Good pubs, Good Beer, Good People

Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Ends, 2013 Begins...So What?

There was a time in The PubScout's youthful life when he would go out at 10 PM to begin a night of revelry. Now, he's "out"--as in cold-- at 10 PM. As this year wound down, I asked myself how I would like to see its last daylight hours, since I very likely would not see the dark hours that always lead to a lit ball dropping in Times Square. Or lit people doing the same thing.

So I gathered up two of my three sons and a couple of buddies, Mike and Harvey, and made haste to The Tilted Kilt in East Brunswick for an afternoon session of burgers, brews and good, old-fashioned guy bonding.

The Kilt is a good place to do this, and I confess that although it's my fourth visit, I still find the pub--and the servers who staff it-- welcoming and genuine. That they are good looking and stunningly attired doesn't hurt. But their dress is not the reason I like it there. Men can be very temporal creatures. After all, I subscribed to the old Playboy magazine, but I only read it for the pictures.

We enjoyed hearty fare, cockle-warming brews, lots of laughs and the attention of that special breed of feminine pulchritude found in the Kilt Girls. As it was NYE afternoon, the pub wasn't seriously crowded, as it was Saturday when Subscout Gonzo paid a visit. Gonz allowed that even if someone lost their balance that night because of excessive consumption, they could not have fallen to the floor because there was no room to fall.
So we had the benefit of wholesome guy-bonding and a plethora of Kilt girls to dazzle with our increasingly witty repartee.

And to take pictures with.

Nobody got tanked, out of hand, loud, sloppy or rude to the Kilt gals. It was simply an afternoon of good cheer and good beer in a good pub with good people. Leaving the pub at 4 PM after three hours of convivial interaction, it dawned on me that we, at least, didn't require a special holiday, a clock or a descending disco-ball to tell us when to have a good time or to celebrate.
That opportunity comes to us all every day, as long as we have family and friends who want to share in the good times.

The PubScout takes this opportunity to wish you all such good fortune and good health.
Not just in 2013, but in every year on every day.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Is Gonzo a Sumerian?

Joe (L.), Gonzo (R.)

As the theme of this blog indicates, The PubScout gives great credit to the Sumerians, who invented both writing AND beer. So when one of my trusted Subscouts, already seasoned in the latter, wants to try his hand at the former, am I not obligated to showcase his growing passion for writing?


But I will for a few reasons. First, Gonzo is a good, trusted friend. Second he's a wrestling guy. Third, he loves good beer. And fourth, he's developing his writing to discuss that good beer. 

Even though the PubScout may be blissfully ignorant of some of his "urban references," here's Gonzo's take on our recent visit to the Rail House Pub in Rahway. Give the guy some encouragement, and spread the word that you can read his stuff here. 

And no, I did not pay him (much) for the comment about the Belgian Monks...

Lucky Day, Lucky Day--by John "Gonzo" Gonzalez

It’s not often a man can count himself lucky especially in this day and age….but to be able say it twice…and in one day…Whoo-ie! But it is true. Surviving the Mayan catastrophe is no small feat and to come out unscathed is a true blessing. Good thing the Mayans held their beverages to a higher standard than their chronometers.

  My second dance with lady luck brings me to the main point. I am blessed with a great friend in Tony Dalmau (Big Tony D) – not only is he a brother from another, he’s a terrific wrestling coach, and a huge fan of BEER. So when he told me of this new place opening in Rahway I had to go see it. 

The Rail House Restaurant is conveniently located in Rahway’s downtown Arts District across from New Jersey Transit’s North Jersey Coast and North East Corridor train line. Excellent product placement if you ask me. It is an interesting establishment to say the least. The Rail House consists of two buildings: the restaurant and the pub. Both are exquisitely decorated. The former has a cozy lived-in feel, perfect for a romantic dinner and the latter has the exposed brick and sufficient dark wood that reminds you that you are in a pub without the showy fancy fare of a chain eatery.  In order to make the trip official, I enlisted the help of the PubScout, Kurt Epps. Yeah, he’s the guy the Dos Equis spokesman once said, “the Belgian Monks pray to him for their brewing guidance!” 

Friday night fresh off our win against the Apocalypse, Kurt and I headed straight for the Rail House and sat with its front man, manager Allan Maslo. The discussion covered the many avenues new bars travel; beer selections from local craft brewers, menu pairings, and decor. Somewhere between local bands and future events my mind started to wander.  I examined every inch of the bar, wall to wall exposed brick, the floor to ceiling glass wall that allows you to play voyeur to the commuters schlepping home, and the sizable selection of brews on tap. 

That’s right, I’ve abandoned the initial mission to recon this place for the masses.  I went native, straight off the reservation. I was sizing this place up to see if it had the potential to become Gonzo’s new watering hole. I peered over my shoulder to the rear of the Rail House and I noticed plenty of foot traffic. As I sauntered over and investigated, I found an amazing little open-air back patio complete with a cozy fire pit and seating for all my friends. There is also a twenty foot bar that can accommodate sixteen patrons, can you say “Beer Garden?” Allan can, and he said you can too this Spring. 

The patio had the mystique of a Hoboken-esque bar/lounge. Simple hanging lights adorned the entire perimeter which is lined by the brick facades of the surrounding buildings. Yes, very cool indeed. Before I returned to the bar, I noticed the quick step hustle and bustle of the wait staff. They were shuffling appetizers and entrees between the home base Rail House restaurant and the pub. 
Something told me it was time to eat. 

It has been said, “the quickest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” and with the selections and the prices, the Rail House had me falling head over heels. With ten burger options ranging from $5.95 to $9.95 and all cooked to perfection and piled high with choices like sirloin steak, pulled pork, chili, fried plantains, and pork rinds. Yes, pork rinds. The piece de resistance, toasted pretzel bread bun, fantastic!

Now with the burger, beer had to follow and I selected Lagunitas IPA. Great choice, a real no brainer, and not because of the quality but because of the price. Maslo has really done his research and he understands his clientele, by providing great beers and a gourmet menu at reasonable prices the Rail House is sure to pack them in. He has prepared for the commuters, the college students, the local music fans, and the beer aficionados; he is confident that patrons can come in with $20 in their pocket, enjoy a great appetizer, a fine beer or two, and leave with change in their pocket. DONE! 

