anybody Wondering Why?

I sure ain't. And the news reports now that a truckload of Bud Light flipped over on a highway ramp in CA, spilling its cargo.

This is a tragedy how? What's more, it seems that Bud Light trucks are prone to flipping over. Google truck spills Bud Light and be amazed.

The 8 Beers Americans No Longer Drink Fox Business

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Uno's News

Chris Percello, new brewer at Uno's in Metuchen wants to let beer lovers know that his Oktoberfest Lager will be available on September 19, and that Uno's Cask Fest is set for October 8. The PubScout looks forward to both!

Cheers! The PubScout

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Kildare's Authentic Aulde Sodde in America

By Kurt Epps—the PubScout

I found Kildare's Pub quite by accident in Newark (that's New-Ark), Delaware during a summer college visit to U-Del. On a somewhat tight schedule, I didn't have time to perambulate around the place or chat at any length with the staff—though I always find time for a brew. And Irish pubs—especially ones that are built in Ireland and shipped here—are designed for lingering. So when my youngest had to interview down at the home of the Blue Hens, I made it a point to stay at Kildare's for a while, to savor the ambience as well as the food and grog.

In keeping with that ambience, I was met at the door by an apparent Irish beauty named Rikki Goren—who turned out to be 100% Russian. But no matter. This very first hourly employee of Kildare's had risen through the ranks to managerial status, even handling such duties as opening up other Kildare spots around the country, and the company has seven of those now. This "colleen" with the stunning smile was also adroit behind the bar, drawing me a pint of Guinness, and drawing a cloverleaf with her tapdraw on top of that signature creamy head. She said that had been the result of hours of intense study at St. James's Gate during her formative pub years.

One of the wonderful things about taverns, pubs and beer halls is that the experience and atmosphere differs with each one. A cozy snug in an irish pub may offer the same beer that's available at a German Biergarten, but the atmosphere is vastly different, from the actual table at which you sit, to the delivery of the beer to the table.

At every Kildare's, there are different "atmospheres" for the thirsty traveler to choose from—a Pub Shop setting, a Gaelic period section, a Cottage area and a Victorian area. Each has its own motif and they each blend seamlessly into one another. Their welcoming nature makes it easier to understand Brendan Behan's classic line: I'm a drinker with a writing problem."

You'll also find a bicycle somewhere in every Kildare's, a testament to the main mode of transport between Eire's various towns and pubs. And, true to its Irish roots, there's an actual tapestry of the Book of Kells.

Newark Kildare's also has an impressive beer list beyond the de rigueur Guinness, and under the watchful eye of Rikki Goren, it's in constant flux. Offerings from Troeg's, Victory and many others give the Beer Nut plenty of goodies from which to choose.

Food is a big part of the experience at any beer-drinking emporium, and Kildare's has a menu that is true to its Irish heritage. My review of Irish pub food usually centers on its Shepherd's Pie, and as the picture to the right will attest, this version is most appealing to the eye. It's got a great Irish flavor, too, but it's meat component differs from most in that the meat (both beef and lamb) is offered in chunks, rather than ground as it is in many Irish pubs. Rikki advised me that Kildare's had just switched to the chunk version and added lamb in an attempt for more Irish authenticity. The flavor combo worked well, but I still prefer the ground meat in my Shepherd's Pie. But the dish paired nicely with both a Guinness and a Victory Festbier. The missus ordered a Veggie Burger that she claimed was absolutely delicious, and my potential Blue Hen had a Buffalo Bleu Burger which he declared to be excellent.

And if he does indeed get to wear the "Fear the Bird" shirt I saw on so many of the students who thronged Main Street in this college town, the PubScout will at least have a comfortable, welcoming Irish pub in which to rest a while when he visits, enjoying good food, good beer and a special ambience.

If college costs keep rising, however, that will be The PubScout squatting outside Kildare's door in a shawl with a cup pleading, "Alms for the poor! Alms for the poor!"

So show some Irish generosity and throw some coins into the can. When I have enough, maybe I'll buy you a "Good-Luck" Guinness, with Rikki Goren's signature cloverleaf on top.

Click on Rikki's picture to the right to view the rest of the photos.

©Kurt Epps 2011 All rights reserved

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Ein Prosit der Gemutlichkeit!

As promised, here's the link to the Artisan's Oktoberfest menu. It's in pdf. form so you need that to view it, but most everybody does. Make your reservations early, as this baby packs out quickly.
Come down ready for some good "trinken und essen, singen und tanzen!" And hopefully some good lachen! The food will be top shelf, as will Herr Hoffmann's beers, and the Artisan's Beauties will be on hand to serve both your palate and your eye...Ein Prosit der Gemutlichkeit!

