Side order of fun at Sidewinder's
June 21, 1999
By Kurt Epps
Put a few dozen beer geeks in a room with some super pubgrub, add ten
quality craft beers, and throw in some raffles, and what do you have?
Nothing, unless you add spice in the form of Richie Stolarz as the
emcee; then you have the makings of a memorable evening.
Sidewinder's Pub in Garfield, NJ was the host of a June 15 Beers
International Fest and the clientele, which included some heavy hitters
in the beer world, were willingly infected by Stolarz's laid-back,
convivial approach to his favorite subject -- beer.
Poor waitress Doreen Mullarkey must have worked ten pounds off an
already svelte frame running around as the sole supplier of food and grog
to this merry melange of malt monsters. But Doreen didn't seem to mind
the workout, and those she was serving were in too good a mood to
complain about anything, an attitude due in large part to the avuncular
Stolarz, who not only knew everyone in the room, but made them each feel
special. And each of them felt that there was a chance of being very
For this was not only a night to sample the hospitality of Dan Fiorito's
Sidewinder amenities, but it was also the party at which one lucky
sonofagun was going to win an all-expense paid trip to Denver for the
1999 GABF. The hopeful revelers came from far and wide to partake of the
fun. Keith Seguine of JJ Bitting's in Woodbridge made the trip, as did
Andy Newell, co-owner of Jersey's Flying Fish Brewery. Newell brought
with him some giveaway goodies, but none so special as FF's famous
Farmhouse Ale, a beer with a sound pedigree and one that did not
And though Brewer's Priest Father Larry McCormick wasn't there to
provide us with God's blessings for our important work, he sent a higher
authority -- his own Dad Jim -- in his place. The Father of Mack, every bit
as gregarious as his son, was shepherding an aforementioned Farmhouse Ale
to its eternal rest.
The Sidewinder taps held a solid Brooklyn Hefeweizen, a somewhat cloudy,
but delicious Ruffian Copper Ale, SA Cherry Wheat, a hearty Stoudt's Fat
Dog Stout, a complex Caffrey's Irish Ale, a slightly off-tasting Hempen
Gold and an absolutely wonderful Otter Creek Summer Wheat.
Against the backdrop of the beer and food, Stolarz went to work on his
raffles, telling us that everything he brought to give away was recently
excavated from his own basement after twenty years of serious collecting.
Each, he insisted, was a collector's item, and though they knew
otherwise, the guests didn't care a whit. They were having too much fun.
The biggest raffle of the night -- the four tickets to the GABF -- went to
Pearl River (NY) pub man John O'Connor, who sold the winning ticket to
himself. It was the last ticket left in his allotment and he had sold
nearly sixty. Some guys have all the luck, apparently, because O'Connor
won tickets last year and also won four tickets for selling the winner.
But despite not winning the ten-buck-a-pop raffle, no one at the
Sidewinder felt shortchanged, because food and drink aside, what makes a
beer event is the people involved, and where there's beer, the people are
usually pretty nice.
This was a trademark Stolarz event. Once again, he provided the night's
most memorable quote. During one giveaway, he announced, "I can't think
of an honest way to do this, so I'm going to go dishonest."
The audience reaction? Loud applause.
And well deserved, I'd say.
®Kurt E. Epps 1999 All Rights Reserved