Good pubs, Good Beer, Good People

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.

The PubScout

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Percello Era Ends at Uno's

Uno's soon-to-be-former brewer, Chris Percello, put together a star-studded lineup of beers at his last Cask Fest, and Uno's soon-to-be-brewer Zak Conner was on hand to help--and take notes.

The fests at Uno's have drawn considerable attention from beer geeks and today was no exception. From far and wide they came to taste superlative brews, with representatives from Kane, Carton, Harvest Moon, Climax, Bolero Snort and Uno's itself.

Beer Goddess Megan Kennedy was on hand from the Shore area, and renowned Beer Writer Mark Haynie made the trek from near Cape May--portions of which are below the Mason-Dixon line.

New Brewer Zak and the Beer Goddess, Megan
Yours truly was on hand early, ostensibly to talk with the new brewer, but really to get a first taste of that much-talked-about beer from Bolero Snort--GingerBull Cookie Brown Ale--and it did not disappoint. Kane's Special Driftline Brown, made with Oak Nuggets (or some such thing) was also exceptional, and Carton's Wet Harvest, dry-hopped with Mosaic, also got plaudits from those who drank it. Of course, Dave Hoffman's outstanding Pumpkin was on tap at the bar, and it, too, saw a lot of action.

Beer Writer Mark Haynie

As Percello will be heading south to the nation's capital tomorrow to start his new gig at Right Proper brewing, it was a bittersweet event in some ways. Sweet because of the beer and people Percello's stint has affected, and bitter because of, well, the hops in Kane Ripple Session IPA and Climax IPA.
 More pictures available here, and be sure to read the captions. Good Luck, Chris and Natalie!

And, just as importantly, good luck to Zak as he begins his new adventure. During our discussion, he allowed that his mission, aside from making the good beer Uno's has come to be known for, is to encourage more people to get under the good beer tent. "I'm excited," said the former Harvest Moon Assistant from Madison, NJ. "This is a great opportunity for me, and I can't wait to get started."

Conner indicated that he would love to see events like cask fests, blind tastings and beer dinners be regular occurrences at the Metuchen pub. Following in the footsteps of his predecessors, Mike Sella and Percello, he'll have big boots--and plenty of pint glasses-- to fill.

The PubScout

Friday, October 25, 2013

Working Hard at The Office?

Boston Brewing's CEO Jim Koch with Beer Nut Larry Deahl

The Office on Rt. 22 in Bridgewater and I will be co-sponsoring its first-ever blind beer tasting on Tuesday, Nov. 12 at 7 PM. Manager Scott Van Guilder and I will combine our resources to provide attendees with ten different beers, as well as assorted munchies throughout the evening. 

A special Beer Tasting Primer will precede the event, because you will have to know how to evaluate beer without knowing its brand name. You can get a headstart by clicking on this
"Beer Sense" link .
Scott will present ten different beers, along with rating sheets which will record your scores in the four different sensory areas that the pros use to judge beer. It should be a fun night--especially when the results are revealed.  We'll have lots of fun along the way, too, as Scott will be handing out all kinds of goodies and favors and I'll be showing some home movies from 1987.

And what's the cost of this extravaganza? $75? $60? $50? $40?
Just 14 measly bucks. 
You heard right. 
Just $14. 

Because Scott, a dedicated Beer Nut, is trying to alert the beer drinkers of the region that his tap and bottle choices, as well as his food at this Office location are worthy of your continued attention and patronage. In fact, there's a promo on this page that will give you 10% off your entire bill just for bringing The PubScout page in anytime. Except for special events--like this one. 

But hey, 10% is 10%.  A table full of pubbers who run up a bill of $4,000 would see $400 of that knocked right off! Can't beat that with a stick.

In any event, call The Office and let them know you want in to their First-Ever Blind Beer Tasting. Seating will be limited and other beer-loving groups have already staked out a chunk of territory. At least one of the groups has some extremely hot-looking ladies in it. Well, hot to me, anyway.

Oh, and "blind" doesn't mean you'll be blindfolded. (Hell, you couldn't enjoy the aforementioned ladies that way.) The beers will be numbered and only Scott and I will know what brand is being evaluated at any one time.

We may discover that Corona Light was the group's favorite! 
(Nah. That's not gonna happen.)

Hope to see you there!

