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Good pubs, Good Beer, Good People

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Tap Takeover at The Office

Bartender Casey
Scott Van Guilder just keeps raising the bar. The Beer Bar, that is.

Hard on the heels of a successful Blind Tasting and a full blown Beer Dinner, the manager of the Office in Bridgewater arranged for a Tap Takeover on the night of the Winter Solstice.

Having friendly, beer-savvy bartenders like Casey (above), who cut her beer teeth in Bermuda's HogPenny Pub at age 12, might have had something to do with the fact that the place was pretty crowded with both its normal Friday night clientele and an influx of Craft Beer lovers. Some folks, like homebrewer Rich who was seated next to me at the bar, fell into both categories. Rich and his buddies were pressing Van Guilder to turn up the volume on the Christmas music, and Van Guilder obliged. Others, like beer nut Gregg Zizza, were there to sample the beers, as beer nuts are wont to do.

Gregg Zizza
But the music and Casey weren't the only things bringing good cheer. A lineup of excellent beers, mostly from Sam Adams, helped in that area. SA offered its flagship Lager, Rebel Stout, Merry Maker, Just IPA, Winter Lager and Angry Orchard Crisp Apple Cider. The affable and knowledgeable SA rep Brandon also came bearing gifts in the form of those special Sam's glasses, hats, shirts and churchkeys.

If you knew the rep (as I confess I did, having met Brandon at other beer events), you might also have had the chance to sample some as yet unavailable Rebel IPA. And though IPA's are not my usual winter go-to fare, this Rebel was actually quite tasty and very smooth. An excellent nose, not-crazily-hopped taste and an exceptional finish will likely make this one an SA winner when it does come out. It is decidedly different than the SA Just IPA which was being offered, too.

But for my money, the Merry Maker (or Merry Mischief) at 9% fully lived up to both of its names.

Of course, Sam wasn't the only one at the party. Yard's sent its wonderful George Washington's Tavern Porter, and Great Lakes put forth its Christmas Ale for the event, which necessitated removing the Edmund Fitzgerald that occupied the tap previously.


The Christmas Ale, a copper/golden spiced ale, carried distinctive spice flavors of ginger and cinnamon (some might suggest even cardamom) and had a nice spicy, almost peppery finish. None of the flavors in this 7.5%-er were overpowering, but they worked together in an great balance.

And as though those beers weren't enough, the delightful Kim was walking around with samples of a tequila called Cabo Wabo. I'm not a big tequila drinker, either con (with) or sin (without) gusano (worm), but this coffee flavored concoction would make a superb after dinner drink.

Kim puts Gregg in a trance...
The point of this event was to allow Van Guilder to show his current beer-loving clients and those to come that he not only knows his beer, but that he is embarked upon a mission to let beer lovers know that The Office is a real beer destination.

Considering the increasing frequency of my own visits, he's clearly sold me.

Cheers!
Merry Christmas!
The PubScout

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Got Cockles?

Just what are cockles anyway?
No, not the ones from that old song about Sweet Molly Malone.

They were bivalves, as in clams, etc.

I mean the ones that are supposedly connected with--or to-- your heart. As in "'Twill warm the cockles of your heart." Turns out that the origin of the phrase is as murky as the mud in which clams live.

Go here if you want to learn that story (as you should around this festive time.)

But go here if you actually want to warm your cockles once you find them.




Because This Friday is the Sam Adams Tap Takeover, also featuring the Cabo Wabo Tequila Girls, as well as tapping this years Great Lakes Winters Ale, Yards General Washington Tavern Porter and Sam Adams Merry Maker.
(Nee Merry Mischief...)

If you're into beer, as you should be if you're reading this, the three beers should be enticing enough.

But the Cabo Wabo Tequila Girls might also pique your curiosity.


Or warm your cockles, like they seem to be doing to Sammy Hagar in the picture at left.

Whatever.

It's all happening this Friday, December 20 at The Office in Bridgewater, NJ.

See you there!
Bring your cockles.

Cheers!
The PubScout

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

When Father Time Taps you on the Shoulder...

It's only natural, I suppose.

As 2013 winds to a close and 2014 approaches, those of us lucky enough to have been around for many moons begin to wonder just how many more "moons" we have left. More importantly, how will we spend whatever time we have left?

Here's a suggestion: Enjoy it.

And you can do that by checking out what Mike Proske has arranged for New Year's Eve 2013 at his fabulous restaurant--Tapastre.