Cheers! The PubScout

Monday, September 5, 2011

Sam Adams Octoberfest Underwhelms

I am a big fan of Jim Koch's beers--known as Sam Adams--and many of my brewer friends are as well. SA beers are usually always "dead-on" when it comes to style, even if you may not be a fan of that style.

This time of year, I'm a die-hard fan of Sam Adams Octoberfest because it heralds the the Autumn like the deciduous trees celebrate the season. It's always well made, malty, ballsy and very flavorful.

But this year, somebody in the SA Brewhouse took the testosterone out of one of my favorite beers.

No significant nose, a decidedly flat taste and a most unusual watery mouthfeel for this year's edition made me sorry I bought a whole case.

Not that it will go to waste. It can flavor my sauerkraut and I can boil brats in it.

But that sure ain't what I buy Sam Adams Octoberfest for....

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Beer Events--Heads Up!

Just giving you time to lock in your calendars...Artisan's (Toms River) hosts what may be the premier Oktoberfest party in the state (with what may be one of the best Oktocberfest beers in the Tri-State area--Dave Hoffman's), and it's taking place on Friday, September 30. More info to come on the menu and beers as I get it.

Uno's in Metuchen is also planning to continue its Cask Beer event in September. I'll forward info as I get it.

Also, Chris Flynn over at Hailey's Harp and Pub in Metuchen has announced plans for a McMoshe and McJohnny Beer Dinner on Tuesday, October 18. Ditto on the details forthcoming.

Contact each place to make your reservations!

Cheers! The PubScout

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Welcome to the Club, Hayley, but...

I and others have been doing this for a decade or more...still, any publicity about beer and food is good for the business.

H/T to Ralph!

The Art of Picking the Perfect Beer for a Meal -

The PubScout's Personal Stimulus Plan

Trying to put as many comely lasses to work as I can, yesterday it was an Oktoberfest Girl, and today my other vice needs help--Cigar Girl at Monmouth Park for BeerFest the link below.

Once again, a H/T to George for the info!

Cigar Girl Need for Monmouth Park Beer Fest

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

How good do you look in a dirndl?

H/T to George D. for alerting me to this opportunity. I post it in the hope that a lovely, out-of-work madchen will find some gainful employment. Let your friends know, too. After all, Oktoberfest is no time to be dirndl-free...or beer-free, for that matter.

German Beer Girl For Oktoberfest

Monday, August 29, 2011

Kilkenny House Inundated, but Undaunted...

Our friends over at Kilkenny House in Cranford seem to have suffered the full effects of Hurricane Irene's rudeness, but a recent post from their FaceBook page shows that they are not easily deterred from their holy mission of hospitality.

The PubScout wishes them Godspeed and luck in their repairs, and he anxiously awaits the "Hoolie That Will Follow!"

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Buffaloed by Beer?

Who's got the rights in your view? The guy with the label approval or the guy who got his beer to market first--by two days? I say, send me a sample of each, and I'll decide...


In Wyoming, a Beer Brawl Breaks Out Over Buffalo Bill -

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Try drinking beer like a girl at the Breckenridge Beer Festival...

Been there...done that...and it's simply a GREAT place to enjoy beer (but I, of course, drank like a man...standing up. Cheers!


Try drinking beer like a girl at the Breckenridge Beer Festival - Dispatches - Breckenridge - Telligent

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Beer Around the House...

In keeping with my goal of finding interesting beer related stories to share, I came across this article. Pretty clever, some of 'em. My only advice is NOT to use the "good stuff." Cheers!


14 Household Uses for Beer -

Friday, August 12, 2011

It's New-Ark, not Newark

Spent a day at the University of Delaware on a college visit, and came across a neat little gem of a pub called Kildare's. Actually, it's part of a larger chain with locations in four other PA cities, including Manayunk, West Chester, Scranton and State College. The other, besides the one in Newark, is in Chapel Hill, NC. But if they're all as cozy and welcoming as the Newark site, they've got a good thing going.

Another thing they have going is a very extensive and ever-expanding beer list, well beyond the requisite Guinness and Yuengling. Rikki Goren is the Ass't Manager, and based upon some quick email communication, one that knows the value of a varied list of quality beers.

We only stopped in for a quick pint and a bite, so beyond the beer offerings, it wouldn't be fair to evaluate the whole place in terms of food, service, etc., though our server, Jordan, was a most likeable chap. And the view (it's a second-floor establishment) overlooking Main Street was pretty cool.

