Good pubs, Good Beer, Good People

Thursday, June 25, 2015

A Trip Down HopHead Alley

 There’s a reason mouth-puckering IPA’s are considered de rigeur by many beer drinkers these days, especially among those called millennials.

And that’s because they pucker your mouth.

Some do more than others, of course, and the variety of hops used in different beers also leave various lingering impressions on the palate. Good session IPA’s like Founders All Day or Oskar Blue’s Pinner, or  the outstanding Flying Dog’s Raging Bitch are quite delightful, and in the PubScout’s personal opinion, preferable to the ones that blow your mouth and palate apart. Though I’ve never understood why “dank” is considered a desirable flavor, even some of those can be quite pleasurable—at the right time and with the right food.

But where does a true Hophead go to sample some of the most interesting IPA’s all in one spot? Simple. IPA Alley at The Old Bay in New Brunswick.

I attended yesterday’s event early due to other commitments, so I had no way of knowing if the Alley got packed as the night wore on. I do know that beer raconteur Gary Rosen was expected to make an appearance, and that alone usually produces a gladsome and special mayhem. But he wasn’t there when I was.

What was there, however, was a raft—twenty-one, to be precise-- of special IPA’s selected by Tommy Sheehan, The Old Bay Restaurant’s Beer Meister. Each beer came with a well-written description of what the IPA nut was about to throw across his palate, and there was even a special menu provided by Chef Joe Donlin that was geared to match all those hops.

At Sheehan’s suggestion, I ordered the “Hopped up Flight of the Day” (six four ounce pours for $16) and one of Joe Donlin’s special pizzas—BBQ Bacon.

The flight, progressing in intensity from sessionable IPA to Triple IPA, included Founders All Day, Ballast Point Sculpin Grapefruit, Brewdog Punk IPA, Carton 077XX, Kane Overhead and Captain Lawrence Seeking Alpha.

It was good to see the two Jersey beers on the list, and, as I had enjoyed them before, I knew what to expect. Ditto with the Founders. The Ballast Point Sculpin Grapefruit, 7% ABV, 70 IBU’s and rated a 100 at was certainly intense, but this drinker was glad he only had to finish four ounces, otherwise his lips would have slammed shut. Oddly, it did go well with the BBQ Bacon Pizza, leaving me to understand why some people enjoy grapefruit juice with their eggs and bacon in the AM. Normal people opt for orange juice. Sorry, but that’s the way I see it.

But the other two on the list were true winners. The Brewdog Punk IPA, a “fusion” IPA, is hopped with New Zealand hops and they shine through from beginning to end. The write up said the finish was “aggressive,” but I didn’t think so, which is why I probably liked it so much.

The Captain Lawrence Seeking Alpha is a TIPA (as opposed to a DIPA) and its presence at the end of my serving board caused me no small consternation. Would it cause not only my lips, but my nose and eyes to be sucked fully into my oral cavity, never to appear again? And how would I ride my motorcycle to wrestling practice with this baby checking in at 11%?

The answers, in order, are “no” and “quite ably, thank you.” The pizza probably helped with the latter.

But I found the CLSA to be quite delicious and in no way intimidating. The array of hops (Tomahawk, Mosaic, Cascade and Citra ) blended very well indeed with the two-row malts to make this a nicely balanced, very tasty brew.

Tom Sheehan told me this event was his second annual one, and that he also has a stout-centered event during the winter which is quite popular. I haven’t been there, but if this event for Hopheads was an indication, Stoutheads might want to stay tuned for January news.

I passed the time waiting for my food and beers to come out by chatting with the delightful and efficient Sabrina, who was doing extra work this day due to an injury to her regular bar-back. Had she not been so busy, she probably would have had more time to chat with me, provided, of course, that my lips could open enough to speak after the beers.

Bottom line? This is an event Hopheads should not miss.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

If you build it, they will come...

Mike Proske of Tapastre

 …and come, and come and keep on coming, if the 60-90 minute line that snaked around the corner waiting to gain access to the already-packed 2nd Somerville New Jersey's Craft Beer Fest was any indication.

