Good pubs, Good Beer, Good People

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Last Sella Supper Doesn’t Disappoint

By Kurt Epps—The PubScout

After fourteen years as the brewer in charge of Uno's only brewpub in 170 franchises, Mike Sella said goodbye in his inimitable fashion, which was notably devoid of excess verbiage. Fortunately, his beers and beer choices were spectacularly flavorful, and the sated guests voiced their approval, both individually and in unison.

Served by stalwarts Lenny and Jill, with the Middle Eastern cooking being done by Moshe and Johnny LaBarbera of Hailey's Harp and Pub, the dinner was a packed house, fitting tribute to a guy who, without much fanfare has done much to promote Jersey craft beer. Guesstimates made last night's event the 40th dinner of Sella's tenure, but he will leave to become the head brewer at Basil T's in Red Bank in early July. His replacement, Chris Percello, a Dave Hoffman protégé, has promised that the beer dinners will continue.

Sella guesses he's brewed about 9500 kegs in his fourteen seasons, and though Percello will continue with Uno's standard offerings, the secrets of crowd favorites like Mike's Hefeweizen, Scotch Ale, Weizenbock and Pale Bock will be traveling south to GSP exit 109 come July.

The pairings for last night's dinner, a tribute from Moshe to "his people," were well received. A Great Divide Saison called Collette accompanied the Cheese Platter, and Mike's 32 Inning Ale joined the Lentil Soup dish. Left Hand's Stranger, a nice beer with just a hint of rye came out with the Meditteranean tapas platter. A Watermelon Salad with Feta Cheese, a favorite of Moshe's grandfather, danced to the tune of Mike's Station House Red, and the flavorful Beef Kabobs, prepared in plain view by two of Central Jersey's best chefs saw the arrival of Avery's Ellie's Brown Ale. Mike's tasty Gust 'n' Gale Porter, a pub favorite came out with the Berries and Cream Dessert.

There were a few (mercifully short) speeches, and, after he spoke for a full thirty seconds, Mike was presented with a signed card, a gift certificate to one of his favorite equine emporiums and an engraved silver mug which expressed the feelings of those assembled. To the local Uno's credit, it subsidized all those gifts, as well as a host of giveaways during the night. It was a credit to Mike that Beerscribe par excellence Kevin Trayner made the trek to pay homage to a class act on the Jersey Craft Beer scene.

In all it was both special and routine. Routine because another Sella Beer Dinner went off flawlessly, but special because the soft-spoken guy who organized them for nearly a decade and a half is moving on.

We wish him much success.

He'll probably be bock back, though.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Last Sella Supper (at Uno's anyway)

Hearken to the Moshe-inspired Menu as it currently stands for Mike Sella's final beer dinner at Uno's Grill and Brewery in Metuchen. The date is Tuesday, June 28, and the time is 7 PM. Beers will be matched up with each course, so bring your thirsts, your appetites and your good wishes as we say farewell to brewer Mike Sella after 14 years of outstanding brewing!

1st Course--Selected artisanal cheese platter

2nd Course--Red Lentil Soup with Cavatelli

3rd Course--Watermelon and Feta Salad over Mixed Greens and Marjoram Vinaigrette

4th Course--Mediterranean Tapas Platter...Hummus, Tahina, Olives, Taboule, with Grilled Pita

5th Course--Berber Style Lamb (or Beef) Kabobs with Caramelized Onion, Couscous and Moroccan Salad over Grilled Vegetables

6th Course--Fresh Berries and Cream Dessert

Call Uno's to make your reservation--732-548-7979

If you're in NYC, and you crave a brew with atmosphere...

Check out these places by clicking below.


The PubScout


Eataly La Birreria, Lot on Tap, Hofbrau Bierhaus among NYC's new beer gardens -

Monday, June 20, 2011

Spartan Paters for a Day

By Kurt Epps—The PubScout

Four of us Hardcore Heck’s Angels (that’s like Hell’s Angels Very Very Lite) planned a ride to Sparta, NJ for Father’s Day, a day which turned out to be beautiful, both weather-wise and experience-wise. I suggested a visit to a place called the Mohawk House, having heard and read many good things about the place—especially about the beer selection. As it happens, one of my favorite brewpubs, Krogh’s—right on magnificently scenic Lake Mohawk—is also there, so I could essentially kill two birds with one stone by getting some fresh brewpub beer in a rustic pub and checking out a new place with a reportedly superior beer list.

