NEW JERSEY – SOUTH
February ’05, first visited ORIGINAL BASIL T’S (now Basil T’s) in Red Bank, an authentic Italian restaurant not affiliated with similarly named Toms River brewpub less than a half hour away (now known as Artisan’s). An exquisite alehouse with hundreds of personalized beer mugs hovering over the rectangular bar, its left windowed brew tanks have been active since 1997.
Doors open directly to snug green tile-floored bar area (with six high definition televisions) across right side dining where fresh mozzarella cheeses get displayed. Exquisite wood interior adds warmth and a plethora of fine Italian wines contrast the fine homemade brews. Though long-time brewer Gretchen Schidhausler departed June ’11, ex-Pizzeria Uno brewmaster Mike Sella took over without disruption.
Fabulous pizza dishes are recommended alongside citric wheat-husked, dry-grained, light-bodied Ms. Lucys Weimaraner Wheat and dry tea-like, tobacco-sweet, Scottish seasonal Iceboat Ale.
Medium-bodied fare include piney spice-hopped, floral-citric Rosie’s Tail Waggin Pale Ale and caramelized red-fruited, coffee-soured, nut-roasted Basil’s Rocket Red.
Best bets may be darker styles: bitter coffee-burnt, espresso-beaned, mocha-chalked Big Vig’s Short Order Porter and black chocolate-roasted, espresso-coffee-deepened, hop-seared Maxwell’s Dry Stout.
Spent an hour revisiting (Original) Basil T’s on steamy August ’09 afternoon prior to body surfing at Brick Township’s Ocean Club. Drained pints of raw-grained, hop-oiled, maize-dried, sour-mashed, yellow-fruited, vegetal-finishing Summer XXX Ale and pine-sapped, hazelnut-roasted, hop-charred, coffee-stained, cigar-ashy, espresso-deepened American Brown Ale.
During June 2011 revisit, got familiar with two more exciting brews that went well alongside wonderful zuppa di piselli (rustic pea soup w/ cheese-grated vegetables). Though I’d missed stylishly intriguing Cocoa Fuoco by two days, spice-tingled citric spritzer, Extra Special Bitter, and superior adjunct ale, Honey Basil Wheat, with its sweet-honeyed basil, thyme, and hibiscus illusions, kept afternoon patrons happy (alongside the ever-popular Maxwell’s Stout).
For late-July ’11 respite on the way to Mantoloking getaway, The Ocean Club, my wife and kids shared a rapini pizza (broccoli rabe, mozzerella cheese, grape tomatos and chili flakes) while I quaffed two previously untried libations.
A certain lacquered nuttiness, dark chocolate caress, and wood-burnt bittering saddled American Brown Ale, spreading Brazil nut, walnut, cashew, and peanut illusions above ashen earthiness. Astringently dry-hopped fruit ale, Peach Wheat, brought corn-husked honeyed wheat graining to wispy unripe white peach tartness.
It’s nearly dinnertime, March 2012, on a Monday, as I trudge into Basil T’s once more. For March, founder Victor Rollo’s celebrating his authentic Italian restaurant dining experience with a 26th anniversary Big Price Rollback. A brewpub for over a decade now, this classy shore-bound hotspot got packed by 4 PM. Jackson Browne’s classic “Runnin’ On Empty” played in the low ceiling bar area as many locals enjoy the special cheap fare alongside favorite brews such as Maxwell’s Dry Stout and Ms. Lucys Weimaraner Wheat.
I feast on outstanding Cozze mussels (with chickpeas) then complementary chicken wings while consuming Basil T’s latest fine offering, the stylistically easygoing Luppoli IPA. Its ripe fruited milieu and creamy caramel malting saturated spruce-tipped dry hops. A spicy tingle penetrated tangy pink grapefruit, peach, orange and nectar illusions. I drain a second pint before heading safely home again.