Good pubs, Good Beer, Good People

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.

Big Sam’s (VA Beach) Redux

Back in April 0f 2010, I discovered a seafood/raw bar gem in Virginia Beach misnamed Big Sam’s. It’s misnamed because it’s anything but big, though its owner sure is. Back then, I wrote:

                “Stepping into the place did nothing to dispel my original assessment. Four foot flames licked out from a galley on the right as two cooks dodged the fiery tongues and did their best to manage the meals. A quick look about as the waitress led us to our corner table revealed that Big Sam’s was anything but. Still, it sat right on the water of the marina and the menu looked about as down home as you could get. The more I looked about, the more I felt a baseball-hatted George Clooney and his fishing crew from the ill-fated Andrea Gale might be having some beers at the next table. It wasn’t the fanciest of places, for sure. The best places rarely are fancy. But there was a definite charm about it that made it feel like a haven from life’s storms.

Finding myself back in VB after a vacation in NC, I knew I had to bring the missus to Sam’s. An October Thursday night saw a ten-minute wait, so you can imagine the craziness that, Brooke, our waitress, said the summer season brings.

Big Sam himself ambled over to our table and we made our introductions. Sam allowed that when he first started the business, he was enamoured of craft beers, but eventually got away from it “a little bit.” Apparently, his regulars appreciated good beer more than he anticipated, and slowly but surely he re-introduced the good stuff. I had a  Pumpkin Ale from Alewerks  that was simply outstanding (rated a 94 by BA), and it went perfectly with Sam’s signature Hatteras Clam Chowder. Of that broth, I wrote in 2010:
,”…quite possibly the best chowder of any variety I have ever had anywhere. Clear broth, chock full of delectable, tender clams and peppery to the palate, it might be worth a six-hour return trip just for that combo.”
I was happy to find that the soup is just as good as it always was, and its intricate, yet hearty, flavors worked to bring out the spices in the pumpkin ale. Brooke brought out a platter of Buffalo Shrimp, so I had another Pumpkin Ale, and it, too matched up perfectly. Big Sam does all the beer ordering, and he’s very comfortably back in the groove. With a very decent standard beer list, Big Sam also offers excellent selections on a rotating basis. When he bought the business, his goal was to open a friendly place where folks could get a good meal, good service, good conversation and a cold beer. He now is actively replacing the adjective “cold”  with “good.”

But Sam’s doesn’t pack them in just because of his beer selection. His food is the attraction, and it should be. It’s well prepared (by a trained culinary school chef), served by pleasant, efficient staff and reasonably priced. The missus loved her Shrimp Tacos, though they were accompanied by a souped-up Bloody Mary and not a beer.

Don’t let the Tiki gods out front or inside intimidate you. They’re relics from his surfer days and his marriage to his wife Dawn in Bora Bora. They are welcoming you to a good time, good food and good beer in a neat place you should not miss if you’re in Virginia Beach. Even if you have to wait awhile.

Cheers! The PubScout

Friday, October 5, 2012

"Beer Nuts" term takes on new meaning...

Picked up this little tidbit from CNBC US Business Edition:

"3. No Bull — Denver Brewery Makes Ballsy Beer: It takes a lot of guts to turn an April Fool’s joke into reality. In the case of Denver’s Wynkoop Brewery, it takes a lot of balls. Denver’s oldest brew pub and craft brewery is releasing Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout, which as the name implies is made with "Rocky Mountain Oysters" aka bull testicles. The beer is described as a “special ultra-limited release” and will be available at the brewpub and at the Great American Beer festival which kicks off next week. According to Wynkoop’s Marty Jones, the beer is 7 percent alcohol by volume and 3 BPB “balls per barrel.” The beer was originally announced on April 1 of this year as a joke, but after consumers kept asking for a taste, it has become a reality six months later."

Of course, actually acquiring the raw materials can be problematic...but beer nuts ( pun intended) will go to great lengths for their beer. Just how much they are willing to sacrifice remains to be seen.

Now go have a ball.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Good Beers, Good Cause this Saturday

Big doings this Saturday at Uno's on Rt. 1 near Menlo Park to help get you in the Oktoberfest mood!

As he has since he took over brewing duties, Chris Percello is once again bringing some very solid cask ales to the brewpub. What's more, he's tying the event into a fundraiser for one of my favorite causes--the James D'heron Memorial Foundation. A portion of all proceeds will go to Jimmy D's foundation, which actively supports the Art Luf Burn Camp for Children.
Chris's lineup of beers should be enough to pack the joint. Eight stellar brews are in the lineup, and don't forget to snag a pint of
Chris's excellent Oktoberfest on tap.

