“Flick Lives…….
 At the Libertine Brewpub!"

Way back in 1955 I received a small Webcor AM radio as
a First Communion present from my grandmother. That
night I discovered Jean Shepherd and for the next
twenty plus years I was a dedicated listener to America’s
favorite raconteur.

In high school other “Shep” fans would discuss the
previous night’s show with enthusiasm rivaling that of
rabid Mets’ fans. Even while stationed in Virginia during
my Marine Corps years, WOR radio’s 5000 watt signal
could easily bring Shep to the Quantico area.

When his Playboy articles began appearing, I actually
bought the magazine to read his stories, ( well, maybe
not ONLY for that)  The publication of his books “In God
We Trust, All Others Pay Cash” and “Wanda Hickey’s
Night of Golden Memories and Other Disasters” made
for many more pleasant hours of reading and re-
reading. Later his TV shows “Jean Shepherd’s America”
and “Shepherd’s Pie” showcased his wonderful humor in
another format.

Fortunately, even those too young to have heard his
late night broadcasts or Live at the Limelight Saturday
night shows are familiar with what has become a
Christmas tradition: the annual marathon of his movie,
“A Christmas Story” played for 24 hours straight,
beginning on Christmas eve. A whole new generation of
Americans has taken delight in Ralphie’s obsession with
obtaining an official Red Ryder BB gun (with a compass
in the stock!)

Shep has been sorely missed since his passing in 1999,
so it was with great joy that I learned of the opening of
a new Shepherd-themed brewpub by a fellow mourner.
This sounded like a “must go at any cost” sort of thing
and I didn’t feel like delaying my initial visit, so I called
Draught Board 15 beer club CiC Vince Capano, also a
Shepherd devotee, and asked him if he felt like going for
a ride. Asking Vince if he’d like to step out for a beer is
like asking a democrat if he’d like to raise taxes (some
questions are answered before they’re asked) and with
the added inducement of experiencing Shepherd
nostalgia, we eagerly set off on a Saturday afternoon to
see what it was all about.

The Libertine Brewpub, named after Shep’s 1957 novel
“I, Libertine”, is located in Washington, NJ, where, in the
1970’s Shep had a summer home on the banks of the
Musconetcong River. As the Libertine Pub is about a 45
minute ride from the Union-Essex area, the drive
afforded some reminiscing about the old radio

Arriving at the location, we were able park directly in
front of the 19th century building housing the pub, and
entering, we heard the sounds of The Bahn Frei Polka,
Shepherd’s theme song, playing softly in the
background. We stepped up to the bar and were
greeted by the owner/bartender, Joe Roberts with a
hearty “Excelsior, you fatheads”. Oh yeah…this guy was
a real Shepherd fan, all right. Sitting down, we each
ordered a sampler of the beers produced in Joe’s seven
barrel brewhouse by brewer Otto Reisdorf, newly arrived
from Austria where he most recently brewed at the
Kaltenhausen Brauhaus in Salzburg.

While Joe was pouring the generous six ounce samples,
we looked around at the décor and were favorably
impressed by the attention to detail taken to provide an
authentic ambiance for the Shepherd theme.  1930’s era
Atlas-Praeger Beer and Ovaltine advertising signs adorn
the walls, Red Ryder BB guns hang on gun racks,
posters for “A Christmas Story” are prominently
displayed.  There's even the front fenders, grille, and
seats from a 1938 Graham-Paige which serve as one of
the cozy booths along the wall to the left side of the
bar, which is worth a trip to see all by itself. According
to the owner, the bar and back bar are from the original
Bluebird Tavern in Hammond , Indiana. If it could talk,
what stories that bar could tell!

Joe delivered the samplers which consisted of six regular
house brews and a current seasonal on a tray
resembling a gravy boat. Even here the Shepherd theme
is not forgotten as the presentation brought back
memories of “Leopold Doppler and the Orpheum Gravy
Boat Riot”, one of Shep’s more memorable stories.

First we tried FLICK’S PALE ALE, namd for one of Shep’
s boyhood pals, the flagship beer and largest seller for
the pub. This is an American style pale ale reminiscent of
Sierra Nevada but slightly maltier.

The BAHN FREI WEISSBIER is easily the equivalent of
the great Bavarian Hefeweizens with notes of banana
and clove and a refreshing effervescence and yeasty
flavor. Vince is not a huge fan of hefeweizens but even
he agreed that BAHN FREI is well worthy of a four star

The RALPHIE’S BROWN ALE was disappointing as it was
a little too thin for my taste, but in view of the other
uniformly great beers offered by this pub, it might have
only been a one time problem. On my next visit, I’ll
certainly give it another try.

EXCELSIOR IPA is a great example of the west coast
style of American IPAs, very hoppy with a deep amber
color and beautiful head. This is easily my favorite. The
next two darker beers were tried side by side to more
fully appreciate the differences between porter and
stout. THE OLD MAN PORTER is definitely sweeter than
the FATHEAD STOUT, even though the FATHEAD is
creamier, due to its being served on nitrogen. Either is
highly recommended for dark beer lovers.

The last offering on the sampler was the seasonal
aforementioned Leopold. This beer is truly liquid bread:
full flavored, chewy and heavy on the alcohol at 8.6%. If
we hadn’t had to drive home, a full pint would have
been in order, but keeping reasonable, we finished up
with a pint of the 5.9% Excelsior while we chatted with

He informed us that he’s been a Shepherd fan since
1958 and he’s always been fanatical about beer, so
upon retirement, this former CFO of a major
pharmaceutical firm decided to go into the brewpub
business as a venue to continue his devotion to beer
and to pay tribute to his radio hero. He did some
research, visited over a hundred brewpubs, talked to
the owners, collected Shepherd and 1930’s memorabilia,
selected a location and convinced Otto to relocate from

Although only open for three months business has been
good and has been picking up as word gets around.
Otto says he plans to stick with the six standard house
brews with a rotating seasonal and an occasional special
brew. Plans are in the works for “BOUGHS OF HORRY”
October and “TONGUE TO THE LAMP POST” Winter

A big celebration is planned for Shepherd’s birthday on
July 26th, featuring special pricing, a Shepherd trivia
contest and giveaways. Otto is planning on a one time
only special brew, HAIRY GERTZ’S CRAPPIE LAGER, a
“lawnmower” type beer based on a conglomeration of
recipes used to make Atlas-Praeger and Pabst Blue
Ribbon, two of Shep’s old man’s favorites.  I’ll be there
for the bash. I’d love to try a half and half: half The Old
Man Porter and half Hairy Gertz’s Crappie Lager.

Vince and I didn’t dine this time around but the menu
looked good, offering the usual pub grub, with some
twists: a fried crappie sandwich with fries, Josie’s Boiled
Cabbage and of course meat loaf and red cabbage. One
bar patron advised me to be sure to try the Shepherd’s
Pie, paired with a Flick’s Pale Ale.

Cheers and ……Excelsior, you fathead!

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