Good pubs, Good Beer, Good People

Saturday, March 30, 2013

'Tis the season...for Starkbier

The Pubscout is acutely aware that Punxsutawney Phil has been rightly indicted for misrepresentation of the onset of Spring, but that doesn't stop me from heartily recommending one of my favorite styles of the season--the maibock.
In Germany, it's called "Starkbierzeit," or "strong beer season" and it technically lasts for six months.
My concern, however is with only one style of the bockbier--the Maibock.
Maibocks herald the hoppier lighter beers of summer, but pay homage to their heritage by being malty both in nose and on palate from start to finish. They also go surprisingly well with many different foods, from Burgers to Brats.
It's almost as if this style realizes that, while Summer may soon be a-comin' in, there's still a nip in the air that needs attention. And the maibocks do not fail on that count.

On the domestic front, Rogue Dead Guy is considered a maibock, and it's quite enjoyable. But for true Bavarian Maibock goodness, the choice here is Einbecker Mai-Ur-Bock.
Its malt notes will warm your cockles on those chilly Spring nights, and its delightful color hints of summer days to come.

Ein Prosit!
The PubScout

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Pushing the Beer Envelope

To make it onto this blog, a story has to be somehow beer-related. I believe this one qualifies, although it might be a stretch. It appears that old standbys of a fly decal or Hanoi Jane's picture on the inside of a urinal have given way to technological, um, "advancement" in the realm of urinary accuracy.

Yet who knows what social wonders this invention could engender? Perhaps males will now follow in the footsteps of their female dates and leave for the toity en masse to engage in a manly challenge? And, of course, the more beers you "rent" the longer you can play. Just remember that driving home is decidedly NOT a video game.


Cheers! (And good aim!)
The PubScout

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The "Chris Cerveza" Saturday

There are some occupational hazards to being a beer writer, apart from owning a wardrobe of pants for the Big-Butted Man. Not that I'd ever complain, mind you. But with the enjoyment of craft beer exploding around the state, logistics alone can sometimes be tricky.

Take yesterday, for example.

Two sterling craft beer events in two distinctly different parts of the state took place. Uno's Cask Fest near Menlo Park and Beers on the Boards in Pt. Pleasant are both exceptional beer events and both run by guys named Chris.  Percello at Uno's and DePeppe at Martells' in Pt. Pleasant have solid beer pedigrees, so a dedicated beer guy would want to attend both, taking precautions, of course, to sample responsibly during one to safely make the other.

Schmidhausler, Holl and Spivey--NJ's Beer Cognoscenti
The Uno's event featured some outstanding cask offerings, delineated here in an earlier column. They must have had great appeal, because when I walked in at 1:15 PM, the joint was packed so tight you couldn't have fallen down if you wanted to. And you know you're in the right place when NJ's Beer Cognoscenti are already there to greet you.

The packed house was also good for  another reason beyond recognizing Percello's commitment to craft beer. As they have done for so many groups before, Uno's was donating 20% of each tab to the Jimmy D'heron Memorial Fund, a cause which remembers the sacrifice of this brave firefighter and the causes close to his heart--like a Burn Camp For Children.

The Angels of ProCure
In addition to the regulars, it was good to see the Pro Cure group from the Cancer Center in Somerset, another establishment and group of folks that are dear to my heart.

I wish I could have stayed longer, but Beers on the Boards beckoned, and I answered the call. For more Uno's pics, go here.

Part 2

Heading down the GSP, stopping only in Manasquan to pick up my pal Harvey--who was just cleared to drink beer on Thursday after his brain surgery--I got to Martell's in Pt. Pleasant safely in advance of the 6 PM opening. Good thing, too, because the hordes that came for the evening session stretched out the door to the boardwalk. And that's AFTER 500 beer nuts attended the earlier session. Clearly, Chris DePeppe knows how to attract a crowd.

