"The Local Taproom"

A disappearing entity in our fast changing
New Jersey suburban climate is the
neighborhood tap room. What was once a
mainstay of the city and inner suburban
landscape is being replaced by chains
catering to the afterwork crowd with "drink
specials", impersonal barmaids in short
shorts, and menus with pictures on them.

The drinking establishments that are still
locally owned and operated have, for the
most part, become "sports bars", with 27
televisions turned to 16 different games, all
competing for attention with the juke box,
which is usually played at a decibel level
exceeding that of a 747's engines during run

Both of these types of saloons offer the
usual "variety" of draught beers such as
"Nocarb Bud Lite Ice Draft ", which are
served in a mug so encrusted with ice as to
completely obliterate whatever minimal
taste they might have once had. A beer
lover's delight these places certainly are
not. The relatively recent appearance of
brewpubs and "beer bars" have somewhat
offset the absence of local taverns, but they
are too rare to solve the problem of having
a couple brews and still being able to
efficiently get home .

While the traditional neighborhood bar was
not exactly a beerfan's heaven, there was
something very pleasant about sitting in its
dim , cool atmosphere, sipping a Piel's or
Rheingold from the standard seven ounce
glass, watching the Mets or Yanks(certainly
not BOTH) and being able to request a refill
in a normal tone of voice from the bartender
at the far end of the bar.

In my neighborhood we had Farcher's Grove,
which offered even more. While not exactly
a neighborhood tap room, it was a "tap
room for the neighborhood". In addition to
the bar, it was home to several German
American clubs, and offered a catering hall,
picnic grove and soccer field. But the bar
itself had all the attributes of a local and

Upon entering ,you were immediately
greeted with the smell of bratwurst and old
sauerkraut left over from the previous
night's "Fest". There was always an excuse
for a fest at Farcher's: Oktoberfest,
Springfest, Holidayfest and Fest for no
particular reason. As you seated yourself at
the bar a secondary aroma assaulted the
nostrils as someone emerged from the
men's room: the unmistakable scent of
stale beer and mothballs piled into the floor
length urinals. When the olfactory senses
were sufficiently stimulated you checked out
the tap handles and happily realized you
weren't goig to be forced to chose from Bud
or Coor's Light, because Farcher's had
Dortmunder, Beck's, one or two other
German lagers, Paulaner Weissbier and  on
tap all year round.

You made your selection and here the real
fun began.Since the bartenders were older
Teutonic men who didn't look particularly
good in short shorts and tight tank tops,
they had to rely on a more time-honored
method of generating tips: giving away the
owner's beer. It was sometimes possible to
lay a twenty on the bar, drink three or four
glasses of great German beer and find that
you still had $18.50 remaining from which to
leave your gratuity. The business was
owned by fifty or so members of something
called the Elizabeth Sports Club, who,
according to the bartenders, were so busy
stealing from each other, they didn't notice
how much the employees were stealing from
them. Bad for them, good for the thirsty

Some of these losses were recouped by the
"Youth Movement". Other taverns in the
area ignored a whole marketing strategy
that Farcher's took advantage of, that being
the sale of beer to minors. Whereas some
bars serve underage patrons in uniform and
justify it  by saying "If he's old enough to
fight for his country, he's old enough to
drink in my bar", it seemed as though
sometimes Farcher's took the attitude that
"If he's good enough to get a "B" in Social
Studies, he's good enough to get a beer in

One  promotion at Farcher's stands out in
my memory. To increase the sale of
Paulaner Weissbier, the product was poured
into beautiful, traditional German weissbier
glasses bearing the Paulaner logo and a
gold rim around the lip. Taking lessons from
the bartenders, the customers began to
steal them in great numbers. To cut down
on the thefts, the management began to
require a three dollar deposit for a glass of
this frothy stuff, but also offered them for
sale at ten dollars per. Even though stealing
them now cost three dollars, an astute
drinker could easily determine that by doing
so he could save himself seven dollars off
the purchase price!

Unfortunately such shenanigans eventually
contributed to the demise of this great
institution. Even though a plastics factory
now occupies the site, a little piece remains
close to me physically. A few days before it
was bulldozed, I ventured into the picnic
grove, dug out all the hostas and
rhododendrons I could find and transplanted
them into my yard where all summer long
they remind me of a great neighborhood
stop. Sometimes, when the atmospheric
conditions are just right, I can still hear the
takes on
bars and
chain pubs

Another great
installment of
"Beer My
Dan Hodge
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by   Dan Hodge