The PubScout

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Delightful Surprise at Verjus

The missus and I went out to dinner last night with our elderly, widowed neighbor across the street. She suggested one of her favorite restaurants in Maplewood, named Verjus, a pretty classy place specializing in contemporary French/New American cuisine. I'm a pub and tavern guy specializing in burgers and quesadillas, but we assented because we knew it would make her happy.

After sitting down and reading the beer menu, I realized it would also make me--and any other beer geek--happy. Turns out the owner/chef Charles Tutino is a devotee of craft beer, and especially craft beer that complements his food.

There were twenty beers on the menu this night, including one from Anchor that I'd never had--or even heard of: Anchor Humming Ale. I mean, a guy who knows enough about a hop called Nelson Sauvin from New Zealand to put a beer made with it on his menu gets my vote as a "Savvy Palate Guy."

The special seasonals were Dogtoberfest and Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin, but the main list was quite impressive: four from Anchor, two from Dogfish Head, two from Schneider, Jever Pilsner, Reissdorf Kolsch, Saison Dupont, Chimay Triple, Allagash White, Belhaven Scottish and non-alcoholic Einbecker rounded out the list. Three others, Amstel Light, Heineken and Heineken Light were also available for those so inclined. I opted for a Dogtoberfest, a multiple GABF medal winner, to start, and it did not disappoint.

Chef Tutino's food also testified to his abilities in the kitchen, and my Roast Peking Duck went wonderfully with my Belhaven Scottish Ale. The desserts at Verjus are works of art for both eye and palate, but at first I chose only the Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin to fill that bill, thinking I'd be perfectly satisfied. But  co-owner/wife Jane Witkin--a Perth Amboy gal-- brought out a special Espresso-Creme Caramel that tested my resolve. Despite saying repeatedly, "Get thee behind me, Satan," the dessert deftly twisted my arm behind my back in such a painful way that I relented. It was a perfect pairing with the great Pumpkin.

Jim Koch of Sam Adams fame is fond of saying, "All beer is good; some beer is better." Thanks to guys like Chef Tutino, better beer is finding its way into better food places.

And that's a win for everyone who enjoys both.

The PubScout
(PS--Photoshop out those wine glasses, if you must.)

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Mr. Percello Goes to Washington

Chris and Natalie--moving on
Uno's Brewer Chris Percello will be saying goodbye to his Metuchen digs--and a host of friends-- after his last Cask Fest next Saturday, Oct. 26. Percello, who assumed the reins from longtime Brewmeister Mike Sella a couple of years ago, will be heading to a new venture called Right Proper Brewing in the nation's capital on October 28.

The Beer Cognoscenti at a Percello Cask Fest
Percello leaves a healthy beer heritage at the Rt. 1 South pub. His Cask Fests drew lots of fans because of the beers he brought to the table--including his own. A prodigy of Brewmeister Dave Hoffman, Chris's beers were applauded and enjoyed by Beer Geeks and Newbies alike. Just as importantly, his beer dinners raised the bar for whoever comes in to fill his boots.

The Regulars
We'll miss him, for sure, but we wish him and Natalie the best in this new chapter of their lives. Right Proper's gain is our loss.
As to who will fill his shoes, we'll keep you posted as we learn.

Good luck and thanks, Chris!
The PubScout

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Um, Belay That WOB Start Date...

The PubScout, being totally and selflessly committed to informing his wide (and growing) readership of good beer opportunities, sojourned yesterday to New Brunswick to cover the Grand Opening of the new World of Beer facility there. Using this promo card as a guide, I reported here that October 14 would be G.O.D.--Grand Opening Day.

While the facility was "open," it was open only for what Manager Kelly Andre called "Beer School," a required staff tutorial on beer, its styles and the various nuances thereof. The real G.O.D. would be October 28th, he advised.

Which, in the grand scheme of things isn't so bad. Having your waitstaff properly briefed on beer, what it pairs with and what its characteristics are is a good thing, and certainly worth a two-week wait. It would avoid experiences like one I had when I once questioned a comely waitstaff wench in a pub which shall remain nameless. I asked her, "What's the difference between an ale and a lager." She responded with, "Um, lagers are dark and ales are light."
Such a response is not really the barmaid's fault; it is the fault of management. If you're going to sell good beer, make sure the staff--comely or not-- knows its stuff.

Still, even among the unpacked boxes, those alluring, bright and shiny 50 taps on the wall beckoned The PubScout like The Sirens beckoned Odysseus. And while I was disappointed that I would not sample their nectar this day, I was not distraught. I will persevere. I will be there for the G.O.D.