Staten Island Gold Wing Joe, Marc the Busa, Ron the Yellow School bus rider and I took in the sights around this man-made lake on an absolutely gorgeous day. Check out the pics to the right. That beautiful lass is Ron’s daughter Cailley who accompanied Ron for Father’s Day.

I reviewed Krogh’s many years ago, fascinated by the fact that the brewer and the chef were the same person, and pleasantly surprised that both beer and food were very good. Nothing has changed in that regard. In fact, the beer we had was the winner of a past homebrew contest at the pub. The distinction was deserved as this beer, a “patersbier” was tasty, well balanced and extraordinarily refreshing. Not normally a style with which many Americans are familiar, a patersbier (father’s beer, appropriately) was usually only available within the walls of a Trappist monastery. It was considered a relatively weak beer that could be offered to the monks only on festive occasions, in keeping with the Trappist tradition of leading an austere life. If this is the kind of stuff those monks made, it’s not hard to see why at least some of the monastic life was appealing. By the way, Krogh’s didn’t open its doors until noon, but by 12:15, the place was packed. Apparently others now know about this northwest Jersey secret.

Time for an after lunch Alvarez (my cigar of choice) and some chit-chat in the shade across from the lake, and then a three minute ride to the Mohawk House, which, though just now coming into its own, has actually been there for six years. Built at a cost of nearly $6 million—and built right, as the place is stunning visually—this place has risen to culinary prominence on the strength of level-headed, dedicated ownership, a master chef (Stephan Sabo) who refuses to cut corners, locally grown and freshly shipped food, the friendliest staff anywhere and an ever-changing beer list that will knock your socks off.

And beer lines that are cleaned every three weeks.

The owner Steve Scro happened to be on premise and, after graciously providing us with some incredible refreshment, guided us on a tour. Steve comes from a farming background and insists on doing things “the right way.” His wife Rachel GC’d the place under construction, and anyone with or without a knowledge of building and construction will come away impressed. The last time I saw this many rooms I was at the Biltmore Mansion in Asheville, NC, and I noted that they were all meticulously appointed and exceptionally clean. There were different woods in different rooms for various ceilings, handmade wooden furniture and a different “feel” for every room. Check out the relatively new room called “The Study” with its “Frank Lloyd Wright modeled stained glass windows, fieldstone walls, and antique maple floors.” It’s no wonder the place is booming, serving 2,000 dinners a week, hosting weddings and private parties and joining the rarefied air of the Top Five restaurants in Jersey according to There’s even a specially constructed bocce ball court out back, and a firepit area for those chilly mountain nights. And Steve, who likes to see a place crowded and hopping, gets top-notch entertainment to achieve his goal.

In a word, the place is vast, both above and below ground, and the cleanliness above ground is the model for the cleanliness below. You might think that such a place has a dress code, and it does: whatever you’re wearing is OK. Three-piece suits and smart outfits are at home beside shorts and sneakers—and even biker attire like we wore. “I like comfortable,” said Scro. Me, too, Steve.

The pics at right will show you some of the incredible beer offerings, but that list is in a constant state of flux. Tip: If you’ve never had Sam Adams Chocolate Cherry Bock for dessert, go have one. Or a Dragon’s Milk (New Holland), or a Theobroma (Dogfish Head) or a St. Bernardus Blanche—or actually pretty much whatever you want. The mother lode of tap handles Steve has stored in basement boxes—in alphabetical order, mind you—will attest to the wide variety of beers that grace the Mohawk House taps. You’ll enjoy whatever you get in a really special ambience, no matter where you sit, but the bar area (see pics) is my kind of place. Scro has just finished a special “Beer Tastings” table in the “Prohibition-Moonshine” area with a lovely view of the two-plus acre plot. Occasionally, breweries bring in their beers for special tastings and dinners, and that sounds like something I need to investigate.

