Good pubs, Good Beer, Good People

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Hitting "The Brix"

The Brix City Boys--Joe Delcalzo and Pete Reuther
The first microbrewery in Bergen County—Brix City Brewing-- has hit the ground running. Owners and high school buddies Joe Delcalzo and Pete Reuther, like many now in the Jersey beer business, got their start as homebrewers. Working with a beermaking kit, they produced their first beer—a robust porter—and according to Pete, their first beer was a big hit among their circle of friends.
 “We thought it was pretty good, and when we took it to a party, everybody else did, too,” said the US Army veteran.
Considering that everybody at the party was feeling no pain at night’s end, Reuther and Delcalzo figured they had a winner.

Change that to winners, as the duo, along with Brewer Sean Foley, are cranking out close to seventy barrels a month in a variety of styles.

 Their “Porter Authority,” probably an homage to their first beer, is an outstanding example of the style, and was the first one Delcalzo offered The PubScout on a recent visit to their Little Ferry operation. Along with Gloria Belgian Blonde and Cheap Labor, a hoppy pale ale, the smooth Porter is part of the year-round lineup.

Five IPA’s—one for every taste-- also can be found in the rotating beers: Brews Willis (an American IPA), Just Another Double IPA (an Imperial IPA hopped with Citra) and its little brother Just Another IPA are three of them. Kill The King (KTK) is another Imperial IPA coming in at 8.7% ABV, and it’s joined by Chuck Bowman, a Black IPA hopped with Simcoe. On the day of our visit, The PubScout Tasting Team (The PTT) was offered a very tasty Belgian IPA as well.
A delicious and beautiful-to-behold Belgian Dubbel, a Belgian Tripel (unsampled) and a Czech Pilsner called Jaromir Lager (also unsampled) round out the rotation.

Belgian Dubbel

Seasonal offerings include St. Stephen, a saison, Brix City Marzen and a 9.5% Imperial R.I.P. Stout. Derek Wheater is a an American Wheat beer hopped with Sorachi Ace.
The team is also enamored of sour beers, and is considering setting aside at least one tank as a “Brett” tank.

The PubScout Tasting Team was impressed with most of the offerings, and Pete and Joe even brought out some “green” beers to sample.
Such a repertoire must keep Brewer Foley, a Rutgers Prep alum, pretty busy. But, as a former wrestler, he’s totally up to the task, even if he has to take occasional advantage of a suspended hammock in the brewhouse on occasion.

Some rest for the weary...
“Everybody here is busting their butts,” said Pete. “But we are on a mission to produce good, flavorful, bold beers. And we know that someday our hard work will pay big dividends.”

In many ways, the operation—and the name-- is itself an homage to Newark’s legendary brewing roots, and the entire back wall is a huge map of The Brick City in 1895, delineating with large numbered dots where most, if not all, of its famous breweries of yesteryear set up shop. The map is the handiwork of Pete’s dad, Doug. So impressive and nostalgic is it that The PubScout suggested they produce smaller, take-home handouts to give to those who visit the tasting room. They’d make a nice keepsake. As would bottles in the shape of bricks....

Newark's Breweries in 1895
Tastefully appointed, and bearing more of Doug’s artwork, Delcalzo and Reuther built much of the interior by hand, including a long bar which beckons the beer drinker to belly up. There’s even a Graffitti Cooler you can sign with a Sharpie in case you want to let future visitors know you were here.

Some visitors are clearly more artistic than others...
In addition to those beers mentioned above, upcoming offerings will include 1064 City Bock (sampled, and very tasty), Brix Barleywine and Silk City Stout.

Delcalzo and Reuther are planning to distribute their beers to more local pubs and restaurants, too. Currently, they can be found in forty-four establishments, and some of those places are among the “heaviest hitters” in Jersey when it comes to beer. You can see the list and locations here.
The PubScout Tasting Team
Just about a forty-five minute ride up the NJ Turnpike from Central Jersey, Brix City Brewing is well worth the visit, and if the owners’ plans for expansion come to fruition, there will be a Biergarten outside for fair-weather quaffing very soon. No food is available, however, but you can certainly bring your own munchies.

Amboy Tasters in the house!

