Tag Archives: NEWARK NJ

EDISON ALE HOUSE

NEWARK’S EXQUISITELY DESIGNED EDISON ALE HOUSE ROCKS REVITALIZED DOWNTOWN

Residing across Newark’s sports and entertainment capital, the Prudential Center, in a formerly abandoned broken-down warehouse, the wholly exquisite EDISON ALE HOUSE has taken the downtown area by storm.

Due to Hurricane Irene, Edison Ale House had a ‘soft opening’ (instead of grand opening) on August 26th, but local politicians, businessmen, and families quickly regaled this seamlessly designed metropolitan hotspot. Part of Mayor Cory Booker’s citywide renovation, this ‘traditionally minded contemporary hybrid restaurant-sportsbar’ maintains a first-rate steakhouse feel.

Tucked inside Edison Place’s one-way street, the eloquently detailed 5,000 square foot space borders the equally charming Loft 47 cocktail bar and Brick City Grill, newfangled upscale eateries worthy of the multifarious clientele representing this ethnically diverse Gateway City neighborhood.

“It’s all about the execution. We want the menu to be the top-to-bottom best. We want the best sandwiches. We don’t want mediocrity. Everything’s made from scratch,” hands-on co-owner, Eddie Becker revels. “You could taste the difference. We don’t have to broadcast how good our burgers are.”

The red-bricked, black-tinted windowed, amber-lettered exterior may seem unassuming, but the gaslight-lined walkway leads to a soft earth-toned interior, with its sublime mahogany furnishings and ample 71-foot bar (Newark’s largest) chiefly specialized by Queens-raised visionary, Becker. Its resplendent copper-tinned ceiling radiates off the porcelain-tiled wood-styled main floor and wood-pitted copper-inlayed raindrop-like bar top. Down the hall from a semi-private dining area are two sterling tile-floored bathrooms featuring vintage granite-topped copper sinks that utilize a classic upside well-watered stream.

Better yet, the modular bar system allows instant access to plumbing and electricity just by pulling off the panels. Moreover, the stainless-steeled, silicon-sealed layout protects against odorous water damage to the broad-ranging bar. No stone has been left unturned.

As we down a few blueberry-pied, phenol-spiced, Graham Cracker-backed Blue Point Blueberry Ales, Becker takes me downstairs to the basement level storage area. Large new American Panel walk-in aging boxes store meats, vegetables, and kegged beers. Becker stresses the importance of fresh ingredients every step of the way. There’s even a few oil recycling bins providing “cheap money” to keep Green. But the true challenge for a new restaurant is to keep the food original, exciting, and consistent.

“Americans accept average food too much. We want to blow people away. When Dinosaur Barbecue rib joint comes in next year, that will test our resolve,” Becker says.

As we head back upstairs, I grab a seat at the bar and get ready for one of the best full course meals imaginable. A leather-branded menu with Thomas Edison gaslight insignia provides tonight’s offerings. After taking a sip from my floral-daubed, topical-fruited, bitter-hopped Flying Fish Hopfish India Pale Ale (prominently glazed by illuminating cantaloupe, melon, pineapple, peach and apricot tones), the sensational appetizers arrive.

The fulsome pretzel sticks awaken the tastebuds when dipped into the champagne mustard vinaigrette or aged cheddar sauce alternatives. Crisply crunched Bavarian Black & Tan Onion Rings, dipped in Yeungling beer, benefit greatly from superb clover-honeyed sesame seeding, setting up the best-selling Fillet Mignon Bites topped with garlic presimien, freshly melted mozzarella and homemade steak sauce.

The main course, Country Chicken, jumps off the dish with a juicily moist mouthfeel deepened by the underlying mashed potatoes and string bean/ asparagus-laden tomato sauce. Too full to try my sweet dessert follow-up, I got home this rainy eve to share the zestful strawberry-pureed, black chocolate-covered, cheesecake lollipop with my wife.