And, if you’re lucky, you’ll meet Maggie, the barwoman. Or Julia, the hostess. Or one or both of the Heathers. Talk about fine appointments to a place…

So Impressed with the place was Ron that he called his boss while we were there and urged him to book the company Christmas party there now—before it gets sold out.

Do yourself a favor and make the trip. I guarantee that, like the Heck’s Angels , you’ll be back.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Ya think?

And the smart money says not one was a good craft beer...


Arrested man: 48 beers was about 10 too many |

At last...almost

Those of us in the business of writing about beer, especially Jersey beer, have been pushing for reform for more than a decade. It looks like one Woodbridge legislator has heard our below.


Assembly bill poised to benefit Jersey brewers | |

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Raising a Pint to Lester Glenn


Even very well run companies screw up occasionally. It's what they do to make it right afterwards that separates the really good ones from the also-rans. But I get ahead of myself.

Some history, like most Jersey folks I had heard the ads from Lester Glenn about their Lester Glenn experience, and though the dealership was more than fifty miles from my home, I bought a car there. The whole buying experience was pleasant, though hardly unique among car dealers anxious to make a sale at the end of the month.

Anyway, I get a recall notice in the mail and dutifully made an 8AM appointment fifty miles away to have it corrected, a task which according to the chap who signed me in should have taken less than an hour. Three and a half hours later, I still did not have my car back, and when it finally came, I was not a happy camper. So I fired off a personal note to Lester Glenn himself (he's got a FB page), and told him of my experience. Among the comments was my questioning why anyone would even make an appointment if the result was a nearly four-hour wait.

The very next day, I got an email from the dealership apologizing for the incident. The manager asked if I would be willing to let them "make this right," and offered to come to my home fifty miles away for my scheduled 7500 mi. service and free oil change. They would leave me a loaner car, take mine down, service it, detail it, fill it with gas and return it. "Yours is not the kind of Lester Glenn experience we want you to remember," he said. I was a bit skeptical, but I assented to the arrangement.

The exchange happened yesterday, just as the Lester Glenn dealership said it would. They were professional, concerned and attentive every step of the way. By their reaction to my situation, they have earned a dedicated—and repeat—customer, and, given my ability to share stories with my readers on my blog and via Twitter, my heartiest recommendation.

For their professionalism and consummate business attitude, the folks at Lester Glenn in Toms River have also earned my first-ever "Pint-of the Day" award, and I ask that all my faithful readers raise a pint to a business that knows the meaning of real Customer Service.

And if you ever go there to buy a car, tell 'em The PubScout sent you.

Connolly’s Pub a Family Affair

Two friends, Rick and Colleen, suggested that we meet at a relatively new Irish Pub in Union, so on the hottest day of 2011 (so far), the missus and I headed up the GSP to State Rd. 82, Morris Ave. According to the owner Pat Connolly, a transplant from the Aulde Sodde in County Mayo, there had been a tavern on the location for eighty-five years. Pat regaled us—in a delightful Irish brogue—with the story of a group of men who, the day after Pearl Harbor, all met at the bar, hoisted more than a few pints, and headed off to Elizabeth to enlist in the war effort. Only one came back, and he, a veteran of Iwo Jima and still a regular at the bar, shared the apocryphal tale with Pat.

No stranger to the bar business, Pat ran a pretty famous place up in North Arlington called Fatso Fogarty's, and under his guidance the bar was a staple for seventeen years. He even got one of the big TV stations to come down and televise his famous "Turtle Races" (tortle in Irish brogue). "Those tortles were pretty popular, but you know they are very unpredictable. One could take aff down the lanes like his backside was on fire and then stop centimeters from the finish line, torn around and come back."

The Tortles couldn't have been as unpredictable as the condition of Connolly's when Pat undertook to renovate it, however. The bar sits exactly where it sat back in the day, but Pat allowed as how one side of the floor was five or six inches higher than the other side, and patrons using either water closet could pee--um, peer into the basement below.

