Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Jersey City Has Good Beer!

Our Brooklyn-based homebrew club, the Malted Barley Appreciation Society, organized a pub crawl of Jersey City, NJ (actually Bill did the organizing) on Saturday May 28, 2011. And while, at the time, it sounded like a good idea to kick it off with a pancake feast at the renowned Brownstone Diner, we found that drinking beer after gorging on buttermilk flapjacks took some serious willpower.
Once our order was taken, after having to choose among a dizzying list of selections, the cakes hit our table in minutes. Knowing in advance that they didn't serve real maple syrup, I brought some of my own to share, including some Tuthilltown Bourbon barrel aged maple syrup that B.R. got me for my b-d. Even with that succulent tree sugar coating the cakes, I had to leave a bit on the plate.

Despite us all having pancake bricks in our guts, it was time to get to the meat of the meet. The first stop was Zeppelin Hall, an absolutely enormo-gigantical-home-depot-sized beer hall with two massive, high ceiling indoor halls (one with a projection t.v. showing soccer), and a few acres of outdoor, gravel ground beer garden, with the requisite long tables and beer garden umbrellas. Zeppelin had a pretty decent german beer hall menu with lots of wursts as well as some non-meat options, and almost 40 drafts: a mix of american craft beers -- Ommegang, Dogfish Head, Yards (not easy to find in NYC); not-so-craft -- PBR, Yuengling, Shiner; typical german fare -- Spaten, Hofbräu, Jever, Franziskaner; and a miscellaneous collection of other stuff, probably for the soccer fans -- Newcastle, Carlsberg, Guiness, Boddingtons. I had the Spaten Pils, which was crisp, bright, malty and helped ease along the pancake cement that had set up in my stomach. Others had the Yards Thomas Jefferson's Tavern Ale, which, while tasty, was a bit heavy and strong (8% abv). B.R. had the Ramstein Mai Bock, also a bit full-on, given our pancake bellies.

A welcomed 15 minute walk north helped to clear some tank space, and landed us at Barcade Jersey City. See the accompanying post and podcast for Barcade.

Following Barcade, it was across the street and down the block to Skinner's Loft. As we entered there was a sun shower. Alan pointed across the street and said, "And look -- a rainbow!" as he pointed to the discount clothing store called "Rainbow." Haw haw. Skinner's has a nice dark wood bar, is clean and proper, and has a slightly up-scale feel -- er... well, Grove Street Jersey City up-scale feel. They showed it with their limited but particular tap selection. Raftman and Éphémère had their own elegant tap fountain.

I enjoyed a 10oz snifter of Flying Fish Exit 13 Chocolate Stout. It has a elegant, enticing coco aroma, which also comes through in the taste, mixing with the roast malt bitterness -- yet avoiding that acrid bitterness too often experienced with roasty stouts. At 7.5% abv, you can put a crown on this one and call it imperial. B.R. was treated to 16 ounces of slightly smokey Raftman, which usually comes in a smaller tulip glass. Also of note on tap was Elysian Fields Jasmin IPA, but nothing else that would turn your head.

Though there were two more official stops on the crawl (Light Horse and Iron Monkey), we made Pint aka Star Bar our last stop. We're told that it's a former gay bar, but I'm not sure just how "former" -- which is fine. It had a fun vibe and character. With a very limited number of taps, Pint seems more like a bottle bar. And many found very satisfying bottles, too. Warren picked a 750ml bottle of 9% DFH Squall, which was as tasty as it was strong. John, who at the prior stop, was raving about New Holland Brewery, was delighted to find a big bottle of Dragon's Milk, a dark ale aged in oak casks. B.R. settled for a serviceable Sly Fox IPA (I think) on tap. But my choice, Kenzinger from Philly, was a big disappointment. The bar listed it as a kölsch, but whatever it was, it was likely beyond its shelf life. It was cardboardy with a dull celery flavor -- basically it tasted old, oxidized, stale and mishandled. I'd love to try this one fresh one day -- it seemed like there was a good beer under all that noise.

It would have been hard to have said it 10 years ago, but there's one thing that we learned on the crawl: Jersey City's got good beer!

Brownstone Diner
Zeppelin Beer Hall
Barcade Jersey City
Skinner’s Loft
Pint (aka Star Bar)
Light Horse Tavern
Iron Monkey

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