Regardless of the occasion, I am confident your experience will be thoroughly fulfilling.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Next Beer Stop: Rahway, NJ?

Rail House Pub Bartender Rachel

Ever since JJ Bittings opened a brewpub hard by the NJ Transit tracks in Woodbridge in 1997, The PubScout has been a fan. Not only a fan of the place, but of the ever-present railroad theme, whether it’s the little locomotive chugging along the elevated track inside or its real big brother thundering by at regular intervals outside.
So when SubScout Gonzo (John Gonzalez) alerted me to a new—as in one week old-- rail side pub with a large variety of beers just up the North Jersey Coast line in Rahway, I was intrigued enough to pay a visit to the fledgling operation. Mass transit near good beer can be a blessing.

Officially called the Rail House pub, it’s adjacent to the Rail House restaurant at 1449 Irving St., a cozy, upscale eatery.  At first, though, I drove right past it, as there is no outside signage indicating that it’s there—unless you count the neon Yard’s Brewing sign that hangs in the window (which usually gets my attention). Hanging a quick U-turn, I found a spot right in front on Friday night.

Call me old school ( or, if you prefer, just call me old ), but pubs should have interiors of either
1: old wood, wattle and daub (like Krogh’s in Sparta) or
2: old brick.
The Rail House pub is in the latter category. So far, so good. 

Joe (L.) and Allan (R.)

A quick look at the taps also yielded favorable results, so I moved down the bar to introduce myself to Manager Allan Maslo. Maslo is a savvy guy and totally committed to the craft beer revolution. Fortunately for the little guy, especially those who use the train to get to and from NYC, he’s also committed to common sense pricing and value. He joined the Rail House brass in September of 2011, and has since put so much effort into the pub side of the business that many patrons refer to the place as “Allan’s pub.” He is quick to dismiss that, however, and gives all the credit to his owner Larry Fishman, a former owner  of Asbury Park’s Stone Pony. Supposedly, some Jersey rocker got his start there.
Allan shared his beer menu with me and there are at least 49 beers of great variety and style in both bottles and on draft. Lagunitas, Flying Dog, Dogfish Head, Rogue, Chimay, Yard’s, Troeg’s, 21st Amendment, Oskar Blues and many others are available.  The pub offers two sizes of each—12 oz. or 16.oz—with a concomitant variation in price. Pub regular Joe Ferris, himself a connoisseur of fine beer, has volunteered as a semi-consultant to Maslo as Allan earns his beer bones. If the beer menu in my hand is any indication, Joe knows whereof he speaks. Still, The PubScout offers his own extensive knowledge to assist in the learning process—though my services require a small fee of a beer every now and then.

Maslo knows, too, that not everyone getting off the train has either the time, the inclination or the cash to pony up big bucks for a gourmet meal, so his menu is designed to allow the traveler –as well as the visitor—to order a couple of good brews and a huge, fresh, delicious burger (also in many variations) and fries  for under $20 with some change left over. It seems to be a winning plan. I spoke to Patty, dining with her recent college grad daughter Kelsey, had been in three times already, and the place is barely eight days old.

Gonzo and I happened to be visiting during an “End of the World” party, and there were six—count ‘em—six different bands none of which I ( a fan of Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Cab Calloway, Artie Shaw Woody Herman and others)  had ever heard of performing for the youngish (25-40) crowd. That target demographic is an admitted part of Maslo’s master plan. Maslo said, however, that with its Stone Pony roots, old school rock from Elvis to Pink Floyd is also standard fare. I think I’ve heard of those guys.

Tory and The PubScout
The Rail House Pub is not a very big place, but neither is it cramped, though it could be if the attempt to make Rahway a craft beer mecca catches on. That could happen, but it definitely needs a web presence, even one attached to its big brother at The Rail House Restaurant. As it’s only a week old, we’ll give them time to establish themselves and work out the necessaries of marketing that will aid the process, as well as the kinks that will retard it. As aforementioned, a BIG sign outside will go a long way toward that end, as will some interesting railroad-type wall hangings to give the place some authentic, romantic  iron horse character.

Let’s face it: a “Cheers”  it isn’t. Not yet, anyway.
But if Maslo and Company play their cards right, it very well could be. And Rahway could be more than just another stop on the North Jersey Coast Line.

More pics here...

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Year-Old Imperial Stout at Uno's Worth a Trip

I stopped by Uno's in Metuchen today for a quick lunch. When I asked Brewer Chris Percello what he had on tap, he initially said "Scotch Ale," which would have been fine with me.

Then he added, almost as an afterthought, "I also have a keg of one year-old Imperial Stout, if you're interested." I allowed that I was.

And if you're a stout lover, you should be, too. Keep in mind that at 9%, it packs a serious punch, so be sure to eat something with it, as I did. (The breadstick was very tasty, too.)

The stout, however, was exceptional. Imperial Stout Lovers, I'd suggest getting over to Uno's before that keg kicks, or you'll be kicking yourself.

The PubScout

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Good Times at The Tilted Kilt

The Tilted Kilt in BrunswickSquare Mall in East Brunswick is a great pub for a variety of reasons. Outstanding food at reasonable prices, a great atmosphere and a  decent, (though not yet stellar)  beer selection. But lots of pubs can offer that.

What they can’t offer is Tilted Kilt gals, a bevy of beautiful, plaid-clad and very friendly lassies whose main purpose seems to make the clientele happy. What struck The PubScout about these women on his most recent Friday night visit was that their friendliness was genuine--neither contrived nor staged for effect. From our exceptional server Samantha to EVERY single TK girl who passed by our table, they all were willing to stop, chat and smile—despite being in the midst of bustling action. And “bustling” is a not a word chosen lightly, by either this writer nor the costume designer of the TK girls, as cleavage seems to be a high priority. Some have called the Tilted Kilt an Irish Hooters, and I say, “Fair enough.” I also say, “So?” And then I say, “Slainte!”

