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.