All the right stuff
March 7, 1998
By Kurt Epps
It's fast becoming a winning formula in NJ. Take a solid line of craft
brews, match them up with both regular pub fare and finer cuisine, mix
them all together in a comfortable and classy atmosphere and you're off.
Trap Rock in Berkeley Heights, Triumph in Princeton, The Ship Inn in
Milford, JJ Bittings in Woodbridge and Basil T's in both Red Bank and
Toms River have done it and done it well.
Of course, it helps if that atmosphere is inside a two hundred year-old
stone barn with handhewn beams, hardwood floors, a cozy fire beside
which to quaff and warm your cockles (whatever they are).
But that's exactly what you get at the Long Valley Pub and Brewery in
Long Valley, NJ. Long Valley was the state's third brewpub, just behind
the Ship Inn and Triumph, but the order is hardly important. The proof of
any brewpub is in its beers, but because you only get one chance to make
a first impression, the initial walk-in is very critical.
At LVBP, that entry is impressive indeed. Stone, wood, a subdued brewpub
hubbub (that's the PubScout's term for ambient noise), and lighting that
makes an impact greeting the first time visitor in impressive fashion.
Add to that the vaulted ceiling, a wraparound second floor with its own
bar that looks down on the ground floor action and plaudits must go to
the designers for capturing a perfect blend of airiness and coziness.
All the culinary art - and it is indeed art - is performed out of sight on
the basement level. You get an immediate feel that this is going to be a
And it is, for many reasons beyond decor. Start with the brews produced
by the only wort-watcher LVBP has ever had - Tim Yarrington. The former
Penn Stater must have studied Joe Paterno's approach to team balance,
because he brings that Nittany Lion attitude to his beermaking, a craft
which he perfected at UC Davis in 1995. And LVBP was opening just as
Yarrington was collecting his degree.
They have been productively married
ever since, though LVBP must share Tim with his real wife, Sue.
Suešs favorite TimBrew is the Black River Brown, so she must be a
chocolate lover. This hearty, handsome and exceptionally smooth brew is
loaded with chocolate and crystal malts and hopped with East Kent
Goldings. It tastes as good as it looks and smells.
Tim's fave, on the other hand, is one that he nurtured from his youthful
homebrewing days - Lazy Jake Porter. This is an exceptionally hearty beer
with a roasty, toasty flavor accentuated by five different malts. On this
night it happened to be the one that was on the hand pump, which made it
even more appealing to purists. "It's live beer," the brewer says
proudly. LVBP rotates their four basic beers on the hand pump.
While the PubScout usually avoids any beer with the word "light"
attached (I call them 'canoe' beers because they're close to water), I
tried Hookerman's Light anyway, perhaps because of the legend about the
ghost with the steel hook for an arm. And Hookerman's Light proved to be
an exception to the canoe rule. First time micro dabblers will love this
crisp, dry flavorful beer. And hardened Budmillercoorsmen will probably
enjoy Gristmill Golden as well. Beautifully colored and pleasantly hopped
with Willamette and East Kent Goldings, this beer can hold its own in any
The seasonal this night was called (appropriately) Stone Barn Stout. A
solid, hearty, roasty stout, this Nugget-hopped brew will probably be on
tap for March and April. Try it with Chef Dirk Noel's Creme Brule, which
rivals Trap Rock's (heretofore unchallenged) in quality and presentation.
Maybe we can have a Brew and Brule-off between the two places, charge
admission and raise money for charity. The PubScout humbly (and cleverly)
volunteers to be a judge.
LVBP's exceptional food pleased every member of the PubScout's party.
SubScouts Russ Schumacher and Judy Ferguson - at whose suggestion LVBP was
visited - ranked the place a "10" in everything. The PubScout would be
hard pressed to disagree, though I suggest you dine early and away from
the entertainment, unless loud music and swirling drafts around your legs
are an important part of your dining experience. (Hey, the band has to
get in somehow.) We noticed, too, a marked change in the age of the
clientele as the opening number got closer. No criticism there, though.
That's the mark of a wide-appeal place.
In the center of this delightful tavern with its courteous, knowledgeable
and friendly staff, look for the huge original wood beam that sags in the
After the brews and food at LVBP, you'll have something in common with it
when you leave.
®Kurt E. Epps 1998 All Rights Reserved