Fortunately, the necessary renovations look very appealing, although if another Connolly family member continues her activity, the floor might be in need of repair again. Joanna, wife of Martin and daughter-in-law to Pat does double duty, working as a bartender, and then, later in the evening dons her Irish step-dancing togs. This little wisp of a gal, pretty as a picture, moves her feet with a speed, grace and power that would make Michael Flatley jealous, and she has been performing for more than three decades with some of the world's best known Irish step dancing teams. On this night she was performing to the music provided by her husband Martin, the fellow "whose name is on the ownership papers," according to Pat.

Beer-wise, the requisite Smithwick's is on tap as are Sam Adams and Yuengling, along with other mainstream beers. Bottles are also available. The menu is generally pub fare with an occasional specialty dish. I judge an Irish pub by its Shepherd's Pie, and Connolly's was very, very good, especially if, like me, you like a lot of potatoes on top. The missus judges every eatery by its crab cakes, and she allowed that hers were excellent as well. The dessert (see the pictures to the right) was a masterpiece of presentation, and Karen, our waitress vowed that none of the calories would stick. Connolly's must be a good place to work, as this Irish-born lass treks 70 miles each way to work there.

Connolly's should be a fixture in Union for some time, and you may even get to see Joanna's daughter Grace doing the Flatley thing some day. The three-year-old was riveted by her mother's performance.

As was everybody else in the place.
But it can't be good for the floor.

The PubScout

Sunday, June 5, 2011

At the Jersey Shore, Artisan’s Always A Class Act

There are some places you feel good just walking into, even if you and your pals roar up on V-Twins and dress in biker regalia, and one of those places is Artisan's on Hooper Ave. in Toms River. There's a friendly attitude that permeates the place, from greeters like Courtney and Heidi, to managers like Sam, and to waitstaff like Chris. And when Chef Extraordinaire Steve Farley comes out from the Wizard's Workshop he calls a kitchen, that's just icing on the cake. And the cake hasn't even made its appearance yet. Or the beer.

Steve Farley, who's been titillating taste buds at Artisan's for many moons, especially during those wild and crazy Oktoberfest Beer Dinners he puts on each year, set us up in the Private Cigar Room, with a widescreen TV, plush chairs, a walk-in cigar humidor and all the accoutrements of a fine gentlemen's club. He brought out a gourmet pizza (see the photos at right) that was comprised of Boursin cheese, a host of secret spices and special potatos that were sliced thinner than Big Paulie sliced the garlic in Goodfellas while the fellas were in stir. To say it was delicious doesn't do it justice.

And it just happened to go perfectly with the house Maibock beer, brewed expertly on premises by Die Brewmeister himself, Herr Hoffman. Malty, balanced nicely with a hint of sweetness, maibocks are brewed especially for the spring season, and this one matched up very well with Steve's pizza. It actually rivaled my favorite maibock, Einbecker, and if I hadn't been two-wheeling it, I'd have brought home a growler or ten.

But why is Artisan's such a comfortable place to dine and quaff? Simple. It starts from the top. The owners, two brothers named Pete (long story) insist on making the entire Artisan's experience memorable for anyone who crosses their threshold. If you happen to catch them in house, say hello to them, and tell them the PubScout sent you. When they stop laughing, you can ask them about their names.

For a central Jersey biker like me, it's a fifty-plus mile run down the slab known as the GSP, but for folks in Ocean and Monmouth counties, especially at the Jersey Shore, it's a treasure waiting to be discovered if you haven't already. Let's just hope that when they return to Seaside next season to film, the "supercafoni "from the TV show Jersey Shore doesn't discover it.

Although the Cigar Room would be a good place for Ronnie and Sammi to fight in.

Or the dumpster out back, if Snooki's not in it.


The PubScout

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Beer painting against the law?

In Poland? Land of Polkas, Pierogies and Pivo?

Scratch Poland off Gregg Hinlicky's bucket list...

Beer painting could land artist in the can