Tuesday, November 24, 2009

No "E" for Effort! No "E" for Effort!

After our afternoon "Pig Out" at Honey Brook Organic Farm on Friday, Ben and Sophie informed me that they were hungry and wanted "hamburgers and ice cream". So, muddy and tired, we made the quick drive from Pennington to Rocky Hill, NJ and the Rocky Hill Inn, a place I'd been wanting to revisit ever since it came under new ownership a couple of years ago. This historic Victorian building dates back to 1745, and is one of the many places in NJ that have laid claim to a "George Washington Slept Here" provenence.

Evan and Maria Blomgren own the place now, with Evan in the kitchen and Maria running the front of the house. Under their ownership, the Rocky Hill Inn now features "17 Craft Beers on Tap" with many of the usual suspects, but 7 taps eaten up by mega-brews like Guinness, Coors Light, Stella Artois, Amstel Light, Heineken, Corona and Pilsner Urquell. OK, so 10 taps of craft brew, not bad for the Princeton area, a relative beer wasteland. On the beer blackboard when we visited were Cricket Hill, Harpoon IPA, Flying Fish, Brooklyn, Ommegang, Sierra Nevada and something from Sly Fox. And this long-worded prelude brings me to my Pet Peeve Of The Year. With the exception of the Harpoon, only the brand names of the beers were listed, with a price after the name. Not a good sign. The Inn also offers a sampler of 3, 3.5 oz beers for $10. But when our young waiter came to our table to take our order, he knew nothing about the beers on his menu, nor did his fellow fresh-faced colleagues. Our dialogue went something like this:

"What's the Sierra Nevada tap?"
"Um, it's Sierra Nevada."
"Pale Ale?"
"I guess."
"OK, what is the Brooklyn?"
"It's the regular Brooklyn...."
"Which is..."
"Just regular Brooklyn."
"Can you find out?"
"Sure, any others you want to know about?"
"Yes, what's the Sly Fox?"
"Oh that's the regular Sly Fox."
"And what is THAT?"
"Well, I think they just make one beer."
"Uh huh. Could you find out?"
"Any others?"
"Yes, ask about the Cricket Hill."
"Oh that one is a lager, ya know, like Yuengling."
"I see. Could you find out about those?"
"Absolutely, sir."

If the kids weren't hungry and it wasn't dinner time, I would have walked right out of the joint.

I ordered a sampler, by the way, made up of Brooklyn Lager (it wasn't a lager), Harpoon IPA and Sly Fox Pikeland Pils. I was so frustrated by the above exchange, I didn't even bother asking the feckless waiter what the Brooklyn really was. Thank God the food was as good as it had been reported in the local press. The clever Kids Menu featured two cheeseburger sliders with really good french fries and a ramekin of ketchup; the twins really enjoyed their meal. I had to find some veggies to round out their dinner, something that the Inn should have included for the price. PEI mussels in white wine and shallots were also very good, as was a dinner salad that I ordered with my "Rocky Hill Inn" burger, topped with cheese, bacon, smothered onions and a fried egg. They also served an unusual but tasty gluten-free polenta "pizza" topped with broccoli rabe, cippolini onions and fontina (you can guess who ordered that), which was really soft polenta in a puddle of red sauce and topped with the veggies and cheese. Tasty, but nothing you could hold in your hand like an actual pizza. Prices were relatively high (mussels, $11, "pizza" $8, burger, $13) but again, the food quality was quite good. But my beer experience brought forth a huge pet peeve with me, and when the bill arrived, I stared at it for a while, my long-held gut-feeling indicator that I did not enjoy my time there.

Memo to the Rocky Hill Inn: If you're going to offer and advertise "17 Taps of Craft Beer", then offer 17 taps of craft beer! And if you can't be bothered to update a CHALKBOARD with the current beers on tap, craft or otherwise, at least start the day by educating your staff about WHAT KIND OF BEERS ARE ON TAP THAT DAY!!!! The "regular Brooklyn"? The "regular Sly Fox"? "A lager, ya know, like Yuengling"? Are you kidding me?!?!

I know I'm late to the party with this rant, but really, is it too much to ask that the people serving the beer knowing something about it? I don't think so.


okbrewer said...

My pet peeve as well! I hate going into a place and asking what beers they have only to be told, "We have all kinds!" Great, says I, I'll have a Duvel! A what?? You said you have all kinds. We do, ya know, Bud, Miller, Coors, all kinds.
That, and when you ask what the special of the day is or the soup of the day and they don't know and ask, "would you like me to find out?" No, I'd kinda like to guess some more!
Or, it's my first day, I'm not sure. I don't care if it's yer first day! You work here, be prepared!
And another thing...! Well, maybe later!

Lew Bryson said...

Unfortunately, not only are you not late to the party, it's a party that never ends. I had this discussion with some industry people recently: we've been educating people about beer for years, decades...when's it gonna end, when will we see the fruits of all this work? Well, never. As your boobtender shows, there are new people -- customers and servers alike -- coming up all the time, and they don't know nothin', and if they don't learn, sales and enjoyment drop.

Enough to make your head ache. Never feel bad about pointing out bad service, or bad practices. As I always tell the kids: thus, we learn.

Congratulations on two years of blogging, BTW. I knew you'd enjoy it!

Suzanne Woods said...

just read this. funny I almost drove an hour out of my way coming back from Connecticut to say hi and thank them for carrying our beer.

I still will, but its nice to know about your experience in case I can somehow approach the subject gently with them.

hope you're well!