Though Becker claims it took eight months to setup the beautiful mahogany-walled mural behind the bar and there were minor delays for the prepping and permits, Edison Ale House would make the referential Thomas Edison proud.

“We set a goal to open on time and then did so,” well-mannered General Manager Tom Blume offers. “People are creatures of habit. They don’t want to drive somewhere if they could walk to a place they enjoy. There’s a comfort zone. They could get in and out quickly. A large part of our business will be lunch and happy hour. There’s a feel good fit. You could have a beer and unwind. When Disney On Ice comes through, the warm earth tones will have an inviting feel for kids. Despite 60% bar and lounge area, families with young children will feel at home on the other side of the glass partition.”

On top of everything else, at the rear is a stone-facade brick oven for reasonably priced New York-styled pizza, perfectly affordable for cash-strapped parents stuck with ridiculously high energy, insurance, and tax bills. For those in a rush, there are twelve seats at this backend hearth.

While Blume was groomed for his supervising position at Providence-based Johnson & Wales Culinary Art School, head chef John Manzo ran a family-owned Italian restaurant in Union. And the courteous staff they’ve assembled will please clientele.

Craft beer enthusiasts will delight in Blume’s thoughtful tap selection, which includes Magic Hat #9, Long Trail Ale, Blue Moon Belgian Witbier, Tommyknockers Maple Nut Brown Ale and top-shelf product from Victory, Brooklyn, Sam Adams, and Southampton. His well-selected single-batch bourbons, specialty martinis, signature cocktails, plus red and white wines will whet the whistle of any liquor-loving devotee.

Students from nearby Rutgers-Newark University, New Jersey Institute of Technology and Seton Hall Law School have already sojourned to this highly recommended regularly. But perhaps the biggest crowds still await, as the hockey season is about to begin and the New Jersey Devils clearly will have a shot at the Stanley Cup.

“When the Devils and Rangers rivalry heats up, we’ll raise the music louder,” Blume concludes. “Besides, we’ve already, in the space of a couple weeks, got clientele coming back for more because it’s enjoyable.”

What was once a nasty beat-up eyesore I previously mocked (when hometown Ramsey High School won the state hockey tournament two years hence at the Prudential), has turned into a sufficiently sustained backyard alley across from one of America’s finest arena-sized venues. There’s no doubt Newark’s on the upswing. And Edison Ale House tops the list of places to dine and wine when perusing Jersey’s largest metropolis.

PORT 44 BREWERY

Photo of Port 44 Brew Pub - Newark, NJ, United States. There you go. That's the sign.

NEWARK, NEW JERSEY

The city of Newark is currently undergoing its greatest revitalization. New entertainment spots have sprung up recently, including the Prudential Center Arena, New Jersey Performing Arts Center, and Riverfront Stadium, allowing for increased cultural arts, sports, and restaurant revenue. In accordance, Port 44 Brew Pub opened May 2010, serving Newark’s first craft beers in nearly 100 years by July. Unfortunately, this worthy pub closed down in September 2011. Nevertheless, the following descriptions will enlighten those happy clients that perused the ill-fated Port 44.

Tucked inside Commerce Street’s industrious downtown neighborhood, the ample three-story pub enjoins retired Newark police officer, Greg Gilhooly, with ex-Orange fireman, John Feeley, as co-owners.

Newark boasted 27 pre-Prohibition breweries, most established by German and English immigrants commemorating Europe’s longstanding heritage. Though each is long gone, Port 44 restores New Jersey’s most populated city’s once-proud brewing tradition.

Visited September 2010, the wholly refurbished watering hole featured three standard brews (plus two specialties), fine continental cuisine, $3 happy hour house beers, and an affordable 20-ounce mug club ($55 per year for decorative personalized glassware, drink-food discounts, and more). The brick-walled stone-tiled oak-furnished street level’s central octagon bar (with six TV’s) services several black-chaired tables. Four front-windowed 15-barrel fermenters occupy the concrete red-floored left side. Right side stairs lead to a second floor oak bar with more seating and copper-kettle tanks. The unfinished third floor will become a conference-banquet room. In the basement, a foam-insulated walk-in cooler holds more brew tanks while a raw keg storage space will soon be correctly pitched for sub-pumps.

