Thursday, August 11, 2011


Drink Like an Egyptian...a Fox-Hunting Egyptian

"You are the Lady of Garlands, the Mistress of Dance,
The Lady of Unending Drunkenness."
- Hymn to the Seven Hathors

This was the first time that all the kohai attended the same event. Since each individual brings a different range of experiences and expertise to the group, I was really looking forward to going through the review sheets. I always expect duplication on the sheets since we all shared the experience and, as a result, many of the facts or accounts of an event or physical descriptions will be covered on more than one review. Personal preferences are different and opinions of the beer, food and decor can vary widely. This variation in taste and experience was the case at Trap Rock Restaurant and Brewery in regards to the decor and the food. However, almost every kohai was in agreement as to their best beer: Hathor.

In most of our opinions, Hathor is excellent and easily the best there. It's not even that the rest are bad...they're all mostly pretty damn's just that Hathor outshines the others. But what about the name? That name shows that someone there knows a little about world mythology, especially when it relates to beer. Hathor was the cow-headed Egyptian goddess who was associated with beauty, peace, motherhood, music, dance guessed So, is she worshipped because she brought beer to the masses, like Prometheus bringing fire? Not exactly. Common belief places the first brewing of beer in Sumeria as far back as 3500BC. So no, Hathor did not bring beer to the people and there are no myths stating she did. The story that ties her to beer is more nefarious.

Like any civilization, Ancient Egypt went through many periods of warfare and peace...actually, that continues to this day. In peaceful times, Hathor was worshipped for all the pleasurable diversions necessary to fill the gaps between bouts of bloodshed. But myth has it that she was very active during one of the conflicts that pitted Egyptian versus Egyptian. She took on the persona of Sekhmet, a blood-thirsty warrior goddess. And they say "blood-thirsty" in the literal sense; she would slaughter her enemies and gorge herself on their life fluid. When Ra, the god of gods in Egypt, saw her on her rampage, he decided that he needed to stop her before she killed everyone. What point is there to being a god if there's no one left to worship you? Right? So he tricked her by pouring massive amounts of red ale in her path of death and destruction. Thinking it was blood she eagerly drank it all down. The resultant inebriation calmed her down and returned her to the more sedate Hathor aspect. Peace broke out and there was much rejoicing and drinking and singing and dancing and fornicating and a bunch of other what-not. So ends the educational part of this entry and begins the actual review.

Despite calling a beer Hathor, the ATMOSPHERE has no tie-ins to Egyptian mythology. Their website describes it as a "European ski lodge atmosphere". I've only been there twice, but I don't really understand where they get that and neither did anyone else at the table. Maybe none of us have been to enough European ski lodges. For me, the dining area where we sat was more reminsicent of a British aristocratic hunt club, not that I've been to many of those either. No, there was nothing dead and stuffed on the walls, but it was certainly comfortable and decorated with dudes in those funny hats they wear during fox hunts. They even have one of those English horns used to call the hounds. And even the bar, with its brass taps and dark wood, looks like it was designed by a homesick Englishman. There is another seating area to the left of the entrance which has high ceilings and could be more in line with a European ski lodge, but this was summer and no one was dressed in a manner that would give you that impression. Maybe in winter.

There's a lounge upstairs which you'll see when you've been through most of your sampling flight, since that's where the restrooms are. They have tables and comfortable couches and it is a nice place to relax with a pint, if the mood strikes you. 

All of the kohai
I'm not sure if it was because we had eight people, but it seemed to be SERVICE-by-committee. I never really knew who our actual wait person was, but they all did a very nice job. The first guy seemed to know a lot about their beer and another waiter who was there toward the end of the night did as well. But we didn't really quiz them to see what they knew. The Control didn't pay much attention to the waiters as he started to pine for the hostesses who sauntered away as soon as they seated him. Sauntering is an improvement as women tend to run away from him. That is, until one of them tried to stab him...well, that's his version of the story. We couldn't get hers because she had laryngitis, but we still found her version more credible.

