Good pubs, Good Beer, Good People

Monday, July 23, 2012

For The Rogue in All of Us…

 “Mama C” has provided me with some superb wrestlers since I’ve known her, but she may have outdone herself when it comes to beer. Some time ago, she posted a picture of FB of a pink-bottled beer called Rogue Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Ale. When I commented on it, she sent me a bottle via her soon-to-be-Seminole son, Pete. Because, being a good woman and a wrestling mother, that’s how she rolls.
Today, middle son Kaz and I decided to crack it open. As required by the Five Sense test, we examined its color first. Listed as a brown ale, I assumed it would be much darker than it was, but it was nicely amber, albeit on the dark side of amber.
Then we schnozzed it. (That’s smelled it, for all you whippersnappers.) And simultaneously, we both exclaimed, WHOA! Maple and smoky bacon whacked our olfactory lobes.
Mouthfeel was almost as chewy as a good porter or stout, perhaps just a hair less. But it sure was smooth. And at 5.6% ABV, a bomber bottle won’t keep you from a late-night trip to Voodoo Doughnuts (Oregon) or Dunkin’ Donuts (your town).

In the taste department, smoky malt was predominant, and there are good reasons for that. The bottle says there are thirteen ingredients go into the Voodoo Doughnut, and the first three are Briess Cherrywood Smoked, Weyerman Beechwood Smoked and House-Smoked Hickory. Add Great Western 2-row, Munich, C-15 and C-75 and the malt profile is completely understandable.
Then add Applewood Smoked Bacon and Pure Maple Flavoring. Follow that up with Rogue Micro Hopyard Revolution and Independent hops, Free Range Coastal Water ( I was unaware water could be “ranged” like a chicken) and Pacman yeast, and you’re in business.
A collaboration of sorts with VooDoo Doughnuts out in Oregon,where Rogue is located, and supposedly patterned after one of Voodoo’s signature donuts, this ale is said to pair well with doughnuts (Duh!) and pork. Maybe, but I don’t buy it. First of all, pork is a lighter meat, and as such probably pairs better with a a lager—like a Marzen. Can we say Oktoberfest? I think pancakes would probably go better with it, though anything with bacon would, too. (Is it just me, or is there like a bacon-orgy going on all over social media?) It’s not overly sweet, either, so don’t expect that it will replace the faux-syrups like Aunt Jemima and Mrs. Butterworth’s. Nor will it supplant real, authentic “maple surple” from Vermont.

But it’s a good ale, and certainly worth trying. A bomber will run you about $13. Not bad, and you can substitute it for breakfast anytime you don’t feel like cooking or going to Denny’s.
Thanks, Mama “C,” and keep your eyes open for other cool beers.
And, um, wrestlers, if you have any free time.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Approach the Coach...Part Two

                Once again, Coach Gonz is on the lookout for good beers and good places to enjoy them. Herewith his latest perambulation....The PubScout

Have you thanked your friends lately?

Where would we be without our friends? Well if you have friends like mine, you would be enjoying a great craft beer at Tapastre in Somerville. Joe Bennett, Michael Battista, and JR Luccarelli have found a gem and like true friends, they share. I am a lucky fella!
                We arrive at Tapastre in Somerville, a lovely establishment located on High Street that features some of the best and freshest beers on tap or bottled on the market today. A family owned enterprise since 2004, Mike Proske has raised the bar on excellent food and phenomenal beer. At Tapastre, you will find one of the most unique food and beer menus in Central New Jersey! Mike has taken his love of fine cuisine, fine craft beer, and his experience behind the bar and married them together in a fantastic gastronomical ménage a trois. Well let’s find out what Mike keeps behind the bar!
                In order to fully appreciate the passion behind Tapastre, we start with a flight of beers recommended by Mike. Quickly we learn that Tapastre is an exceptional beer bistro. His recommended flight takes us on a journey; we begin with light and aromatic and end with dark, mysterious, and awesome.
·         Zombie Killer – by B. Nektar is a light ‘pinky’ colored mead with a 5.5% ABV
·         La Chouffe – from D’Achouffe is a Belgium double with a floral aroma and an 8% ABV that is just outstanding for summer consumption
·         Hudson Pale Ale - from New Jersey Beer Company, a textbook ale with a hint of fruitiness –  5.8% ABV
·         Ta Henket - by Dogfish Head is an ale with a crazy collection of flavors including a Middle Eastern spice Za’atar.   A fantastic summer ale! 5.5% abv
·         The Vanilla Porter - from Breckenridge, an amazing porter all the way, ‘nuff said! 4.7% abv
·         Urkontinent - by Dogfish is a Belgium double that is brewed with chocolate malt. The flavors run the gamut: caramel, berry-fruitiness, malt, and a quick floral finish – we all agree this is one of the most unique beers.  8% abv – wholly cow!
·         Sour Apple Saison - by Epic starts with a bitter crispness with nutmeg flavors and ends with the apple.  Very light and refreshing but with an 8% abv definitely nothing to sneeze at!
On the bar side, Tapastre has 12 taps that are as different and enjoyable as the next, and in the bull pen, six new beers that are dying to jump into the rotation.  Tapastre’s main goal is to create a buzz (no pun intended) for craft beers, really help build awareness for something that is relatively still in the dark. Side bar:  Michael Battista is the catalyst for getting tap beers going.
Mike wants patrons to come in and enjoy a great food menu too. “There is something for everyone here – the steak and potatoes fan and the ultra-foodie will be thoroughly satisfied.”  With New Orleans Chef Victor Sguera, he knows he will succeed. For Tapastre, food is very important to his beer menu. Mike is in constant contact with local craft brewers to see what can be added to help augment his special menu.
Based on Mike’s hospitality, he has garnered great friend status, and as great friends often do, he took care of us. He quietly tapped Allagash Bourbon and Black, a 9.5% abv ale that is aged in Jim Beam Bourbon Barrels for one year! This unbelievably drinkable ale is as good as it sounds! Mike truly pulled out all of the stops on our visit and as true friends, we promise to visit more often.
What’s next for Tapastre? July 26th there will be a Cigar and Beer Sampling. Tapastre will partner with Somerville neighbor Ashes N Embers to combine great smokes and great suds. Do yourself a favor and check it out. ENJOY!

