Good pubs, Good Beer, Good People

Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Battle of NY and Boston: A Personal Perspective

The beer musings of Beer-Nut John Gonzalez have appeared here before. But this time, SubScout Gonzo shares his own unique perspective of the recent Battle of The Beers: NY and Boston held recently at the Edison Fox and Hound, at which he and his lovely wife JulieAnne were paying guests. One look at her, and it's easy to see he married "up." 
Herewith his offering:

What a blast my wife, JulieAnne, and I had at the Fox and Hound Monday night for the Brooklyn vs Boston Beer Bash…our first, and for sure not our last, beer dinner. For those who have never been to the Fox and Hound, this fine establishment comes dutifully equipped with plenty of large TVs, an abundance of fine dark wood, prime seating throughout, and an excellent array of beers on tap and in bottle.

Arriving early, I couldn’t wait for the dinner to start, so on the suggestion of the Pub Scout – I had 2 bottles of Founder’s Arrogant Bastard – a fine Scotch Style Ale of 8.5% ABV). The Fox and Hound looks to be real homerun location for any and all occasions when you want to turn a long day into a good night!

Pitting the Brooklyn Brewery vs. Sam Adam’s Boston Beer dynasty in a beer dinner was a most creative and inspiring concept, and both breweries gained at least one new loyal customer.

The Bash begins with a Shrimp Toast/Bruschetta combo which was very nice, served with Brooklyn Sorachi Ace and Sam Adams Tripel. Round One goes to Brooklyn on my scoreboard, hands down! I begin to understand what I’m actually doing here! Chef Michael has done his homework – matching the right beer with the right food so that your taste buds say thank you instead of…well, you know.

Round 2, the salad (What did Homer Simpson say about Salad?), was accompanied by Brooklyn’s Local One and Sam’s Tripel. I felt that the Local One HAMMERED the Tripel this round and now leaves the venerable New England juggernaut on the ropes. But not for long, rounds 3 & 4 – the pasta and entrée rounds – Sam rallies back with a great one-two punch of their own serving the Mr. Consistent Sam Adams Lager 
and their flavorful Griffins Bow barley wine compared to Brooklyn’s own lager and their barley wine, Monster. At this point my taste buds are doing double duty and loving it! Chef Michael has gone above and beyond pairing the right foods with the right beers. Each serving came across seamlessly and made for a great dining experience.
So it’s tied up two rounds apiece – the overtime tie breaker round comes up next! The delicate dance of pairing beer and dessert reminds me of a time in my life where I felt any and all beer goes with any and all dessert! Now that I am so much more mature, stately and well-rounded (…thanks to my dear wife), I know better.
 Brooklyn’s Black Ops versus Sam’s American Kreik turned out to be a such a tremendous battle, I had to ask for more samples! The Kreik’s light body, great aromatics, and fruitiness was superb, but it could not withstand the perfect balance the Black Ops brought to the table. A great dark color, mild sweetness and with flavors of coffee, chocolate, and a hint of citrus made it an ideal beer for dessert. A dessert itself, It could easily help me end an evening with a cigar or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

On my score card , I have Brooklyn ahead on rounds winning 3 to 2 versus Sam Adams and company. Overall it was an exceptional night and JulieAnne and I look to repeat. Hopefully soon!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Boston vs. Brooklyn--A Night to Remember

Rich Stapleton: One Happy Camper at the Fox and Hound!
After a week of bone-chilling temps--and with no football on the screen--who wants to come out to a pub on a rainy Monday night?

Well, if the pub is the Fox and Hound in Edison, and if the Chef is Michael Scofield, and if the beers are some of the finest in the country, apparently “only” 107 people.

“We’ve come a long way since our first beer dinner which welcomed just 25 guests, “ said Scofield, who is a management partner at the Fox and Hound by day, but a SuperChef by night. “What pleases me is that those same 25 are still coming out and are now part of a growing base of beer dinner fans here at The Fox and Hound.”

