Sunday, December 6, 2009

The aroma of hops and grains will draw you in

The one thing you can't help doing when walking into the Long Valley Pub & Brewery is pricking up your nostrils and taking a good long whiff, as the aroma of hops and grains is prevalent as soon as you open the door.

"We brew our own beer here," says General Manager Brad Lowmaster. "We only sell the house-brewed beer."

On first walking into the Pub & Brewery, after the initial smell drifts past you, the next thing you'll probably notice is the barnlike decor. That's because the building once served other functions before it became the brewery and restaurant that it is today.

"This building has been here since 1771," Lowmaster says. "It was a barn for a very long time, and in 1995, it was renovated from a barn into the restaurant."

The building has been the site of many unusual and fun events during its restaurant time, from luaus to brunches, to annual Oktoberfests, that usually fill the house to the brim with happy families.

"We do the whole German theme all year round, but for the Oktoberfest, it's one big party outside," says Lowmaster, who used to bus at the restaurant for about six years before he became a general manager. "We get anywhere between 800 to 1,000 people who come out for this party outside, where we put a few of our mainstays that we have on our menu outside and set it up as a buffet — a little bit of a reduced price, you know. It's done by tickets. You buy a certain amount of tickets, and (we) put our beers outside for everyone as well, so we have a band, and it's a big party outside."

Some of the mainstays are traditional American fare such as a bison burger topped with jack cheese and wild mushroom ragout, served on an onion roll; a grilled shrimp panini with a medley of shrimp, spinach, brie cheese, roasted red peppers, lemon dill aioli and sweet potato fries; German-style meals including a delight called "Best of the Wurst," which is Schaller-Weber's finest knockwurst, bratwurst and weisswurst, served with sauerkraut, German potato salad and whole-grain mustard.

"We have your basic appetizers. We have anything from quesadillas to wings: everything that is popular, with our own touch to it," Lowmaster says. "We try to make everything in house. We have the dry-aged steaks on our menu right now, which happens to be very popular."

But you can't talk about the food at the Long Valley Pub & Brewery without also talking about the stellar, award-winning beers that are made on the premises by brewmaster Joe Saia.

"We typically get here, depending on the season, between 5 and 6 a.m. to get our brew day going," says Saia, who speaks proudly of his beers. The brews have won a great many awards from the Great American Beer Festival, such as a 2006 silver medal for a Lazy Jake Porter and a gold medal in 2005 for a Nut Brown Ale.

"People have this misconception (that brewing) is a glamorous, fun job, when in actuality it's dirty, hot, wet and stinky. It's a real job," he says.

Still, Saia loves it with all his heart and calls it a labor of love, explaining he aims not to inebriate the customer coming in, but rather to give them the best flavor possible.

"I can take a small amount of ingredients and get the most flavor I can get out of it," Saia says, "So, it not only helps with our bottom line, but it helps people be responsible here, it helps them pair up beers with their appetizers, with their entree, and even their dessert."

He adds, "If you notice, we have an oatmeal stout up here, which goes real well with chocolate cakes, and fruits and things like that, and now that we're starting up our Sunday brunch again, I thought an oatmeal stout would be the perfect complement to Belgian waffles and fruit platters and things like that.... (I'm) making the best beer in the world as far as all of us are concerned."

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