Good pubs, Good Beer, Good People

Friday, April 29, 2016

Hello, Goodbye, Hello!

After seven very successful years using blogger, I have made a new website here. And clicking on that link will take you to the very first post I've created. It will also tell you why I made the move if you care to know. But I raise a glass to this wonderful site and what it has enabled me to do.

There's a link on the New Page called "The Old Site" that will bring you back here if you need to go through the archives on the right side of this page. After seven years there were far too many to transfer, and I felt it would be easier to just come back here, where they are organized by date.

In addition to a page where you can read my blogs as they are posted, the new site features a Gallery of My Beer Buddies, past and present, and yours may be in there. It also has a page where you can recommend new pubs, beer bars, brewpubs or microbreweries to visit. 

Additionally, there's an Instagram feed where you can check out my quick reviews of whatever beer I'm drinking "at the moment," and an Events page where you can quickly reference where Beer Dinners and Festivals will be taking place. If you are not on my blast email list and want to be notified of new posts, there's a section that will allow you to contact me to be included.

I hope you visit often and enjoy The PubScout as you have always done. See you at my new place!

The PubScout

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Good News, Bad News By George!

General George Washington (out of costume)
It's that time of year again, when the Friends of Washington's Crossing Park hold one of the best BrewFests in the area--The Washington's Crossing Brewfest.

In the past, this baby has had 65 quality brewers in attendance, as well as some of the finest food vendors anywhere. It's always heavily attended, and, unsurprisingly, it is sold out.

It's also an event that is Rain or Shine. The organizers provide excellent cover in the event of the first condition, and a beautiful locale in the event of the second.

I know what you're asking. "PubScout, if it's already sold out, why are you telling us?"

Two reasons. 

Number 1 is that sometimes people with tickets don't show, and they might let you in.

Number 2 is that you pay attention for next year. Because this is one fest you really don't want to miss.

But fear not. I shall sacrifice myself and report on the event, in case you can't get there or can't get in if you do.
I may even bring you out a sample as you peer through the gates with the look of a waif.

That's just the kind of guy I am.

The PubScout

Trap Rock Celebrates Cinco de Mayo

Trap Rock Brewer Charlie Schroeder's Cake

Reservations Now Open!
Cinco De Mayo Beer Dinner on May 3

Join us for our next Beer Dinner on Tuesday, May 3.

Guests will enjoy a five-course Cinco de Mayo inspired dinner paired with hand-crafted beers from guest brewer Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company from Croydon, PA.

Seats are $85 per guest including tax and gratuity. Seating will be set for a family style, communal experience.

Reservations are now open and seating is limited. To make your reservation, please call and speak to our host at (908) 665-1755.
The PubScout will see you there!
The PubScout

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Raising a Few to The Bard

Uno's Brewmaster Mike Sella
There were some outstanding beers flowing from the casks yesterday at Uno's on Rt. 1 in Metuchen. Of course, if you'd been reading this space in the past week, you'd have been duly alerted.

But in case you weren't, or worse, missed the event, here's just a sample of what you missed.

Dave Hoffman's Maibock...malty, balanced and dead-on style, and at 6.7% close enough for me to have been a session beer. This German kid knows how to make German beers.

Mike Sella's IPA with Azacca Hops from the hand pump. A mouth and cheek puckerer's delight, infused with that special intense citrus profile only the Azacca hop provides. The Haitian God of Agriculture would have approved. Dark City had an offering, somewhat lighter in color and mouthfeel, that was dry-hopped with Azacca as well.

Kane's Evening Bell
Kane's Evening Bell, a really top-flight American porter, at least in this reviewer's opinion, laced with notes of toffee, chocolate, vanilla and coffee. You can enjoy it any time of day, not just in the evening.

Demented's Greed, a smooth and tasty Oatmeal Stout using cinnamon (noticeable, yet not overpowering) and raisins. You'll get more pleasure from this beer by using olfaction/retro-olfaction techniques for sure, but even if you don't, it's a solid brew.

The Pubscout didn't get to enjoy Kane's Head High hopped with Galaxy, or Cypress's 17 Mile IPA with Mango and Habanero, but others in my bar vicinity expressed very positive opinions about them.
Wm. Shakespeare

It appears that this semi-annual event (begun by Mike Sella sometime in 1564 after Shakespeare's birthday) is a crowd favorite, as beer drinkers and brewers from around the area were on hand to sample beers from other breweries as well as their own.

I will be sure to apprise you of the next one. 

To be [there] or not to be [there]...that is the question. 
Guess which answer I choose...

