Tag Archives: HOBOKEN NJ

THE SHEPHERD & THE KNUCKLEHEAD PUB – HOBOKEN

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HOBOKEN, NEW JERSEY

Taking its name from owner Chris Schiavo’s Beat-inspired novel celebrating the duality in man, Haledon’s SHEPHERD & KNUCKLEHEAD began slinging suds in 1998 at the very beginning of America’s gloriously ascending craft beer movement – alongside Bogota’s highly respected Andy’s Corner Bar and Caldwell’s Cloverleaf Tavern.

During September 2016, S &  K opened its second location at Willow Avenue in Hoboken and immediately scored points with local denizens. And the dichotomy between the good shepherd and the marred knucklehead could also somehow relate to the duality of S & K’s two locations. While the original Haledon pub is a no-nonsense craft beer dive bar with an unassuming atmosphere, tight seating arrangements, small bar areas and discriminating beer geeks tucked inside suburban splendor, Hoboken’s larger sportsbar space boasts a more diversified clientele, twenty spread-out tables, an elongated 12-seat copper-topped wooden bar, an experienced mixologist and upscale urban locale.

A historic figure in Jersey’s craft beer scene, entrepreneurial sommelier Chris Schiavo gained experience working for Super Cellars and Grand Opening Liquors. After S & K gained prominence, he entrusted son, Joe, with the daily operations while hoping to expand business beyond the William Paterson University locale.

It took the Schiavo’s a few years of negotiation, but they finally obtained a centralized hotspot inside Hoboken’s central corridor on a main thoroughfare entering the Mile Square city. Besides boasting 60 taps and a steak-dominant food menu, there are 23 TV’s for beer-centric sports enthusiasts to enjoy. Industrial metal chairs and wooden table tops don the remodeled wood floor across from the brick-walled left side bar and exposed ducts crowd the high ceiling.

Upon my initial September visit, I consumed eight previously untried libations (all reviewed fully in Beer Index) while conversing with Joe Schiavo, his mixologist and a few suppertime commuters. Perhaps my favorite, enduringly fruitful strong ale, Ellicottville Pantius Droppus imperial IPA, recalled a syrupy malt-enriched Sangria-bound barleywine.

But the rest of my tastings were lighter summertime fare. Hoppy American wheat ale, Bolero Snort Bullringue, and citrus-soured Bolero Snort Kowabunga Kolsch, sported delicate lemony resilience. Approachable citric-pined IPA, Firestone Walker Luponic Distortion, led to the easygoing citric-floral serenity of Boulevard Tropical Pale Ale and the lemony passionfruit tranquility of Green Flash Passion Fruit Kicker. Soft-toned raspberry-candied Harpoon R.A.Z. and mild raw-honeyed Firestone Walker Oaktoberfest Marzen also sufficed.

“We’ve been trying to open up in Hoboken for four years,” Joe Schiavo offers as I quaff suds. “It fits our demographic the right way. The crowd that lives here appreciates quality beer, wine and cocktails. We sell American craft beer unlike anyone around here. We have 60 taps and a lot of diversity.”

Knowing Hoboken was a big sports town, S & K made sure to please the crowd. And based on the amount of beer sold during the first weekend, it was a good call.

“We kicked 20 kegs in three days. But we also concentrate on getting valued spirits, handcrafted cocktails and a Happy Hour that draws the vast train crowd. We try to make this there first stop before heading home,” Schiavo insists.

As for the spirits, veteran mixologist Craig Schiedlo started at Jersey’s Morris Tap & Grill before working at Manhattan’s established Dead Rabbit and Death & Co. The competition-proven Schiedlo uses fresh ingredients (such as kale) to create relatively strong cocktails from hand-selected liquor poured into different vessels, glassware and gadgets that heighten the ambiance.