Unlike last year's event which saw temps so balmy parts of the fest were held outside on the Tiki Bar, this year's chilly weather precluded such an arrangement for the evening session. No one, however seemed to mind. Breweries from Cricket Hill to Starr Hill were there with their excellent wares for sampling. My friends from the Brewer's Apprentice were also on hand to give aid and comfort to those who are thinking of taking the plunge into homebrewing. The event also brought out guys like Michael Scofield, chef extraordinaire of Fox & Hound fame, who shared this tidbit with me: April 22 is his next beer dinner at the Fox, using the beers of Samuel Smith. He shared a secret about something positively sinful he'll be doing with that exceptional Chocolate Stout of SS. And with tongue firmly planted in cheek, swore that there would be no calories attached to the creation.
Regina, Jasmine and Nicole--from CT

DePeppe's events are well-organized and attract a large variety of beer lovers--some who came all the way from Connecticut. But what makes this event unique beyond the variety of  breweries attending is the excellent food--all included in the $50 price. Martell's makes all the victuals, and believe me when I tell you this is not ordinary buffet fare. My pal Joe Skelly, who lives a stone's throw from Martell's was enjoying what he calls Irish Surf and Turf--Corned beef and Clams.

The layout of Martell's allowed for slightly freer mobility than at Uno's--but only slightly, because the sheer numbers of beer nuts trying to hold their beer and their food plates while sampling posed good-natured navigational challenges for all. Most of my beer buddies would certainly not want to bump too hard into ladies like those above or like those below.

Trish, Jamie and Missy
In all, a most rewarding, albeit exhausting, day. I suppose I should consider myself lucky that the events were relatively close. I don't know what I'd do if such events were taking place at The Mohawk House in Sparta and in Cape May on the same day.

Can teleportation become a reality fast enough?

For more pics, go here.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Aged Beer Makes a Comeback

My buddy George alerted me to this tidbit.  And while we'll have to wait for 2014 to see this Phoenix rise from the deep, perhaps the most important lesson here lies in proper beer storage. Since most of us, however, have neither the resources nor the patience to wait almost 200 years, we'll have to rely on more modern methods.
The PubScout

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Cask and Ask (to donate)

As reported here previously, Uno's big, bold cask Ale Fest will come to town on Saturday Noon. If you plan to come (and what Beer Nut in his right mind wouldn't, given that menu?), print out this form to bring along. There are four so you can give one to each of your besties, too.
Presenting this when your bill comes will automatically send 20% of your entire tab to the James D'heron Memorial Foundation. Jimmy D lost his life saving fifteen people he didn't know in a New Brunswick fire some years ago. Jimmy D's foundation, overseen by his leprechaun-like daughter Erin, supports the Art Luf Children's Burn Camp in Connecticut.
So it's not only a chance to sample some exceptional Cask Ales, you can actually do some good for others in the process.
See you there!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Beer of The Iron Throne

A while back, the PubScout wrote a column about New Holland's Dragon's Milk, one of my favorite beers. It was the first beer I had upon completing the motorcycle trip on the legendary "Tail of the Dragon," Also known as Rt. 129, through NC and TN.  In my admittedly twisted view, no mention of Dragon's Milk could have excluded a reference to Khaleesi of "Game of Thrones" fame.

Comes now a new beer from another PubScout favorite brewery--Ommegang.

According to this story from HuffPo, some beer chaps have tasted and evaluated the new brew, soon to be available in 45 states.

Because the tasting of beer is a holy mission, yours truly will acquire some and provide his own reaction. Why don't you do likewise? It appears as though this chap already has.

The PubScout

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

"Uneasy lies the head…

..that wears a crown," said Shakespeare. And so it came to pass at the most recent gathering of "Senators" at Hailey's 7th Beer Senate at Hailey's Harp and Pub in Metuchen. But, I digress.

The Beer Senate is a popular monthly gathering of beer lovers who assume control of Hailey's large back room to sample specially selected beers, matched with creations from Hailey's kitchen. The brainchild of Moishe the Barman (who also has exceptional culinary skills), the Senators sample four or five beers selected by Moishe to determine which beer gets to occupy a coveted Hailey's tap. Moishe's well-prepared finger food accompanies each dish.

Each Senator gets a score sheet, which, in The PubScout's humble opinion, needs revamping and simplifying. How, for example does one rate the "clarity" of a stout or a hefeweizen? But, after scoring the beers, each Senator writes down the name of the beer that "won" on his scorecard. A voice tally is taken and the winner gets the tap.

The Beer Men

Last night's event featured four Jersey beers--Carton, Flying Fish, Climax and River Horse--and reps from all four places (including Climax brewer Dave Hoffman himself) were on hand to speak about their beers. Flying Fish's RedFish (formerly Exit 9 Hoppy Scarlet) nudged out Climax and the others for tap honors.

It was a night of good will, good cheer, good food and good beer. One fellow, Ty Fedak, came all the way from Arizona to take his Senate seat. 