Pretty faces and cleavage, however, do not an efficient server make. Attentiveness, friendliness and getting the orders right do that, and these gals have that part down to a “T.” Their outgoing attitudes did not seem forced or fake in the least, and every one I spoke with said that they really enjoyed working in the place. One of the managers, a brunette stunner named Megan, was equally friendly. Not all managers are that way. In fact, some can be very stand-offish. But Megan was not.  That says the friendly attitude is imbued from the top down.

My table of Subscouts decided that Megan should be in a kilt, too, but when I informed her of their wishes, the affable lass allowed that she already had done that stint, and was now promoted. I’m guessing that formula produces not only good business for the place but healthy tips for the lasses, too, which is as it should be. To be a draw, a pub has to make the customer feel good about being there. The Tilted Kilt’s food and ambience do the former, and the TK gals handle the latter.

I took a crew of potential Subscouts there for a follow-up visit, just to see if their assesments matched my own.  To a man, they were all impressed and vowed to return. One, LS, said, “What a great place. Good food, great atmosphere, and cold beer. A great place to spend time with friends. Can't wait to go back!”  
And with 31 TV screens, something’s bound to arrest your attention. Another, ML, said, “It’s a happening place…always something to look at—besides the TV’s.” I think I caught his drift. Another, JQ upon entering and being greeted by the TK gals at the front desk, stopped dead in his tracks and loudly proclaimed the name of the holy fellow whose birthday we’ll celebrate on December 25. JQ was probably just in the Christmas spirit…

Now the big question: is this a guys only place? Absolutely not. On the night of our visit, there were plenty of distaff customers in attendance. Some, of course, may have been lured by the male servers in kilts, but I’m betting more were there because the Tilted Kilt is just a fun place to be. Is it a place for a quiet, romantic interlude, where perhaps a man might pop the question to his prospective bride? No.
But if it’s good food, great service and great pub-type atmosphere you’re looking for, the Tilted Kilt is your place.
Oh, and friendly eye candy doesn’t hurt either.

Cheers! The PubScout

Note: How does one become a Subscout? Simple. Buy The PubScout a beer!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Balls, Beer--and Belma?

The Pre-Game Crew warms up...

The pluck, skill and general stick-to-itiveness of Brewer Chris Percello were all on display at last night’s Uno’s December beer dinner. Percello, who’s doin’ some fine brewin’ at the Metuchen site, took over the reins knowing what he wanted to do and where he wanted to go. And one of the places he wanted to go was home—that is, to keep a fifteen-year beer dinner tradition alive.

If that means he has to come up with the recipes himself, so be it. If that means he has to bring in fine commercial brewers—like Kane—to share the stage as he did last night, so be it. If that means he orders his fiancĂ©e Natalie to churn a creative ice cream for days while violating all sorts of child labor laws, so be it. And aided by a willing staff, Chris pulled off another winner, putting his signature on the Uno’s beer dinners with a solid exclamation point. He even added a few new wrinkles— a specially brewed IPA to accompany the Cheese Course and party favors for everyone--not just trivia winners—to take home.

A bit about that IPA first. The standard Ike’s has always been a PubScout favorite, but Chris decided to experiment with Belma hops, a relatively new hop, and offered it alongside his Station House Red for the Cheese course. Yielding all sorts of flavor notes, the Special IPA, served directly from a keg, drew raves from regulars and newbies alike.

And the raves just kept on coming with the second course. Officially listed as  Mushroom and Mozzarella Arancini Paired with Driftline Oatmeal Brown Ale, the dish somehow (probably thanks to Lenny) acquired the name Chris’s Balls, since Percello made the risotto mixture and actually shaped the globes. Whatever they were called, The PubScout admits to having found them delightful, and the pairing with Kane’s Driftline was a winning combination. I could make a meal out of that pairing, though I would admittedly, need more than just the standard number of balls that came with the package, and my Driftline portion would have to be longer.

Mike Kane was in attendance, along with his very knowledgeable sales guy, Glenn Lewis; and both gave excellent descriptions of the beers they brought from their brewery in Ocean, NJ. All of their fine beers, besides being unfiltered, refer in some way to the ocean.  “Single Fin” (an old-school surfboard) accompanied the salad course in a fine manner, but for The PubScout’s money, the pairing of Chris’s Spicy Stewed Beef with Cheddar Cheese Grits accompanied by Kane’s Head High IPA was the combo that really scored. The PubScout is not a fan of overly spicy foods, but Chris’s beef dish just walked up to the border without crossing it, and the Head High served as a perfect complement.

If Uno’s dinners are known for anything, it is the dessert pairing. No flowery description necessary here. Chris’s Scotch Ale (less “chewy” than in the past, but exceptionally smooth) and ice cream made with it, topped by a large triangular fudge brownie had many attendees sitting back and loosening their respective belts. They would have to eat their special party favor chocolate covered pretzels on the way home if there was room at their “inn.” 

Or today if there was not.
The PubScout was definitely in the latter category. 


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Wir trinken noch mehr gute Bier?

Simply translated, the title above asks, "We're drinking more good beer?" And the answer to that question is a definite "I don't know." But we seem to be drinking less of some beers. Jim Koch, L. of Sam Adams fame, shared his beer theory with MSU's Kyle Stuber recently at Foley's Bar in NYC: "All beer is good; some beer is better." Apparently, some beer is just so-so.

My pal Al sent me this link about the "Nine beers Americans no longer drink," and it's quite interesting. Why the authors, who provide sales data, stopped at nine is open to question, but the nine they cite certainly have the stats (some cynics might add, the rep) to deserve admission to this, um, elite corps.
Starting with Number 9, the list ascends to the Number 1 beer that has lost the most market share. The PubScout will not spoil the fun by sharing that data here. It's only a click away, and it probably helps the stats of the authors.

Nor does The PubScout cast aspersions on those who may find their favorite brew on this list.  My mission is not to tell you what you should be drinking, but to apprise you of what--and where-- you could be drinking. Anyway, check out the link above for the info, and have some fun learning about which states in the US drink the most beer. You might be surprised to learn which state is Number 1, or that Jersey doesn't even make the cut, or that beer consumption is actually down in the US.

