Good pubs, Good Beer, Good People

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Where Washington Quaffed--and Andre Waited

Major John Andre
As a lover of old taverns (not to mention the beer available therein), I was intrigued by a recent news article on the oldest of them, and then subsequently drawn to Tappan, NY to visit the Old 76 House.

Supposedly one of the oldest--if not THE oldest--taverns in America, this historic building, built in 1686, simply exudes history. From its old brick exterior to its dark, wide-planked floors, to its monstrous, hand-hewn beams and actual period bric-a-brac, this place should be in the dictionary next to the phrase the kids like to use-- "back in the day."

Except in this case, the "day" is during the American Revolution. And this tavern was in the thick of it, to hear owner Robert Norden tell the tale--which he does animatedly and exceptionally well. Norden, whose now-deceased father (also Robert) owned NYC's oldest tavern--Fraunces Tavern, grew up amid tavern history and was the architect hired to restore the Old 76 House to its colonial glory. Apparently, he liked the job he did so much, he bought the place.

The Old 76 House, Tappan, NY
It is clear that Norden loves the tavern, and to listen to him talk about it is to travel back to the days of George Washington, Nathaniel Green, Benedict Arnold and British spy John Andre. Norden held our table of bikers spellbound while telling of Andre's capture. Two "cowboys" (which didn't mean then what it does now) accosted him and he was being relieved of his fine footgear when the cowboys noticed some papers had fallen from Andre's boots. Those papers were the plans concocted by traitor Benedict Arnold to give over West Point to the British. The rest is, well, history.
Benedict Arnold's picture in the tavern

And it was in the very room where we polished off pint after pint of delicious Tavernkeeper Ale (which is actually a lager made by nearby Defiant Brewing) that Washington declared April 19, 1783  the real Independence from Great Britain Day, because that is when Great Britain officially recognized America as a free and independent nation.

As fate would have it, the day of our visit was the anniversary of the hanging of John Andre by Washington just in back of the house. And as fate would also have it, today was Sunday Brunch day, and the bikers got to select from an array of foods that would make a cruise ship maitre d' jealous. Delicious Eggs Benedict, Succulent Omelets, Roast Beef, Pork, Chicken Marsala, fruit, vegetables and salads and bread goods were all available in seeming perpetuity.

Owner Robert Norden regales us with history

While it may sound strange to some who have followed this column, I never had ale or lager with my breakfast, but there's a first time for everything. My Tavernkeeper Ale complemented my food perfectly. As Biker John said, "This beer would go with anything!"

Katerina and Inalit
The staff, including sultry hostess Inalit and the lovely Katerina--herself a biker since age six--were most accommodating and pleasant.

Though Major Andre did not do actual "hard time" while a prisoner in the tavern, I somehow doubt that his experience was as pleasant as ours. So much so, that every member of the group declared they would be coming back to the Old 76 House. It's about an hour from Central Jersey, and well worth the trip.

The actual door that imprisoned John Andre

Just make sure your boots have no secret papers in them.

Or this door could be yours...

The PubScout

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