By utilizing an ever-more imaginative approach to his dinners, Scofield, who shows a deft hand in the kitchen, keeps packing them in. Adding a new wrinkle to this--his fourth dinner, he concocted a Battle of the Beers between Boston and Brooklyn, and for the first time in the PubScout’s extensive experience, the various courses were accompanied by two different beers instead of just one. The guests were asked to evaluate which beer went better with each dish, and their scores were tallied at the end. Even the giveaway glassware (with fancy bottle opener included) was arranged in the shape of  “B.” Sam Adams glasses on one side of the table; Brooklyn glasses on the other. And that was, unsurprisingly, another Scofield idea.

Playing on the lasting rivalry between New York and Boston, Scofield and his Shore Point point man, Gary Rosen, came up with exceptional offerings from Sam Adams (Boston) and Brooklyn Brewing. You can follow this link to see which beers accompanied which dishes.

His Fox and Hound serving gals were kept hopping delivering beers and food to the 107 guests who occupied two large rooms and packed the place. A little trivia with some very nice giveaways from the beer guys and a few (new!) jokes from yours truly kept the mood light. Because they were all supplied with pens and a scoring sheet, my personal visits to a various tables to show them the “2nd Grade Teacher Joke” seemed to bear healthy humor fruit.

Chef Michael Scofield, C.
But Scofield did not stop there. Seeking to make his next dinner even more interactive, he distributed “Build Your Own Beer Dinner” sheets, inviting guests to select the beers and the food menu for his next one. The winning entry will win two free passes to that dinner, and at $50 a pop, that’s some serious incentive.

But enough already with the blather. Who won? Boston or Brooklyn? Giants/Patriots, Knicks/Celtics or Yanks/Sox?

As the night progressed, I visited many tables to assess, in an admittedly unscientific way, how the guests were evaluating the beers. I discovered a prominent theme at many tables, and that was that the Brooklyn beers got the nod over Sams when drunk alone. But the Sams seemed to outshine the Brooklyns when paired with each dish. And that, after all, was the basis of the contest.

Indeed, the finally tally reflected that trend, as Sam Adams won every dish. To Brooklyn’s credit, the scores were close (kind of like those New York/Patriot Super Bowls) in every category except one--dessert. There Sam Adams American Kriek totally dominated Brooklyn’s exceptional Russian Imperial Stout known as “Black Ops.”

But the real winners on the night? Everyone who came out to see Scofield and his dedicated staff work their magic at his fourth Fox and Hound beer dinner.

When he announces his next one, mark your calendars.

Check out more pics here.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Beer Review in Eight Words

Uno's Metuchen, Chris Percello, Wheat Wine, Get some.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Not for the Small Dog...

More my style...

My Down Under Beer Brother Kenneth Hart has built a reputation--as well as a booming business known as The Thirsty Swagman--by running beer trips across the globe. Globe-Hopping in its truest sense, I suppose. From Germany to Thailand to Spain, Kenneth and his Hops Homies may set the gold standard for best beer trips and wildest, week-plus-long parties.

Comes now his newest offering, termed Nordic Rock, which he claims will be "your experience of a lifetime." Based on this description, he may have called it right:

"Get ready for the ultimate pub tour through northern Europe, where you’ll quench your thirst in Iceland, Denmark & Germany.
You’ll start off your adventure in Reykjavik, the nightlife capital of the north, with 3 nights of the finest watering holes in Iceland.
Then it’s off to Copenhagen for 3 nights, where you’ll visit the local pub scene which is famous for its huge variety of different establishments.
Next stop is a 2-night stint in Hamburg, home to the Reeperbahn – a party mile of epic proportions.
Finally, you’ll end your adventure with a rock ‘n’ roll bang at a real hidden gem – Baltic Open Air Concert in the tiny town of Schleswig. It’s one of the coolest events you’ll ever witness."

Sounds like an epic adventure if you like (and are able) to run with the big dogs.