“We’d like to eventually expand beyond Hoboken – perhaps Manhattan, Jersey City, Denver and San Francisco. Those are places that interest us,” Schiavo claims before getting busy with his staff.

www.theshepnj.com

PILSENER HAUS & BIERGARTEN

HOBOKEN’S PILSENER HAUS & BIERGARTEN TAKES OFF

Sometimes the waiting is the hardest part. Cutting through red tape and getting local politicians onboard for a new venture could cost many young entrepreneurs the chance of a lifetime.

It may’ve taken three motivated European immigrants two-and-a-half years to finally get clearance for Hoboken’s first ever biergarten, but it has proved to be a resounding success. Fashioned after authentic pre-World War One Austro-Hungarian bistros, yet easily mistaken for a bustling German beer hall, the generic-named PILSENER HAUS & BIERGARTEN is anything but pedestrian. Taking up 10,000 square feet of a factory warehouse in the underdeveloped and roomy northwest corridor of this Mile Square City on the Hudson, the fabulously newfangled venue cornering Grand Street and 15th Street pairs international craft beers with deliciously omnivorous charcuterian cuisine in an Old World setting.

Situated in a rustic red-bricked millhouse, Pilsener Haus & Biergarten’s capacious first floor space features a cafeteria-styled dining area with high ceiling, cement floor, exposed pipes, iron-worked windows, 15-foot wooden communal tables, and an open kitchen adjacent to a smaller sky-lighted wintergarten just off the nine-tabled, tree-shaded, corridor-like biergarten. On my inaugural visitation, the echo-drenched cafeteria section got packed to the hilt on what’s usually a slow night, Tuesday.

While getting this premier beer haven off the ground was no easy task, to make matters worse, its August 9th grand opening ribbon cutting ceremony got postponed due to a flash flood that temporarily drenched the floors. Notwithstanding the chaotic deluge, the resilient Pilsener Haus survived the storm and never looked back. In fact, there was a line around the block for the belated 7 o’clock opening that same evening.

“The mayor and some local councilmen were supposed to be there for the ribbon cutting, but they couldn’t wait out the storm due to other commitments,” co-owner Ladislav Sebestyan says as we settle in before supper time beckons.

A friendly Czech Republic native now residing in Secaucus, Ladi boasts about his homeland’s beer consumption (topping Germany for most guzzling per capita), then shares pertinent information pertaining to the architectural design, construction and objective of Pilsener Haus.

“We wanted to create an unpretentious European biergarten that showed off the heritage of 1920’s Austrian, Hungarian, and Czechoslovakian empires,” Ladi informs. “There’s random signage and a Europa Film Festival emblem that stress the authenticity Czech designer Jirka Kolar captured. We looked in Jersey City, even Morristown, to get the biergarten off the ground. But we knew this space we now occupy would work well. It’s not necessarily a neighborhood bar though we’re within walking distance of the pier. However, we wanted to create a ‘Destination Bar’ that not only targets Hoboken, but also all of New Jersey. We have a ferry a few blocks away. People come in from Manhattan. Ultimately, we couldn’t get the expanse we needed on Washington Street’s main drag due to noise ordinances and the lack of outside space.”

The nearby Holland and Lincoln Tunnel both offer high traffic concentration for this amiable destination. And since there’s a high concentration of second and third generation Euro-Americans in the nearby vicinity, the curiosity factor ought to bring in lots of inquiring beer enthusiasts.

“Naturally, I have a high interest in beer. When I reached the legal age, 18, I developed a taste. At the time, my favorite beer was Gambrinus 10°. I like the lightest degree beer they made. It’s less hearty, not as dry, the color’s paler, and the spicing is lower,” Ladi says.

Presently, there are three individual tap stations with seven separate tap handles in the main cafeteria beer hall. Though each tap serves strictly European fare, that’ll eventually change to reflect the prevailing popularity of new-sprung American microbrews (available only in bottle onsite). Today’s menu consists of such Euro faves as Czech Republic’s Krusovice Imperial Pils, Austria’s Stiegl Lager, Belgium’s Lefebvre Blanche de Bruxelle, plus Germany’s highly touted Franziskaner Dunkel Weisse and Paulaner Salvator Double Bock. Fine Italian, German, French, and Argentinean wines sidle American vino from Oregon and California. And several peculiar cocktails will whet the whistle of adventurous patrons.