  • His NJCB Bock Beer and Sterling-hopped 32 Inning Ale will be available, and his guest brewer casks are outstanding.
  • Carton Brewing will bring their Pumpkin Cream Ale (9%) and their Brunch Dinner Grub Country Ale (6%).
  • Another Jersey brewer, Kane, will chime in with Driftline Oatmeal Brown Ale, a 5.8% brew conditioned with maple syrup and Bourbon soaked oak chips.
  • Flying Fish offers its Redfish (7%) and Basil T's (that's former Uno's brewer Mike Sella) is sending its 5.5% Pumpkin Ale.
  • Der Brewmeister himself, Dave Hoffman will have his gold standard Oktoberfest on the hand pump as well.
With that kind of lineup and a very worthy cause to boot, wend your way to Uno's beginning at Noon on Saturday, October 6. Be sure to bring the form that will designate your intent to have up to 20% of your tab donated to the cause.

Ein Prosit!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


Got this from my Beer-Buddy Chris DePeppe regarding the upcoming Shark River Beer Fest!

NEPTUNE, NJ.  October 2, 2012 – The brand new Shark River Beer Fest will be held Saturday, October 20 at Sunsets Waterfront in Neptune and will showcase over thirty craft breweries and more than fifty different beers. 

The event will also feature a great buffet highlighted by some interesting beer and food pairings.  The new chef and management at Sunsets are excited to bring this event to their unique indoor/outdoor space and expect it to become an annual celebration.

The breweries involved are also excited to sample their products to a new audience.
John Merklin, owner of East Coast Beer co. in Point Pleasant Beach, sees this as another sign of the growing beer scene in Jersey, "The fact that the Jersey Shore is supporting more craft beer festivals is a testament to the growing appetite and interest local folks have in craft beer."

East Coast will be joined by NJ breweries such as Carton, Cricket Hill, Flying Fish and New Jersey Beer Co.  Award-winning regional breweries such as Yards, Brooklyn and Sixpoint will also be there, along with Sam Adams, Stone, Ommegang and many more.

Beers to be sampled will cover the full spectrum of styles and feature seasonal flavors as well as a “Hoppy Hour” IPA Bar on the patio.  Breweries will be stationed on the covered patio and at the outside bar and a full buffet will be open all day to VIP ticket holders.

The new Sunsets is open year-round and features a diverse menu, casual dining room and brand new big-screen televisions for live sports (including the NFL Package).  Sunsets is located on Rt. 35 just over the Belmar Bridge and across from the Shark River Marina.

The Shark River Beer Fest will have one session from 2-6PM and a limited number of tickets will be sold.  Once the event sells out, no additional tickets will be available for purchase.  Tickets are $40 each or $55 for VIP Tickets which include the full buffet, and all tickets can be purchased at the event website  General Admission tickets include admission to the tasting, a souvenir tasting glass, the freedom to enjoy 2 oz. samples of any of the beers, and free parking.  Designated driver tickets are also available for $10 each.  No one under 21, including designated drivers, will be admitted and photo ID is required for entry. 

CONTACT:  610-952-4968


Here's Your Chance!

The good folks down at the Brewers Apprentice in Freehold are inviting you to an Open House where you'll be able to sample--and brew--your own White House Honey Ale! Check out this FB link. I visited and reported on this operation--one of the only BOP (Brew On Premises) operations in the tri-state area-- more than ten years ago, and it's comforting to know that they are still thriving. October 13! Tell them The PubScout sent you!

Monday, October 1, 2012

What does your beer say about your politics?

I assiduously avoid making political commentary here. This is after all, a beer blog, not a political one. And I don't even tell political jokes here. I've seen too many of them actually get elected. 
I will, on occasion, discuss political figures and their relationship to beer, as you may have read during the heightened interest in the current homebrewery product at the White House. My beer-buddy (and political opposite) and artist Gregg Hinlicky has supposedly saved me a White House Honey Ale he brewed using the recipe from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., and I have asked other local brewers to try to make it as well. As soon as I can put some on my palate, I'll report.
In the meantime, another beer-buddy, Dave Bruneyko (and political brother-in-arms), sent me this link which attempts to assign a political position based upon the beer you drink. I can't vouch for its general accuracy, but then again, the general political polls we see daily have their shortcomings as well. And I'm a big fan of the only poll that really matters--the one held on election day. 
The link implies that somehow Dos Equis drinkers are the most politically moderate, while Heinie drinkers align with Dems and Sam Adams guys gravitate toward the Republicans.
In any event, enjoy the findings and see where you supposedly stand, remembering that if you don't practice moderation, you might not be standing for anything--for long.
The PubScout