Nordic Rocker

Perhaps proof that The Swagman understands the minds and habits of hard partiers lies in his handbook which discusses departures from various sites:
"Where possible, all departure times take into full consideration the hard nights before."
That is not to say, however, that asinine behavior is either encouraged or approved. Hart publishes a clear list of what he calls "No Idiot Rules" and a DWI (Declared While Idiot) risks ejection from the tour--perhaps directly into the local constabulary.

You can read the full details of the tour here.

Rocking in Reykjavik
Kenneth has graciously invited The PubScout to attend one of his tours on many occasions, but I've always had to respectfully decline for two reasons, and both of them are still in college.

Another consideration is that my "Running with the Big Dog" days are long over. Yorkies, Chihuahuas and Maltese are more my style these days. Perhaps if Ken runs a trip that hits Yorkshire, Guadalajara and Malta, I'd have a better chance.

Hops in Hamburg
But don't let my limitations stop you from having what may be the "best experience of your life." For more information, go here. And if you enter the word PUBSCOUT on your form, Ken will knock 200 Euros (whatever they are) off the price!

"We who are about to rock, salute you!"

The PubScout

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

"Make Room for Daddy" Beer

Boomers who recognize the title of that sitcom may recall that Danny Thomas starred in this family show for a decade. Of course, that was back in the 50's and 60's, so most born after 1985 might not be familiar with the rather novel idea that TV could actually be funny and wholesome without swearing, inappropriate images and references.
But what stands out for this writer was the fact that Danny Thomas was the first celebrity who was Lebanese. Most pre-teens back then may have heard of Lebanon, but probably had no idea where it actually was, kind of like most high school and many college kids today.

Uncle Tonoose

I based much of my opinion about Lebanese people from my favorite character from that show--Uncle Tonoose (Hans Conried)--who was wild, wacky and very funny. Lebanon must be a neat place, I thought, if it produced guys like Uncle Tonoose.

But what does this brief reverie have to do with beer?
Jennie Hatton recently sent me this presser:

961 BEER,

KINGSTON, MA – Beginning in January 2013, American beer lovers will experience Lebanese craft beer for the first time when 961 Beer  debuts in the United States.  Founded in 2006 by Mazen Hajjar, the brewery began as an experiment among friends and has grown to produce 300,000 cases annually, including four “Regular” offerings and the first of what promises to be many “Brewmaster’s Select” offerings, their superior Lebanese Pale Ale.

“Beer is an important part of human civilization: we first emerged from our caves 10,000 years ago when we domesticated barley, not for bread, but for beer,” says Hajjar, who has worked as an investment banker and founded two airlines before devoting himself to brewing, largely inspired by Brooklyn Brewery’s Steve Hindy and his autobiography, Beer School.  “And just as human civilization got its start in this part of the world, I’m proud now to produce exceptional craft beers here in Lebanon and share them with discerning drinkers around the world.”

961 Beer, named after the international dialing code for Lebanon, brands will include:  Lager, a Helles-style lager that is crisp and flavorful and just won “Best Lager” at the 2012 Hong Kong International Beer Awards;  Red Ale, densely malt-y and reddish in color with an intensely fruity and aromatic flavor;  Porter, brewed with dark roasted malts and hopped with traditional English varieties;  Witbier, an unfiltered beer that is light and sweet with natural sediment;  and Lebanese Pale Ale, based loosely on an English IPA with aromas inspired by the spice markets of the Middle East, brewed with 100% traditional Lebanese herbs and spices such as thyme, sumac, chamomile, sage, anise and mint.

961 Beer will first be available along much of the East Coast, in states including Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Delaware and Washington, D.C.  Subsequent shipments will expand the brewery’s reach further before the end of the year.

961 Beer began as one of the world’s smallest microbreweries when Hajjar invited his friends to join him in brewing great beer in the country they love and call home.  From 20-liter kettles on home stoves, the brewery has expanded to meet demand and now proudly brews nearly 300,000 cases annually.  Focused on traditional techniques, quality ingredients and a deep love for their product, 961 Beer is one of the fastest growing and most exciting craft breweries in the world today.  The brewery is located in the foothills of Mazraat Yachoua, overlooking Beirut and the Mediterranean Sea.  Beer lovers can follow 961 Beer on Facebook and Twitter.  

