Good pubs, Good Beer, Good People

Monday, September 30, 2013

“Vujas De” at The Swizzle Inn--Bermuda

You all know what Dejas vu is.
Vujas De is the opposite: the feeling that none of this has ever happened before, but probably should have.
And that pretty much describes my visit to the oldest operating pub on the island of Bermuda. But I digress.

It was a dark and stormy night.

And by Dark and Stormy, I don’t mean the national drink of Bermuda. It rained like hell for hours and said rain was accompanied by gale force winds of at least 48 knots, according to one mariner I met. We left Hamilton in a nonstop torrential downpour, hoping that the weather would change by the time we got up to The Swizzle Inn at Bailey’s Bay.

It did.

It got worse. Sheets of water flew high up over our bus, driven by a guy with ice water in his veins, considering the curves of Bermudian roads even when dry. There was so much water that it was pooling deeply even on downhill inclines. Now that may be great for Bermudians, whose house roofs are white to collect rain water in cisterns, but for pedestrians—and especially for those poor souls on scooters—it was nothing less than Noah’s weather, with no ark in sight.

So much so, that upon letting us out at the Swizzle Inn, our bus driver advised, “There’s no better place to be on a night like this.”

Man, was he right.

As we walked into the warmly-lit pub, built into a building that was erected in 1650, the usual sounds of laughter and clinking glasses combined with the smells and hubbub of a busy kitchen to make a soggy traveler feel most welcome. One glance around the place—with its million or so business cards taped to the walls and low ceilings and other walls covered with signatures made me ask myself why I had never stopped in here before. Under Vujas De, I felt as though I should have.

There are plenty of rooms upstairs (for bigger parties) and down (for the hoi polloi like us) to attract the peripatetic pubber, who might spend a decade trying to read the business cards and writing on just the walls of a single room.

Carolyn Hart Mungal
Manager Carol Hart Mungal met us at the door and immediately made us feel welcome, introducing us to her two affable friends, pub regulars Debbie and Kevin Hogan, who invited us to join them—even though we looked like drowned rats. Hey, they were from Jersey, so they had to be cool. The memory of Noah’s Deluge was now just that—a memory, but the

downpour would impact the night’s festivities—a week-long Oktoberfest celebration—by delaying the bearer of the keg-tapper and his critical tapping tool in a small flood.
Debbie Hogan, Jay Correia and Kevin Hogan
No matter, though. With The Swizzle Inn’s ambience and Carolyn, the Hogans and the lively, energetic owner Jay Correia to keep us engaged, we didn’t mind the wait. Especially because the wait included samples of the pub’s namesake drink: The Swizzle.
You can find the recipe here. It, too, is sometimes considered Bermuda’s national drink.

But this was, after all, a night of Oktoberfesting, the third such yearly event Carolyn has managed, and she manages another Swizzle Inn at the opposite end of the island. With the keg tapper and his tool finally in the house, the specially imported Paulaner Oktoberfest would erupt from the keg to find a very temporary home in the mug, and the party was on. Amid choruses of “Ein Prosit!” and a few “ziggy-zoggy hoy-hoy-hoys,” the attendees who braved the weather wore porkpie hats and dirndl bibs under the tent accurately decorated in the Bavarian style.

Here's a video of the keg-tapping.
The pub’s motto is “Swizzle Inn; Swagger Out” and considering the ingredients, “swagger” might easily become “stagger,” but that didn’t happen as long as we were there, which was at least four hours. The old house rang with cheers and laughter, while glasses were raised in celebration, with old friendships cemented and new ones formed. Little did we know that our fun adventure was not over—nor would it be “fun,” except in retrospect.

After saying our goodbyes, we headed back to the ship by bus to Hamilton, where our plan was to board the ferry for the cross-bay trip back to the dock. But to our dismay, we learned the ferry was canceled due to dangerous winds. So we got blown around the nearly deserted streets of Hamilton, eventually arriving at the bus terminal.

Thinking our night was concluded, we rested comfortably in the hands of another ice-water-veined bus driver. He dropped us off at the dock for a three-minute walk to the ship.