Don't expect pub grub for FOOD here. They have a menu section called "Snacks" where you can get a variety of items, some that seem like they'd be the typical bar fare, but they're done up Trap Rock style. There's a reason that the word "restaurant" comes before "brewery" in their name...they concentrate mostly on the food. It's fancy and it's really, really good. Yes, you can get a cheeseburger, but it's $19 and has aioli on it. They're so fancy here that they call their fries, "house frites". So please, don't get the cheeseburger; you'll be doing yourself a disservice. Yes, the locally produced Herdsman cheese is probably delicious, but there is so much more they offer. The array of dishes at our table varied from ribs to scallops, from tuna to porkloin and from salad to a mixed grill. Most plates were practically licked clean with a few disappointments here and there, but nothing major. The biggest complaint was the portion size of the 4 cheese mac and the fact that it didn't carry enough flavor to stand up to the ribs. Everyone commented that they've had better, but not much better. 

If you're on a budget and want to come here for the beer, go drink at the bar. The PRICES of the food make this a special occasion destination for dinner or a place to impress a date. It's not that the value isn't there, you are getting what you pay for and you're paying for very well-prepared food made with ingredients that do not come out of large cans. In fact, a lot of their ingredients are grown, harvested or produced in New Jersey. They take pride in that fact, so locavores rejoice! If you take all of that into account, the menu is nicely priced. The surprising thing is that although the food can give the casual diner sticker shock, the beer is a great bargain. A pint of any of their offerings is $5.00 and the sampler is only $10.00 FOR SIX BEERS! And each sample glass is about 6 ounces! Lessee, six beers at six ounces each, for ten dollars comes to...carry the two...convert to're getting four ounces free. Not too shabby. So if you've got the cash flow and you're a foodie (or "gourmand", pardon moi), by all means make a reservation for dinner. If the point of your visit is to try the beer, eat somewhere else first and then belly up to the bar. You can then afford to buy a growler of your favorite Trap Rock brew.

This is a working brewery
Now for my favorite part, the BEER! We've already talked about Hathor and how all, but one non-native East Coaster and maybe another, preffered the Hathor to all their others the night we were there. Some of us have been there a couple of times and I know that their porters are excellent and I prefer them to the Hathor. All of their beers are pretty good, but they tend to get better as they get darker. Hathor was the darkest that night, so the theory proves out...for now. They had an English brown ale (Fuggle Rock Ale) on cask and they even served it at the proper temperature. But drink it quickly, because it becomes a little muddled and tiresome to drink as it warms. Another one of their stand-bys is Ghost Pony Helles Lager. It's really light and very crisp, but some complained that it's too light. It's served cold and it should be enjoyed cold. If you have a NASCAR beer drinker among the group, order them one of these; it's a nice gateway beer. Oh, and if you're indiscriminate about what you drink, they do have a pretty ecelectic wine list with the typical Jersey restaurant mark-up...maybe a little less, but only a little.

Our country is at war right now, but it is not on our soil and doesn't affect many of us. So the best we can do to support it, is to partake in all those previously-mentioned peacetime diversions that Hathor embodies. Doing so stimulates the economy and ensures that our uniformed men and women get the necessary equipment to safely do their jobs and that they get compensated appropriately. As our soldiers are busy guarding our right to live peaceful lives full of song, dance and drink, civilians in Egypt found that they have the power to improve their lives. Their successful protest showed other nations that they can dictate to their government and that it need not be the other way around. Libya and Syria are currently in the throes of political upheaval and unrest is the rule across Africa and the Middle East. This unrest is spawning a growing movement toward democracy in places traditionally ruled by tyrants and religious zealots. The cattle are rising and honoring an Egyptian cow-headed god seems appropriate. Drink a Hathor and toast those men and women who opposed Hosni Mubarak in Tahrir Square and by so doing you are honoring the change that is trying to force its way through the chaos. But also remember, the American Revolution was planned in the pubs of the Thirteen Colonies. As whole populations oust their oppressive and corrupt governments, should we not examine our own greed-ridden mockery of democracy? Thomas Jefferson was a proponent of having a revolution every twenty years and we are quite astray of his timetable. So rise up and take arms! Eh...or don't. You can always just sit back and enjoy your beer...that's my plan. The myth of Hathor shows that partaking mightily in ale can certainly quell the blood-thirsty spirit. Although you're more than likely to catch me draining a pint than planning a coup, that old brown-sugar-loving redhead sure gave us food for thought.

"God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion.
The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is
wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts
they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions,
it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. ...
And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not
warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of
resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as
to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost
in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from
time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants.
It is its natural manure."  - Thomas Jefferson