Mike Proske, Beer and Food Wunderkind of the fabulous Tapastre restaurant was the main organizer of this event. After finding “middle ground” with the city of Somerville, negotiating with the State DOT to close a portion of NJ Rt. 28, hiring 60 people to work the tents and, in his spare time, working in consort with the Weather Gods to reverse near-disastrous weather predictions, Mike’s extremely successful event was held under warm, sunny skies.

And it was crowded. So crowded, there was no room to fall down if somebody did exceed their capacity—which no one did. The general atmosphere was friendly and fun; it was like a huge block party.
Heide and Erik from Angry Erik Brewing
A wide array of outstanding breweries were on hand, all ready to slake the thirsts of the hordes that descended upon the festival, and the lines were long at almost every one. With my little tasting mug in hand ($1-$3 a 4 oz. pour), it soon became apparent that the smart move would be to opt for a 12-or 16 oz. pour at $5-$7, if for no other reason than to avoid the wait.

That option alone set this fest apart from others where the price of admission, usually ten times higher (or more) than the $5 this fest cost to enter, guaranteed you the right to purchase beers directly from your favorite breweries. At most fests, a higher entry fee  allows unlimited sampling in 2 oz. glasses with no exchange of cash at the tap.

But this system, according to those with whom I spoke, seemed to be much preferred, even if the lines were intimidating to some. Of course, the rewards were in keeping with the wait, with beers from the following breweries: Stone, Founders, Abita, Great Lakes, Forgotten Boardwalk, Captain Lawrence, Dogfish Head, Troegs, Sly Fox, Weyerbacher, Neshaminy Creek, River Horse, Flounder, Carton, Kane, Angry Erik, 902, Demented and others.

Mike also arranged for featured tappings of the following beers:
Founder’s - KBS,
Weyerbacher - Sunday Morning Stout,
Cricket Hill - Small Batch Russian Imperial Stout,
Dogfish Head - 75 Minute Firkin,
Abita - (Top Secret),
Stone - (Top Secret), and Odd Russian Imperial Stout
Carton - SS Kentucky, Dune Fruit
Great Lakes - Rye of the Tiger, Alberta Clipper
Kane - Morning Bell,
Captain Lawrence - Seeking Alpha
Angry Erik--Dubbel Blade

Even the food offerings were good. I had a half of a Philly Cheese Steak with the works for just $5 from The Court House Sub Shop, and, not only was it phenomenal, it was a damned sight bigger than a half. With the weather in full cooperation mode, the live music causing rather fascinating gyrations by some fest-goers and the quality of the beer offerings, it was clear that the Somerville New Jersey's Craft Beer Fest 2015 was a wild success. It turned all of downtown Somerville into a festival, and no doubt brought serious ancillary benefits to all businesses in the area, as almost 5,000 beer nuts descended on this event, with portions of the proceeds going to the St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center.

Mary Nell and Donna
That’s not to say that there isn’t room for improvement, and Mike admitted that changes will be in store for next year’s fest. Parking, for one, wasn’t easy to find, and providing free parking everywhere on the day of the event would be a benefit. Also the fenced-in space was far too small to accommodate the huge crowds comfortably, probably making the beer lines longer than they had to be. And just fitting all those breweries into the space allotted was a Herculean task.

But nobody was complaining either. Sweating, yes, and enjoying, certainly, but not complaining. I have no doubt that everyone who went today will return next year.

But where to hold this event and still retain its local “Somerville” flavor?

If anyone can figure it out, Mike Proske will.

Monday, June 8, 2015

You Barefootin' on July 11?

My beer buddy Chris de Peppe sent over this notice for  South Jersey beer nuts--or even for those who want to make the run down from The North. Chris always associates himself with quality in beerfests, so you will not be disappointed.


Icona Resort to Host Barefoot Beer Fest
Diamond Beach, NJ. June 9, 2015

Cape May County will be the site of a unique beach party this
summer when the inaugural Barefoot Beer Fest comes to the Icona Resort on Saturday, July 11th.

Representatives from over fifty craft breweries will set up beer stations all along Icona’s huge private beach where they will be pouring samples of their freshest beers, and ten New Jersey breweries will be on-site with their seasonal specialties and small-batch brews.