Established brewer, Chris Sheehan, wearing a classic Krueger Beer T-shirt celebrating America’s first canned beer, greets me at high noon. Originally from Buffalo, the self-proclaimed ‘metal head’ started as a home brewer before heading West to join California’s revolutionary microbrew hotbed. He attended an intense week-long brewing course at UC-Davis to learn microbiology, sanitizing, and tasting, working part-time at Berkeley’s historic Triple Rock Alehouse prior to moving across the bay to San Francisco’s bigger 20 Tank Brewery as a full-timer. He landed at Manhattan’s now-defunct Neptune Brewery (located above Chelsea Market) for three months, then Chelsea Brewing thereafter (accepting several national awards).

Recruited to craft newfangled libations for Port 44, Sheehan understands the local impact a brewpub could have on a community. He’s aware of Newark’s extremely diverse cultural populace and realizes each pub should have its own identity, even if it’s as multi-faceted as the Brick City’s heterogeneous community.

“To a certain extent, we wanted a nice pub feel. Prevalent use of wood décor, stone tiling, and up-front tanks add an Industrial feel. We didn’t want to be a full-blown sportsbar, but wanted to accommodate and focus on the Devils fans three blocks away at Prudential Center. So we had to have a sports appeal for the fans we anticipate hosting,” Sheehan explains as I quaff his lightest offering.

Named after Jersey’s state bird, the soft-focus Goldfinch Ale will please pilsner fans. Its tannic lemon-spiced dry-hopped bitterness and parched wheat bottom counter sweet cereal-grained crystal malting.

Sheehan adds, “It has the mentality and attitude of a pilsner, yet it’s top-fermented and treated as a hoppy golden ale at warmer temperatures. A sack of light caramel pils gives it a subtle sweetness you’ve perceived as crystal malts. It’s been described as lemony, attributed to a generous dose of German-hybrid Mount Hood hops.”

Next up, grassy-hopped grapefruit-peeled wheat-dried, American-styled Siren’s Wheat, retains a mild juniper-embittered lemon zest.

“That’s a very fair description,” Sheehan approves. “25 cents of every pint goes to a charity scholarship for children of injured policemen, firemen, and EMT workers.”

Still experimenting with Siren’s recipe, he divulges, “I didn’t want it to come out as hoppy, but the pleasant surprise about the system we’re using is the pronounced hop utilization. In this case, it pumped up the hops too much. I want to back off a bit to make this a truer expression of an astringent American wheat. It’s too similar to Goldfinch right now, which is going to run out. I’m a one-man show trying to catch up. So Siren’s got to pick up the slack.”

Soft-watered butter-spiced orange-soured quince-flinched Devil’s Red scatters grapefruit-embittered Simcoe hops across roasted Vienna malts. A short alcohol burn accompanies the tart yellow-fruited finish.

“Citric notes are a good descriptive for American hops, in general. Obviously brewed to appeal to Devils fans without plagiarizing the franchise, I like using chalkboard imagery to invoke the legendary Jersey Devil as well,” the brewmeister points out.

Robust dry-bodied hop-charred coffee-roasted Longy’s Black Market Stout (just tapped today) brings mild espresso-cappuccino sedation to cedar-seared black-tarred anise gunk, finishing comparably to a mochacchino. Named after Prohibition mobster, Longy Zwillman, it’s not dissimilar to Sheehan’s award-winning Chelsea Black Hole XXX Stout.

“This one’s closer to an American-styled stout with aggressive Centennial hops and milder coffee. Black Hole’s a foreign-styled stout, stronger (8% alcohol) with super-intense malt roast. Longy’s will continue to evolve. Flavors will mature, round out, and the rough-edged harshness will dissipate,” Sheehan says.