I'll have to put it on my "Try List." But I have some reservations about the name. I mean, "Uncle Tonoose Brewing" has a certain appeal, no? And a label with Uncle Tonoose's photo  would attract beer nuts the world over.

Probably regular nuts, too.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Beer and the Scots

A buddy of mine sent me an email with a collection of old "photographs from yesteryear." I'm happy to say that my high school graduation pictures were not among them, though the teen faces of the Kennedys--Jack, Bobby and Teddy--were.
But I digress.
In that collection was the picture above, which is reportedly the oldest known photograph of men drinking beer.
The featured beer was called "Edinburgh Ale" from 1844.
According to this pretty well-documented, and very interesting, entry in Wikipedia, beer has been produced in Scotland for 5,000 years. And Edinburgh Ale itself was introduced in 1821 by a laddie named Robert Disher.

"Charles McMaster, the "leading historian of the Scottish brewing industry" according to Roger Protz,[11]believes that the hard water of Edinburgh was particularly suitable for the brewing of Pale Ale - especially the water from the wells on the "charmed circle" of Holyrood through Canongate, Cowgate, Grassmarket and Fountainbridge; and that due to the quality of this water brewer Robert Disher was able to launch a hoppy Edinburgh Pale Ale in 1821."

Generally speaking, Scottish beers are known for being more malty than hoppy, and they definitely command a large market. That Charmed Circle stuff is a pretty interesting read too, as is the entire article, but beers from Scotland have been longtime favorites of yours truly, who just finished two four-packs of Innis and Gunn's outstanding Rum Cask. The task took four days. In fact, McEwan's was one of the beers that launched my personal craft beer odyssey. 

You have to like a country that has given us such great beer. And remember, Scotland is the home of Brewdog, which until Armageddon  
 (also from Scotland) came out at 65% ABV, was the strongest beer in the world at 55% ABV. They were criticized for making an 18.2% beer, and, being typical Scots (who don't take kindly to being told what to do), they responded by trebling the ABV.

And I'm betting William Wallace (Braveheart) could have handled them easily, and Robert Burns (poet) would have immortalized them forever.

H/T to Gary P. for the pics!

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Hippo heads to Ewing

Long a staple in this upscale community hard by the Delaware River, River Horse brewing has announced plans to move their facility to nearby Ewing.
NJ's oldest craft brewery is expanding, and there just isn't enough room in the picturesque river town to allow for that. A river horse is a hippopotamus, and the brand has long--and successfully-- used the river connection as a marketing tool. But while the expansion will allow the creation of more beer, the new location offers other challenges. Read the linked article for more.
I'll be heading down to Ewing in April to check out the new digs, and I'll duly report my findings. Given that River Horse has established a very good name in the NJ beer community, The PubScout wishes the company the best.

Monday, January 7, 2013

How Swede It Is...

Hard on the heels of The PubScout's recent announcement of the much-anticipated, groundbreaking Throwdown at the Hound comes this news regarding Brooklyn Brewing:

The company will open a brewpub in Sweden.

In Stockholm, to be precise.

The PubScout wishes them well, and wants them to to keep him in mind for any planned beer dinners in what looks to be a delightful location, river ice notwithstanding. Of course, I'd expect no payment beyond  travel expenses and lodging. In return, I'll brush up on my Swedish so as to provide Sverige with a basis for evaluating beer.

"Det är en förbannat bra öl, yo" seems like a good place to start. For help with the translation, go here.


Saturday, January 5, 2013

New York vs. Boston: Throwdown at the Hound

Eli (L.), that other guy (R.)
The rivalry between these two great American towns apparently goes deeper than just Yankees/Sox, Giants/Patriots and Knicks/Celtics. And this new rivalry, unlike the others, will have no losers. (Hint: the guy on the right--twice.)

