Friday, October 2, 2009

Live blogging from Basil T Oktoberfest

Dirndl madchens are milling about, and the Fire House Polka Band is setting up.

It's a little more than an hour before festivities will start and a good time to have a warmup pint of fest beer.

5:59 p.m. ... Just talked to emcee Kurt Epps of PubScout fame, brewer Dave Hoffmann, his dad, Kurt, and Roger Freitag, who supplies oak barrels for Oktoberfest events.

6:51 p.m. ... Talking to Kurt Hoffmann ... Kurt's fest hat sports a plume from a chamois he shot himself 9,500 feet up a mountain in Austria.

7:43 p.m. ... It should be noted at this point that 2009 is final the Oktoberfest in Toms River under the name Basil T's ... Hello Artisan, a name that touches on the great things served here, beer and food from, the hands of artisans.

7:54 p.m. ... Quote of the night: In all fairness, the bus boys should be wearing lederhosen. Said in respose to the servers wearing dirndls.

8:10 p.m. ... Several choruses of "Ein Prosit," an excellent shrimp cocktail and a hefeweizen ... The night is going quite well.

9:20 p.m. ... The best wurst has been served and the Oktoberfest beer is being poured, while the Fire House Polka Band -- oompah tuba, accordian and guitar -- runs through the "Roll Out The Barrel" and the crowd merrily sways with mugs in hand (schunkeling as it is called).

10:05 p.m. ... A survey of the crowd ... The Pauls -- Paul Unkert, the well-respected luthier who made Eddie Van Halen's "Frankenstrat " guitars during the 1980s, and Star-Ledger columnist Paul Mulshine. By the by, Paul Unkert now makes guitars in Toms River under the brand name "Unk."

9:40 p.m. ... The main course arrives: a fork-tender sauerbraten from chef Steve Farley, complemented by spatzle, potato pancakes and applesauce, and red cabbage, of course. Another chorus of "Ein Prosit," and all is well.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


Basil T's in Toms River, soon to be known under the moniker Artisan, holds its Oktoberfest dinner on Friday evening (starts at 7 p.m.). It's a multi-course dinner by chef Steve Farley, paired with several beers from brewer Dave Hoffmann. PubScout Kurt Epps keeps the event on pace as emcee.

The Garden State Chapter of the Brewery Collectibles Club of America holds its fall show on Sunday (Oct. 4) at the Polish Cultural Center in Clark.

It starts at 10 a.m., and speaking of Dave Hoffmann, you'll find his Climax beers being poured there.

River Horse

River Horse's annual nod to fall will be held the weekend of Oct. 10-11, noon to 5 p.m. both days. As usual, it's pay as you go with the lineup of RH flagship beers; proceeds benefit Twin Rivertown Project.

Missing from this year's Oktoberfest beer lineup is Dunkel Fester, the dark larger RH did last year as a fall seasonal. Co-owner Glenn Bernabeo says the brewery had to sacrifice the seasonal to keep up with demand for RH's mainstay beers.

For instance, for 2009 the brewery nearly doubled last year's 7-barrel production of Summer Blonde.

The brewery also slipped a special project into its production, brewing the winning beer for a homebrew contest connected to the Office chain of restaurants. Glenn says the brewery hopes to boost capacity soon by adding additional tanks.

Given all of that, if you were a fan of last year's oatmeal milk stout, fret not. It's due back in Novermber, while RH's Belgian Freeze comes out this month.

If you made it to last weekend's cask ale event at Pizzeria Uno, then you saw a great model for scaling down beer fests: a low-key, pay-as-you-go affair with access to good food. Some of the bigger festivals (like Atlantic City) have become drunkfests, while the beer festival idea in general has become overplayed. It makes sense to rein things in a little, downsize and bring some focus.

Speaking of the Uno event, a shoutout goes to Kai Todd of Somerset County, who took the time to talk to us about the beers he was sampling, and Jersey beer in general. (Kai say he's considering adding his voice to the beer scene discussion with a Web site. There's always room for another perspective.)

Constructive criticism
We won't pound this too hard, since we couldn't make it up to the Woodbridge event held in mid-September. But a lot of folks told us about the long lines at the gate and beer staind, and the event running out of beer. Sounds like the Central Jersey Best Fest hit a growing pain, one that limiting ticket sales and boosting the $20 admission price to $35 could solve. (Thirty-five bucks is a common price, and quite frankly, 40 is not out of the realm of reason.)

Granted the Woodbridge festival is a charity event, so if organizers (J.J. Bitting brewpub is the main one) are worried that capping ticket sales will limit the amount raised for the dedicated charity, that can be addressed by having an informational booth to explain where the proceeds are going and to solicit donations. The festival's been a sensible fall addition, and the park where it's held is a great location. Some fine-tuning should help.