The next time The PubScout Tasting Team hits "The Brix," that’s exactly what we’ll do.
If you want to join the Team, send a request to 

Cheers and Hoppy New Beer!
The PubScout

Monday, December 21, 2015

Lots to Like at The Office in Summit

The PubScout's involvement with The Office Beer Bar goes back nearly two decades. That's when my story, "From Bouncer to Boardroom" (formerly "Working Late at The Office") came out. A former bouncer named John Augustine brought The Office chain into the world of craft beer, insisting that everyone who served it knew what they were serving and why. Now owned by 40 North Restaurants, the emphasis on craft beer and a quality dining experience has remained.

When I covered the rebranding of the Morristown Office in2014, I was duly impressed with the ambiance of the place, the quality of the food and, of course, the variety of the beer.

The recently revamped Summit facility is clearly another success story for the brand. Decidedly different in interior design than its unique, multi-level sister pub in Morristown, the d├ęcor of Summit Office is at once welcoming, visually compelling and, like its sister, very conducive to a great pub experience.

Airy and intimate, it reminded The PubScout of a high-end English Country Manor House. The bar is larger than the one in Morristown, too, and differently arranged—complete with a neat, compact, snug-like corner section. Specially treated windows allow patrons to see out on the busy street, but prevent curious passersby from looking in—and drooling.

Like a number of successful Central Jersey pubs--Kilkenny House (Garwood), Hailey’s Harp & Pub (Metuchen), JJ Bittings (Woodbridge), The Rail House (Rahway), The Office is near the local train station—in fact, directly across the street. That alone can mean plenty in terms of capturing clientele, especially for those who have left their own work offices to seek libation and victual in an Office of a different nature.

In fact, affable Divisional VP Steve Baliva, whom I met previously in Morristown, allowed that the train stop location allowed the old Office to do a pretty sound business, and there was substantive discussion about the wisdom of closing down for six months to revamp. But given what The PubScout’s visit revealed today, it shouldn’t take long to make up for lost time.

There was a third croquette, but I wasn't quick enough
to capture it on the plate
The food was nothing short of superb, but that’s to be expected considering who’s in the kitchen. ALJ graduate and Corporate Chef Kevin Felice, who was on hand for the Morristown Opening, was the culinary captain for the Summit event. Go here to read about Kevin's importance to the company. Even more intriguing, there will be dishes available at the Summit facility that will not appear in Morristown—and vice-versa. 

Though the actual establishments may vary in title—from The Office Beer Bar and Grill, to The Office Tavern and Grill, they are all part of the 40 North family. For that matter, so is another PubScout favorite pub called The Black Horse Tavern and Pub in Mendham. There are Offices in Montclair, Ridgewood, Bridgewater and Westfield, in addition to Morristown and Summit.

But I digress. Our food was excellent. The missus—aka The Crab Croquettes Queen—allowed that hers were phenomenal, and the portion size required her to transport some home. Same with her very fresh salad, which was served in what seemed like a small wading pool. No wonder The Office doggie bags are as big as shopping bags.

None was needed by yours truly, however, whose American Classic Hamburger came out perfectly done to order, and in a manageable, bite-able size. Its ingredients were also very fresh. My plate was cleaned.

From among the forty beers on tap, the missus opted for an Allagash White, and I got to tap the first Forgotten Boardwalk Funnel Cake on Nitro ever served in the new place. District Beer Manager Kendra is a loyal devotee of Jersey beers and has at least five on tap at all times. Today, in addition to the Funnel Cake, there was Kane Head High, Carton Boat, and Magnify had two in the form of Search Saison and Vine Shine. Even some outstanding can offerings like Dale’s Pale Ale and Six Point Resin were available. 

The missus had no room for dessert, but mine came in the form of a Troeg’s Mad Elf. If I have to explain that, you lose whatever beer cred you think you have.
The place has a 150-person capacity in the winter, but once summer comes, an additional thirty-five spots will be utilized for alfresco dining. The only possible negative, which seems to be a common problem in cities and towns with great beer bars, might be the paucity of parking nearby. If you’re not lucky enough to snag one of the few directly in front of the place or nearby around the corners, you might have to hoof it a bit, which I did, new hip and all.

But don’t let that deter you.
A good pub is worth a little extra effort to get to, and with a friendly staff, excellent ambiance, delicious food and forty quality beers on tap The Office in Summit certainly qualifies as that.

And, if you wanted to, you could always take the train.

The PubScout