“A Tale of Two Beers"

“It was the best of beers, the worst of beers”,borrowing
a line from Dickens. Well, not really the worst. In fact,
not even close to the worst, but a huge contrast,
nonetheless.

I had finished my home inspections in Warren County
early and found myself only a few miles from New
Jersey’s first brewpub, The Ship Inn, opened in January,
1995. The Ship Inn is a beautiful English style pub
situated next to Hakihohake Creek in the town of Milford
in Hunterdon County.

I’ve been there many times before and have always
been impressed by the ambiance of no television, no
infernal juke box blasting out what passes for music to
most of today’s younger set, and the bucolic view of the
adjacent creek from the dining room windows, in
addition to the excellent English style ales they brew.

I decided to stop in to see if there was anything new
and different on tap, happily discovered Scattergood
Wheat Ale was available, and ordered one. If I hadn’t
been facing the long drive back to Union County, I’d
have ordered more than one, maybe even more than
six. It was simply one of the best brews I’d had all year:
low in alcohol (in the 4% range), yet full bodied and
flavorful, making for a great session beer.

As I had other business to attend to, I drained my pint
(The Ship Inn, in keeping with their English pub motif,
serves 20oz. Imperial pints….not an American shaker
pint to be seen anywhere, although there is a mug club
for regulars, evidenced by the scores of personalized
pewter steins hanging from the bar overhead) and
headed for home. The Scattergood Ale was so
distinctive that for the first thirty miles I could still taste
it and longingly craved another.

It was then that the dashboard phone jangled me out
of my reverie. I looked at the caller ID and discovered it
was Draught Board 15 CiC Vince Capano, calling with
what would most likely turn out to be a Beer Hotline
report. How did he know that I was just about to say
“Beer Hotline” into the voice activated phone feature in
my car in order to call HIM with fast breaking scoop on
the Scattergood Ale? As it turned out he didn’t know.
Instead, he was calling with his own Beer Hotline report
from the Trap Rock Brewery in Berkeley Heights with an
exclusive on their Apollo Creed Ale and highly touting it
as a beer not to be missed. When the Hotline signed
off, I realized that the Berkeley Heights exit from I-78
was close at hand, so I decided on a quick detour to
sample the beer and test the veracity of Vince’s latest
Hotline report.

By the time I arrived, it was pouring rain and not
wanting to put up with the valet parking that Trap Rock
insists upon, I parked in a small self-park lot behind the
building and across the small stream separating the self
park and valet lots. Walking across the bridge and
around the front of the building, I discovered that the
valet parking was not available, so I had walked through
the raindrops for naught. Slightly damp, I entered and
took a seat at the bar where I was ignored for about
five minutes (possibly the rain made me invisible?)
before the bartender asked me what I wanted.

I asked for a beer list for which he had to come out
from behind the bar to obtain. Glancing at it I saw that
Apollo Creed was, in fact, available, at a very lofty eight
plus percent. Session beer lovers prefer beers in the
four to five per cent range. Eight per centers are
generally reserved for nightcaps once safely at home.
But to CiC Capano an eight percent beer IS a session
beer. Previous and subsequent Beer Hotline reports
from him almost invariably begin with “I’m here in the
(take your pick) pub enjoying a “Knock ‘Em Dead” triple
Imperial barleywine, brewed to an incredible fourteen
percent. Next up will be the sixteen percent quadruple
Imperial IPA dry hopped with formaldehyde, brewed by
the Flat on Your Back Brewing Company of Death Valley,
California.

At any rate, since I only intended to have one, I didn’t
care too much about the elevated ABV and ordered it,
which arrived in a tall stemmed wine goblet. Maybe if I
had extended my pinky while attempting to not “bruise”
the beer, I would have liked it better. The alcohol
content was very evident, but I can live with that. The
style of serving glass I can’t live with. (Well, maybe if I
had ordered a strawberry parfait) and the hops were
slightly overwhelming. I prefer balanced beers and the
scales on this one were tipped heavily against maltiness.
I really sensed little besides hops and booze. However, I
finished the beer and thankfully the rain had stopped by
the time I left, when I noticed the valet parkers setting
up shop.

No, the Apollo Creed was not the “worst” of beers and
the Trap Rock is not a bad stop if you’re into
snootiness and high prices along with generally very
good brews, but the Scattergood from The Ship Inn is
definitely among the “best” of beers. Alas, it’s not one
of their regular offerings, so a little wait must be
endured before it comes up again, but it will be well
worth it!

                    Cheers











        Dan
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