That walk, however, took nearly fifteen minutes, as we fought those headlong, 48 knot winds step by step as if in a nightmare where you think you’re running but you’re hardly moving. The powerful wind had blown down a line of scooters near the dock, and nearly took the missus herself into the drink. After reaching and boarding the ship at last, we learned that some hours earlier, the Captain had given a directive that no one should get off the ship due to the 55 mph winds—just 9 mph shy of hurricane force.

But we didn’t know. Nor, in retrospect, would we have cared. And though we “Swizzled Inn” and “Swaggered Out,”we did not stagger.

Unless you count the walk from the bus stop to the ship. But the Oktoberfest at the Swizzle Inn  and the people we met were worth every step.

The PubScout

Bermuda's Hog Penny Pub

Hog Penny Pub Interior
Taking advantage of the adage that says “those who save for a rainy day die in the sun,” the missus and I recently headed for the island of Bermuda on a cruise.

And, once in the quaint, picturesque town of Hamilton on Burnaby Street, we took advantage of Bermuda’s ancestral ties to England to experience an authentic English pub that was actually cobbled together from chunks and parts of other pubs in England.

Joanna Wellman
The Hog Penny, which has been variously a bicycle shop, a meat slaughterhouse and a discotheque, has two distinct seating levels.
According to its literature, it was the inspiration for the Cheers Pub in Boston, and if the personable and friendly Joanna Wellman is on duty, the Hog Penny may also become the place where everybody knows your name. 

The pub is one of five owned by a conglomerate: The Victoria Grill, the Barracuda Grill, The Pickled Onion (all in Hamilton) and The Frog and Onion out on King’s Wharf in the Royal Navy Dockyard.

Dockyard beers served here
The Hog Penny serves a variety of beers, but Dockyard Brewing is the house brew. Based in the Frog and Onion, the brewery originally began in the North Rock Brewery and Restaurant, but it outgrew that venue as demand increased. 

Dockyard produces five regular beers: Trunk Island Pale (IPA), Black Anchor Porter, Somers Amber (English Bitter), St. David’s Lager (Czech Pilsener) and Whale of Wheat (Hefeweizen). My IPA was very good, and the missus enjoyed her Hefeweizen—and apparently the folks at Beer Advocate agree. 

Hog Penny's Award-Winning Fish Chowder
I paired my beer with a delicious dish called the Hot Melt, but if I had it a do-over, I’d hook it up with the Hog Penny’s award-winning Fish Chowder, a spicy mix of ingredients that would have been a perfect match.

At the next table over, we got to chatting with shipmates Annette and Rich Sontag who looked too young to be celebrating their 49th anniversary with two beers and two fish chowders. But they raved about it. Rich, perhaps buoyed by the beer, ecstatic over the chowder and caught up in the spirit of the spontaneous celebration (which the affable Joanna Wellman officially recognized) even left me his personal credit card—which I gave back to him on the ship after a wild shopping spree through pricey Hamilton shops.

Annette and Rich Sontag
Only kidding. (But I’ll admit I was tempted to give it to the missus and tell her to have at it.)

But the Sontags were surely good people, which is what good pubs with good beer are supposed to be about, and The Hog Penny qualifies as not only a good pub, but a great one. You can get quality beer and food, become immersed in the unique ambience of Bermuda’s oldest licensed pub and enjoy the bric-a-brac lining the walls from its storied past. If you’re a true pub lover and you’re ever in Bermuda, don’t miss it.

(And if you smile at Joanna, she may give you the Fish Chowder recipe.)

The PubScout

Friday, September 20, 2013

Working Overtime at The Office

Some years ago (like, maybe ten), I did a story and an interview with John Augustine, who was the go-to Beer guy in The Office Restaurant chain hierarchy. He was primarily responsible for guiding The Office restaurants into the burgeoning world of craft beer. (That story, entitled From Bouncer to Boardroom, won me a writing award, by the way.)

I don't know what's become of John, but I can tell you that The Office chain is still promoting craft beer--and much more.