Do you enjoy beer? Are you interested in being a contributor to The PubScout's page? Email me:

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Damon Runyon’s Secret Pub

“Citibank Bill,” “Marathon Jen” and “Italian Vince” might well have been fictional characters in the legendary newspaperman’s many stories, but they are real—at least in a place in Lambertville, NJ called The Boat House.

The Boat House itself is a former garage, a carriage house, actually, set way back off a narrow street named Coryell St. in the Delaware River town. In fact, unless someone tells you where it is, you might never find it on your own, because it’s not listed on any of the regular maps and tour brochures. But that would be your loss, as the Boat House is nothing short of a remarkable hidden gem of a pub.

Serving only liquid fare, and with a very small bottled beer list, this iconic joint is not only hard to find, but worth the effort when you do. Situated directly opposite a more famous set-back restaurant called Hamilton’s, it is a feast for the eyes and the soul, especially if the seafaring mystique courses through your bones.

A friend tipped the missus and me to the place, and since The PubScout’s mission is to discover unique pubs, we located it. Its official address is 8 ½ Coryell St., and it’s frequented mostly by locals. With two floors and walls that scream “Nautica,” the pub is nothing short of fascinating. Even the bathroom walls tell sea stories, and the steps leading up to its second floor location are emblazoned with names like Perry, Nimitz and Halsey.

It’s a place designed for people—including perfect strangers--to meet and converse. Cell phones are verboten, which, in this writer’s view, is a blessing. Nothing is more annoying than people who come into a place, especially in groups, whose first impulse is to whip out their mobile devices, and surf or text their time away while there are real, live people to interact with. If I’d have been texting, for example, I would never have heard the well-heeled, silver-haired, cognac-drinking dowager on the second floor say, “You can come here a hundred times and find something new on the walls or ceiling that you’d never seen before.” 

I struck up a conversation with one of the Boat House regulars, a very friendly, older guy named "Italian Vince." Formerly from Newark and with extensive experience in New York City, he regaled us with stories about his life, his family, his friends (Citibank Bill and Marathon Jen) and the Lambertville scene. An “Old School” type guy, he knew who Damon Runyon was, and his jovial manner and friendly repartee were delightful, the complete opposite of what you might find in your standard “bar boor” who talks your ear off because he’s lonely. Italian Vince was funny, friendly and sharp as a tack. He was also quite generous, refusing to allow the missus and me to pay for our drinks, despite our protests.

And speaking of drinks, the missus raved about her Bloody Mary (s), while I was quite satisfied with my Allagash White (s). What the Boat House lacks in beer variety, however, it makes up for with an incredible ambience, a museum-like interior and a clientele that is one of the reasons a guy goes to a pub in the first place—to socialize. Described as the perfect place to go for drinks before or after dinner, the Boat House is worth a visit. Or two. Or a hundred, just so you can keep discovering things. And it must be the definition of "cozy" in Winter, with that pot-bellied stove ablaze.

Parking can be a problem, so bring quarters in abundance, as the local constabulary checks meters until 9PM. You can outfox them, however, by chatting with guys like Italian Vince who will let you in on the free parking “tricks.”

Get to theBoat House. Turn off your cell phone.