Start your New Year's Eve Celebrations off right!
Our popular 5-Course Beer Pairing Dinner is scheduled for 
Tuesday, December 31st at 6:30 pm.
5 Courses of Tapas and 5 Craft Beer samplers (6 oz). 
$55 per person, plus tax and gratuity.

We start at 6:30 pm and will finish with plenty of time to get to your New Year's Eve parties! 

 Reservations required and seating is limited.  
Please specify table or bar seating. 
Reservations can be made 
by phone at 908 526-0505, 
 via email to maitred@tapastre.com 

 First Course 
Bacon-wrapped-Scallop-wrapped Bacon!
Arugula, Frisee, Hop Vinaigrette

Second Course 
White Cheddar IPA Soup
Housemade Barley Cracker 

Third Course 
Pan-roasted Black Sea Bass
 Shrimp "Noodles", Ginger Broth, Winter Spinach 

 Intermezzo
Kaffir Lime Leaf & Lemon Drop Granita

Fourth Course 
Grilled Herb Marinated Hanger Steak
 Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Stout Demi-Glace

  Dessert
Belgian Chocolate Creme Brulee


Featuring beers from Boulder, Great Lakes, Victory and more...


Mike Proske and Mom

I know this kid can really pair food and beer, so prepare for an excellent experience.

But one comment in his message bothered me:
"We start at 6:30 pm and will finish with plenty of time to get to your New Year's Eve parties!"

Huh? You mean go out to party till the wee hours after a beer dinner like this? Though I can recall the times when I would "go out" at 10 PM, now, with Father Time's nudging, I'm actually "out" at 10 PM.

Especially after a beer event like this promises to be. I'd just go home, plop down in my Barcalounger, likely nod off immediately and get up only to repair to my comfy bed. With a stop at the john, of course.

If you know what I'm talking about, we are kindred. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you will.

Trust me on this.

Cheers!
The PubScout


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Quick Hit from Trap Rock: The Secret is Out!

I received a very interesting piece of information recently regarding activity at one of my favorite brewpubs--Trap Rock. Especially given our current spate of "global warming" weather, I share it gladly with you:


New Beer on the Secret Tap
Word is that Charlie [Schroeder] has just put a new beer on the secret tap called Nefarious. It is also nicknamed "the little brother to Aegir's Pride." It's a dark Belgian with wonderful deep flavor, perfect for sipping while sitting in front of a fireplace. And it comes in at a healthy 9%.
Also, in a fit of holiday largesse, Charlie is allowing this wonderful brew to be sold in growlers, although at $20 a pop instead of the usual rate. Come in and get your growlers filled before he changes his mind.

Three can keep a secret if two of them are dead.
Just trying to keep the "warming" in "global."

Cheers!
The PubScout


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

"Can We Do This Once A Month?"

Nancy, Larry and Ron enjoy a beer moment
The title of today's column is an actual quote from a Beer Nut who drove up from Old Bridge, made midway through the appetizer course at last night's first-ever Beer Dinner at The Office on Rt. 22 in Bridgewater.


And the quick answer is, "No. We cannot."

Because while being sated with fine food and good beer after enjoying great company and good cheer is most pleasurable, waddling to my car and anticipating trying to work off the calories I just put on shouldn't be a monthly event. Tri-monthly maybe, but not monthly.

This dinner was intended to serve a few purposes for Scott Van Guilder and his Office crew. First, it was kind of a "Shakedown Cruise" where you take a new ship out on the ocean to see what--if any--problems pop up. Second, it was designed to make beer and food lovers in The Office's immediate "catchment" area aware of the might array of craft beer here and the quality of The Office's food.

Natalie and Rob raise a toast
And lastly, it was designed as a stepping stone to future beer dinners and beer events run by a guy--Van Guilder--with a passion for beer.

When it comes to beer dinners,"Firsties," (a term coined by The PubScout) are always interesting and in many ways, enlightening. They usually start off with a small, intimate group of beer and food lovers, and when the post-dinner word goes out about the menu, the beers, the service, the camaraderie and the good times, the number of attendees grows for future events. Another local chain that tried this formula had just seven guests for its firstie, but after doing three dinners in a year, that number blossomed to forty regulars. The lesson? If you host them regularly, they will come.

Different generations enjoy Beer Dinners
That's nothing to sneeze at on a Monday or Tuesday night in the bar business. While the profit margin on beer dinners is decidedly not gargantuan, it's about more than that. It's about encouraging a beer and food culture that keeps people coming back to your place, even without a beer dinner going on.