But if we're drinking better beer, it's a perfect example of the theory that "Less is More."

Cheers! The PubScout

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Two PubScout Faves Get Some Love!

Artisan's, One of the PubScout's favorite pubs in the world--especially around Oktoberfest time--gets a nice shout out from Stem and Stein Magazine. But, wait! The headline says TWO PubScout faves. Click the Stem and Stein link above and go directly to Pages 10, 11 and 12 to see the other.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Quick Hit--Bittings Winter Cockle Warmer

Made a stop at JJ Bitting's in Woodbridge last night after checking out the fabulous toy train display in the nearby Barron Arts Center. Ordered up a Winter Warmer from the comely barlass, and came away very pleasantly surprised. Well-balanced, with notable, but not cloying, spice notes, a wonderfully smooth mouthfeel and a delicious flavor, it had a distinct Old Fezziwig character. And, as it was Happy Hour, it was only $2.50. The beer will warm your cockles--kilt-covered or not-- at any price, however. Kudos to Brewer Sheehan for an excellent job!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Uno's Percello Sets Next Beer Dinner

Chris Percello and the Uno's Gang have established the date for the next Beer Dinner. The menu is below. They are starting to sell tickets for that beer dinner, set  for Monday December 10th beginning at 6:30.  Chris will collaborate with  KaneBrewing Company, (Hint: Natalie's Scotch Ale ice cream alone is enough to make a reservation.)  Tickets will be $50 dollars, available at the bar.

Uno Chicago Grill and Brewery Presents
Winter Beer Dinner
Featuring Kane Brewing Company
Monday December 10th 2012
6:30 PM

First Course

Assorted Cheese Platter Paired with Stationhouse Red Ale

Second Course

Mushroom and Mozzarella Arancini Paired with Driftline Oatmeal Brown Ale

Third Course

Mesclun mixed salad with Apples, Figs, Gorgonzola topped with Balsamic Vinagrette paired with Kane Single Fin Belgian Blonde

Fourth Course

 Spicy stewed beef with Cheddar cheese grits served with Head High IPA

Fifth Course

Scotch Ale Ice Cream served with Uno’s Scotch Ale.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

"Spiritus" of the Holiday Season

Three things to consider, today, class:
1.The Latin word for "breath" is "spiritus."
2. People, being human, drink (more?) alcohol during the Holidays.
3. The combination of these two yields the phrase "Spirit of the Holidays."
Without waxing too philosophical about the interconnectivity of the soul, the breath and the spirit, the ancients (and not-so-ancients) would often pass a mirror under the nose of a suspected dead person to see if his "spirit" had truly left him. If he did not fog the mirror with his exhaled breath, he was considered "gone." CPR had not yet been invented; hence he was consigned to the poetically-named "narrow house." A coffin.

It appears the more things change, the more they stay the same, as modern-day law enforcement relies on a breath test to determine whether a person--especially a driver--is intoxicated. Like it or not, the instrumentation is pretty sophisticated--and rarely in error. While failing that test won't send you to a narrow house, it could well send you to the "big house."

What to do? What to do?

Simple. Give yourself a breath test before you hit the road to learn whether you are "in the clear" or "in the bag." On the lower right side of this column is a link entitled "Home Breathalyzer Test." It will take you to the same page as the link before this sentence. Clicking that link will take you to a site where you can match technology with 5-0. In fact the first link on that page will take you to a product I am currently testing via two subjects who are very likely candidates for developing ticket-worthy BAC levels--two NJ college men. They will, of course, remain anonymous for the duration of the field test of the two devices I have given them, but they have promised to report on the efficacy of the devices. I, in turn, will report their findings to you; but for $22, the device, if it works as advertised, is a steal. Clearly, its purpose is noble--to alert you as to what your BAC content is on a pocket-sized instrument that local law enforcement will likely employ if they suspect you of driving while impaired--and to hopefully prevent you from making a stupid choice to drive if it is higher than allowed.

Tragic deaths due to drunk driving always hurt.
But they seem to hurt more during "The Holidays."

Check out the links, then check back here in late December for the report on those devices by my field testers.

And let me be among the first to say, "Merry Christmas!"

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Long-Awaited Touch of Class...

The new PubScout business card unveiled, front and back...let me know what you think!

Friday, November 16, 2012

No Hatchet Needed at the Mohawk House

My buddy Steve Scro at the Mohawk House in Sparta, NJ appears to have a dazzling array of holiday beers waiting for you--and an ambitious menu to accompany them. I always enjoy his place when I visit, as you won't find a friendlier place anywhere. If you're in the area, stop in and enjoy--and tell 'em the PubScout sent you!


Local Farm Fresh Turkeys Served TODAY Through Sunday November 25th!!!



Baked Granny Smith Apple Filled With Whipped Sweet Potatoes, Riesling Pear Brioche Stuffing, Sweet Corn Pudding, Classic Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans Amandine, Cranberry Sauce, Sly Fox Christmas Ale Brown Gravy

Grilled Petit Black Angus Filet Mignon & Maine Lobster Tail & Claws, Whipped Potatoes, Asparagus, Lemon Hollandaise

Baby Carrots, Celeriac, Asparagus, Roasted Pumpkin, Puff Pastry Cap

Butternut Squash Risotto, Pomegranate Glaze

Bacon Potato Leek Pancake, Sauteed Kale, Chanterelle Mushrooms, White Wine Demi

Sweet Potato Crab Hash, Shaved Zucchini, Cranberry Beurre Blanc

Roasted Whipped Sweet Potatoes, Baby Brussel Sprouts, Pumpkin Beer Battered Fried Apples, Brown Butter Sage

Apricot Red & Black Quinoa, Haricots Verts Amandine, Parsnip Chips, Melted Blackberry Brandy Sauce

Creamy Pumpkin Polenta, Orange-Cinnamon & Cabernet Red Cabbage




Choose From 20 Different Christmas Brews!!

