Good pubs, Good Beer, Good People

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