Wednesday, October 8, 2008

More fests, g'suffa

Oktoberfest has ended in Munich; the 16-day bash in Bavaria wrapped up last Sunday.

Not so on our side of the Atlantic.

Fest beer will be with us for a little longer, and so will the conviviality that’s a hallmark of the celebration. With that in mind, here’s what’s coming up ...

RH has been hitting some high marks with new beer styles it added to its lineup just this year (think Belgian white and a cherry-finessed imperial amber). So by way of advice, RH’s event could be your last chance to grab some Dunkel Fester, a draft-only autumn seasonal that proved to be a huge hit soon after its release a few weeks back. (Co-owner Chris Walsh told us at the Sept. 20th Woodbridge festival that Fester was almost gone, but the brewery was holding some back for this weekend.)

In the Valley
Last year, the legions of Oktoberfest fans put away six barrels of Long Valley brewmaster Joe Saia’s copper-hued fest beer. That’s 186 gallons served up at last year’s annual pig roast in the side parking lot of the pub, housed in a scenic, two-century-old, stonewalled barn located in the Morris County community founded by Saxon immigrants in the 1700s.

Now in its 12th year, the event draws anywhere from 800 to 1,500 people, but there’s plenty of room to accommodate 2,000. If you go, expect a German menu served along with the pork, four other beers to choose from, including a cask-conditioned pale ale, and of course live music. (Parent alert: There’s also activities for kids.)

Joe’s Oktoberfest is actually fermented with an ale yeast, but done at a lower temperature to produce a beer that’s closer to the crispness of lager, with the signatures of the German malts and balanced bitterness of Tettnang and Saaz hops coming through. (FYI: Joe’s got five beers, including his Lazy Jake Porter, in competition at the Great American Beer Festival, which starts tomorrow in Denver. Lazy Jake took home a gold medal three years ago.)

Märzen by the sea
In Atlantic City, Tun Tavern brewer Tim Kelly describes his 2008 Oktoberfest beer, Tunfest Lager, as a slightly smoky brew, with a hearty 6.3% ABV. So what do you pair with a full-bodied beer like that? Try a buffet, a band and a live, remote broadcast by WAYV radio station.

Here’s the Tun’s Oktoberfest menu:
  • Cucumber salad with sour cream
  • German potato salad
  • Sliced weisswurst over red cabbage
  • Chicken with potato dumplings
  • Meatballs in a mushroom cream sauce with spätzel
  • Beer-basted bratwurst with sauerkraut and mustard
  • Apple strüdel/cobbler with whipped cream

Check with the Tun for pricing and if reservations are required.

And toast the season.

Bis später.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Party with this Guy

Actually, the party gets the better of Guy. But you’ll still want to be there to see it.

The Ship Inn, the British-themed brewpub in Milford, is now taking reservations for its annual Guy Fawkes Night (35 bucks per person, includes banquet), set for the evening of Wednesday, Nov. 5th.

It’s a night of good food, good ale, mirth and merrymaking. Period costumes are encouraged.

Students of UK history will remember Guy as the guy who was nabbed red-handed in a cellar of Parliament in the early morning of Nov. 5, 1605, a torch in his mitts, about to light the fuse to enough gunpowder to launch the House of Lords into orbit.

As you can imagine, such treason was dealt with harshly. Guy and his co-conspirators in the Gunpowder Plot, if they hadn’t already been run down and dispatched in the name of King James I, met their fates at the hands of the executioner the following January.

In Britain, the foiling of the plot is still celebrated with a bonfire and fireworks (squibs). At the Ship, Guy will get burned in effigy in the parking lot, weather permitting (can’t have a stiff wind blowing hot ashes around), then everyone enjoys a banquet fit for, well, a king.

The Ship’s in the process of securing its permit for the open flame, a minor routine procedure before dealing with the traitor.

Brewer Tim Hall, who's of British lineage and whose family owns the pub, says Guy Fawkes Night has been a tradition at the Ship since 1985, a decade before the brewery was added and the Ship became the first New Jersey brewpub.

Speaking of the brewery, Tim has turned out a brown ale, Broken Silence, that’s a tweak here and there of a past brew called Dark Charger. The update produced a more robust beer at 5.7% ABV.

But the important thing to know is when you buy a pint of Broken Silence, proceeds of the sale go toward fighting ovarian cancer, which Tim’s mom, Ann, died of last summer.

Good beer, good cause.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Oompahs and umlauts

Some scenes from Basil T’s Oktoberfest dinner last Friday in Toms River, a winning combination of food and beer.

Oh, and the Mädchen servers bringing the dinner courses and beer were pretty delectable, too. Good job on the night. Danke schön.

(FYI: The pictures open large, and if you're one of the people who asked for a photo, just pull whatever you want off the page and save them to your drive.)

If this fest celebration gets any bigger, they’ll have to get a big tent and move it to the parking lot, where the Firehouse Polka Band can turn up the heat.

Last year’s crowd of 50-plus doubled this year, and, alas, some forlorn folks learned the event had sold out.

Think next year. Plan early.

The huge jump in turnout – in a troubled economy, no less – tells you a few things: Great beer, great food and a great time don’t take a back seat.

Credit for Friday’s menu goes to Chef Steve Farley and brewer Dave Hoffmann, who was obviously enjoying a celebration of his deutscher roots:

Light touch
The opening culinary salvo for the crowd's reception: Bavarian shrimp cocktail paired with Barnegat Light, an easy drinking lager.

Side pocket

The night's appetizer: German ravioli – Steve’s translation of Schwäbische Maultaschen – with veal and vegetables, demi-glace and crisp caramelized onions.

Whatever you want to call it, Dave gave it high marks, with a favorable comparison to his mom’s.

Maultaschen goes well, by the way, with Dunkel Hefeweizen. If you know Dave’s wheat beers, you know they skew toward banana aromas, not clove.

This one was a tasty steppingstone toward the night’s featured beer.

Teaming up
Hey, BMW and Rolls Royce have a joint venture, so why can’t you pair the best wurst you can find in New Jersey with an India Pale Ale, the British origins of which beer writer and emcee Kurt Epps traced for the night’s crowd.

The weisswurst, bratwurst and bauernwurst came from Schmalz European Provisions in Springfield (Union County). And of course, no one passes on the chance to riff on the best/wurst line. Just ask Kurt. And that IPA, well if this weren’t Oktoberfest …

Roll out the barrel
After a Munich-style ceremonial tapping of an Austrian oak barrel – the coopering was courtesy of Roger Freitag – the night’s Märzen flowed, a hearty match to the smoked pork loin and spätzel.

(With Dave's heritage, you'd expect nothing less than a topnotch fest beer, and he does not disappoint, with either of his versions that New Jerseyans can get their hands on. His toasty-rich Climax Brewing version, eponymously named Hoffmann Lager Beer Oktoberfest, has been out for a while now. Basil's put the pub's Oktoberfest on tap at the end of last month. Both go quickly, so grab your stein.)

Finishing touch
Black forest cake and a pumpkin porter closed the night. That porter rocks, by the way, and was one of our take-home beers.

Basil’s does Oktoberfest right. So maybe that tent isn’t a bad idea.


Basil's makes The Star-Ledger ... Columnist Paul Mulshine (he's the fellow sitting on the far right in the photo above right) filed this for Tuesday (10/7). Thanks for the mention, Paul.