What's left of dessert...
Having a special menu comes also into play. Why would Joe Beer come to a beer dinner when he could get the same menu items and beer he knows he enjoys more cheaply than what a beer dinner would cost him? Van Guilder mixed his menu last night, having some of the items regularly available and some specially made. He allowed that in future, he could and would make the whole menu special. His background as a chef gives him that flexibility. And Van Guilder's beer passion allows him to offer Joe Beer special brews he may have never had, but might wind up liking.

Special, however, is one thing. Portions are another. There was a goodly amount of food carried out in "doggie bags" (though they look nothing like 'bags' to me) by sated attendees last night. The rib that appeared on my plate was seemingly from a Triceratops.

And I heard "This is the best pairing of the night!" spoken about at least three of the five courses. The Ale and Cheese Soup (which worked, interestingly, with the first two beers), the Ahi Tuna and Dogfish Head's 60 Minute IPA and the chocolate dessert paired with Sam Adams Merry Maker received glowing assessments. Personally, I enjoyed the Dark Depths Baltic Porter and the ribs the most.

The Merry Maker--non-beer version...
I also very much liked the Merry Maker, never having had it before, but I had the sense that Old Fezziwig (Sam's Superb Seasonal) may have danced a light hornpipe in this beer somewhere along the production line.

Good food, good beer and good company usually make for a great night, and the camaraderie generated around the table was positive
--especially during Trivia Time, where in a twist, everyone got to read some questions to stump the long table. Larry continued his personal study of dry-hopping, Nancy was fixated on what a beer's head meant and Natalie lined up her glasses OCD style.

I'd say the Shakedown Cruise went pretty well, considering that $60 covered the dinner, the beers, the tax and the tip. And Scott threw in a delightful "palate cleanser" that wasn't on the menu free of charge. Its identity, however, has to remain a closely-guarded secret.
The laughs and the lip-smacking were free, too.

So when's the next one?
Stay tuned!

Cheers!
The PubScout

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Black Wednesday, Golden Tuesday

With all the advertising about Black Friday, there's a day that, in certain circles, does not get the attention it deserves. All the Tom Turkeys consider today Black Wednesday, and with good reason. Most of you will be enjoying the warmth of family food, football and friends by tomorrow this time, and one of the (few) good things about "Black Friday" is that it's the best day of the year for leftover turkey sandwiches and stuffing.

The PubScout guesses that after Saturday, though, you will all likely be "Turkeyed Out," and here's where some great news comes in.

Office Manager Scott Van Guilder
The Office in Bridgewater, NJ on Rt. 22 is holding its first-ever Holiday Beer Dinner on Golden Tuesday, December 3 at 7 PM. Manager Scott Van Guilder, hoping to put his Office on the map as a bona fide beer destination, has pulled out all the stops as you'll note by checking the menu below. That he has done so for just $60 pp--INCLUDING TAX AND TIP--is equally impressive.

Check out this menu and its associated beers:


BEER DINNER 
EACH COURSE SERVED WITH A 12 OZ. GLASS OF SELECTED SPECIALTY BREWS

SOUP COURSE:

OUR VERY OWN OFFICE ONION SOUP, MADE WITH ONIONS CARAMELIZED IN ALE & TOPPED WITH IMPORTED SWISS & PROVOLONE CHEESES, BAKED UNTIL GOLDEN AND BUBBLY, PAIRED WITH ALE, OUR PROPRIETARY OFFICE ESB, BREWED FOR US BY OUR FRIENDS AT FLYING FISH BREWERY, 5.5% ABV

(ALTERNATIVE SELECTION) OUR SCRATCH MADE ALE AND CHEDDAR SOUP, TOPPED WITH FRESH MADE CROUTONS AND SHREDDED JACK CHEESE 
PAIRED WITH ALE, OUR PROPRIETARY OFFICE ESB, BREWED FOR US BY OUR FRIENDS AT FLYING FISH BREWERY, 5.5% ABV

SALAD COURSE:

SPINACH SALAD: FRESH BABY LEAF SPINACH, TOPPED WITH A GERMAN STYLE WARM BACON VINAIGRETTE, PAIRED WITH AYINGER BRAU WEISS, A GERMAN HEFE WEISSE, WITH FLAVORS OF CLOVE AND BANANA WITH AN ABV OF 5.1%

APPETIZER COURSE:

AHI TUNA TACO: WARMED FLOUR TORTILLA FILLED WITH DICED SUSHI GRADE AHI TUNA, TOPPED WITH FRESH ARUGULA GREENS, CUCUMBER AND SHAVED RED ONIONS, FINISHED WITH OUR WASABI VINAIGRETTE,  PAIRED WITH DOGFISH HEAD 60 MINUTE APA, HIGHLY HOPPED WITH A PERFECT BALANCE OF BOTH BITTER AND FLORAL NOTES, 6% ABV

ENTR√ČE COURSE:

BBQ SPARE RIB & CHICKEN: ½ RACK OF SPECIALTY SLOW COOKED SMOKEY SPARE RIBS, SERVED WITH A FLAME GRILLED CHICKEN BREAST, BOTH OF WHICH ARE BASTED IN OUR OWN SLOW SIMMERED ARROGANT BASTARD STRONG ALE BBQ SAUCE, AND SERVED WITH CRISPY FRIES, HOME MADE CREAMY COLE SLAW AND A WEDGE OF JALEPENO CORN BREAD, PAIRED WITH SAM ADAMS SMALL BATCH “DARK DEPTHS” BALTIC IPA PORTER 7.6% ABV

DESSERT COURSE:

OUR SIGNATURE GUINNESS STOUT CHOCOLATE MOUSSE CAKE, DRIZZLED WITH WARM STRAWBERRY SAUCE AND DARK CHOCOLATE CURLS, PAIRED WITH SAM ADAMS MERRY MAKER, A WINTER SWEET STOUT, WITH FRAGRANT HINTS OF GINGERBREAD, CINNAMON AND NUTMEG, WITH A HEARTY ABV OF 9%

It appears that as stuffed as you will be on Thanksgiving, there's a good chance for an encore at this dinner. But nary a turkey will be harmed in the making of this event, and neither Scott nor I will make any wild claims about the low caloric content of the dishes and the beers.

Clearly, this is one you need to put on your calendar! Give them a call at 732-469-0066 and let them know you want in! With more dinners in the offing at The Office, you will be on hand to make history.

See you there!
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, and God Bless America from The PubScout!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Hill Street Brews

Kent "Flounder" Dorfman
Quite frankly, I don't see the resemblance between Kent Dorfman and Jeremy Lees--but apparently somebody did. The name stuck on Jeremy. And Jeremy stuck it on his start up brewery.

Not that it matters, because the beer that Flounder and his Animal House-Mates consumed at fabled Faber College bears no resemblance to what Lees is making at his Nano-University of Hillsborough, NJ.

Lees and company are living the dream of making their own  beer--and making it pretty darned well, if today's first public tasting was any indication. After signing up to be part of the very first public tour and tasting of Flounder Brewing, I made my way to Somerset County to investigate the operation and taste the product.

Flounder's Flagship beer is called Hill St. Honey Ale (named after the residence in Morristown where he concocted his recipe), made with lots of Orange Blossom Honey and lots more TLC by Lees in a 31 gallon system. That's "nano" by anyone's standards, and there are positives and negatives to that volume of production--or lack of it. The biggest positive, according to Lees, is that he and his mates can do what they love and make beer in small batches, keeping a careful eye on every step of the process. The biggest negative is that there is no way he can keep up with the demand his very drinkable session ale has generated.

Lees adds his signature ingredient (Photo courtesy of NJ.com)
Since introducing his ale at the Fox and Hound pub in the Lebanon Hotel --and going through eight kegs in one night--some weeks back, he has been swamped by requests from bars and franchises for his beer. But until the brewery expands, that's not an option.

"Right now, we're just making enough beer to pay the rent," said Lees. "Down the road, our five year plan is to get big enough to meet all of the demand."

The brewery itself is far from overcrowded at this stage. In fact, Lees shares space with Al Buck of the East Coast Yeast Co. If you've never heard of Al and his company, don't fret. Most beer nuts haven't. But many brewers have, and they know what kind of product he puts out.

"We're very fortunate Al has 'moved in' with us," Lees allowed. "He lives just a stone's throw from here, and having him in such close proximity is great for us." In nature, such a relationship is called "symbiosis;" in brewing, it's called "stepping in it" if the comments of two brewers on hand are any indication.

The product of two teachers, Lees and wife Melissa are also the parents of 16 month-old twins.

But brewing is not even his day gig. He makes tree stands for hunting on his day gig, and is part owner of the company. Such an arrangement gives him the time to follow his passion (beer) and pay the bills for his growing family.

L-R, William, Jeremy, Melissa, Richard and Maria

And speaking of family, his cousins William and Maria are lending useful hands at the brewery, with Maria confessing that until she signed on at the brewery, she never really drank beer. But she's looking forward to Lees' coming concoctions which include a beer made with blueberry honey. The Gingerbread Beer that's fermenting now might also get her attention.