In the course of our brief conversation, Andre revealed that he is opening a raft of WOBs around the tri-state area, including Princeton. (I privately mused that a Rutgers-Princeton rivalry might one day manifest itself in the form of competing beer dinners, but I digress.)

I will be putting that new waitstaff to the test on October 28th to see what they gleaned and retained from "Beer School," an educational institution where nobody cuts class.


See you there!
The PubScout

Monday, October 14, 2013

Time to Celebrate!

As some of my faithful followers may know, my writing was recently honored by The North American Guild of Beer Writers at their recent conclave in Denver, CO at the Great American Beer festival. This story about Mike Proske at Tapastre in Somerville earned a 2nd Place award, and I am humbled by the honor. There are a lot of very good writers in the beer world. To be considered among them is a reason to celebrate.

But far be it from me to celebrate alone. If you look above, there is a new graphic on my blog. I have recently partnered with The Office Beer Bar and Grill on Rt. 22 in Bridgewater to provide my readers with a 10% discount on their beer AND food--good any time!

There is no fee attached to this. 
No strings of any kind. 
No membership to purchase or renew. 

All you need to do is to click on any story, then print out the page. (If you don't click on a single story, you could get more pages than you were banking on, and printer ink ain't cheap.)

Then bring the printed page to the good folks over at The Office Beer Bar and Grill on Rt. 22 West in Bridgewater. Show it to your server, tell him or her you read The Pubscout's Blog and he or she will take TEN percent off your bill! Beer AND food! Bringing a large group? Bring a coupon--get 10% off. Hey, money's money.

Doesn't get easier. Each time you visit bring a new coupon and get a new discount. (As a courtesy to the good server, it would be nice to leave your tip based upon what the bill would have been.)

There will be lots of opportunities to visit, too. The Office has an astounding array of beers thanks to the efforts of Manager Scott Van Guilder, who knows a thing or two about our favorite beverage.

Together, we're planning a Beer-Tasting 101 Education session for November 12 where you'll be instructed in the skill of how to properly taste a beer. It's perfect for those who enjoy beer and for those just learning about it.

Scott will have ten beers for you to sample, and he's throwing in munchies as well. The cost? Just $12.

Then we're planning a special beer dinner in early December. More details will follow on that baby, so stay tuned. But it will be special, for sure.

It's Scott's attempt to make you familiar with his great tavern tucked on the side of Rt. 22 near Thompson Ave., and what it offers in terms of good beer and good food.

So come on in. Bring the coupon. Get a discount and get comfortable. Stay awhile.
And if you stay later than expected, you can always tell your significant other that you were "Working Late at The Office."

And you won't be lying.

The PubScout

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Here they are!

Your 2013 GABF Winners! Congrats to all!

The PubScout

More Intimate O-Fest at Artisan's This Year

The Cable Car Table
...But it was still a rollicking good time!
Scaled down somewhat due to the lingering impact of Hurricane Sandy on local residents who usually attend, the festival was confined to one room rather than the two that usually are filled to capacity. But in some ways, the setting was actually more conducive to interaction among the guests, the emcee and the PolkaDelphia Oom-pah band that came from Philly for the event.

With Dave Hoffman doing the brewing and Chef Steve Farley churning out his usual succulent fare, the event was filled with Ein Prosits, mug-clanking, siggy-soggies and oy-oy oys.
The San Francisco Cable Car table, the Steve's Cousins Table and the Table of The Virgins were on hand to add to the festive atmosphere.

Other notables included Paul Mulshine of the Star Ledger, Chris Percello (soon to be former brewer at Uno's) and even Sandra Bullock put in an appearance. One wag commented that she came from Gravity into Depravity, but he was just joshing.

I think.

Actually the weather could have qualified as soggy--if not siggy--as torrential rain caused terrible road conditions, and a few tardies who had to navigate flooded roads to get to their Nirvana were accorded a warm welcome when they eventually arrived. Not counting the fester who yelled out, "Ayyy! Yo! Where the hell you been?"
I lost the sausage at the 2nd pub...

It was especially good to see former Dirndl Beauty Margaret and manager Liz in the house, attending the event for the first time as guests.

In all, it was another successful Artisan's Oktoberfest Dinner at the House that The Petes built.
Even though one of them was at some other house.

More pictures here, (read the clever captions!) and here's the actual keg-tapping.