The PubScout

Friday, April 22, 2016

This Just In! Beers for Uno's Cask Fest Announced

As reported here days ago, Mike Sella's hosting a Cask Ale Fest at Uno's tomorrow. I'd like to think it's in honor of Shakespeare's birthday, but, alas, poor Yorick, I'm a realist.

Anyway, here are the brews that will be available:

Uno's Ikes IPA dry hopped with Azacca
Kane Evening Bell
Kane Head High dry hopped with Galaxy
Little Dog Macaroon.....porter with chocolate and coconuts
Climax Maibock
Demented Greed  Oatmeal stout with cinnamon and raisins
Cypress 17 Mile IPA with mango and habanero
Dark City One Way Street  Session IPA dry hopped with Azacca

I don't know about you, but those Azacca hops ring my bell. And Dave Hoffman's Maibock, along with Gretchen Schmidhausler's Macaroon? Are you serious?

And Kane? And Cypress? And Demented? And Dark City? Get outta town!

Especially if your town isn't on Rt. 1 in Metuchen from noon till whenever tomorrow.

I'll be waiting for you.
We'll hoist a pint to Shakespeare.

The PubScout

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Beer Info Session Intrigues Craft Beer Newbies

I had a wonderful opportunity last evening to mix and mingle with some equally wonderful folks at JJ Bittings Brewpub in Woodbridge. The occasion was the first annual "Suds and Scholarships" Fund raiser whereby the Perth Amboy Kiwanis Club attempted to raise some money to help local kids with the high costs of going to college.

Bob D'Urso, the affable and jocular host of the evening, and his partners at the PA Kiwanis Club had arranged an excellent event which, for a nominal donation, saw attendees presented with a wide array of foods (the pasta dish was out of this world and worth going back for) and five different samples of beer from JJ Bittings' repertoire. 

Gary and his teenaged wife, Fran
Bob and his sidekick Gary Perillo (who was celebrating his thirty-first anniversary with his teenaged-looking wife Fran) had asked me to come down and do a brief presentation about beer and how to taste it. Free beer and free food? What's not to like? I'm there.

And I'm glad I was. I got to meet some very nice folks, like Nancy and Hugh, Karen and Sharon, Chris, Lisett and Junel and others. And all were very interested in not only the intricacies of tasting various beers, but in the historical aspect of this ancient beverage. If their post-presentation comments were any indication, the world of craft beer has gained a batch of new adherents.

With an abbreviated lesson in how to taste using all five senses, the assembly digested the first rule of beer-drinking: Drink what you like. Some liked the Victoria's Golden Ale, Bittings' transitional beer, some preferred Aldahat Amber. Some even sang the praises of the IPA, especially after learning the history of the style. But the consensus favorite seemed to surround the joys of Chocolate Cherry Stout, which many had never tried. And, lo, the myth of "those dark beers" being too strong was dispelled.

We played some trivia, too, the grand prize being a crisp one-dollar bill, won by Rosemary Oarsley, who claimed she guessed at all the answers. Yeah, right. She's a beer nut in disguise, I think.

Bob and company seemed to enjoy the session and promised to do it again, and Karen Barnes, President of the Woodbridge Chamber of Commerce, is interested in doing something similar with her group.

The more people get exposed to good beer, the better, and I'm happy to help.
Especially if there's free food and beer.

The PubScout

Monday, April 18, 2016

Toasting the Bard with a Brew

 Ale was a critical part of Elizabethan society, probably because it was safer to drink than the water. Indeed many of Shakespeare's plays reference the liquid, both in its healthful and less-than-salubrious uses and effects. The Bard's own father was the official Ale-Taster of Stratford-upon-Avon, and so revered was Will's writing about the liquid that the very first brewpub in New Zealand was named "The Shakespeare."
Who would disagree, for example, with "For a quart of ale is a dish for a king" (A Winter's Tale)? And who among us hasn't ever thought "I would give all my fame for a pot of ale and safety" (King Henry V)?
Well, you can feel like a king without having to sacrifice whatever fame you have this coming Saturday at Uno's on Rt. 1 in Metuchen, where Mike Sella has been churning out good beer like Shakespeare cranked out good sonnets.

Mike "Shakespeare" Sella

That's because Sella is hosting a Cask Beer Fest on The Bard's birthday starting at noon and running until the kegs kick. And some darned good brewers will be sending beers for your enjoyment.

On hand will be offerings from Demented, Cypress, Climax, Little Dog and Kane. The Bard of the Brewhouse does not yet know which of the beers those breweries will be sending, but should know by Thursday of this week, and The PubScout will update you as soon as he knows. Of course, Mike's usual offerings will also be available; his Scotch Ale is more "killer" than Macbeth and the witches may have used brewing magic to make his IPA.