• Troeg's Mad Elf Holiday Ale 
• Goose Island Christmas Ale
• St. Bernardus Christmas Ale 
• Sam Adams Merry Mischief Gingerbread Stout 
• Mikkeller Santa's Little Helper 2012 
• Ramstein Winter Wheat 
• Mikkeller From/To/Via 
• Port Santa's Little Helper
• Southern Tier 2Xmas 
• Dupont Avec Les Bons Voex (Best Wishes)
• Anchor Christmas Ale 
• Sly Fox Christmas Ale 
• N'ice Chouffe 
• Lagunitas Brown Shugga' 
• Delirium Noel
• Anderson Valley Winter Solstice 
• Southern Tier Old Man Winter 
• Sierra Nevada Celebration 
• Corsendonk Christmas Ale


I Don't Want To Work. I Just Want To Bang On The Drum All Day!

"SUPERNOVA" ~ Super-Charged & Ready to Rock!! These Guys Will Leave You Wanting More!!

"OVERBOARD" ~ Let Flipper & The Overboard Band Entertain You!!

We're Crazy For Thanksgiving ~ It's Too Awesome To Enjoy For Just 1 Day!
From Your Friends at Mohawk House,
A Very Hearty "Thank You" To Our Loyal Patrons!
It's Our Honor & Pleasure To Serve You!
(973) 729-6464 ~

Monday, November 12, 2012

Behind the Tilted Kilt: Those Sacral Dimples Ain't Goin' Nowhere

Three young Indian entrepreneurs looked at the stretch of Rt. 18 from Rt.1 south to Rt. 9 and discovered an interesting logistical fact: There were only two places which could offer serious competition to a new pub/eatery. One was Hooters (and we all know what that indicates) and the other was a place called Gusto. So Mihir Kothari (L.), Tito Shah (C.), Vishnu Seetharaman (R.) and Chicago-based Mansi Chaudhari decided to plunk down The Tilted Kilt, one of 60 now in operation in the US, in the Brunswick Square Mall. There is another Jersey Kilt up in upscale Hoboken, a bustling burg with no shortage of beer bars.

It would not be unfair to say that, in some respects at least, The Tilted Kilt and Hooters play on the same field, offering scantily clad female servers whose main job after serving is to offer affable, friendly eye candy to the male clientele, though The Kilt goes one better and offers kilt-clad male servers for the distaff patrons. No contest there, if you ask me, but keeping the fair sex happy is vitally important.
According to Mihir, who, with his partners went west to company HQ in Tempe, Arizona, the two most vital components of a successful pub are its food and its entertainment, and he does not deny that the plaid kilted lassies are part of the latter. He clearly knows what attracts the male clientele. 
The Kilt establishment also boasts 31 TV’s (as opposed to the 14 at Hooters), and a couple of VERY large Projector Screens, all with a variety of sports to keep the attention of the patrons (when they’re not ogling the staff).

The food is pretty standard pub/sports bar fare, and the Lunch Special I had was a delicious Half-Turkey sandwich on a sub roll accompanied by a bowl of Chicken Noodle Soup. I washed it down with a T-K Lager, a house beer made by Killian’s. Also offered is a beer unique to the East Brunswick pub called TK Cold Ass 33 made by—take a guess—Rolling Rock. One of my neighbors at the bar commented as to the high quality of his Big Arse Burger—which is what they’re called at The Kilt, and the menu offers a nice variety of sides, entrees, pizzas and other mixed drinks. One was called a “Paddy Bomb,” made by taking Three Olives Orange Vodka and Blue Curacao and dropping it into a glass of Red Bull. Go for it if that’s what floats your boat, but The PubScout will stick to good beer, thanks.

The taps, invisible if you sit facing the outside window due to glare, offered a wide range of beers and cider. The PubScout would suggest printing out a simple tap beer list to give to those seated on the sun side, which would obviate the need for the bar-server to turn around and rattle off which are currently on tap. No biggie, though, as there are other things to catch the eye.

My server, Sara (below), a mahogany-haired stunner who’s studying criminal justice, was a delight to chat with—and look at. She and her Mary Jane –wearing cohorts are required to pass a role-play test before hiring which gauges their friendliness level, because in addition to their serving duties, customer relations plays a major role. And with their tasteful, albeit skimpy, kilts helping them to bust out all over, most guys would have no problem sitting and chatting with any of them. Kothari said that those costumes are an integral part of the business mode, so lovers of visible sacral dimples need not fear. Christina’s currently the champion, by the way, but a few return visits might yield other candidates. Just remember: hands off. I spoke to a few of the girls, and without exception, they all “loved” working at The Tilted Kilt.

As mentioned in my earlier column, the owners expect to be able to enclose and heat the outdoor patio area soon, pending municipal approval and the unraveling of red tape. They are aiming to have it done before the Super Bowl, but it’s going to be close. No matter, though. Whenever it’s done, it will add another dimension to the already-pleasant pub ambience.

Interestingly as well, the owners were very warm to the idea of The PubScout hosting beer dinners at The Tilted Kilt once that work is done and Monday Night Football is concluded. Spread the Beer Cheer, I always say.

As for regular old-fashioned pub cheer, there’s plenty of it at The Tilted Kilt, and the owners are all about spreading more. They’ll be hosting a Hurricane Sandy Relief Fundraiser Wednesday which will be broadcast on WDHA 105.5, and—get this—not just a PART of the proceeds will go to Sandy victims. ALL of the money raised will go there—and to help the staff members whose homes and families were negatively impacted by the storm. Perhaps that attitude explains the affinity the staff has for the place.

The PubScout recommends a visit—especially for the Wednesday affair—but really, at any time. The Tilted Kilt follows my precepts of Good Pubs, Good Beer and Good People. More pics here.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Beneath the Tilted Kilt

A cancelled Amtrak train required that I drive the missus to Allentown, PA late Friday so she could keep a commitment to our eldest son. As I got back on I-78, I passed a pub called The Tilted Kilt. Always interested in new pubs, I made a mental note to check it out, perhaps on a future motorcycle ride out PA way. Lo and behold, when I got back to NJ, I learned that there's a Tilted Kilt right here in East Brunswick. So, with the weather a balmy 60+ degrees, I hopped on the Blue Eagle after a three-week weather/power outage hiatus and found the place in the Brunswick Square mall on Rt. 18.