To close my session, 13-day-old Catskill Hop Harvest, still embryonic, proved worthy. A fruitful creamy-headed rust-hazed wet-hopped ale, its tropical rain-watered pineapple-mango-papaya-cantaloupe sweetness, floral hibiscus-heather whisk, and caramelized sugar malting juxtaposed salty earthen hops.

Anyone doubting Sheehan’s serious-minded brewing techniques should know he drove to Upstate New York to collect Catskill’s homemade wet hops, describing its character as a bit British with earthen-floral nuances.

Feeling strongly about preserving Newark’s historic 19th century brewing reputation, the native Buffalonian realizes Newark’s tap water helped many pre-Prohibition breweries prosper. He’s been fortunate to work with great water in San Francisco, New York, and now, Newark, taking advantage of the situation whereby it’s not necessary to use salts for eliminating bacteria.

In the near future, Sheehan hopes to craft a German doppelbock, since he owns up to being intrigued by Ayinger’s esteemed Celebrator Doppelbock and Spaten’s equally fine Optimator. Admitting he learned more in ten months visiting Europe after high school than he would’ve attending four years of college, the seasoned brewer confesses the trip was not necessarily done to ascertain ancient European brewing techniques, but instead to peruse the continent as a relative greenhorn readying for the world. Now teamed up with former Jersey public servants, Gilhooly and Feeley, the spirited trio has rescued Newark’s long-dormant brewpub scene.

As Jersey’s newest brewpub, Port 44’s ultimate success will hopefully enable other local brewers to create friendly competition. It took time, but Brooklyn Brewery inspired craft beer newcomers Sixpoint and Kelso after a decade of prosperity. So here’s a toast for Newark’s reawakened beer barons.

POST-SCRIPT: During March 2011 sojourn, discovered four more intoxicating beverages. This time, Sheehan joined in as I consumed his fab fare, listed from frisky pils to Irish Stout.

Easygoing Penalty Box Pils brought lemony orange tartness to subtle spiced hops, herbaceous whim, limestone chalking, vegetal astringency, and sawdust reminder. Pomegranate concentrate and lemongrass fueled Pomegranate Wheat, a dry-bodied delight with lemon-seeded raspberry vinaigrette acidity, sour cherry pucker, and blanched white wheat base.

Sheehan’s pleasantly “unorthodox” The Cailleach Scotch Ale tickled the nose with prickly hop spicing and placed peat-smoked caramel toasting at a distance.

Best bet: dry hop-charred barley-flaked Black Bodhran Irish Stout, a mocha-driven St. Patrick’s Day offering with kiln-roasted coffee entry given milk chocolate, Belgian chocolate, and chalky cocoa creaminess topping peanut-shelled walnut, Brazil nut, and hazelnut subsidy.

Upon May 2011 reinvestigation, I found Sheehan standing at the bar alone ‘round noon and started bustin’ his balls. But he wasn’t real lonely. He was entertaining a friend he’d met going to Denver’s Great America Beerfest who’d temporarily gone upstairs to check out more of the provincial oak-furnished stone-tiled ambience.

Alongside Sheehan, I consumed two newly crafted brews and one oak-aged rendition. In its oaken version, The Cailleach Scotch Ale gained complexity, affixing an earthen peat-smoked whiskey sentiment to raisin-pureed black cherry, prune, vanilla and chocolate sweetness.

Sheehan’s latest fave, Ziegelstadt Alt, retained a sharp dry-hopped orange compote resolve above dark-roasted caramel malts and light wheat husk, picking up tertiary boysenberry, red gooseberry, and evergreen lingonberry niche.

Creamier than most in its stylistic range, mellow Newark Bay IPA brought woody grassy-hopped dryness, tannic grape tartness and mild juniper bittering to orange-candied peach, apple, and pineapple illusions.

By time I exited, several cute Seton Hall law students from down the block were celebrating graduation with lighter-bodied suds such as citric-spiced Goldfinch Ale and grapefruit-peeled dry body Siren’s Wheat while the local business crowd arrived in full force.

www.port44brewpub.com