Moon over New Brunswick
March 16, 1996
By Kurt Epps
Imagine all the plans, applications and preparation necessary to
open up New Jersey's fifth brewpub. Add to that the cost of
advertising, marketing and public relations and the anticipated gut
excitement of a gala grand opening in the heart of revitalized
downtown New Brunswick. Consider doing everything that needed to be
done: dotting all the i's, crossing all the t's and making sure your
product was at its peak of flavor. And then imagine having to hang a
sign on the door the night of the opening saying, "The Moon will NOT
be out Tonight."
That's exactly what happened to Scott Falk, head brewer of the
brand spanking new Harvest Moon Brewery/Cafe, and it was not because
of anything they had done or failed to do. It seems that the ABC's of
the NJ ABC (Alcoholic Beverage Commission) had gotten bogged down in
reams of red tape and a plethora of paperwork.
If the Harvest Moon is any indication, perhaps the state of NJ had
better hire more staff as microbrewpubs begin to proliferate
throughout the Garden State. Although the opening was postponed for
one night, the eventual christening on March 14 was a smashing SRO
success, as a seemingly unending line of brew enthusiasts filed in
past the two glass-enclosed, gleaming mash tuns supervised by the 24
year old Brewer Falk.
Unable to balance the rigors of his studies at the University of
Vermont with his penchant for locating superb brews, Falk decided
that he would do what made him happy--brew beer. Having attended
Ipswich in Massachusetts, he and old friend Kristen Sullivan
(although she hardly looks to be drinking age herself) went after
their dream. They got financial backing from Kristen's dad Mitchell,
who also owns the Oyster Point Inn in Red Bank, and another investor
named Barry Goldsmith.
The investors must have had supreme confidence in the combined
brewing and managerial skills of their young proteges, because
putting the Harvest Moon on line took nearly $900,000, which, in
anybody's lingo, is not exactly dry yeast.
But the investor's gamble seemed to be rewarded with a packed
house on both floors of this architecturally unique pub. One wag
commented that a major chunk of the investment could be retired with
the proceeds from this night's crowd, and there may have been some
truth in the assessment. It was also rewarded by the product served
up by Falk and his knowledgeable and amiable assistant Jim Watson,
himself only 24 and a grad of the same university that guided Falk
into other than academic endeavors.
Perhaps the beer nut should send a thank you to the university,
for with his brews, Falk has obviously done his homework. Using a
"keep it simple" philosophy, The Harvest Moon produces four beer
styles right now with plans to add two more to the stable, a porter
and a red ale. Falk and Watson, by their own admission, are not
afraid to take risks in their brewing to achieve that special
uniqueness which sets apart great beers from good ones.
Currently on draft is Crazy Girl Golden Ale, a delightful brew
made with Pale and wheat malts, and Northern Brewer and Cascade hops.
It yields substantial smoothness, a pleasant nose, a beautiful golden
color and graceful wheat notes. This brew, a special request of the
men who put up the brewbucks, should become a favorite at the pub,
especially as the warmer weather approaches.
The next style (they'll serve you four 4-oz. samplers for $3.50)
was a brown ale with the unusual name of Flag-Me-Down Brown. Although
beer geeks with a preference for American brown ales might not dance
in Harvest Moon's crowded aisles over this one, the brew has a unique
taste with an interesting finish. Similar to Newcastle's, it is well
worth the $3.50 cost of a pint. That price, by the way, drops to just
two bucks during Happy Hours from 4-7PM each day. A 60 oz. pitcher of
any brew will run you $11.00 ($8.00 during Happy Hours) and a 23 oz.
Imperial Pint, $4.25.
The third style, Full Moon Pale Ale, is a superb and interesting
brew. With an unusual, but good, finish and a remarkable nose, this
is actually very close to an IPA. Don't be surprised if it rekindles
memories of an IPA from yesteryear called Ballantine. Full Moon Pale
Ale can only be described with a word that in family magazines must
be metaphorically recorded as "made with testosterone." Have a pint
or twain with Jim Watson (whose day gig is that of a civil engineer)
and he may just share a very closely-guarded secret about this brew.
The fourth offering is Sully Oatmeal Stout. This is an
exceptionally flavorful stout, although uncharacteristically thinner
than the stout aficionado might expect. Made with a mixture of Pale,
Roasted, Chocolate, and Oatmeal malts and hopped with Northern brewer
and Tettnang, Sully Oatmeal Stout should not disappoint. In fact,
many patrons of the fairer sex were seen transporting this stout
about between the two different levels of the pub.
Joining an ever-increasing litany of pub owners and brewers who
specialize in micros, Falk and Watson are quick to note the changing
tastes and buying habits of today's better "educated" and more
sophisticated brew patrons. The clientele on this night was an
eclectic and hectic mix, but generally the pub hosts those in the
25-35 age bracket, and that's whether next-door-neighbor Rutgers
University is in session or not. One can only imagine what kind of
crowd would have shown up had the State University not been on Spring
Much like a double-decker English bus, there are two distinct
atmospheres of this pub for satisfying different moods of brew
drinkers. The downstairs, with a full view of the brew equipment, is
for mingling and gawking in addition to drinking. Its ambient noise
is a mixture of conversation, laughter, and clinking glasses worthy
of any good pub. The owners plan to make an area of the downstairs
into the "Cafe" section where smoking will be permitted, adding for
some, perhaps, the less welcome noise of gagging, coughing and
choking to the mix.
A short walk to the rear of the room brings you to the wide
staircase with massive banisters of dark oak, an original part of the
house, which leads you to a more sedate, but equally vibrant, dining
area that seats 85. As you ascend or descend, you can't help but
wonder about the many uses to which this space has been put over the
years. Prior to the Harvest Moon, and in very recent history, a
tavern and a Steak House occupied the area. Though those businesses
did not last, one got the definite feeling that this one was going to
As you enter or leave the Harvest Moon, be sure to wave to Scott,
a 50's and 60's oldies fan, as he goes about his noble craft. If your
eyes are sharp, you may just catch him mouthing the words to that old
hit by the Capris, "There's a Moon out Tonight."
The smart money says this Moon will be out for many nights to
Harvest Moon Brewery/Cafe
392 George Street
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
®Kurt E. Epps 1996 All Rights Reserved