 Packed it was, on a football Sunday afternoon, and bustling it was with very bonnie lassies (like Christina, L.) bedecked in very short plaid skirts, Mary Jane shoes and all scurrying about delivering food and beverage to the the hungry, thirsty, boisterous clientele. Most of those eyes, when not gawking at the lassies, were fixed on one of the many TV's which had various NFL games in progress, including the Giants. And every one of those lassies had rather ample cleavage busting out all over. The server laddies are also required to wear kilts, albeit black ones. But nobody was looking at them.

It's no secret that men like cleavage, and the Tilted Kilt is obviously market-savvy in that area. But cleavage alone does not a gold mine make. Good food, good beer, friendly efficient service and a man-cave type ambience all combine to make the cash registers sing. It's a formula that  worked wonderfully for places like The Brick House Tavern and Tap for two years--until, that is, corporate decided to go "family-friendly" at that fine establishment, with a concomitant drop-off of big-eyed male patrons. Happily, The Tilted Kilt has no plans to alter the original success formula at their place.

A plethora of fine beers, what seems to be very palatable food (according to the two random diners I interviewed), a delightful ambience--with an outdoor seating area that peers into the bar, and eye candy combine to make an enjoyable experience. The layout and business model would seem to project a fine future for yet another Irish-style pub, and I heard talk of plans to enclose and heat the outside seating area in time for the Super Bowl.

As fate would have it, I met kilt-clad, big Mike (Soupy) Campbell (L.), who leads the Middlesex County Fife and Drum Corps at the annual January Jimmy D bash at the Harvest Moon brewpub in New Brunswick. If you've never heard Big Mike's stirring introductions at that event, you haven't lived.

The PubScout's guess is that the Tilted Kilt, open just six weeks, not counting a five-day power outage shutdown, will be a magnet for pub-goers. Cozy, it's not. But Happening, it is. And definitely worth the trip.

And if you wear a kilt the proper way (sans gotchies), they might have a special seat designed for you. (L.)

I'll add to this story after tomorrow, when I complete my interview with the principals. Yes, I'll just have to go back. The weather looks promising for another MC ride, and when you're committed to sound reporting, you do what you have to do.

More pics here.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Rebuilding Hoboken

Just got word that one of The PubScout's favorite places--The Pilsener Haus Biergarten-- is up and running again. And true to the ideals of community, they're going the extra mile for their neighbors. If you're in the area, give the Pilsener Haus folks some support. And if you're not in the area, give them some love, because at times like this, we could all use a little more.

Cheers! And don't forget the victims of Hurricane Sandy!

NJ's Premier Brewmistress Charts a New Course

Gretchen Schmidhausler took Basil T's beers to the top of the craft beer podium while laboring in the brew room of that fine restaurant in Red Bank. Her duties have since been assumed by Mike Sella, who continues the tradition of fine craft beer in Vic Rallo's classy pub. But Gretchen, recently married, has embarked upon a new career. Always one of the most personable and knowledgeable in the beer arena, The PubScout encourages you to check out this new site of hers. Her beer calendar is a must-have for any NJ beer nut (makes a great Christmas present, too!), and you can order it directly from her site. When it comes to beer, she's "been there, done that." 
Ya gotta respect a woman who actually shared a pint with Norm from Cheers. If he tasted her beer, I'm sure Norm did. 
The PubScout wishes Gretchen all the best!

Cheers! And don't forget the victims of Hurricane Sandy!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

No more watery fizz for Bud?

One of the criticisms of many beers in the mainstream--like Bud, Miller, Coors and Corona--has been the lack of real flavor. That may be changing. Of course, Bud and the others have outstanding brewers capable of producing magnificent beer, if only their marketing departments didn't demand the watery fizz that gets big ad bucks. 

But a recent story about a new Bud beer--dubbed Black Crown--may indicate that those bean counters have finally detected a change in the market. Jonathan Berr, author of the linked piece, writes: "Data from the Brewers Association shows that the market share for craft beers has climbed from 3.8% in 2007 to 5.68% in 2011."

And a site called Advertising Age dares to ask the question: Can Higher-Alcohol Beer 'Black Crown' Turn Around Bud? Citing dropping sales, the piece quotes AB InBev CEO Carlos Brito, who suggests that the Bud Light line may have stolen share away from the flagship brand. The PubScout suspects that the increase in Americans' appreciation for flavorful, fresh craft beer may have had just as much to do with those numbers as Bud Light. In any event, the article predicts a Super Bowl ad for Black Crown ( I may get cable TV back by then), and even though the ABV jumps just one percentage point (to 6%), I will sacrifice myself to try it. Then I'll report on my findings.

I'll try to taste it on a Tuesday, so the title of the blog will be either "Black Crown" or "Black Tuesday."

Cheers! And don't forget the victims of Hurricane Sandy!

Monday, November 5, 2012

NY breweries try to weather the storm

I picked up this news from Having enjoyed one of Garrett Oliver's outstanding beers the other night--Sorachi Ace--while playing Scrabble by candlelight, it's good to know his Brooklyn Brewery is relatively unscathed. And after Sandy, that "sunshine in a glass" was most welcome, greatly appreciated and thoroughly enjoyed. Saison lovers of the world...rejoice!


Sunday, October 28, 2012

From my Beer Buddy, Chris DePeppe

Beer lovers,
With the Frankenstorm coming and some potential lost days next week, we are changing the Beers on the Boards event to a single session
from 2-6PM Saturday November 3rd.
The beer lineup and buffet menu will still be awesome but we will make life easier for our brewery friends.
And you have my word that we will not oversell the space
so it will be a relaxed affair with great food just as before.
(FYI:  In 2013 we plan to hold this event only once and that will be in March.)
Please spread the word about the last beerheads craft beer celebration in New Jersey for 2012 and hope to see you there.
Check out more at and send your friends to for tickets.
Thanks again and I appreciate the continued support.
Please feel free to call me if you want table space or names on our guest list and do not hesitate to ask me any questions about this event.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Coming Soon to a Fireside Near You

It's a new offering from an old, familiar face. It's called Guinness Generous Ale, and according to one website: "Guinness brand is taking a page from the craft playbook and producing a holiday beer. Guinness is introducing Guinness Generous Ale, a 5.6 percent alcohol by volume holiday ale that offers the distinct roast of malt Guinness is known for in the style of a more traditional English Ale. The beer will be available in a Guinness Winter Selection Variety Pack, which will hit shelves nationwide around Nov. 1.  The Guinness Winter Selection Variety pack will feature the new Guinness Generous Ale, along with Guinness Black Lager, Guinness Draught and Guinness Foreign Extra Stout." 

