Vince Capano is a two time winner of the prestigious Quill and Tankard
writing award for humor from the North American Guild of Beer Writers.  

Vince's column is now  a regular feature of
Check back often for the next installment of

Vince's  Adventures in Beerland
Brew Pubs Beware                             by Vince Capano        

I love brew pubs.  When I first began my adventures in beerland there was no better
place to find the very freshest beer in the world and to revel in tasting an incredible array
of styles.  I began to wonder who in their right mind, after visiting a real brew pub, would
ever again step through those swinging doors of a regular bar to drink from the standard
two or three taps of stale, pedestrian beer.  OK, before we continue, I do realize that pubs
don't have swinging doors anymore but they sure did in every Gene Autry and Roy
Rogers movie I ever saw as a kid.  You know, I've always wondered how those doors
impacted the saloon's climate control system but that's an analysis I'll leave to the global
warming soothsayers and municipal building inspectors of Dodge City.  

After my first glorious brew pub experience at the long gone Mountain Valley Brew pub in
Suffern, NY, I diligently began to seek out every such purveyor of brewed on premise
suds that I could find.  That proved to be no easy task.  Indeed, before the explosive
growth of these hallowed entities, seeking out a brew pub usually meant traveling some
distance; but it was traveling with a destination that was always worth the cost.  Even the
drive itself become fun as it facilitated my new hobby - counting, with appropriate snicker
and derogatory chuckle, the neon Bud and Coors signs flashing in the windows of the local
taverns I passed on the way to my destination pub of the day.  By the way, the most I
ever saw was 35, a number that I have duly submitted to The Guinness Book of World
Records people.  Now that I think of it, I sent that letter after a long brew pub visit so I
just might have mistakenly sent it to the real Guinness people in Dublin.  Oh well, there
goes immortality.

One week I'd travel to Krohs in Sparta, NJ and the next to Weyerbacker's Brew Pub in
Easton,PA.  After that it might be Ships Inn in Milford, NJ or The Gilded Otter in New Paltz,
NY.  For a while every trip would bring new excitement and discovery.  Yes, I did mean
"for a while".  Sadly, someone in global brew pub management decided that making the
same beers each month was a good idea for everyone.  Needless to say, they were
probably the same geniuses who recommend buying stock in Enron and pet food made in

I soon began to find that every day, every week, every  month the same three or four
staple brews and perhaps one "seasonal" were on tap at most of the  brew pubs I  
visited.   It seemed that many brew pub owners felt a need to compete for the macro
beer consumer.  They went after the Coors' fan by brewing their own golden/light.  Be it
made in Colorado or in the silver tank behind the bar, these brews lacked only one thing -
flavor. The golden was joined by the ever popular red /amber brew that was clearly meant
for the drinker who loved Budweiser but was adventurous enough to boldly drink it in a
darker hue.  The third tap was a nod, however small, to a true craft brew; it was a
decidedly non-decrepit, pale ale.   Usually boasting an IBU count of less than 10, this
concoction was obviously  meant to be as inoffensive to the new beer drinker as any
cooking show on PBS would be to Aunt Bee in Mayberry.   

The last tap would be a, shudder, stout or IPA, of which the brewer would be ordered to
make a sufficient amount of beer to last at least a full day, not night.  When that ran out
the owners would quickly put on their ace in the hole - a guest tap of, what else, Coor's
Blue Moon or Yuengling's (pay a premium price) everyday lager.  

Make a few trips to quality chain brew pubs like Iron Hill, John Harvard, or even my
beloved Rock Bottom, and you'll never have to worry about reading an extensive new
beer list.  Note on your next visit to your local brew pub how few of the regular patrons
ever turn their heads to read what's new on the beer blackboard.  I'm not really sure why
this is happening unless the brewers are all following some secret Masonic code found on
the back of the dollar bill, or they are part of a great conspiracy to put us to sleep so the
pod people can take our places.  Mine is not to reason why but to report these sad tidings
to you in BeerNexus land.

Of course there are exceptions, many of which you can find at AOL City Search.  City
Search names the best beer selections in each state (the well deserving winner for best
beer selection in NJ was the Gaslight Brewery and Restaurant in South Orange), but they
are few and few between.  Take heart however, for there is an answer - beer bars.

We're not talking a faux beer bar that boasts of 24 taps, with offerings ranging the entire
gamut from Bud Light to Bud Select.  No, there are real beer bars out there like Andy's in
Bogota, NJ that constantly rotates its 9 taps with such great brews that even Michael
Jackson himself has lauded them.  There's TJ's in Paoli, PA whose 25 taps include items
such as Leffe Broune and Van Steenberge Atomium Grand Cru .  There's The Drafting
Room in Exton, PA which always amazes, Which Brew in Easton, PA with tap brews from 8
states and two countries, Isaac Newton's in Newtown, PA with a lineup worthy of weekly
visits.  Seek and you just might find one closer than you could ever imagine.  I actually
found one in the untamed hills of North Warren, NJ located in the bustling (all of 3 stores)
town center.  It even had parking for 15 cars or 12 over-sized pick up trucks as was the

But alas, even a real beer bar is not always Nirvana.  Their Achilles heel (not to be confused
with Achilles' rear end, which describes owners of beer bars who never clean their tap lines)
is usually the bartender,  Most bartenders at a brew pub are somewhat knowledgeable
about their product; that is generally not so for the beer bar.  At a decent beer bar called
Cloverleaf in Caldwell (NJ) I asked the young female bartender which Brooklyn seasonal
was on tap.  I knew it was a Brooklyn Seasonal because one tap said "Brooklyn Seasonal".  
Really.  She promptly said it was like a Coors light but made in Brooklyn.  She even poured
a sample, held it up and proudly proclaimed, "see, it's light."  Right, and the Titanic sunk
because of one small leak.  Then again, she was right; it was light, in color not withstanding
the fact that the beer was actually Brooklyn's Abbey Single.  Not surprisingly, she's also
the person who later told me she had lost 20 pounds on her self created "Slim Jim"diet.  
She drank Ultra Slim-Fast shakes made with Jim Beam. Hmmm.... that may not be too bad
after all.

At another beer bar I frequent the bartender (name withheld under pressure from the
beernexus editor - you didn't hear it from me that she is the bartender's sister)  actually
admitted not knowing anything about the beer and proved it by blithely serving Blue Point
Brewing's Imperial IPA,10 % ABV, in 20 oz. pint glasses instead of the 10 ounce size the
bartender on the early shift was using.  Now that I think of it, this is not a bad thing.  In
fact it's a good, make that a very good, thing.  And yes, I did tip accordingly to the glass

The moral of my tale is two-fold.  First brewubs should not take we craft beer lovers for
granted; after all a person can even get tired of eating pizza every night of the
week....maybe.   Second, beer can be fresh and different at beer bars too.

So brewpubs beware - there's competition out there!  With good tasting, unique beers
from in and out of the country, serious beer bars are becoming true destination stops for
the craft beer lover.  And that's no surprise since going to the a great beer bar is
becoming just like attending a beer festival with the added bonus that you never have to
get off your stool.
Brew Pubs Beware!
Vince Capano