Because it’s a Battle of the Beers at The Fox & Hound, and all those who are lucky enough to reserve a seat will be winners. Most beer dinners pair a certain dish with a given beer, but, for the first time in the Pubscout’s recollection (what little is left), two beers will vie for sudsy supremacy with each dish. And the guests will be the referees.

Chef Extraordinaire Michael Scofield has fully committed to the beer dinner approach, having pulled off three very successful dinners so far at the Edison pub. His exquisite food dishes have been so well received that he may actually be pressed to quit his day job, which is managing the bar at The Fox & Hound.

Scofield’s dishes are known not only for their huge portions, but for their excellent preparation as he coaxes various ingredients to bring out both bold and subtle flavors that blend into memorable culinary experiences.
Garrett Oliver

Each course will be served with two beers, one from Brooklyn Brewing and one from Boston Brewing, better known as Sam Adams. The respective heads of those companies, Garrett Oliver and Jim Koch, are also highly respected Malt Masters, as anyone who has tasted their products knows. Oliver is also a guru of food and beer pairing, and his beer repertoire is as extensive as his pedigree; but at press time, his involvement in the selection of Brooklyn’s beers was unknown. The more visible and ubiquitous Koch, perhaps last seen popping out of a beer barrel on TV, is a fanatic about beer balance and taste. The extensive product line at Sam Adams is a testament to his passion. His favorite quote is, “All beer is good; some beer is better.”

Jim Koch (C.)
 And if you book your reservation at the Fox & Hound for Monday night, January 28 at 7 PM, you’ll get to see just which beer is “better,” at least as far as how well it matches up with Scofield’s food. One thing is certain: all the beer and all the food will be good.

Check out this menu:

Brooklyn Brewing vs. Sam Adams

Brooklyn Sorachi Ace vs. Sam Adams Tripel
Paired with
Sherry Garlic Shrimp on Garlic Toast Points
Succulent shrimp sautéed in garlic, sherry and red pepper flakes for a kick, topped with fresh tomatoes and shaved parmesan. Served on garlic Toast Points

Brooklyn Local 1 vs. Sam Adams Imperial White
Paired with
Mandarin Orange Spinach Salad with a Homemade Orange Marmalade Vinaigrette
Baby spinach with candied pecans, cranberry raisins, red onions, feta cheese and fresh mandarin orange chunks. Served with a homemade orange marmalade vinaigrette.

Brooklyn Lager vs. Sam Adams Lager
Paired with
Cajun Crème Creole Pasta
Tri color rotini pasta tossed with rainbow peppers, spicy sausage, heavy cream and an array of Cajun spices.  This dish is sure to be a New Orleans Favorite.

Brooklyn Monster vs. Sam Adams Griffins Bow
Paired with
Bleu Cheese, Onion, and Mushroom Stuffed Rib Topped with Gorgonzola Crème Sauce
A mouthwatering Rib Roast seasoned to perfection, stuffed with bleu cheese butter, sautéed mushrooms and onions. It’s sliced and laid over a bed of sautéed asparagus, topped with a delicious Gorgonzola Cream Sauce
Brooklyn Black Ops vs. Sam Adams American Kreik
Paired with
Chocolate Berry Trifle
This is the perfect way to end a meal! Freshly baked devil’s food cake, piled with raspberries, blackberries and strawberries, topped with homemade chocolate custard and another piece of devil’s food cake! Just as you think it can’t get any better, we put homemade whipped cream with a cinnamon chocolate glaze

Though having Koch and Oliver do an actual UFC bout might make for great TV, the chances of that happening are as good as the Giants beating the Patriots (again) in this year’s Super Bowl. But it would be a PR master stroke, if somehow Scofield got Oliver and the affable Koch just to make an appearance, even via Skype.

It should be a memorable night. But hurry! Fifty-four seats are already gone. And if past is prelude, there won’t be many left. And I'm guaranteed one of them.

Here’s the number to call: 
Fox and Hound
250 Menlo Park Drive
Edison, NJ 08837
(732) 452-9100