Local food vendors will add some smoke and aroma to the party and a beachfront beer garden will give guests a chance to relax and enjoy the food and beer with friends.

There will also be a presentation about the magic of hops and a discussion of hop-growing in New Jersey.

The event is produced by Icona Resort and TotalBRU Marketing, a company that runs successful craft beer fests in PA and NJ.

Tickets are $50 per person but there is an early bird discount. Tickets include unlimited two-ounce pours of all beers and one food sample ticket. Guests will receive a commemorative five-ounce tasting glass. Food will be available for purchase from a variety of local vendors. Vegetarian options and gluten-free beers and ciders will be offered. 

Designated drivers are encouraged and a special ticket for drivers is only $10 and includes alternative beverages and a meal ticket that can be redeemed at any food vendor. There will be two sessions: 12:30-4:00 and 5:00-8:30.
For more information, go to 

Thursday, June 4, 2015

A Favor Returned...

Greg Zaccardi, head man at Ramstein in Butler, NJ (aka High Point Brewing Company), did me a huge favor back in February. Time for me to do him a solid by reporting about what's going on at and with his brewery. The PubScout suggests you take advantage of any and all of them. If you love German-style beer, you'll love these.


This Sunday, June 7th, the Ramstein Brewhaus will be open from noon – 5:00 PM as part of the finish line and post race party for the Gran Fondo Bike Race.  The Race route starts at 7:30 AM and ends at the Ramstein Brewhaus located at 22 Park Place in Butler NJ, 07405.  For event and parking details visit the Gran Fondo Website.

On Friday, June 12th, Ramstein Beer will be served at the Montclair Food and Wine Festival located at the Montclair Art Museum at 3 Mountain Ave. in Montclair.  The event is from 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM.  Tickets can be purchased online.   More information regarding details on the event can be found on the Montclair Food and Wine Festival Website.

On Saturday, June 13th from 2:00 PM – 5:00 PM we will be hosting the tour and release of our Ramstein Summer Bock at the Ramstein Brewhaus located at 22 Park Place in Butler NJ, 07405.  Ramstein Summer Bock is a rich blonde lager beer that has a lush malty flavor with a moderate noble hop overtone. The German Lager yeast provides a smooth long clean finish balancing it’s 7% ABV.   

It will be available on draft only at the Ramstein Brewhaus and other select locations.  Greg Zaccardi, the owner of High Point Brewing Company, will also be giving the attending guests a
tour of the Ramstein Brewhaus at approximately 3:00 PM.  Admission to the Tour is free, and those 21 years and older will get a complimentary sample of Ramstein Summer Bock.

On Sunday, June 28th from 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM Ramstein beer will be at the Brew at the Zoo” event held at the Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange.  Enjoy up to 75 different craft brews, live entertainment, food vendors, and longer animal viewing hours!  Tickets can be purchased online on the Turtle Back Zoo Website.  Only guests ages 21 and over will be permitted at the event.

Keep up with upcoming event dates and other information on our Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts!  Also, be sure to check out our newly revamped Ramstein Beer Website!

The Ramstein Staff

Kait Hasher
High Point Brewing Company

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

If You Want To Run With The Big Dogs...'ve got to get off the porch. 

I've written here before about my Down Under mate Kenneth Hart and his exciting business, The Thirsty Swagman. While you may be toiling away every day in some cubicle, Kenneth has a very unique job: he parties for a living.

Talk about "doing what you love."

Though we've never met in person, actually coming close when he was in NYC recently, there is definitely a connection. And now, because of that connection, my readers with a thirst for partying heartily can benefit.

Kenneth is inviting my readers (only Big Dogs) to join him and his zany, "zero-boring-sightseeing" crew on his fabulous Ale of Man Tour set for August. What's more, if you sign up and put in the code PUBSCOUT15, he'll knock 100 Euros off your fare as a trans-oceanic gesture of good will. That offer expires at the end of the month, so if you're planning to go, act now.

Bring your Party Self, your Selfie Stick and your camera phone and record history on the Ale of Man Tour. It's not likely to be something you'll forget.

And if you go, raise a pint for me with Kenneth. It may only be one of the sixteen he'll have on any given night, but he'll remember it, for sure.

The PubScout