The irony wasn’t lost on anyone at the Stirling Hotel.
One of the featured beers offered by Manager Dan Schneider and Rep Rob Muscatello at the Southern Tier Tap Takeover was called “Where The Helles Summer?”
Record temps were the order of the day in NJ on March 10. The “little” hotel with the big back yard was brimming with patrons when I arrived at 5 PM, and the place got even busier as the summer-like evening wore on, though not all of them were there to partake of the Southern Tier event.
|Where The Helles Summer?|
Too bad, because if they didn’t, they missed some outstanding beers, with various ABV’s ranging from 4.6% for the Helles up to 11% for the Four Headed Woolly Mammoth. Sandwiched between them were a 5.5% American Pale called “Live” and an 8.1% single hop, single malt called 2XSMaSH.
Following the beerdrinker’s rule, I started with the lightest and the brightest—the Helles. Perfectly true to style, this “beerdrinker’s beer” is an outstanding transitional for those who are wetting their “better” beer feet. I say “better” because these days, “craft” is such an arbitrary term. If you’re already a BB Nut, this Helles would whet your appetite for more, as well.
|Voo Doo Wings|
I called “Hoss” Schneider over to my seat at the bar (where I chatted with a delightful lass named Danielle) to inquire about a menu item. The takeover event offered a prix fixe special menu designed by Chef Brandon Campney to accompany the ST offerings. But as it had Red Snapper as the main course (I’m not a Red Snapper fan), I decided that the Voo Doo Wings on the regular menu looked good. But I wanted to be sure they wouldn’t cause lingual/laryngeal blisters before ordering. Hoss told me it was a special House dry rub that was somewhere between sweet and spicy, so I ordered a batch to pair with my second beer, the “Live.”
Lucky me on both counts. The wings were fabulous and relatively flameless, and the beer made them even better. Or it might have been the other way around—the wings enhanced the taste of the beer. Either way, the pairing was a winner.
Then it came time for a glass of 2XSMaSH, a single malt and single hop IPA brewed with Mosaic hops and Special Malt. The marriage was wonderful, producing a beer that was as pleasing to the eye as to the palate. It carried that 8.1% ABV, however, or I would have ordered another; but I still had to face an 11% Monster in the quad called Four Headed Woolly Mammoth.
It was described as being “Brewed with Dark Belgian Candi Syrup [with] notes of anise, dark chocolate, caramel and toasted bread; fermented with Belgian Abbey yeast.”
Which sounds delicious enough, but I wanted to try it with a special dessert Chef Brandon made—a Chocolate Cherry Pot du Crème With Vanilla whipped cream and Brownie crumbs.
OMG. OMG. OMG.
I usually reserve a special word for those dishes that exceed my highest expectations, and the word looks and sounds a bit like “organic.” But as young college students may be reading this, I’ve no wish to send them squealing and scurrying to a “safe space” by using it, so I’ll just say, “What a dessert! What a pairing!” That should be safe enough.
|Chocolate Cherry Pot du Creme|
Upon finishing the four featured beers, I sauntered out into the Patron-Packed “Ponderosa Patio,” and there, plying his trade and proffering even more samples of Southern Tier delights, was the affable ST Rep Rob Muscatello holding court. Like pupils enrapt before Socrates, aspiring beer nuts hung on his every word, relishing the chance to engage in beer talk with a pro. I was among them, waiting for a scoop.
|"Socrates" Muscatello Holds Court|
And I got one. I learned that my friends at Hailey’s Harp and Pub in Metuchen will be the first to acquire a new and very rare ST offering called Rhine Cabal, a beer which should make sour beer fan Natalie Lay’s day.
In all, just another positive experience at this great venue, and due mostly to Dan Schneider’s ceaseless efforts to expand the beer footprint.
Just to be fair, he had nothing to do with the Summer weather in March.
|Rob and Dan|
He’s only human, after all.
But for beer nuts, a good human to know.