Best of both worlds at Trap Rock

July 15, 1999

By Kurt Epps

It's their anniversary. He's a brewpub kind of guy; she's a classy lady looking for a bit more refinement for this special occasion. Fifteen years of marriage today is no small achievement, after all. What to do? Simple. Head for the Trap Rock Restaurant and Brewery in Berkeley Heights, NJ. Getting off to a smashing start and having been in operation over two years has only improved everything about this charming, attractive, upscale brewpub.

Brewmeister Scott Sutera, 29, has used the time to produce an array of beers that will satisfy both craft beer novices and seasoned beer nuts alike.

His Ghost Pony Ale, a refreshing "transition beer," is made with Pale Crisp and wheat malts, hopped with Czech Saaz hops, and has been tweaked to generate more flavor, especially in the finish. Also on tap during this visit were an IPA that was right on, hoppy and true to style, a totally delightful ESB, a wonderfully malty Mai-bock with a potent kick, and a Six Witches Stout that has obviously been upgraded. From nose to mouthfeel, to its less than totally black color, this one's a winner with lots of chocolate and coffee notes coming through.

His Hathor Red, a PubScout Pick when introduced two years ago, is still one of the best reds available in the country. Hathor outsells all other Trap Rock brews two to one, according to amiable and attractive Allison Hatch, Trap Rock's classy general manager.

Class seems to pervade the place, it must be noted. The eye-pleasing decor reminds you of an English Country Inn somewhere in the Lake District, and the wonderful efficiency and friendly attitude of our waitstaff (Shannon and Theresa), were typical of that found in expensive fine dining establishments.

Trap Rockšs owners, Chip Grabowski and Bob Moore, know that great beer alone will not cause your three parking lots to be filled to capacity on a Wednesday evening. Food -- of the fine variety -- does that.

And Trap Rock's American Bistro food, produced by Chef Bruce Johnston, stacks up against any fine fare you'll find, including that of the fanciest restaurants in New York City. Of course, you pay more for food like this, but when it's prepared and presented like Trap Rock's, it's worth it. From appetizers to entrees to desserts, the discriminating diner will not be disappointed.

The outdoor patio (like the parking lot) was filled with happy patrons on a beautiful summer's eve, and a visit to the upstairs Cigar Room, with its 60 person capacity and overstuffed leather chairs and sofas, prompted a promise to return.

Finishing the evening with what may be the state's best Creme Brulee, the hoppy half of the anniversary couple was happy. The desire of his better half for a more refined experience was sated as well. And she actually had some beer.

®Kurt E. Epps 1999 All Rights Reserved

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Kurt Epps