Ein prosit!
The PubScout

Friday, October 11, 2013

Shark River Beer Fest to Feature NJ’s Best Breweries

My beer buddy Chris DePeppe keeps me informed of these sterling events he runs. And he even writes a solid presser, so why mess with success?

"The steady growth of New Jersey’s craft brewing scene will be celebrated at the upcoming Shark River Beer Fest set for Saturday, November 2nd at The Headliner in Neptune.  With a lineup of breweries that includes some of the state’s established breweries as well as a few newcomers, this second-year event will showcase some of New Jersey’s very best craft beers.

There will be selections from Shore area breweries like Carton, Tuckahoe, and East Coast, as well as a handful of award-winning beers from Flying Fish, Cricket Hill, and Boaks, and some brand new beers from upstarts like Bolero Snort.

But New Jersey won’t be the only state represented, as craft brewers from Colorado, California, Vermont, Maine, Pennsylvania, New York and Maryland are already confirmed.

The Headliner, renovated after Sandy, will host the event for the first time.

“The Headliner is a perfect venue for this event,” according to Chris DePeppe of TotalBru Marketing, the event promoter.  “It is just the right size and has some cool space inside and out where we can feature a different array of breweries  - and the intimacy of the space will let guests meet and converse with the brewery reps and brewmasters.”

Over 35 breweries are expected to participate and each will pour two different beer styles.  The diversity of beer flavors will be on display and a few styles will be highlighted at a food and beer flavor-pairing station.
The Shark River Beer Fest will be held on November 2, 2013 at The Headliner on Hwy 35 in Neptune from 2-6PM.  Tickets are on sale now at and will include beer AND food and a tasting glass.  The beer will be served in 2 ounce pours and no one under 21 will be admitted.  Tickets are $49 online in advance and there is an early bird discount available through October 13th.  

Details are at  Designated driver tickets are $15 each with food and alternative beverages  included.  Live music provided by members of Holme."

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Craft Brewers Feel Shutdown Pinch

The Hairy Eyeball

Read this article to see how the .gov shutdown is impacting small craft brewers. Some pretty well known ones are weighing in: Lagunitas, New Belgium and Lakefront are three.

Time is money, especially for small craft brewers, and according to the story, the government was taking up to 75 days to approve various applications--and that was BEFORE the shutdown.

As one brew guy put it: "Wanna regulate? Perform or get out of the way!"

That seems to be a good message for the Washington, DC crowd these days.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Figures Are In from Oktoberfest

Here's a fascinating look at the stats from Prince Ludwig and Princess Theresa's annual Bavarian Bash.

Apart from the encouraging stats on fewer lost dentures, The PubScout especially likes these:

"Other lost items included: one Segway, two wedding rings, a hearing aid, 400 sets of keys, 320 smartphones, 520 wallets, 940 items of clothing, 1065 identity cards and passports, eight children and 30 decorative knives known as Hirschfanger or deer catchers."

Ein Prosit!

The PubScout

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Automatic Home Beer Brewer: Salvation or Sacrilege?

More than one award-winning brewer has confirmed the Brewer's Adage: "If you ain't wet, you ain't working."

That may no longer be true, if this little gizmo catches on.

And other famous beer folks have concurred with the statement: You may love beer, but you can't be intimate with it until you actually brew it."


Because this handy-dandy gadget may be the beginning brewer's salvation or the artisan's sacrilege.

What do you think?

Personally, The PubScout would try it. But I'd have to taste the products before I plunked down $1600 of gelt.

Then again, split two ways...

The PubScout

Tavern Blasts from The Past

...check this story out.

Kudos to Greg Hatala, The Star Ledger and for this fascinating look at NJ watering holes past. From taverns featuring a "dead man's seat," to those which helped the Founding Fathers with the brewing Revolution, this is an interesting glimpse into a bygone era.

The PubScout

Sunday, October 6, 2013

More News from New Brunswick

The Old Bay Restaurant, long a destination for lovers of Nawlins cuisine, and equally well-known for its beer list, is hosting its annual Oktoberfest Celebration next Sunday, Oct. 13. Having attended many of these in the past, The PubScout can state with confidence that if German cuisine, good beer and zydeco fall under your purview, you will not be disappointed.

Here's the flyer:

Your move!
The PubScout

Friday, October 4, 2013

Hop-Happy Hub City to Greet WOB

New Brunswick, NJ has no dearth of great beer bars. Harvest Moon Brewpub, Old Bay, Old Man Rafferty's, Tumulty's and Stuff Yer Face are just a few that make New Brunswick a solid beer destination.
But come Monday, October 14, the Hub City will welcome a new kid on the George Street block--World of Beer.

