|Baker Street Brewery's founder and head brewer Art Hannemann takes you
on a journey to find the ales. Catch the train for Arty's ride to the New Jersey
suburbs and beyond in search of, what else, great beer!
It's going to be a fun trip as Arty reviews and rates a new stop each month
as he takes the rails to the ales.....and more!
|Take The Rails to The Ales to...
Scotch Plains, Garwood, and Cranford
2377 Rt 22 W
Scotch Plains, NJ
Nicely appointed upscale type of restaurant with a large menu. But I went for the beer so
here's the story. The bar is attractive and modern with a decent separation from the dining
areas. That's one thing I appreciate. While I'm all for family dinning, I'm not for youngsters
running around behind bar stools or screaming while I'm communing with my beer. My
bartender was professional and efficient but not overly beer savvy. There are 20 taps with
the majority pouring standard craft fare (Brooklyn Winter, Founders Red Rye, Magic Hat #9,
etc.) Four of the 20 are wasted on the Bud and Millers of the world. And then there are the
"crafty" brews- those pseudo craft beers made by the Big Brewers hoping to cash in on the
good beer revolution. The only problem is that their crafty beer usually aren't very good like
the Grillestone's offering of Coors Batch 19 and Blue Moon. Throw in some craft pretenders
like Stella and Yuengling Lager and you've got the picture. Bottom line- there are enough
quality beers here so you'll enjoy yourself but they have a long ways to go to be a serious beer
stop. However with some effort it's possible. Hope someone there is listening.
I rate Grillestone 2 3/4 out of 5 engines.
99 Center St
We're essentially talking local sports bar here; one boasting seven TVs for your viewing
pleasure The bar area on my visit was busy and noisy. Make that very noisy. The good news
is that they have thirty taps, yes 30. And most are good. Yes, one was given over to Miller,
one to Blue Moon, and one to Rolling Rock (a guilty pleasure on very rare occasions) but the
rest were very solid with seriously good stuff like St. Bernardus ABT 12, Old Rasputin, and
Captain Lawrence Imperial IPA. Many of the beers were served in the proper glass but were
(as in most places) too cold. My bartender was hard working and friendly but not a beer
person. Still, I noticed he gladly gave samples to several people. - always a good idea. Prices
skewed high but then again everything is going up expect my salary. Anyway, The Station just
might become a player on the beer front. While it doesn't yet seem to be getting those
truly elusive brews that people travel for I wouldn't be surprised if they soon did.
I give The Station 4 out of 5 engines.
31 South Union Avenue,
908 276 2121
I used to stop in the Cranford Hotel for a martini (my second passion after beer) when every I was
passing through the town. The beer selection however was weak. Not having been there for quite a
while I was pleased to see that the beer selections are much improved. They have 12 taps, with 3 or
4 a serious craft drinker wouldn't touch. The solid brews included offerings from Ballast Point, Clown
Shoes, and Maine at decent prices. Not bad at all. This "cellar" pub's decor is a bit dated but not
unwelcoming. The fireplace made for a nice touch. My bartender was professional and friendly but
not a beer geek which is fine since he did know as much, if not more, as most servers today.
Improvement should be rewarded so if you're in the area stop in. If enough serious beer people visit
they just might see the wisdom of dumping the remaining swill and going full force into craft.
By the way, I'm giving them an extra quarter star for improvement.
I rate the Cranford Hotel 3 1/4 engines out of 5.
Hope you get a chance to stop in at my new location
The Northside Lounge
100 Brooks Blvd, Manville, NJ 08835
A great menu and some of the finest craft beer anywhere!
Stop in if you are in the area and look for me in the kitchen or behind the taps
and please mention you read my column!
Here's some good info on planning your own Rails To Ales trip. First step go to
www.njtransit.com web site. Then click on train schedules. Next click on "use our map
to plan your trip." Now select your train station on the map. And next select your destination
on the map. A new page appears and you want to select weekday, holiday or weekend
accordingly. A new page appears with your schedule of departing times and length of travel
time. Print this up and then go to the bottom of the schedule and it will say click here for
return schedule--click away. Now print this page up as well and you have all the info you
need to plan your trip. Remember to allow walking and drinking time. And of course if you
go off the rails like I often do but sure to have a designated driver!
Gotta catch my train back-- see you at my next stop!
Remember to leave the car at home and......Take The Rails To The Ales !!!!
Five engines= the very best
Four engines= excellent
Two engines= fair
One engine= bad news
Zero engines=stay away
For the complete listing of all
Rails to Ales