Actually, Lees had three different samples to share on this day--an experimental saison ( tart, great nose and refreshing), a pumpkin ale (smooth and only very subtly spiced) and his Honey beer. "I don't feel that every beer I make needs to 'push the envelope' in terms of style or alcohol content. I want a beer I can sit back with and enjoy more than one."

He apparently thinks that other beer drinkers do as well. His Honey Ale will not produce fireworks on the first taste, but this unfiltered brew is definitely one that grows on you, not overly cloying with sweetness, but one that tastes better and better with each sip. In other words, the ideal session beer. Come to think of it, that's the way good love relationships work, too. And Lees loves his beer. Currently, Lees gets his honey from Fruitwood Orchards in South Jersey, but he's investigating other apiary sources as his experiments continue. "Still, I like the flavors that the Orange Blossoms impart, " he admits.

Until Flounder Brewing goes "big," the only way you can get the brew so far is to visit the brewery or hope that Lees' friends at the Fox and Hound have some on tap. Fortunately, Lees does plan to do "Meet the Brewer" nights at local pubs, which will allow his beer to receive wider exposure.

Finding this little brewery in that big complex of businesses is not easy, tucked away as it is way in the back of Building 8. But the reward is worth the trouble.

Though there are plans to do a lager somewhere down the road,
there are no plans at this time to include beer bottle holders on hunting tree stands.

The PubScout will keep you posted. More pics here.

"...and the Geeks are getting Fat!"

Being an unabashed Anglophile and lover of an Ebenezer Scrooge Christmas, I begin singing the "Christmas is a comin' and the geese are getting fat" song shortly after the Thanksgiving plates are in the dishwasher.

And file this under Not News: from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day is certainly not the best time to diet, given that so many resolve to lose weight in the new year.

If the number of pending beer and food events is any indication, this season is to be no exception. Why, in just the first week of Christmas alone, there are three local beer and food events that will help you start packing on adipose tissue to get you through the winter hibernation period.
Beer Geeks working late at The Office

On December 3, The Office Beer Bar and Grill on Rt. 22 in Bridgewater will be sponsoring its first-ever beer dinner under the steady hand of Scott Van Guilder. Fresh off his first wildly successful Beer Tasting, this one could lay the groundwork for Van Guilder to get his beer bar some long and well-deserved recognition.

The following night, December 4, gives the Beer and Food Geek two opportunities to expand his horizons (as well as his pants size) as Charlie Schroeder puts on his beer and food show at the fabulous Trap Rock restaurant in Berkeley Heights. "The Trap" doesn't skimp on anything, and more than once, yours truly has waddled to his car after a Schroeder event.

And the "Ted Williams of Tapastre," Mike Proske, has his Five-Course Tapas and Craft Beer Tasting set to go the same night in Somerville. Tapastre's unique Tapas construct won't fill you up like a twenty-course meal will, but you'll feel pleasantly sated after the last course and beer have been ingested. And with his beer list, you'll likely hang around a bit.

And that takes us--just locally-- all the way to Wednesday of the first week after Thanksgiving.

More and more brewpubs and craft beer bars are tuning in to the joys of craft beer and food, and that's a good thing.
If you hear of any more between now and 2014, drop The PubScout a line (pubscout@comcast.net) with some info, and we'll give them some props--and free advertising.


In the meantime, try getting to a few.
And loosen your belt buckle for a few weeks.

Cheers!
The PubScout

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Road Trip?


Hit the road, Jack!
I got this interesting presser in my email the other day, and it seems like a very cool idea. Check it out.


New Website Helps Beer Lovers Plan Their Ultimate Tasting Trip

BrewTrail.com Maps and Details of Every Brewery in the Country

New Haven, CT – November 13, 2013 – Beer lovers, your prayers have been answered – visiting breweries just got easier.  Brew Trail (www.BrewTrail.com), the ultimate compilation of brewery information, has gone online and promises to make beer tourism a one-stop planning experience.  According to the Brewer’s Association, there are 2,538 breweries and brewpubs operating in the country (the most since the 1880s) and only one website - Brew Trail - has tracked them all along with the meticulous key details like their brewery tour and tasting room schedules.  Never before has so much detailed brewery data been available on one site.  With Brew Trail’s Trip Planner, aficionados can plot out a multi-state tour or simply check out some new breweries in town, easily incorporating each brewery’s schedule to cover ground most efficiently.  It’s all free, and it’s optimized for mobile devices.  From pilsners in Portland to stouts in St. Louis, Brew Trail will help plan a fantastic expedition along America’s beer trail.