According to their promo page,"There's A Whole Lotta Beer Here." 500 beers from 40 different countries to be precise.

There's even an app available for keeping track--or score. Their Loyalty Card Program rewards the Beer-Nut for trying new beers.

On paper, it looks to be a great destination.

Of course, being committed to the scene as Yours Truly is, he will be venturing forth to review it on Opening Day. Perhaps we'll find a lucky WOB Winner somewhere in the house soon after.

Or maybe we'll just look out back.

Perhaps we'll experience the birth of  WOB, hoist a few pints and get the lay of the land?

See you there!

The PubScout

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A Marriage Still Going Strong

Charlie greets the crowd
When I first reviewed the Trap Rock Restaurant in Berkeley Heights more than a decade ago, I predicted a very long honeymoon. Apparently, I was correct.

Because at a dinner celebrating the marriage of Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese (commonly known as Oktoberfest) the marriage bonds are still strong among the elements that make a great food/beer destination. Quality food, beer, service and ambience are essential to a strong bond.

Of course, some of the names have changed over time. Brewer Charlie Schroeder’s rubber boots have been walking for eleven years where Scott Sutera and Rob Mullin once trod. Chef Andy now works the scullery where other chefs have proffered their interpretations of Trap Rock’s culinary delights. And of course, the waitstaff changes, though the commitment to great service seems to remain a constant.

Chef Andy and Chris
 Charlie’s array of beers is growing, as is the demand for them. So much so, that plans are being made to expand production, according to Assistant Brewer Brett Crawford. Nine beers graced the regular menu, and three of them made it to the dinner list.

Jack O’Lager was a delicious, delicately balanced sweet potato beer that tasted remarkably like pumpkin and it accompanied a Traditional Creamy Chantarelle Soup in which crispy fried, cloth-poached dumplings swam. Considering that Founders Brewing was also in the house, it was an excellent pairing to begin the dinner.

MJ and Jesse raise their glasses
House Made veal Bratwurst was augmented by Charlie’s Oktoberfest and my table partners all gave that pairing high marks as well. Speaking of table partners, three of mine had the distinction of having Trap Rock Beers named after them. That’s a neat (not to mention smart) way of building customer loyalty, and I was advised that at least three others at the dinner shared the naming honor. The main room was filled to capacity, and Charlie had to set up a long table in the next room to accommodate the faithful, so the strategy seems to have paid off.

Then it was time for a Dirty Bastard to come to the table. Ryan Staats, Founders Rep. (and a Jersey boy) was with us, and he allowed that in beer-making philosophy, Founders was “like the Dogfish Head of the Midwest.” He lamented in retrospect the fact that Founders hadn’t trademarked the “Bastard.” That lapse allowed breweries like Stone to apply the term to their beers. But no true beer lover will ever confuse the products, leastways those who know the difference between a Scotch ale and an American Strong Ale.
Without being arrogant, I felt the Dirty Bastard worked supremely well with Chef Andy’s Niman Ranch Pork Tenderloin Schnitzel and Spaetzle. So far, the courses and beers went three-for-three.

Ashley and The Dirty Bastard
No Oktoberfest dinner would be complete without Sauerbraten, and this tender, succulent meat fell apart at the touch of a fork. I fell apart at the taste of Trap Rock Oak Leaf Bourbon IPA. Housed in a maker’s Mark Bourbon barrel that cost less than $100 and is paying for itself every day, this beer was well-balanced and passed the four-senses test quite nicely. Even an untrained nose could catch the Bourbon notes after three months in the barrel, and the fact that it was made with all leaf hops lent it a subtle, delightful complexity, as well as a distinctive finish. Four for four.

Dessert time, and Founders Breakfast Stout got the nod to accompany Schegel’s Farm Three-Apple Strudel with walnuts, raisins and maple crème anglaise. Most folks like coffee with their breakfast and dessert. Some like chocolate. Breakfast Stout had both, and enabled Trap Rock’s Oktoberfest dinner to go five-for-five.

The days may be getting shorter, but the folks at the Trap Rock Restaurant are providing sufficient light to brighten the night. They do it with a combination of great food, great beer, great service and tasteful ambience that has attracted and kept a loyal following.

And created a seemingly perpetual honeymoon.

The PubScout