After a motorcycle ride last month (on the 2014 Indian Chief), my biker pal George and I decided to stop into the Office in Bridgewater on Rt. 22 for a burger and a brew, where we met Manager Greg Santoro. When I identified myself as The PubScout, we began to chat about all things craft beer, and I discovered that Greg is totally tuned in to the scene. Immersed, in fact.

You want proof? He recently sent me a nice, follow-up note, which follows, and which deserves some attention from beer nuts. Check this out:

[Dear Kurt]

I am reaching out to you to invite you to one if not all of the events we are currently having here at the Office. We have so much going on over the next few months, here's the break down. Starting today we are celebrating Oktoberfest in a big way. We have a whole menu dedicated to Oktoberfest food and beer. Everything from Potato Pancakes to Shnitzel, Brats and German Potato Salad. We are also featuring some Marzen beers such as Spaten, Sam Adams and Brooklyn. 
Soon to be tapped we have Paulaner Oktober, Riverhorse Hippolantern and Hacker-Pschorr Oktoberfest. 

In the spirit of Oktoberfest Sam Adams is having a stein hoisting [competition] here at our location on Thursday September 26th from 5-7 PM with lots of give aways and of course the coveted chance to win a trip to Germany for Oktoberfest, courtesy of Sam Adams. Of course only one person in the country is selected each year based on who can hold the stein the longest. 

It's going to be tough to beat this gal...
On top of that, all throughout the months of September and October we will be doing a promotion called #CLANKING. Sponsored by the Sam Adams beer company, it's a contest solely based on friends clanking mugs of beers together, taking a picture of the act of clanking either in store or off premises and posting it to our face book page under the name #CLANKING. Prizes include a 3 day trip to Boston and a tour of the Boston Brewery. The other grand prize winner will win $1500 cash. It's all about who takes the most unique and inspiring photos clanking mugs to promote good beer, good friends and good times. 18 to enter and win 21 to be shown clanking with alcohol, details found at locations or our website. 

From now until February we are featuring a NFL game day menu that features our HUGE fresh never frozen wings and home made sauces, soft pretzels, buffalo pizza and much more plus great prices on beers any time there is a NFL game on. We always have sports on one of our 10 flat screens, and show every game all week long. 

Last but not least I wanted to send you a list of our current draft list in hopes that we can get some love from you guys to try and drive people out to have a great time at the Office of Bridgewater. 

We are currently featuring Magic Hat #9, Flying Fish ESB, Angry Orchard, Flying Fish HopFish, Kane Head High, Oskar Blues Dales Pale Ale, Keegans Mother's Milk, Spatan Oktoberfest, Guinness, Innis & Gunn English Strong Ale, Shiner Bock, Stone IPA, Blue Point Toasted Lager and of course we have the industry standards Coors Light, Bud light, Sam Boston, Sam October, Blue Moon, Corona Lite and Yuengling. 

We also have a great selection of bottled beer as well including Ayinger, Chimay Victory and many many more. Please feel free to contact me any time. Any love and support we can get from you and your team/community would be welcomed and greatly appreciated. We extend invitations to our upcoming events to you and your crew and followers. 

Sounds to me like The Office in Bridgewater under the supervision of Mr. Santoro has "got it going on."

So head out there, and say hello to Greg. Tell him The PubScout sent you.

Then run.

Cheers! The PubScout

Thursday, September 19, 2013

So Much for Scoops

The tipster who shared this info with me apparently  didn't realize we had an exclusive arrangement....

News on the beer front...

from Belmar, as promised, but hat tip to for covering the story.

Cheers! The PubScout

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Hoolie of Biblical Proportions at the House

Noah-Lazarus-Job O'Donovan
Barry O'Donovan was his usual friendly, garrulous self at the 5th Anniversary celebration of the Kilkenny House in Cranford--an anniversary that some doubted would ever come after Hurricane Irene filled the pub with water to the first floor.

Not having seen him in some time, I went to embrace him, but he begged off and said, "Don't hug me; I've got the shingles."

Maybe Barry should change his name to Job. Or Noah. Or Lazarus.
Noah rebuilds his flooded pub--sans flood insurance--and brings it back from the dead--like Lazarus--against all odds.
Then he plans a week-long celebration, culminating in a Halfway-to- St.Paddy's Day Hoolie last evening, and God smites him--like Job-- with shingles.