Senator Ty Fedak--(I) AZ reaps the benefits
Of course, this being a Senate, there were politics involved.
Without spilling a drop of blood--or, more importantly, beer--the reigning president of the Senate was summarily removed from office--(amid much howling and laughter ) by Owner Chris Flynn--and laughed about it, vowing to return. The Roman forum, in retrospect, was a place of decorum--except for when when Julius Caesar learned that Brutus was not really his bosom buddy.

No such high drama here, though getting the attention of a beer drinking crowd is much easier at the beginning of the night than at the end. The crowd did, however, listen intently enough to enjoy the story of Chris Flynn's St. Patty's toast to his wife. 

Natalie, Larry and Debbie
Moishe, though, had to work hard to arrive at a plan for the April Senate. The theme of that will be "One Beer--Four ways." No new President has officially assumed the reins of leadership, but you can bet his head will either be on a swivel or a plate in April. 

There are two pressing questions for that conclave. First, and most important, can Moishe pull off the "One Beer--Four Ways" idea? Second, will Pete Rosky, stage a comeback coup?

More pictures here.

The PubScout

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Munck-ee See, Munck-ee Do

I always tease the missus about her looking and behaving like a monkey.
So when she advised me that she was taking me to the "Monkey Bar" to celebrate a recent milestone, I asked forgiveness for looking at her askance.

As it develops, the joint is actually named "The Munck-ee Bar," assuming the name of its owners, the Muncks. (The ee's were added at a whim.) The missus and her gal pals went there for dinner a few weeks back, and she wanted me to visit. Since she was buying, I quickly agreed.

The PubScout hunts for cool pubs. It's what I do. And to make my recommendation list, a pub has to have a welcoming ambience, friendly staff, a good selection of beer and good pub-grub. (Dark wood, wattle and daub construction and a Tudor appeal also helps as in the pic at the top of the page, but these are not required.)

I confess that my first criterion--that welcoming ambience factor--took a bit of a hit as we approached. On a side street in the gritty blue collar town of South Amboy, the joint looked like a dive gin-mill my father would have patronized back in the 40's. Uh-oh, says I. I'm a bit leery about just walking in here, and you want me to eat, too?

But, with her insisting that the food was very good, we pressed on, and once inside this very local bar, the welcoming ambience factor returned. Spacious, high-ceilinged with an old square bar at center stage and with a very large stone fireplace in one corner, my sense of unease disappeared.

Especially when I saw a chap cooking feverishly--right behind the bar, with a shiny new grease/smoke exhaust unit high above his cooking area. As I would come to learn, this was Rob Munck, one of three brothers who own the pub jointly.

Debbie and Rob Munck

We were first greeted by the bar mistress, Debbie, whose smile and demeanor spoke volumes. The missus ordered a Blue Moon (hey, cut me a break-- for two and a half decades, she'd only drink Bud.) I looked at the eight taps and saw three things that piqued my interest. The first was Goose Island IPA, the second was Leninenkugel's Snowdrift Vanilla Porter and the third was Sam Adams' Alpine Spring. Interesting, says I. So I ordered the Vanilla Porter, and it was pretty darned good. Rob changes the offerings regularly, based upon what sells best. Stella Artois and Yuengling's are also on tap.

The first thing I noticed on the menu were the reasonable prices. The second thing was the pierogies appetizer. (Or was it the other way around?)

The missus ordered the Shrimp Quesadilla and I ordered a Steak Sandwich. The pierogies came out first and they looked most appetizing, smothered as they were in sauteed onions. And upon tasting them, we both said these were not frozen but homemade. Debbie confirmed that they were, and in fact, made fresh for the Munck-ee Bar by a local Polish woman. Nobody makes pierogies like Polish women. Absolutely outstanding, and they even went well with the porter.

"Unbelievably delicious!"

The missus allowed that her Shrimp Quesadilla was "unbelievably delicious," and my steak sandwich was equally so. The bread, made and delivered daily by a local bread guy, was crazy fresh, and the sandwich was chock full of steak and cooked to perfection with Swiss Cheese and Mushrooms, and came with fresh onion rings. For just $6.95, it was a steal. I ordered a Goose island IPA, and it, too worked very well.

This was the night the area was expecting another "monster" snowstorm,  so we didn't stay for the festivities that were aborning, as crowds of locals began to flow in.

Once again, the old adage about judging a book by its cover rings true. Good food, good beer, good people are at The Munck-ee Bar.