5.6% is considerably higher than regular, familiar Guinness Stout, which comes in around 4%. According to the legend, the founders made it that way for a reason. They wanted a beverage that would be nutritious, filling and low in alcohol content--something which describes their flagship beer precisely--in order to wean the working classes away from harder stuff and its concomitant ill effects on society.

Whether or not they would approve of this new winter ale may never be known, and whether the beer drinkers do or not won't be known till All Saints' Day. The PubScout will again sacrifice himself to a sample or three, just to keep you informed.


Saturday, October 20, 2012

Subtle at 65%?

A SIXTY-FIVE % brew? Any takers?  Yowza!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Sisters of the World, Unite!

It took me just one evening to understand why women think men are gross pigs. Attired in a simple apron which depicted an ersatz healthy, buxom, dirndl-clad woman, and wearing a rather stunning brown wig, I was immediately targeted as a sex object. Did these Luddites care what I was saying about beer? Did they pay the least bit of attention to my instructions about how to taste beer? When I came near them for a picture, did these Neanderthals treat me with the respect I deserve?

No. But it was fun for all. I may have been ogled and groped, but I never felt threatened, because the occasion was another well-done beer dinner at Hailey's Harp in Metuchen. The all-in-fun cross-dressing was just another ingredient that added to the atmosphere. A few rounds of Ein Prosits and ziggy-zoggies, some jokes and toasts to the newbies from a group called Metuchen Dining Out made for a very good time. Lots of excellent food prepared by McMoe and Johnny, an outstanding collection of beers and good folks all made for another outstanding evening at the thriving Main Street mainstay.

How people behave at an event like this depends on many things, but one of the most important is the seating arrangement, and Chris Flynn had his back room set up perfectly. It allowed people who knew each other--and people who didn't-- to sit in a proximity that encouraged conversation and interaction. Of course, the "fuel" also helped. But you can tell you have a winner of a dinner when midway through it, you have to strain to get everyone's attention amid the chatter, laughter and the leering at and groping of the host.

McMoe and Johnny once again outdid themselves in the scullery. Many of the thirty attendees left with "doggie boxes" of food, some guys carrying three out the door. The beer was not "take-homeable," but Weihanstephan's Dunkelweiss, Steenbruge Blond, SixPoint Autumnation, Blue Point and Paulaner Oktoberfest and an absolutely kick-ass Goose Island Bourbon County Stout were matched with appropriate dishes. My dining neighbor  Steve and I commented that this year's version of Paulaner Oktoberfest looked and tasted rather lighter than past versions, but since the Blue Point was so good, we stayed with it for the main course of Pork Jager. A sinfully delicious Bavarian Creme dessert (of which McMoe complained about the prep time) went exceptionally well with the Stout.

Chris Flynn apparently has this down to a science. In all, another eventful and fun night was had by all, and just two and a half hours from my entrance as Brunhilda, the sated company was departing. None of the men said goodnight, though. I saw them, but they appeared not to take notice of me. I had removed my wig and apron, you see.

Sisters, you rock!

You can check out the rest of the photos here.

Monday, October 15, 2012

They’re not called “bennies” in NC?

A recent trip with the missus to NC’s Carolina Beach put The PubScout in close proximity to a favorite pub-of-the-past, The Front Street Brewery in Wilmington. I reviewed this pub more than a decade ago, after traveling round trip through the USMC base at Camp LeJeune on a weirdly foggy summer night that had me looking for Rod Serling “at that signpost up ahead.” A follow-up review, sans fog, was long overdue. Two visits in ten years will not qualify me as a “benny,” even by the harsh standards of my beer buddy Paul Mulshine. I would, however, be considered a “tourist,” in the more genteel tradition of the South.

Kevin Kozak, FSB’s brewer for the past six years, was not brewing during the last visit, but, brother, is he brewing now. With a plethora of interesting beers on the menu, and being the beneficiary of some very encouraging state laws, Kozak generates 1300 bbl per year from his ten-barrel system. The former Green Terror (McDaniel-nee-Western Maryland) graduate got his start in brewing cleaning out the tanks of others at places like Cap Cities in Shirlington and Arlington, and made his bones at places like Old Dominion. Originally considering a law career, he gave up parleying for barleying, and he’s never looked back since. “There are days when it’s surely work,” says Kozak, “but there isn’t anything else I’d rather be doing.” The quality of his beers attests to that.

An early riser, he gets to the brewery around 6 AM and begins his duties. Along with Assistant Brewer Christopher McGarvey, the beers that keep Front Street Brewery hopping in both summer and winter, flow regularly. Kevin’s Scottish Ale, a malty 8%, true-to-style classic is by far the best seller—summer and winter. “We’re a summer town for sure,” says Kozak, “and the locals kind of go into hibernation when the visitors [NC’s polite version of Jersey’s “bennies”] are around. But our regulars re-emerge when the tourists leave, and they keep us hopping all winter.” He does concede that January and February are a bit on the slow side sometimes, but overall the pub is doing well.

That may be because Kozak and assistant McGarvey are seizing opportunities to educate more and more folks about the pleasures of beer. McGarvey, a devout Orthodox Christian seminary student, decided to teach his own church congregation how to homebrew. Kozak expanded on the idea and invited other congregations to join in the fun. With a program titled “What Would Jesus Brew?” (He-Brew, The Chosen Beer being taken), the two held sessions on the second floor of this deceptively-large building (which can actually host wedding-type events for 100 people) to a very interested audience. It was a smart move, considering that early colonial settlers usually made a church their first building, and a tavern their second.

