Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Porter pilgrimages

For a while, Charlie Schroeder at Trap Rock had been mentioning to us the Colonial Porter he was putting on tap at the brewpub.

Getting some of that for Thanksgiving seemed like a good idea. In fact, having porters – plural – on the dinner table sounded like a doubly-good idea.

So yesterday, a course was set for Charlie's digs in scenic Berkeley Heights to sample a pint of the 6.5% ABV porter jazzed up with a gallon of molasses. It will accompany some Big Vic's Short Order Porter picked up Monday at Basil T's brewpub in Red Bank.

Charlie says the porter evolved from a brown ale he did a little experimenting with, namely by adding molasses to it to deepen its character. The molasses transformed the beer (and its chocolate malt) into a smooth brew that Charlie further shaped with the addition of the black malt "to balance some of the sweetness out instead of using more hops."

"It was something that happened by accident," Charlie says. "It started out as a brown ale that I wanted to make taste better by adding molasses, but then it turned out to be a porter."

It was a great pint at lunch. Gonna be good with dinner, too.

Also pouring at Trap Rock are a rye pale ale, Thorny (5.7% ABV, named after a grounded red-tailed hawk cared for at a raptor rehab center in Millington) and winter warmer that are worth a try. Ditto for some aged strong ale, Virgil (8.5% ABV, named for a turkey vulture that arrived at the raptor center in the mid-1980s). It's a beer Charlie brews once a year and sets aside a keg to age for eight months to a year. (You won't find Virgil on the brewpub's beer list, so ask the bartender about it. However, the quantity is limited so hurry, and alas, it's not available in growlers.)

The rye in Thorny, Charlie says, "acts almost like another hop. It's spicy. It's mimicking a hop, and by putting it with other hops it really gives it an interesting flavor profile you normally wouldn't get if you just added hops, a different hop."

He brewed Willie's Winter Warmer (6% ABV) using three different crystal malts, including a crystal rye malt, stacked on a base of pilsner malt. "It's like an Anchor Steam. It's a San Fran lager yeast fermented at an ale temperature, low 60s, and I used the different crystal malts," Charlie says.

Over at Basil T's in Red Bank, brewer Gretchen Schmidhausler has a honey brown ale that will be coming on, as well as the brewpub's Red Ribbon Ale seasonal made with star anise. But Big Vic's porter is on tap now, and it's quite tasty. There's note of sweetness to it as a pint by itself, but combined with food, there's a roasty quality that emerges. It's delicious beer, a two-pinter easily. But judge for yourself.

Homebrew in the queue

This announcement tumbled into the email queue today, and what follows is the actual email text. We didn't get a chance to reach out to the folks at High Point about it. But anyway, here it goes:

Do you have aspirations to be the next Beer Baron? If so, The Office Beer Bar & Grill is hosting the perfect competition for you! The Home Brewers Wars - sponsored by High Point Brewing Company, makers of Ramstein Beer - will answer the question: who is the best amateur brewer in New Jersey?

The first round of competition, "The People's Choice," will be held on Tuesday, December 8th, beginning at 8 p.m., at all Office Beer Bar locations. Homemade beers will be judged by customers and professional brewers alike, with a victor emerging from each of the seven Office locations.

On Saturday, December 12th, the seven finalists will face off at 5 p.m. at the Montclair Office Beer Bar, where judges from High Point Brewing Company, Nash Distributors and High Grade Distributors will choose the best home brewer.

The winner will receive a $100 Office gift card, have the chance to spend the day working with the brewers at High Point to create their recipe from scratch, will receive a commemorative tap handle and plaque and the first keg will be tapped during a ceremony in late January. The winner's beer will then be sold throughout our restaurants for beer lovers to enjoy.

So head down to the basement and start brewing! Please RSVP to if you plan to submit a beer.


All styles are welcome. Our criteria will be based on the quality of each beer and the commercial viability of a late winter beer to be sold in The OFFICE BEER BAR & GRILL beginning in late January. Entrants will provide the equivalent of six – 12oz bottles for the event.

The restaurant winner will chosen by 50% guest votes, and 50% judges. Overall appeal is the single criteria. Each restaurant winner must provide an additional six – 12 oz bottles, or the equivalent for the championship. The winning beer will be determined by a panel of industry professionals.

Participants must comply and agree with the following conditions:

  • 21 years old or older
  • All participants must be present at the time of judging
  • The winning recipe is to be provided, and the winner will relinquish any commercial rights for the winning the recipe

Employees of The Office Beer Bar & Grill and our vendors are ineligible.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

More tales of stout on a half shell

Flying Fish's use of oysters in a stout may inspire homebrewers to put bivalves in the boil, too. But a couple of homebrewers from Monmouth County's bayshore turned in an oyster stout four months ago.

Shucks, that's a couple months before FF folks officially tipped their hand about where and what the next Exit Series beer would be.

Bill Comella of Highlands says he likes FF's Exit 1 Bayshore Oyster Stout, but it was Ventnor Brewery's Oyster Stout that inspired him and his co-brewer, Bobby Soden, members of the WHALES homebrew club, to get shellfish (OK, bad pun) with a 10-gallon batch of foreign export stout. The pair brewed on a three-tiered system fashioned from half-barrel kegs and used oysters bought at the Lusty Lobster seafood market in Highlands.

"We just put 'em in a big sack and dropped it in the boil with 10 minutes to go," Bill says. "Then we ate the oysters. There was more stout in the oysters than there was oyster in the stout."

And the beer? "It came out great."

The Ventnor Bill refers to is in the United Kingdom, not the Ventnor south of Atlantic City. The latter, as we know, is tangentially world famous as one of the yellow properties in Monopoly (Ventnor Avenue, price $260; rent $22 unimproved, $1,150 with hotel); the former is located on the Isle of Wight, famous in rock 'n' roll history for a multiday music festival in 1970 that was bigger than Woodstock 1969 and was one of Jimi Hendrix's last live performances.

Bill discovered Ventnor Brewery's oyster stout while in Amsterdam a few months back. The brewery went out of business last March, a victim of a seasonal economy and stingy bankers who wouldn't float it a loan to hold it over until the economy emerged from its winter doldrums.