But he moved around the place he calls "his living room" with a facility that belied his condition. Smiling and clapping to the Irish Step Dancers you can view here and here, he was in his usual leprechaun persona, enjoying, exhorting and enchanting everyone. By the way, that one step dancer in the black outfit is a World Qualifier.

He is nothing if not grateful for the opportunity to rebuild and stay in his adopted hometown of Cranford. Check out his short cameo here.

But beyond offering advice to publicans as to how to treat their customers, he did have a suggestion about the shingles.

 "Don't get them. Get the shot."

Duly noted, Barry. Congrats and Slainte!

Cheers! The PubScout

Beer Scoop Coming from the Jersey Shore

Belmar, to be exact.

Met a guy last night at the Kilkenny House Hoolie...we got to chatting. Pretty big news, too...but it's under wraps for the moment.

Stay tuned...

And remember you heard--or will hear--it from The PubScout!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

7th Central Jersey BeerFest a Hit--Again

"Barbarians" at the Gates!
If one didn't know history, he might think that the  number 7 was a lucky one for Mike Cerami, but Cerami clearly has an "in" with the weather gods. His Central Jersey Beer Fest--an event which funnels proceeds to worthy Woodbridge causes--seems to always have the cooperation of the weatherman. Today's fest saw cooler temps than in the past, but the nearly 800 beer lovers who turned out were not the least bit concerned.

The event was designed to assist the family of Thomas Kurzeja, a leukemia sufferer, and the large turnout pretty much guaranteed a nice donation.
Cerami invites some of the best area brewers to showcase their wares, and this year saw some serious lines at more than one tap. Shore Point offered Sam Adams' Octoberfest and Cherry Wheat, Brooklyn Brewing's Brown and Post Road Pumpkin, Blue Point's White IPA and Rastafarian Rye, and He-Brew's David's Slingshot and Hop Manna IPA.

Brian Boak
The peripatetic Brian Boak was on hand offering five beers--two of which are not yet aviailable to the general public. Those would be Flamethrower and a Flemish Brown sour. The outstanding Monster Mash, Two Blind Monks and DBW rounded out the offerings. Boak channeled a carnival barker as he exhorted the long lines of beer drinkers to try his beers. Apparently, they listened. Check out Boak's pitch here.

Tun Tavern offered a delicious Apple Stout and an IP Ray, while the Ship Inn (NJ's first brewpub) brought its Best Bitter and a resurrected porter called Black Death. Brewer Lea Rumbolo allowed that she had to do some "forensic brewing" to bring this beer back to life, as the recipe had never been written down due to a mistake in the grain bill. Originally intended as a pale ale to commemorate Queen Elizabeth's Golden Jubilee, the former brewer accidentally added black malt instead of pale malt. Many great innovations have happened because of such accidents, and this is clearly one example.

The NewlyWeds--Mr. and Mrs. Percello
Uno's of Metuchen's Chris Percello ( newlywed) brought in his Oktoberfest and his old reliable Ike's IPA, while Beach Haus's Tom Pryzborowski offered his flagship brew along with KickBack Amber, Cruiser and Winter Rental. The host brewpub, JJ Bittings, had four beers available: Whales IPA, Bierstrasse Wheat, Raspberry Wheat and its outstanding, award-winning Bad Boy Oktoberfest.
Megan, Mike and Brendan of Shore Point Dist.

Some well-known beer cognoscenti were in attendance, including the lively--and growing-- Shore Point crew and NJ's first brewmistress, Gretchen Schmidhausler, who won a GABF Gold Medal a few years back. Live bands provided musical ambiance and various food vendors were also on hand to provide solid nourishment. Appetites must have been triggered, because the proprietor of Benson's Southern BBQ advised me that by 3 PM he was already drained of 85 pounds of pulled pork.

Cerami, whose entire family participated in the event, has once again made a positive impact on both his community--and the community of good beer lovers.

