A Massive Mug Club, Atypical Pub Grub and a Glassware Snub
It was time to leave Kane Brewing, but it was obvious it was the highlight for all of us when we started to snap photos by the brewery logo in the hallway after we all took a pee break. No! Not together! Why would you even ask that? May I continue? Thanks.
So it was time to move on but we had to figure out if we were going to backtrack to Basil T's or not. The Duck didn't care one way or the other since, with family in the area, he's been there a few times. The Senpai had never been and figured we should stop in for at least one beer. And that's what it turned out to be.
The bar area is very nice, if not a little crowded, and the brewing equipment is visible in the bar as well as from the parking lot. Once we found bar stools the first thing that struck me was all of the numbered mugs. I've seen plenty of mug clubs, but not to this level of extreme. I found out later that they claim to have the largest mug club in the country, and I find no reason to argue the point. If you live close enough to go even once a month, the fee will be paid back very quickly.
The benefits were explained to us as I drank my Maxwell's Dry Stout, which I found a little on the thin side, even for an Irish-style stout, but still pretty tasty. I find this an issue at so many of the brewpubs (see the Long Valley Brewpub entry) and I have to wonder why. Is it a matter of unsuccessfully scaling up a small batch? Is it due to an unfavorable extract-to-whole grain ratio? Is the beer somehow watered down? I don't have an answer and I think it would be rude to ask. This is not true of all of the brewpubs, but I have run across it quite a few times and not just in this state. But back to Bail T's...
The Duck tells us that the food there is actually pretty good, but we were still pretty full from lunch and all the samples from the breweries, so we decided to pass and build our appetites for dinner since we had already decided we would be having dinner at Harvest Moon in New Brunswick. From what I could tell from the beer we had and the food coming out of the kitchen, a return trip is warranted.
We finished our beers and hit the road, drove through some downpours, hit some traffic and finally pulled into the Hub City. Not quite sure how it got this nickname...maybe because it was halfway between New York and Philadelphia on the King's Highway. But that's a history lesson for another time...or no time in the near future.
So we parked and walked through some light rain to the brewpub. When we arrived we thought we had made a mistake for our dinner plans since the place was packed and the wait to be seated was calculated in hours. But we employed a trick every bar-dweller knows: see if they serve food at the high tables in the bar and if those tables are subject to the waiting list. They did and they weren't, so we waited for one of them to clear, claimed it for ourselves and ordered our food at the bar.
The Senpai and I had the standard fare of wings and a burger, which was…well, standard. Don't get me wrong, it was still good, but nothing really special, just good pub grub. However, the Duck ordered the Pad Thai and I have to say that they do a stellar job with that Thai noodle dish. Despite having to order at the bar, service was pretty good. Yes, they confused our order a little, but they handled the mix-up with class and the proper amount of apologies. What impressed me was that the huge bartender who took the order came out from behind the bar to apologize, taking the blame on himself. That DID impress us.
Although we were hungry, we were all pretty tired, almost too tired to eat. But we finished up, washing dinner down with a few beers each. Nothing really stood out with their brews, but that may not have been their fault. The Duck mistakenly ordered an IPA, even though his palate was exhausted. I stuck to lighter-bodied, lower-ABV offerings, but I prefer the darker heavier stuff. Being the driver, I had to steer clear of what I usually prefer. The Senpai barely took a few sips of his beer since he was fading faster than the rest of us. A return trip will be needed to fully assess the quality of their brews, but it will be done when the college aren't in school and not on a weekend.
It was time to go home, but not until we made one more stop. I've written before about Oak Tree Liquors in South Plainfield and I believe I went on to rave about their selection. So I was eager to be back and I eagerly and optimistically grabbed a shopping cart to assist in spending every remaining cent of my budget for this trip. However, I'd return home with a bunch of cash left in my pocket. For some reason I just couldn't find anything that made me go "ooh" and "aah". So I asked the Duck if their selection had dropped or had I just become that hard to impress now? He opted for the latter and I think he's right. The happy problem is that my local place (Liquor Outlet Wine Cellars in Boonton) has really stepped up their game and now rivals Oak Tree for selection.
The Duck however, had no issues filling his shopping cart and joyfully maneuvered to the front counter. They've spoiled us here in the past, offering up glassware from the stash closet because of the amount spent in the one trip. The Duck was expecting the same this trip (he did purchase quite a bit) and was sorely disappointed when the transaction completed without anything extra proffered. It may have been because we were there pretty late and the guy in charge may not have had the authority. Maybe it had something to do with the icy response when I asked about an ex-employee of theirs. Maybe the guy just didn't like the looks us. It wouldn't be the first time. Who knows? But at least the Duck didn't dwell on it for too long.
We returned home and split up the booty which consisted of bottles, cans and growlers of beer. The swag was represented in the form of shirts, hats and glasses purchased at the breweries. It was a tiring trip, but a fulfilling and rewarding one. We now have to get a more fuel-efficient and reliable vehicle to do the same in South Jersey where Cape May Brewing opened last year and will see Tuckahoe and Turtle Rock go on-line this year. And then there are the brewpubs: Tun Tavern in Atlantic City and Iron Hill in Maple Shade. Perhaps in the Fall when all the summer tourists have gone and the Jersey shore once again becomes peaceful and beautiful.