Good pubs, Good Beer, Good People

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Yo, Anthony!

By Kurt Epps—The PubScout

Long-time readers know that I don't like beer with pizza, so stopping into a joint in Harrisburg, PA called "Anthony's Micro Pub and Pizza" might have been a bit out of character. But my eldest son had been there and said the beer list was impressive, hence, being in H-Burg for a couple of hours on the way home from NC, we stopped in.

It was, perhaps, early—11:15, but close enough to a noontime lunch that it could be justified. (Almost anything can be justified when you're "on vacation.") We were the only ones in the place, except for Shannon, the attractive and friendly barmistress, and a professional photographer named Steve, who was taking shots of the 60 taps Anthony's sports.

Shannon advised us that the cook wouldn't be coming in until 11:30, but we could sit and have a brew while we waited, which was fine with me. Walking toward the back of the pub, I noticed the first tap said Spring House. I had read about a local upcoming brewery called Spring House and a beer called Seven Gates, so I asked Shannon if that was what was on tap. She confirmed it and had it in front of me a few seconds later. It was quite good, too. So good that despite the other 59 beers on the menu, I had another when the chef finally came in to start his work. The folks over at BA rate it with a "B," but I'd give it at least a B+ and maybe an A-. At 5.6%, it certainly could qualify as a session beer, and a worthy one at that. It was well-balanced with a nice nose, a pleasant hop presence and a decent finish. Of course, my sampling it prevented me from enjoying any of the other beers on the extensive Anthony's menu, but my party did the sampling for me. Shannon brought out a helpful guide, though she apologized for the low toner. Still it was readable and quite helpful to anyone who was in an experimental or discovery mode.

But not nearly as helpful as Shannon herself. One member of our party was having trouble deciding which beer to get. Shannon brought out a few samples, and based upon the reactions to those, made a recommendation that hit the jackpot.

The food at Anthony's is pretty standard pub-grub, reasonably priced and of good quality, but be advised, no one in the kitchen has heard of "portion control," so unless you stop in ravenously hungry, you'll likely be taking food home. Our party did not sample the pizza, but we watched four pies go out between 11:45 and noon, which means somebody likes it.

60 beers, good food, a cozy atmosphere and Shannon…yep, the PubScout heartily recommends Anthony's Micro Pub and Pizza in Harrisburg, PA.

©Kurt Epps 2011 All rights reserved

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Nick and The Brick

By Kurt Epps—The PubScout

What do you get when you transplant an Edison, NJ boy with a feel for the restaurant business to North Carolina?

An appealing eatery with a rustic feel, award-winning food—and FIFTY beers on tap.

Jerseyan Nick Lyssikatos , an unassuming, unpretentious fellow, looks more like the guy at the next bar stool than the owner of a booming restaurant business that has been on a ten-year growth spurt. Of course, its location, menu, beer list and ambience have much to do with that. Established in a former 120 year old cotton mill, where the original beams and stone are still visible, and set in the picturesque college town of Davidson, NC, The Brick House Tavern (not affiliated with the national chain that has the words "and Tap" appended to its name) is actually two eateries in one. There's an airy dining area which is quieter and which houses and sells the original artwork of promising Davidson College students, and there's the noisier, pubbier bar area with wide screens—and FIFTY quality beers on tap.

Manager Dan Chilton, a southern gentleman in every aspect of the word, made it clear, though, that the Brick House Tavern is not just a college drinking mecca, except maybe for Thursday nights during the school term when every beer is available for just $2.50 a pint. Indeed, my visit was on a Monday night, customarily the slowest night of the week in the beer bar/restaurant business up north, and the Brick House had a line waiting to get in at 7:30. The clientele is as diverse as the beer list: young folks, families, singles, couples, seasoned citizens. And the place is a local hangout for the hungry, thirsty employees of the nearby—and massive—Ingersoll-Rand complex, so I'm betting the crowds at lunch are just as impressive.

And why wouldn't they be? Owner Nick was beaming with pride as he clutched a glossy copy of the August 2011 issue of Charlotte magazine, wherein his original Carolina Burger had been selected #2 of the top 21 "Must Try" foods in Charlotte. After moving to NC ten years ago, and being an alert Jersey guy, Nick noted that many Carolinians "have a thing about cole slaw on their burgers."

The rest, as they say, is history. Had I known that the Carolina Burger was an award-winner, I'd have ordered it, but my waitress, Mila Kunis lookalike Jasmine with the Svengali-like hypnotic eyes and smile, told me her favorite was the Blue Ridge, so, pretty much under her mesmeric influence, I went with Jasmine's suggestion, which went very well with my Skull Coast Maelstrom IPA. I'll have to go back for the Carolina Burger now. Jasmine did allow that it was their best-seller, but she hypnotized me.