To match the impressive array of liquids are several standard European dishes, such as Polish kielbasa, bratwurst, veal sausage, smoked pork, jalapeno-cheddar frankfurters, and Munich Fest’s signature staple, rotisserie chicken. Experienced Viennese bistro chef, Thomas Ferlesch, who had gained renown overseas before heading Café des Artistes in his adopted New York City hometown, keeps the main kitchen going. An avid Austrian gardener, Ferlesch hooked up with Pilsener Haus after spending a few years running Fort Greene, Brooklyn’s premier Thomas Beisl.

Ironically, just as Pilsener Haus endured zoning struggles and compliance restrictions (including a provision necessitating a side entrance exactly 500 feet from the nearest alcohol-related venue), I had to fight heavier-than-usual Route 3 traffic and weather a minor earthquake prior to my initial August 23rd sojourn. Happily, unlike the rest of Hoboken, parking is wide open. There are a few business types at the main bar as I arrive pre-dinner. By 8 PM, my once-empty table filled up with a cute couple celebrating their 2nd anniversary, a former councilman from my hometown, local workers, and Ladi’s fellow Czech partner, Andi Ivanov.

Andi co-founded Williamsburg’s flourishing Radegast Hall & Biergarten in Brooklyn, the archetype for this fresh Hoboken hotspot. Though not restricted to any one beer, he claims Weihenstaphaner Hefeweiss as his favorite elixir.

“Both Radegast and Pilsener Haus try to bring a unique product, ambience, and design to the public,” Andi claims as we share the approachable citric-fizzed German lager, Argo Zwickel. “We hope people appreciate the place. Hoboken was hungry, thirsty, and knew it was ready to change approach. We took a less predictable twist offering something exciting. Not everyone could create something new.”

He’s right. The general business climate in Jersey is restrictive, prohibiting modernization due to antiquated regulations that denigrate innovative ventures, especially in the beer industry. But the collective spirit enlivening brewpubs, microbreweries, and beer havens could be felt all over the state in the past decade. In fact, there are developmental plans in the works for a Hoboken microbrewery that’d hopefully parallel the success of Pilsener Haus.

“We’d like to be more spacious outside. We asked our neighbor if we could expand the biergarten to his adjoining space if he’d sell,” Andi shares. “But we think the place is perfect. Our closest competitor is Jersey City’s two-year-old Zeppelin Hall Biergarten at Liberty Harbor. They own the 30,000 square foot residential building they occupy. But Zeppelin’s closer to a giant sportsbar with TV’s.”

As I chow down the mouth-watering Chicken Paprikash (braised poultry in paprika with lemon zest, sour cream, and spaetzle potatoes), Andi returns with the easygoing, pale-malted, citric-dried, mineral-grained Augustiner Edelstoff, a clear-yellowed Munich-styled premium beer the blonde-haired entrepreneur demandingly exclaims “cannot be underestimate.” The loud crowd drowns out the Bavarian music, but the beers and food are addictive and the feel good atmosphere, contagious.

Furthermore, Pilsener Haus will begin showcasing local tri-state talent. A New Orleans-styled brass band is set to go tomorrow evening. Though there’s nary a TV to be found presently, Andi admits they’d use their projection screen to show Yankees playoff games instead of black & white silent films for the short-term interim.

“Our landlord is very supportive,” Andi concludes. “There was construction getting done upstairs while our renovation took place. So we didn’t bother many workers with all the noise.”

Just as Maxwells defines Hoboken’s indie rock music scene, Pilsener Haus illustrates the necessity for a true craft beer watering hole in the land where Frank Sinatra was born.

ww.pilsenerhaus.com