As are many brewers, Kozak is also environmentally aware, saving his spent grains for a local farmer who was walking in with his dolly as I was walking out with mine. Speaking of the missus, she raved about Kozak’s Coastal Kolsch, which I considered a major victory in the battle to wean her away from, first, Bud, then Blue Moon. The PubScout enjoyed Kevin’s Oktoberfest—served in its own special mug, for just $10 for fill and mug. I also sampled the Haka Pale (excellent), the Scottish Ale (equally so) and the 9% Baltic Porter aged in bourbon barrels (kick-ass). His beer was fresh, well made and very true-to style, yet some of his beers also ventured into the experimental area, like the American-hopped Belgian Tripel called “Absurdity.” Kozak also does daily brewery tours from 3-5.

 While “Historic Wilmington” has no dearth of eateries and pubs, many I passed on busy Front Street had hawkers on the sidewalk enticing passersby to come in and sample their fare, with one guy dressed as a beer barrel. Front Street Brewery, on the other hand, was passing out those square buzzing lightpads that lets the holder know when a table’s ready. That should tell you something. Though the PubScout did not get a chance to sample FSB’s food on this visit, its reputation surely deserves a return visit.

The pub opens at 11:30 AM, and FSB does not take reservations, so forewarned is forearmed.

Got that, tourists-visitors-bennies?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The More Things Change…

The year was 1968. A lot of serious, crazy stuff was happening in the US. But the college guys I ran with were pretty much oblivious to it, preferring to focus on more important issues.
Like going to Tierney’s Tavern on Valley Rd. in Montclair.

A group of us Montclair State students (of drinking age, of course) would convene regularly at this classic Irish pub to suck down a brew or two, gorge on the delicious cheeseburgers, talk sports, ogle girls and engage in what we considered high philosophical debate. (I once proved that we don’t exist because “now” is too infinitesimal to measure. It’s amazing how smart college students think they are after a few beers.)
But outside of our apartments, Tierney’s was the place that the song from Cheers talked about, where everybody knows your name. Mine was Old Eem.

Fast forward forty-four years. My alma mater has changed considerably since I trod its footpaths. My college changed its name from MSC to MSU and its mascot from a noble, proud and revered American Indian to some bird, a politically correct act for which I have never forgiven it. And the dorms are co-ed! What’s up with that? I got kicked out of mine for wrapping a comely, willing lass up in a rug and transporting her to my boudoir to see my itchings etchings. And now it’s officially approved by the college? Just shows how forward-thinking I was.

The tab to attend is also a tad larger than I remember, too. I know this because two of my progeny are attending MSU as I write; hence I have no money.

Fortunately, some things never change. Like Tierney’s Tavern, or the flag therein which says: Ireland—United—Gaelic—and Free. Things were not much different in Tierney’s in 2012 than they were in 1968. Same buff colored walls done in ersatz wattle and daub, same huge American flag dominating the back wall, same hustle and bustle near the kitchen door, same long hardwood tables and chairs for twelve on either side.

The HD TV’s positioned in key locations around the walls were a far cry from the mounted TV I remember over the bar that had only six channels—and dials on it that you had to actually get up to change. “Clickers” hadn’t been invented yet.

 Also interesting is that Tierney’s offers far better beers than those generally proffered in my heyday (you know which beers I’m talking about)—not that any in my circle gave a damn back then.

TJ, the burly, friendly and welcoming bartender (another thing about Tierney’s that has remained constant) is part of the ancient Tierney clan that has run this iconic pub since 1934. He had 10 taps running, and many of the beers were worthy of a beer geek’s attention, like the Saranac Pale Ale, which was perfectly poured. I asked TJ if I could snap his mug shot, and he said, “Absolutely no problem. The Sopranos shot an episode here in Tierney’s and I was in it, serving beer, of course.”

Four-plus  decades ago, when we’d leave Tierney’s, it was a foregone conclusion that we’d return. Today we did, as brothers of the Gamma Delta Chi “Singing” Fraternity, and although MSU was holding its own Homecoming events on campus, the brothers of Gamma Delta Chi held theirs within the semi-sacred confines of Tierney’s.

Attended by more than twenty brothers from classes as far back as the early sixties, this meetup, organized entirely by “Easy” Don Naylor and MSU’s Joseph Morytko, saw friendships that had lain dormant for more than forty years spring immediately to life when eyes locked. Also springing to life were the stories that accompanied those days, and we laughed just as hard as we did when they actually happened. “Papering” someone’s dorm room, shooting water—and once, incredibly, lighter fluid—under somebody’s door, marching outdoors naked—inexplicably-- whistling the Colonel Bogey March as a police cruiser pulled up—these and more brought us back to the days of a carefree, relatively benign college existence in a world which was still relatively in order and our hair was not only more abundant, it hadn’t turned the color of cotton. Our teeth, like our personalities and lives, were pretty much all our own.

Who would have thought we’d be here at Tierney’s Tavern almost five decades later sharing pictures of our children and grandchildren? Not us. We couldn’t envision parenthood, much less grandparenthood. And definitely not geezerhood. But thanks to “Easy” Don who printed out the words in VERY BIG LETTERS for us, we belted out the good old fraternity drinking songs with a vigor that prompted the non-brothers in the bar to applaud quite loudly when we were finished. That it might have been because we were finished didn’t register with us.

Still, for four hours in the friendly confines of Tierney’s we bonded (again), cracked jokes, told stories, drank and ate freely—just as we did when the term “back in the day” wasn’t even a legitimate term. We never realized that those days would be our heydays, and that someday we would willingly—and damned accurately--recount them to our fraternity brothers, re-living them as though they had just happened.

Forty-four years is a long time, and many things changed for all of us. Some changes were unpleasant, like losing brothers who were far too young; and others were life-changing in a positive way. What did not change—and likely never will-- was the spirit of camaraderie we shared as college students, our senses of humor and the lasting friendships we made.

One other thing didn’t change. Tierney’s.
 And we wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

You can check out the pics here.