“It’s been a true labor of love.  A very, very detailed labor of love,” said Brew Trail co-founder Chris Margonis.  “Why did we start the site?  My buddy and I love beer, it’s as simple as that.  And when we realized there weren’t any sites like this – a one-stop spot for all the brewery details along with brewery tour and tasting room times, we devoted ourselves even more to our hobby.  We want Brew Trail to be seen as a promotional asset for all craft breweries - to help them level the playing field and gain recognition among the big boys.  And we think Brew Trail also has the potential to become an excellent tool for state and local tourism boards as more and more localities launch their own beer trails.”   

The US craft beer movement has been exploding, with an astounding 10% annual growth – even while overall beer consumption has been declining slightly in favor of wine and spirits.  Although it makes sense given that craft beers have similar complexities and food pairings as wine.  Five out of ten fastest growing beer brands are craft (Dale’s Pale Ale, Lagunitas, Ranger, Torpedo, Shiner) and several of them  have been seeing a mind-boggling 45% growth in sales.  With this new, overwhelming beer awareness, Brew Trail arrives at the perfect time to make a potential mark on the scene and establish itself within the craft beer culture.  

Visiting breweries just got easier.  Brew Trail compiles every brewery and brewpub in the country – over 2,500 - allowing beer lovers to quickly and seamlessly plan their ultimate tasting trip.  Tour schedules, tasting room hours, fees and other info is all available on one site for the first time ever.

About Brew Trail (www.BrewTrail.com)

You know you always wanted to do something like this. And while a diehard cerevisaphile could go it alone, I'm betting that a small group would have a lot more fun--and more stories to share when it's over.

Suh-weet!
So go for it.
Or not.
But remember: Life is not a dress rehearsal.


Cheers!
The PubScout

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

"Surprise, surprise, surprise!" --Gomer Pyle

George studies and considers
It began as a night of serious beer education.
But it concluded as a night of hearty laughter,  an unforgettable demonstration of "dry-hopping," raucous camaraderie--and not a few surprises in terms of beer winners.

Scott Van Guilder, Manager of The Office Beer Bar on Rt. 22 in Bridegwater, has been assiduously monitoring his beer lists, providing his customers with some exceptional offerings. But only locals seem to know about them. So Scott and yours truly devised a plan to widen his "catchment area," and, in the process, to let the word go forth that this Office has quality beer.

Part One of the plan was put into action last night with a blind beer tasting that involved educating about 30 fun-loving folks, a number of them beer neopyhtes, as to the best way to appreciate beer using all five of your senses. You can take that same course by clicking on the Beer Sense link in the top right corner of this blog. Ten beers would be sampled and evaluated and the numbers tallied to see which beers appealed to most "average" beer drinkers.

Scott Van Guilder

"This actually helps me in terms of deciding what beers to bring in, "said Van Guilder. A distributor or brewery rep can push whatever they want, but what matters to me is what sells, and this event opened my eyes."

The audience, though perhaps "average" in terms of beer experience, was laden with celebrities. Three of the wrestling coaches from South Plainfield's Undefeated No. 1 Wrestling team were on hand. Budding news anchor Rob Dickerson made the trip, as did 24 members of the storied CJMRG Motorcycle club, perhaps the most famous area club behind The Fugawis. And Brewer Mike Sella of Uno's and Basil T's fame showed up, though a home emergency necessitated his departure. Former Playgirl models Nancy, Natalie, Angie and Heather were also on hand.

Given rating sheets (and pens) for ten offerings, the attendees conscientiously rated the beers in terms of appearance, nose, mouthfeel and taste, and then assigned an overall impression grade. In between servings, there were trivia questions and giveaways, and a brilliant local raconteur told of his own embarrassing experience in the Finals of a $10,000 Trivia Contest in Atlantic City.




The results of the tasting, though, were surprising.

In order of appearance, the beers were:

  1. Carlsberg
  2. Brooklyn Lager
  3. Kane Head High
  4. Ommegang Scythe and Sickle
  5. Victory Hop Devil
  6. Dubhe Black Imperial IPA
  7. Breckenridge Vanilla Porter
  8. Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter
  9. Keegan's Mother's Milk
  10. Sam Adams Nitro Stout


With soon-to-be weekend anchor Rob Dickerson assisting me, we tallied the votes when the tasting concluded. Keep in mind that, unlike in the wine arena, no beer "experts" will ever tell you what you should be drinking. The simple rule is "Drink what you like." And in ascending order, these are what this group liked:

5th Place--Keegan's Mother's Milk
4th Place--Sam Adams Nitro Stout
3rd Place--Victory Hop Devil
Tied for 2nd Place--Breckenridge Vanilla Porter and Ommegang Scythe and Sickle

And the winner on the night was--GREAT LAKES EDMUND FITZGERALD PORTER!