Speaking of beauty, while you're there, look for the smiling face of Emily, involved in theater herself for much of her young life, including playwriting. If you tell her The PubScout sent you, she may rattle off a line from Shakespeare. Hopefully, it won't be "Out, out, damned spot!"
It might be more in line with what we'd say to Mike and the participating brewers, and what appears on the bottle of Samuel Smith's Winter Welcome.

See you Saturday!
The PubScout

Friday, April 8, 2016

Good Beer for a Good Cause

In less than two weeks, beer nuts will have a golden opportunity to support a good cause , all the while eating good food and drinking good beer. The poster below gives you all the info you need to know.

My friends in the Perth Amboy Kiwanis Club are holding this wonderful event to help deserving students with the ever-rising cost of college.

It's a most worthwhile cause, and you get to enjoy the wonderful beers of JJ Bittings, along with a healthy portion of food, all while meeting the exceptional folks whose mission is to give back to their community!

Don't wait--save the date! And come on out! Helping kids in need never tasted so good!

The PubScout

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Memoriam Mit Merkur

Confession time.

When I go to funeral services, my usual M.O. is to arrive early, pay my respects to the deceased with a prayer, express my condolences to the family with a hug, then get the hell out of the funeral parlor.

Today, however, I paid my respects to the deceased with a beer instead of a prayer, I expressed my condolences by singing "Ein Prosit,"and I stayed in the "funeral parlor" for three hours.

 Because this time was different in a few ways. First, it was a service for a man I had come to admire, respect and even love. Second, he loved beer--especially lagers. Third, his name was Kurt. Kurt Hoffmann.

Baby Dave Hoffmann with Dad Kurt
It was the first time I had ever attended a memorial service in a brewery, but it was never more fitting. The brewery in question was Climax Brewing in Roselle Park, and it was begun in the back of Kurt's machine shop on Valley Rd. so his son Dave could make the German beers Kurt so loved. In the process, Dave's brewery became the very first microbrewery in the state of NJ, which today is seeing a veritable explosion of breweries because of what Kurt and Dave began.

What place then, would be more fitting for a sendoff for Kurt Hoffmann? He was in there almost every time I went from my very first visit in 1997, and we shared stories, jokes and beer galore. He was Bavarian through and through, right down to the chamois atop his hat and his lederhosen. Kurt Hoffmann was Germany personified.

Paul Mulshine
And judging by the throngs, including many beer cognoscenti and celebrities like Star Ledger Columnist Paul Mulshine and Ale Street News Editor Tony Forder, that came to pay their respects in his brewery, Kurt Hoffmann touched many, many lives for the better. His son Dave gave a heartfelt eulogy in his dad's honor, claiming, as he gestured around the brewery, that without him, "none of this would have existed." Some wag cut in and said, "Without him, YOU wouldn't have existed!" which elicited a hearty laugh from Dave and the crowd , most of which were holding one of Dave's beers aloft. And that's exactly what Kurt would have wanted: people drinking his son's beer, laughing and having a great time.

Dave's mom Linda, Kurt's wife of fifty-two years, and sister also shared special, touching comments about what Kurt meant to them, and they weren't the only ones in the house to become verklempt in the process. When they had finished, Mrs. Hoffmann exhorted everybody to eat and drink, as Kurt would have wished, and the entire assembly erupted into the classic German beer-hymn known as "Ein Prosit," complete with ziggy-zoggies and oy-oy-oys.

It was a very upbeat occasion (as opposed to most memorial services), with plenty of food and some really good beers, like the Anniversary Barleywine and the "Small Beer" Dave made off that, using second runnings. The Barleywine was a delicious, sneaky-smooth 11% while the small beer was an equally tasty, sessionable 4.9%. He used 1000 pounds of grain for each creation, along with a special German hop called Merkur, which imparts an orangey taste. Both beers made from the same batch were outstanding, but I limited myself (mostly) to the small beer due to the occasion. And the fact that I had to drive home. The Helles, Kurt's favorite, was also outstanding...

Mr. and Mrs. Roessle
But the event got me thinking. When it's my time to shuffle off this mortal coil, I'd like to have my memorial service in a brewery. Everybody's chatting and happy, there's little crying and no wailing and a whole lot of essen und trinken. There was even some lively background German music for tanzen.

And that's how I'd like to check out. With people laughing, chatting, eating, drinking and even dancing. That's the way to be remembered and celebrated.
Father & Son by Gregg Hinlicky

Because people may not remember what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.

And Kurt Hoffman made people feel like trinken, essen und tanzen.
And though he will be greatly missed, he will not be forgotten.

Ein prosit, Kurt Hoffmann!

The PubScout