Check out more pics here.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Issues of Great Moment at Hailey's Beer Senate

The Hailey's Beer Senate returned from its summer hiatus with serious and good intentions.  But we all know where good intentions lead.

The momentous question regarding Syria was not broached at all.
Two intentions, however, were actually dealt with:
Moshe Atzbi's beer selections and food offerings at this Oktoberfest-themed senatorial session.

Newest Senators
As per usual, Moshe's culinary preparations were the subject of raves, especially from the two newest Senators--Kaz and Alex-- sitting at my table. A multi-sausage dish with succulent red cabbage, some absolutely heavenly German-style wings and a huge, buttery pretzel accompanied by three orgasmic sauces sated the Senators' appetites, while Moshe's beer choices slaked their thirsts.

Also as usual, Moshe & Co. had some surprises in store, including  a giveaway of tickets to RU's game this Saturday and a generous helping of Moshe's special stash of Southern Tier's outstanding Pumking. Veteran Senator Natalie Lay won the tix, and in a remarkable display of Senatorial Courtesy, awarded them to the two rookies at the table.

Senator Natalie and her tix

The session was also informed about the well-known history of Oktoberfest and the little-known history of Moshe's German Uncle Klaus and Chris Flynn's brief
--but memorable--stint as a paratrooper.

The next senate Session (on the 2nd Tuesday of October) will discuss the merits of Belgian Dubbels and Tripels.

Regarding the beer contest, Stoudt's Oktoberfest won the evening, but an important issue did arise that perhaps one of you well-informed readers can answer. It was noted on the side of the Hacker-Pschorr bottle that the liquid inside is called an ale. Paulaner (not at the session) says the same thing. Marzens are traditionally lagers--especially in Die Faderland. And while some excellent marzens have been made using ale formulas, it was surprising to more than one Senator to see that info on the bottle.
We shall investigate. Calling Dave Hoffman!

See more pics from the event here.

The PubScout

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Um. No.

My buddy Al tipped me to this new product. And my reaction to it is the same as The Most Interesting Man in the World's reaction to the term "Bromance."

What's yours?

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Trap Rock/Founders to Collaborate on O-fest dinner

Charlie Schroeder and his special cake

If you've ever been to the Trap Rock Restaurant and Brewery in Berkeley Heights, NJ, I really don't need to say any more than there's a Beer Dinner on October 1.
With the ambience of an English Country house, a kitchen that offers up some exceptional fare and Charlie Schroeder brewing some outstanding beer, a visit alone is worth the trip.

But this time, they will work in conjunction with Founders Brewing Co. to produce another beer dinner. If past is prologue, no one will be disappointed. Here's their presser:

Reservations now Open for the Octoberfest Beer Dinner

Reservations for the next Trap Rock Beer Dinner are now being taken. 
Since Tuesday, 2/3 of the seats available have already been reserved. 
Complete information about the dinner, including the number of seats remaining, 
is available on the Beer Dinner website at .
To make a reservation, call the Trap Rock at (908) 665-1755.
The date for the beer dinner is Tuesday, October 1st, 2013.
The guest brewer will be Founders Brewing, Grand Rapids, MI. 

“We don’t brew beer for the masses. 
Instead, our beers are crafted for a chosen few, 
a small cadre of renegades and rebels 
who enjoy a beer that pushes the limits of what is 
commonly accepted as taste. 
In short, we make beer for people like us.”

                                                       The menu theme for the evening 

will be Octoberfest. 
Currently, the beer dinner 
website shows last year's menu. 
This will be updated 
when this year's menu is prepared.
Please mark the above 
date on your calendar 
and pass the word to any of 
your beer-loving friends 
who might be interested in joining in.

Consider it done.

The PubScout

The Senate is in Session

Those madcap malt mavens from Hailey's Harp and Pub in Metuchen, led by the Zany Wizard of the Brainy-Boro--Chris Flynn--is calling this august body to order on Tuesday evening, September 10 at 7 PM. Oktoberfest will be the theme.
At these events, food and beer are the order of the day, and the menu comes with a side order of craziness. Senators have been impeached, Popes have been installed and a general good time is had by all.

See you in The Senate!