Scott was surprised that some of the beers that usually get the most positive press did not show up at all in the top five, and yours truly was surprised that the darker beers seemed to dominate the finalists. But that simply proves the common misconception about darker beers being "too strong" to be just that--a misconception.

But the event did serve to alert people to the fact that The Office has some outstanding beers--and food--available. And by simply printing this page, you can get 10% of your beer and food order anytime you visit the Rt. 22 locale. Rob Dickerson decided that The Office is now his "Official" new bar, even though he comes from 30 minutes away. The smart money says more will follow.
1.      
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Part Two of the plan goes into effect on December 3 with a full-blown Holiday Beer Dinner. Scott did solid prep work with this event, and I'm looking forward to hosting that December dinner. With shirt and cap giveaways--including a giant Beer Bong won by "Lucky" Natalie Lay, the dinner promises to alert even more people to the notion that at this Office, anyway, it's perfectly acceptable to work late.

More pictures here.





Monday, November 11, 2013

Bring all five senses!

Paul Mulshine and The PubScout

Blind tastings--not really "blind" in the literal sense, since you need your eyes-- ask you to evaluate beers without knowing what beer you are drinking. You evaluate them based upon four standards: Color, Nose, Mouthfeel and Taste. A brief primer in evaluating beer will be given by a famous beer writer, who will also tell you why the fifth sense is required.


Tomorrow night at The Office in Bridgewater, attendees will declare the winners in a blind taste test. There will be ten beers, munchies, giveaways and fun, all for a paltry $14 per.

Kaz, Jim Koch and The PubScout
Come get into the Craft Beer surge. Jim Koch of Sam Adams says, "All beer is good; some beer is better."

We'll find out which ones are which tomorrow night!

Cheers!
The PubScout


Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Proper Preparation of Pilgrim Poultry?


My beer-loving buddy Ty is a seasoned world traveler, and in his travels he often comes upon unique stories, especially about beer.

Like this one.

So, while thinking about which beers are going to grace your Turkey Day table, maybe you should consider which beers are "gracing" your actual turkey. Hopefully, you won't get the bird that was stumbling and drooling. After all, that role is reserved for your crazy uncle.

Check out the video at the bottom.

And Bottoms Up!

(And don't forget to print the Office/PubScout promo on my page for a 10% discount on food and beverage at The Office in Bridgewater!)

Cheers!
The PubScout

Ah, so! Asahi!


Making the "Perfect Pour" may be challenging for some bartenders, but not for this guy. While the article praises the "experienced barstaff who can pull a good beer" as invaluable, with this handy-dandy gadget they may become as obsolete as those who can't, and therefore generate "wastage."

Besides, chatting with the barstaff has always been part of the pub experience, and the "barman as psychologist" is part of pub lore.

And if that staffer on the left is monitoring the experiment, I'd be prone to participating. But I doubt she comes as part of the equipment.

Still, it's a neat concept, and a hat tip to my pal George the Greek for sharing it.

I wonder if Jon Taffer knows about this....

Cheers!
The PubScout

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Worth the Wait at World of Beer

WOB Owner Kelly Andre
After a three-week delay, New Brunswick's World of Beer finally opened its doors.
It was totally worth the wait.
Sure the gleaming interior, with those fifty taps ready to obey your commands, and those two huge, brightly lit cold cases full of soldiers awaiting their orders will attract the eye.

And the entertainment area will no doubt attract the ear (though the stage had to be rebuilt because local ordinance mavens didn't like the stairs, causing part of the delay).
And the beer choices and the food (the flatbread offerings are excellent) will certainly attract the palate and the nose.

But this quaffer was wowed by something else entirely: an efficient, friendly and surprisingly beer-savvy staff.
Not that they had any choice. Just to be a server here requires two weeks of training in Chris Metcalf's "Beer School." What Chesty Puller was to the Marine Corps, Chris may be to the WOB.
"I love beer training," said Metcalf, technically known as an "opening coordinator."

Chris brought out the two tests his staff had to pass to get the job. One of them was fifteen pages long, and there were 150 total questions. A grade of 90 was needed to get the job.
As I looked at some of the questions, I had my doubts that all servers--including my own, the affable Glenn Miller-- knew this stuff.