I will be heading back down soon, especially if my youngest becomes the "Third Bird." The eldest was a Blue Jay (Elizabethtown), the middle one is a Red Hawk (Montclair State) and the youngest wants to be a Fightin' Blue Hen. Me? I'm just broke from paying to feed the birds.

So I need a good pub to help me put things in perspective, and Kildare's looks like it can fill that bill. Speaking of bills, I hope they understand when the tab comes and I have no money.

Anyway, check it out if you're in one of those cities, and, as usual, tell 'em The PubScout sent you.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Pilsener Haus Biergarten: Ein Prosit!

By Kurt Epps—the PubScout

You would think a torrential downpour (which caused major flooding) might dampen a grand opening of a Hoboken Biergarten—and you would be wrong. Not only did Andy Ivanov and Co. get the flood cleaned up, they opened their doors after the storm passed—and another storm came in, this time of customers. The 402 person capacity may have been exceeded, but it was also matched during my visit there tonight, as the local gentry just kept coming in to see what this Biergarten business was all about. The building itself may have been an old warehouse, and entering through a gate to what looks like a big backyard was novel.

Set aside the very impressive beer list and Thomas Ferlesch's outstanding food for a moment. This Biergarten, located in "the mature end" of Ol' Blue Eyes' city, is authentic in many ways, and, if you have a good eye and ear, you may well believe that you've gone back to the 1930s or 40s somewhere in Austria or Germany where the Biergarten is a way of life. No fancy tables with window seats and white glove waiter service…just long benches and long block tables designed to accommodate crowds and enable people—even perfect strangers to engage each other, over some of the finest beers Europe and America have to offer.

Walk in by yourself, with your date or with twenty friends ( I doubt the Pilsener Haus takes reservations), and you're sure to find a comfortable place to consume your food and grog. Enjoy the conversation or just "people-watch." It's all good.

Note the lighting and the fixtures—old fashioned ceramic stays and exposed wires, giant lanterns with soft lights and candles everywhere, while music that sounds like Edith Piaf plays in the background. The walls, taps, barstools and art will all transport the sharp-eyed observer back in time, and most wouldn't be surprised if Bogie himself sauntered through the door.

Order up a Stiegl and a Sausage Platter (large enough for two), or quaff an Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Marzen with any meat dish in either of the two inside rooms or out on the umbrella'ed patio. You'll find yourself doing exactly what Andrei Ivanov had in mind when he concocted the idea of filling this niche.

Though the premise of social quaffing may be similar, a biergarten experience is different from that of a pub or tavern. Having been in biergartens in Die Faderland and here in America, it's a very special ambience, and Ivanov and Co. have captured it. My two quaffing partners on this visit—Mike Clayton, head wrestling coach at Stevens Institute, and Rob Dickerson, newly appointed SubScout, were both very impressed and vowed to return. Clayton has special plans for his wrestling alumni that I'm sure will please them.

But simply beer alone can't do it. There has to be hearty, delicious food, too and Chef Tom Ferlesch has seen to that. He began cooking school at the age of 14 in Austria. Three years later, he struck out to look for work and found it. He even did a stint at the prestigious Southampton Princess Hotel in Bermuda. But, at age 21, he set his sights on the Big Apple and has built a fine reputation for his food. Be sure to ask for the wurst he created…it is killer, especially in the dark brown sauce.

And speaking of "killer," take a gander at the waitstaff. Besides Leslie, Chris and Erica--imagine my surprise to see Gina (from The Brick) beautifying the floor of yet another great place. The barstaff knows their beer, too. Rick, who is related to one of the Alstroms of Beer Advocate, was friendly, knowledgeable and on target with his recommendations.

The food menu, like the beer menu, is extensive, and charcuterie-style. If you want, you can just get up and visit one of the grillers and tell him what you desire. It will be at your place in minutes. The beers come in a variety of Old World glassware, too, from "shorty" mugs to Huge HofbrauHaus mugs you could bathe in, to oversized weisse bier glasses. Don't expect the waitresses to heft five of those big mugs per hand, like their counterparts in Munchen often do. Their muscles aren't that big yet, as they've only been open two days. What's important is that they bring one beer—yours. The Pilsener Haus even has its very own beer, made in Germany by Bitburger.

Andrei Ivanov and Ladi Sebestyan have taken a big gamble in the hopes that Americans will warm to this European style of drinking and dining. If the crowds on the first two nights are any indication, they may have hit the jackpot.

Oktoberfest season here should be off the charts. The Pilsener Haus Biergarten will be on The PubScout's charts, hopefully for many years to come.

Don't forget to check out the downloadable pics on the right. And here's a live video of owner Andy.

Copyright 2011 Kurt Epps All rights reserved