Friday, December 12, 2008

Scouting around

A quick and incomplete survey of the hosts of Christmas Taps … If you’re still in the throes of holiday shopping and actually going to malls and outlets, this information may help.

• Basil T’s in Toms River (across from Ocean County Mall): Dave Hoffmann has two holiday beers flowing, a raspberry and molasses brew, something new to Dave’s recipe catalog. It’s not quite a winter warmer, but it tastes pretty good, and at 4.5% ABV, you can have a couple and still sound coherent talking to the sales rep about that discounted flat-screen TV.

Speaking of winter warmers, Basil’s second seasonal is Old St. Nick (6.8% ABV), a beer Dave has made in the past and does at the behest of Steve Farley, Basil’s chef, whose palate tends toward Samuel Smith’s Winter Warmer. We had both beers, and if we’re backing up pints, Nick gets the call. That flat panel can wait until the 26th, when the price may be lower yet.

Christmas Eve is usually a time when you stay closer to home, unless you don’t mind being branded a procrastinator. But here’s a reason to step out on the 24th: Dave has a doppelbock coming on at Basil’s that day. Have lunch, relax, take a growler home.

One more brew coming soon: A straw-colored hoppy ale that’s a twist on Dave’s cream ale.

Meanwhile at his day job in Roselle Park, there’s doppelbock rolling out of the doors at Climax Brewing next week. Dave’s got bock in his genes, so you can set your watch to this one, it’ll be spot on (7.8% ABV).

ALSO: Hoffmann Helles is ready, and the porter recipe Dave dusted off last year for the first time in about 10 years is back this year as draft only. It’s a 5.5% brew with a tawny head that beckons. It has found a following in Pennsylvania bars, with New York and Jersey waking up to it. Dave brewed just 10 barrels, so if you’re near a bar that makes room for Climax tap handles, hurry.

JJ Bitting in Woodbridge: Cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla beans … sounds like a holiday mix. Bitting brewer August Lightfoot spiced a brown ale (5.5% ABV) that fits a pint glass and a growler jug. But variety is the spice of life, and August is pouring a chocolate cherry stout, too, so it sounds like a two growler tour at Bittings. Hey, why not, it’s the holidays.

Making for a trifecta on the taps in rotation at Bitting is Hop Garden Pale Ale (6% ABV). Let the name be your guide; it’s also on the handpump.

Coming soon: WHALES Imperial IPA. If you follow Bittings, you know this brew’s the scion of the Woodbridge homebrewers group. It’s about two weeks from being sighted on the port bow. August also has his Blackjack Oatmeal Stout in the pipeline and Barley Legal Barleywine, a 10% ABV brew that says sip first, ask questions later.

Pizzeria Uno (beside Woodbridge Center mall): Coffee Stout, a 5.8% brew to revv you up before you shop.

Trap Rock Restaurant & Brewery (near Short Hills Mall): A fireside beer – Willie's Winter Warmer (6.2%). Three varieties of crystal malt and a dash of spice to curl up with after fighting the crowds.

Tun Tavern in Atlantic City (near The Walk outlet shops): Orange peel, cocoa, raisins and star anise in a Belgian brown: It’s Tun Noël, jump for the joyeux Tun Noël on the 18th. Using the same yeast Flying Fish ferments its Abbey Dubbel with, brewer Tim Kelly did five barrels of this 9% ABV ale, with an eye toward kegging off three barrels to put up for next year.

In the meantime, the Tun has a Vienna lager still pouring, a brew that returned from its debut in fall 2007. This year’s edition is a little hoppier, more attenuated than the inaugural batch.

Waiting in reserve: Tun Dark, a dunkel-like lager that Tim took home a bronze medal with in North American Brewers Association competition last summer.

Calendar items:

  • High Point Brewing in Butler has an open house on Saturday (12/13), the last one until March. Their Winter Wheat Doppelbock makes the visit worth your time. Alas, it’s unlikely they’ll have the eisbock on Saturday.
  • Gaslight Brewery & Restaurant holds its annual Victorian Christmas Dinner on Dec. 17th. The brewpub has more details at 973-762-7077.