When it came time to pay the very reasonable bill, the missus coyly advised me that she had brought no money, and I had to go to the hip. So guess who made a monkey out of whom?

No matter, though.  She also made a Munck-ee Bar fan out of me. We'll certainly be back. Check it out sometime, and tell them The PubScout sent you!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Uno's Cask Fest Lineup Looking Super...

Mark your calendars for March 23. Cask Lovers will have a veritable feast to enjoy, thanks to Chris Percello and the good folks at Uno's Brewery and Grill on Rt. 1 in Metuchen near Menlo Park. Have a gander at this menu!

Starts at noon and runs till all the casks have been depleted! See you there!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

What a Difference 15 Years Makes

JoEllen (L.) and Penny (R.)

There's a great sense of excitement and anticipation in going to see people you haven't seen for 15 years...which dissipates quickly when you discover they haven't aged a bit
--though you have.
Such was the case with my recent re-visit to The Brewer's Apprentice, now in completely new digs since its opening in 1998. Joellen and Penny must have found what Ponce DeLeon was looking for when they got into the beer-brewing business back in the day. And Mom Barbara, at 81, is still as pleasant as ever and sharp as a tack.
These gals, with roots in Perth Amboy, helped The PubScout brew his first--and only--BOP (Brew-on-Premise) beer--PubScout IPA.

With my very young sons in tow, we shared a science lesson they would likely not get in school. But since we homeschooled our sons, with the missus at the helm from September to June, and me in charge in the Summer, the rules were different. My summer, my rules.

The occasion was the Brewer's Apprentice St. Patty's Day party, where admission and three samples were free. All three are in their copious collection of "Recipe Bibles" which give customers hundreds of beer styles to choose from, make and bring home. They also offer wine and mead recipes.
The beer process is still remarkably simple--pick a style (or tell them what beer you'd like yours to taste like) and with the help of brewer experts, make your own fresh beer. You'll measure and crack grain, add malt pitch yeast, boil and keg, though the kegging part is done by experts. You use their equipment and mess up their kitchen, not yours. And, as I wrote many years ago, the "women" clean up.

As Fate would have it, among the many customers brewing their own this day (John and Tina, John, Jeff, Erin and Maggie and others) was a family that had selected The PubScout IPA to make their own.
Of course, that called for a picture of the lucky family--Cindy and Jessica Reitman, Larry DeMegliano and Brian Toms--and yours truly. These fortunate folks can now download this picture here, and take it to any bar in the country. With this picture and enough money, they can drink good beer all night.

There was a packed house and good cheer all around, and nary a parking space close by--which is good. With love apparently in the air, many couples were in attendance, solidifying their relationships by making good beer together. After all, the couple that brews together,---never mind.

The PubScout is ecstatic that these hard-working women have not only become successful, but have retained the "personal touch" with their customers that made The Brewer's Apprentice so attractive so many years ago.

If you have ever had the itch to brew your own, but have been intimidated by what seems to be an alchemist's formula and having to acquire expensive equipment to get started, this is the place to go. Still, the least they could have done was looked a little older. Maybe next time.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Free in Freehold!

My Freehold Friends reminded me about this event. If you've ever had the hankering to brew your own, but either didn't want to invest in expensive equipment right away or didn't know how to get started, this is the place to go. Friendly, knowledgeable and totally beer-savvy, these gals can make your "first time" memorable. And the nice thing about it (besides this event being FREE) is The Women Clean Up. At least they did fifteen years ago when I first reviewed the Brewer's Apprentice...they may have been liberated since, but check their website out!



March is here, and that means it's time for a Saint Patrick's Day party at The Brewer's Apprentice! THIS SUNDAY, March 3rd we'll celebrate the luck of the Irish with an open house, music, food, and of best of all BEER!
Come out to the brewery between 12pm and 4pm for this free event! You'll be able to sample three of our best Irish craft beer recipes and enjoy special discounts on brewing appointments and ingredients throughout the store! Bring your appetite, as while supplies last we'll also have delicious corned beef sandwiches - a pint of your favorite brew is included with each lunch purchased! All the while, we'll be playing a huge array of great Irish music... ranging from traditional to rock.
Whether you celebrate Paddy's Day or not, we invite you to help us pay homage to our favorite Saint by sampling great beer, classic food, and awesome music. Bring your friends and make new ones... it's going to be a great time!