Good pubs, Good Beer, Good People

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!

The PubScout

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