But that will give me a chance to taste more of the beers Nick has added to his ever-changing, ever-growing stable. Red Oak Brewing (NC) makes the transitional House Light and the Irish-y House Red, and the Red is quite tasty. Manager Dan Chilton shares the responsibility of keeping the beer menu current, and Nick pays much attention to what his customers want, though sometimes those beers are not distributed in the area. Jasmine , who by this time, could have given me a Natty Light to try (and I'd probably have agreed eagerly), delivered a sample of New Belgium's 1554—one of her favorites—and for good reason. Malty and complex, yet light enough to be a session beer, it was delightful in every category—nose, mouthfeel, flavor and color. This dark beer has quite a history at New Belgium, and it's worth visiting their site to read about it. Me? I'm just going to go back to the Brick House Tavern and investigate a full pint…or two. Or three.

In fact, anyone who enjoys quality beers and award-winning food in a rustic, historic and friendly atmosphere would do well to hit The Brick. And tell Nick Lyssikatos and Dan Chilton that the PubScout sent you.

Just beware. If Jasmine makes a suggestion, you, too, may be powerless to resist.

Don't forget to check out the pics on the right.

©Kurt Epps 2011 All rights reserved

Monday, July 25, 2011

LSU brews its own beer

Now that's what college is supposed to be about, no? Click the link below and offer your choice for a name for this beer...I prefer Goodman's Gold...(inside joke).


What should LSU call its home-brewed beer? |

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Tarheel State Raises the Beer Bar

By Kurt Epps—The PubScout

I’ll confess right up front. The only thing I was looking forward to this vacation was riding my motorcycle in the mountains of Western NC and Tennessee. If you haven’t heard of The Tail of the Dragon or The Cherohala Skyway, you won’t learn anything new about them in this column—other than that, for bikers, anyway, they are not to be missed.

No, once those bucket list items were accomplished, everything else was secondary. NC beer? Adequate but unremarkable, based upon my last beer run down here, admittedly a decade ago. But what a difference a decade makes.

We stayed at the Fontana Village Resorts (the missus not being one who enjoys the community showers and toilets offered at some biker facilities). This sprawling resort had many decent NC beers on tap. Nantahala Brewing had some exceptional offerings. Their Pale Ale is commendable, and their Brown Ale, on tap at a place on the grounds called The Pit Stop, was very satisfying after a 130 mile MC run through the mountains. Buckshot Amber from Natty Greene was equally good and an amber from Duck Rabbit out of Farmville, NC (and you thought it only existed on FB) also was commendable. Restoration Ale by Abita was available and also quite tasty. And of course, New Holland’s Dragon’s Milk ($9 a bomber) was quite apropos, considering the resort’s proximity to the legendary Rt. 129—The Tail of the Dragon. A word of caution for bikers and drivers: do your drinking after the Dragon. 318 curves in 11 miles commands every bit of your attention and skill.

We headed for the Mooresville area after three glorious days in the mountains, and, to my surprise, good beer is on the increase there, too. Besides the stuff made in NC itself, it seems that restaurants and taphouses are quite literally raising the bar when it comes to stocking good beer. A pub called The Eastfield Bar and Grill in Huntersville had quite a selection on draft and in bottles, and , more importantly, knowledgeable staff who knew their hops. I mean, who would expect to find Lagunitas’ Hairy Eyeball in a Huntersville bar? Or a kolsch-style brew called Angry Angel which was nothing short of spectacular? Or a waiter—and a hostess--who actually knew the difference between the two?

Nephew Justin (who’s a huge Troeg’s Pale Ale fan and the one who led us to the bar) made a run to the coast and brought The PubScout some exceptional beers from Mother Earth Brewing in Kinston, NC, like the Endless River—another superb kolsch-style brew. In hot weather, a Kolsch is an excellent refresher. Sisters of the Moon, an IPA, was also right on style, with a magnificent floral nose.

With the temps in triple digits, I had no desire to ride long distances for good beer. Unlike in NJ, here in NC, you can get some truly exceptional beers, like Atlanta’s Sweetwater 420, right in the grocery store and even at gasoline stops. But grocery stores and gas stops aren’t fun to write about, at least not as worthy as a place called Duckworth’s TapHouse in Mooresville. Here, a very congenial manager named Nancy Booth received The PubScout’s party with true southern hospitality. Just as hospitable and helpful was a young fellow named James Hiller, who was responsible for stocking the 46 taps on Duckworth’s wall. So well versed in beer was this young man that he is soon to be sent to another Duckworth’s opening in the Ballantyne area of South Charlotte, where the plan is to have 80 taps. There’s another Duckworth’s in Charlotte proper already with 60 taps, so it’s clear the craft beer thing is catching on big time. The last time I was here, The Southend Brewery commanded the lion’s share (or Panther’s, given the ownership) of beer attention, along with Carolina Brewing. No more. Good beer is now big business in the Tarheel State.

