Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Basil T's, the Oktoberfest in Toms River

Aside from the brewpub's name change, the news out of this year's Basil T's Oktoberfest observance in Toms River (held Oct. 2nd) is the return of Tom Paffrath, the guy who made the beer before Dave Hoffmann took over as brewer. (Tom is the guy hoisting the mug.)

Tom's tenure followed that of Gretchen Schmidhausler, who as we all, know tends the kettles and fermenters at the original Basil's in Red Bank.

Tom handed the brewing duties over to Dave several years ago, after his parents' deteriorating health meant he needed to spend more time with them. Now, Tom's coming back to lend a hand, since Dave also owns Climax Brewing in Roselle Park, and sometimes it gets a little tough to be in two places at once. (Case in point, toward the end of September, Dave was shuttling between both locations in a week that saw him get virtually no time off.)

Besides Toms River, you may encounter Tom at J.J. Bittings in Woodbridge, where he'll also help out, now that brewer August Lightfoot has opted to step away from the grind of a one-man brewing operation.

Meanwhile, if you went to this year's Oktoberfest, then you took part in the last fall festival under the Basil T's-Toms River banner (and enjoyed emcee Kurt Epps' wit, and the charm of the Dirndl M├Ądchens). Come the start of 2010, the original Red Bank location will have the Basil's name all to itself.

Artisan Brewery & Italian Restaurant will be the new name in Toms River, something that's worth having a big bash for. And that's not a swipe at Red Bank, either.

It's just that the folks in Toms River, the brothers Gregorakis, have worked hard to establish their own identity, relying in part on Dave's beer and Steve Farley's kitchen know-how, all while sharing the Basil's handle with another restaurant that has different ownership and no connection at all (as in the two are not a corporate franchises).

That's not necessarily an easy thing to pull off, when you consider maybe only the beer geeks and diehard patrons were the folks armed with the knowledge to parse the two Basil backstories.

In any case, the Gregorakis brothers are excited about the change, and we hope they kick the new chapter off in style.

And, if you missed this year's Oktoberfest, well there is always next year's ... at Artisan.

See more photos from the night here.