With Glenn Miller off somewhere getting "In the Mood," I put a passing server, Christina, to the test, asking her to answer the question about the difference between a mead and a braggot.
"Mead is a honey wine, one of the world's oldest fermented beverages; and braggot is mead made with malt and honey."

Chris, Christina and Kelly
Dayum. That's what I call "prepped."
"This group learned a lot about beer in a very short time, and they were a very attentive class," said Metcalf. If it took an extra three weeks to become this beer proficient, it was clearly worth the wait.

So will the customer learn, considering the beer info provided at the table. Two large menus are provided at seating--one with the fifty current tap offerings and another with beer history and alphabetically listed beer styles

Food prices are pretty reasonable, too, with Ale-Battered Shrimp coming in at $9 and the delicious Flatbreads checking in at just $7. And the food menus cleverly come with beer pairing suggestions. My BBQ Chicken Flatbread paired very nicely with my Breckenridge Vanilla Porter. There's even an item called a "Pint of Bacon," which should attract millions.

Yo, Adriane!

The place is not "Cheers" cozy, nor was it designed to be, but its layout is very conducive to interaction, and at 5:45 it was SRO. There was a grand opening ceremony set for 6 PM, but having been there since 4 PM faithfully serving my loyal readers by doing my "research," I didn't stay.

How long the honeymoon period will last at WOB cannot be known. Nor will WOB's impact on local beer spots in close proximity. But one thing is certain: WOB is a WIN for beer nuts.

Kate McKenna
Add to that a knowledgeable, friendly and efficient staff, and good food, and WOB should be a pleasure to visit.

And like Arnold Schwarzbier, I'll be bock.

More pics here.


Cheers!
The PubScout

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Just Say No to Knowing?

Having logged 37 years in a public high school classroom as a teacher, I can't be blamed when stories about today's educational scene pique my interest. Like this one.

And back before my blog went "national," I penned this treatise about a school practice called Project Graduation. Just scroll down to PubScout Pontifications.

If, as an informed reader, you have now read both pieces, you should know where this one is going.

Apparently--after eight years of teaching about "anaerobic respiration" with no complaints, some Colorado parents are disquieted because some maniac teacher is doing what his course is designed to do--teach about fermentation in beer.

If you know anything about Colorado, you know it's a huge beer state. It took home forty-six GABF medals just this year alone.

God forbid that students should know how beer becomes beer, or--even worse--TOUR a brewery?

My sons were homeschooled up until 8th grade because I did not like the direction public schools were taking. The missus would teach them from September to June, and I'd take over from June till September when school was out for me.

 When two of my sons were 9 and 6, I did far worse than teach them about fermentation. I had them actually help me make beer. They cracked the grain, measured and added the hops and yeast and helped me bottle it to bring home three weeks later. Over the years of this avocation, they would accompany me on brewery tours to see the process, and were especially impressed (more likely, bored as in museums) with the gleaming equipment.

Admittedly, with social interaction being important for homeschoolers, many of my lessons were taught outside the home--in pubs, breweries and brewpubs--especially in New York City, where yearly field trips to McSorley's Old Ale House and Fraunces Tavern combine an opportunity to learn history and social interaction as well as providing us with a cool lunch spot. Same thing in Philly, the birthplace of American Independence, home of the Liberty Bell and Ben Franklin. That McGillin's is also there was no accident.

Chris Mullin with two of the Lads
I plotted this course of action with my sons because I did not want them to learn that beer was something you consumed with a funnel strapped to your head, or something that was simply meant to be ingested in copious amounts, then expelled over a toilet--not enjoyed or savored with food. While I cannot claim that they never over-indulged (if a tree falls in the forest, etc.), I know that I was never contacted by the police departments at their colleges for excessive consumption or binge-drinking escapades. In fact, when my eldest went off to college, he expressed surprise to learn that his comrades were drinking Natty Light.

They now have a pretty sophisticated sense about what beer is, what it's supposed to do and what its various styles yield in terms of enjoyment. That they have been in more breweries, brewpubs and pubs than many three times their age has not marked them for alcoholism candidates.

One "enlightened" parent in the story above stated, "I don't see any reason to teach a 15 year-old the steps in brewing alcohol," because "You cannot buy alcohol until you're 21."

She seems to be following the maxim of "Just Say No."
I'm a proponent of "Just Say Know."

Your call, Colorado.

Cheers!
The PubScout