And discover why pubs were invented.

The PubScout

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Approach the Coach--Coach Gonz, that is...

Meet Coach Gonz--John Gonzalez for those who require more formality. John is deeply involved in many of the same things as The PubScout--family, wrestling and beer. A few years ago, he even coached my youngest son Cody to a Kid's State Gold Medal Qualifying Championship (while I stayed in the stands and filmed it, because kids listen better to someone other than their own fathers). He's been an honored guest at the first-ever PubScout Beer Tasting, so I've deputized Gonz as a SubScout and have invited him  to offer a piece on one of his recent beer adventures. Herewith his first offering:

What’s that saying about “chance and opportunity?”  Well however it goes, it seems I became the benefactor of such a situation on Sunday during one of Jersey’s many heat waves.  A chance drink with my wife, JulieAnne, at the Waiting Room, a great long-time Rahway beer establishment, gave me the opportunity to discover a new beer on tap.  Like my Beer Mentor, the PubScout, I’m always looking for the next new, good beer.  So when JulieAnne asked, “What is this Batch 19 stuff about?” I needed to investigate!  I asked the manager of the Waiting Room, Kevin Avallone, and he launched into a most concise history of the beer.

Two years ago Kevin ventured out to the Coors Brewery in Colorado for vacation and to sample, what else, BEER!  After doing his due diligence, he discovered Batch 19.  It turns out that after a major clean up in the basement of the Coors Brewery, employees found a great old recipe for a pre-prohibition lager.  Upon uncovering such a great find, the brewery decided to produce and serve it exclusively to patrons on the tour.  
Batch 19 offers a lovely 5.5% abv and its wonderful deep golden brown hue makes it a wonderful lager that is smooth and well balanced.  It starts crisp on the tongue and ends smooth.  There is a light hoppiness all around with a clean finish.  This beer flavor will definitely not compete with your bar food, especially the great wings at the Waiting Room. 

Now here is the greatest part of all.  According to Kevin, the Coors Brewery has selected very few locations nationwide to serve this wonder lager.  So if by chance you fancy great bar food and an opportunity to have a great pre-prohibition beer…I suggest you get on your horse and come to the Waiting Room in Rahway. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A tasty "Lawnmower" Beer for your porch

After learning of my connections to beer, the seniors I taught in high school would invariably ask me, “What’s your favorite beer?”
My response was always the same: “Whatever I’m drinking at the moment.” Of course, I had to disabuse them of the notion that the stuff they typically inhaled via a funnel strapped to their head counted—in my book, at least—as beer, and the funnel was certainly not the best way to enjoy it anyway.
They were fascinated to learn that beer actually came in a wide array of styles, for consumption with virtually any food, for a person in any mood and for me, at least, depended heavily on things like the seasons and seasonal styles. Whether or not I made an impact, I don’t know, because many of my former students tout their love of beers like Coors Light and Corona. 
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. As I’ve always maintained, you should drink what you enjoy, and do it responsibly.
That said, I’m going to sing the praises of a relatively new beer from Sam Adams, made expressly for the summer season, though I view it as a reward for mowing the lawn and doing other hot, sweaty yard work.
It’s called “Porch Rocker,” and it’s done in the German Radler style. A Radler is a mixture of lager and German lemonade, supposedly born during some long ago German bike race by a publican who did not have enough lager to slake the thirsts of a tour of bicyclists. He therefore added lemon soda to the mixture, doubled his capacity, satisfied the bicyclists—and gave birth to the Radler style. Radler means “cyclist” in German.
There is no question that Porch Rocker is a summer beer, a Helles, actually—light, crispy, tart then sweet with a most interesting finish that sees the lemon, hops and malt dance together.
I have read many reviews about this beer, and while many pan it as too sweet, I did not think that to be the case. Unlike some reviewers, I tasted no saccharine qualities at all, but I did taste the marriage of lemons, hops and malt. I found it to be very different, refreshing and tasty, a beer which would probably please many younger drinkers of both sexes as not being too overbearing or--God forbid--DARK. It would pair exceptionally with a salad, lighter cheeses and seafood—especially calamari.
Granted, it’s not what you’d call a “session beer” and you certainly wouldn’t want to finish a sixer all by yourself. Three might even be too much, but one or two cold ones after some hot yard work can actually make you look forward to getting that task done quickly.
Porch Rocker is lemony, all right, but it’s also a real beer. It is NOT Mike’s Hard, Bud Lime or Corona. It is a classic twist on a classic Helles, proving once again that when Jim Koch’s brewers are working, the product is going to be on-style.
Do yourself a favor and pick some up. Sit out on your porch or stoop—or even poolside-- on a hot summer afternoon or evening and enjoy. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. As always, let me know.
The PubScout