Even our waitress, the affable, comely Jen, knew more about beer than any 25-year old had a right to know. In fact, she was so tuned in to the intricacies of beer, she could easily be a Biermistress herself one day. Duckworth’s has an impressive collection of taps from previous and current beers sold mounted on its walls, and any bar where the waitstaff’s shirts are badged with “Don’t Worry…Be Hoppy” gets my seal of approval. Showing an uncommon dedication to craft beer, Duckworth’s provides a well written and researched handout that helps educate quaffers on beer styles. This clever paper carefully, clearly and thoughtfully guides both neophyte and seasoned beer drinkers into the wonderful world of craft beers, especially those available at Duckworth’s, and what foods they complement. You’ll be come an expert in no time. Great sales model, if you ask me. Anyone interested in learning about beer and beer related information will take this paper home. You won’t need cash to acquire it, of course, but from it you can learn where the word “cash” came from.
And, lest I forget, the food at Duckworth’s was as outstanding as the service. I had a Philly Cheesesteak Supreme that was as good as any I ever had in Philly itself. And the fries are fresh-cut and homemade. Matched up with a Fat Tire, it was a very nice combination. The other members of my party concurred, saying their choices were also excellent. If good beer, good food, good service and a family-friendly atmosphere are important to you, don’t miss Duckworth’s. It will be a “must-visit” for The PubScout the next time he visits the Tarheel State.

But by then it may be re-dubbed The BarHeel State.

Don’t forget to check out the thumbnail pictures on the far right side. No “kash” required.

©Kurt Epps 2011 All rights reserved

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Kilkenny Cream at Kilkenny House

Because it had been a while since my last visit to this classic Irish pub, I arranged to meet some of the Wilde Hogges there for a burger and a brew. We won't mention Larry's gag, as this is a family place and swearing isn't allowed.

But the place itself hasn't changed, and that's good. Same friendly staff, same great food, same good beers. Well, not exactly the same good beers as those at my last visit. There's been an addition that is worth mentioning--an Irish import called, appropriately, Kilkenny Cream Ale.

Manager par excellence Damien drew it for me using the "slow pour" method, and the result was phenomenal. Amber in color, with those inverted nitrogen bubbles you've come to know by watching pints of Guinness get filled, KCA is a delight to eye, nose, tongue and palate. Creamy, with a head so thick you could use an ice cream scoop to make a permanent hole, this ale is simply killer in The PubScout's book. Of course, Damien allowed as to how it is made by the Guinness folks back on the Auld Sodde, which explained much about its appearance, smoothness and taste. It's a perfect beer for foods, especially meats, burgers and potato dishes like Shepherd's Pie. It's also perfect for those who may have a hankering for the smoothness of a Guinness, but want to go a bit lighter on the roasty, toasty malts.

I confess that I don't know many other places that have this on draft, but if you find one (and you will at Kilkenny House in Cranford) set yourself down and get ready for a feast. But insist on the slow pour. If you're real lucky, Jen might come over to say hello, but she only shows up for the guys with juice. (See photo above)

Kilkenny Cream Ale might just hold me over until August, when the Marzens start to make their annual appearance.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I'll drink to them (and so should they)

I came upon the story below, and felt, well, kind of dejected. After what may have been the greatest women's soccer game ever (with our American girls emerging victorious), I was hoisting a pint to their magnificent effort. They, however, did not. And while their emphasis on focus is riveting and commendable, they may not have all the facts about beer and hydration. So The PubScout, as a public service, offers up said information at

Maybe they're waiting to win the whole thing, and THEN celebrate. If that happens, they'll have 300 million drinking partners. YOU GO GIRLS!

Women's World Cup 2011: U.S. Women Enjoy Afterglow, But No Beer - The Daily Fix - WSJ

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Mark your calendars for August 8!

...because it's Lagunitas Night at the Mohawk House in Sparta, NJ. The Petaluma, CA brewery is known for solid beers--and beers that push the envelope--like The Hairy Eyeball. Mohawk House is one of the premier beer bars, as well as one of the finest restaurants in NJ. And Steve Scro hires only the best (and friendliest) in feminine pulchritude (See photo). Festivities start around 5 PM. Come early and catch the beauty of Lake Mohawk after the sun starts to move down...The PubScout will be there! Hope you are, too!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Better Beers Get Noticed

Well, well, well. Finally the big boys in the media are picking up on the craft beer/good beer trend...nice to see. Remember: Life is too short to drink bad beer! Cheers!


Better Beers for the Barbecue | Half Full -

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Beer Archaeologist

Admittedly not a column for those with the attention span of a salamander, this piece from the Smithsonian deserves the attention of every beer aficionado. Dr. Patrick McGovern may be the REAL Most Interesting Man in the World...Hat Tip to Ty for sending it on...Cheers!


The Beer Archaeologist | History & Archaeology | Smithsonian Magazine