The PubScout

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Break Out the Lederhosen

There are some beer dinners that are absolutely "Don't Miss" affairs, and this is one of them. From its humble inception seven years ago till now, the guest list has grown exponentially--so much so that "The Petes" actually considered having this Fest span two full days. The event now sees 115 fans in the seats, making it the largest Beer Dinner event in the state.
And why wouldn't it be? Look at the ingredients:

  • Brewmeister Dave Hoffman
  • Executive Chef Steve Farley
  • The Petes
  • The Petes' "Daughters"
  • The Artisan's Dirndl Beauties
  • That Special Artisan Ambiance
  • The Artisan Oom-Pah Band

Ein Prosit!
And one other I can't remember.
Ah, no matter.
It will come to me when I get there on Friday, October 11 at 7PM.
I know it's a month away, but call Artisan's to make your reservation (732-244-7566), as this baby packs out quickly.

The PubScout

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Beers for Gridiron Season

Stealing a suggestion from my Florida pal (and soon-to-be-dad) Pete Campana, The PubScout shares this light-hearted (perhaps, perhaps not) look at what should be the beers of the 32 NFL Football Teams.

Have a beer and some fun with this. And try not to spit out your suds when you see the suggestion for the Cowboys and the Jets.

The PubScout

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Best Brewery in the World is in Vermont?

The Bay Head Beer Nut invited me to his house last Sunday for what he said was a "Bye-Bye Bennies" party.

While the jury is still out on the etymological origins of the term "bennies" as it relates to those whose knowledge of the Jersey Shore is just seasonal, there is no disagreement about what happens to shore towns after Labor Day--they get quieter and less crowded, and the pace of living is less frenetic.

And after thanking him for the invitation, he sent me a link to a story about beer and brewing which I will share with you. It's a well-written piece about a Vermont Brewer whose brewery was named "Best in the World" by, and who is in some ways traditional and in others iconoclastic. That his operation sits atop a very impressive list of beer breweries is worth sharing.

Caution, however. It may take you between five and ten minutes to read, digest and appreciate this article.

What may take more time is planning your trip to Vermont.

The PubScout

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Fighting Irish of Kilkenny Pub

Ya can't keep a good man (or his pub) down.
When Hurricane Irene visited Cranford, NJ, in 2011, she was not only unwelcome, she was downright rude. Devastating, to be exact, for Barry O'Donovan, who saw his precious pub filled with water from the basement to the first floor.

Flood insurance might have helped, but as O'Donovan's pub was not in a flood zone, he had none.
Yet with the true grit of an Irishman--and a lot of help from his friends, O'Donovan had the Kilkenny back up and running in record time. His faithful patrons came out to celebrate what was dubbed "The Hoolie Sans Poolie."

Such a comeback celebration requires more than just one evening, however. O'Donovan and staff will be taking six days this September to celebrate the pub's anniversary. The celebration, which starts on September 12, will culminate with a "Half-Way to St. Patrick's Day" bash on September 17 that will feature Irish Step-Dancers, corned beef and cabbage and live Irish music by Dave McBride starting at 7 PM.

Barry O'Donovan

“We have been so fortunate in the way Cranford has supported us,” said Barry O’Donovan, owner of The Kilkenny House, which is located at 112 South Avenue East, across from the Cranford train station.  “In turn, we have tried to help others in the community whenever we can by hosting fundraisers for breast cancer research, Eagle Scout projects, local sports teams, and music education.  Our fifth anniversary is not only a celebration of our little pub, it's a celebration of the vibrant community we have in Cranford, New Jersey.”

The PubScout and Barry O'Donovan
In its five-year tenure, The Kilkenny House has become a favorite of residents and non-local elbow-benders alike--yours truly included. One of the standards I set for a pub--besides its selection of beers and general ambience-- is, "Is it worth driving to?" 
The answer should be clear. 
So it is with the wind at my back, the rain falling softly on my fields and the sun shining warmly on my face that I will be at Kilkenny House on September 17 to participate in a most uplifting night.
And my pint glass will not be the only thing uplifted.
May we always be happy. And may our enemies always know it.

Cheers! The PubScout