What’s better than, sitting around a fireplace with a cup of hot cocoa while the snow dances around the night sky? Doing that with a goblet of craft beer instead! When I think of winter I think of snow, pine trees, wreaths, fireplaces or the smell of roasted nuts, to me that is the essence of winter. Last night at Barcade in Jersey City I had a chance to revel in a winter bash as they held a Winter Beer night.
Walking into the bar you are greeted by this dimly lit room with 80’s arcade games flanking the sides of the room, but this was no ordinary night, this was Winter Ale Night right? Surprisingly though nothing changed, nothing about the bar was different and you would never know that this is a special event night. About 30 people were there already at around 7pm when I arrived, which I thought was unusual for a special event night but not uncommon for the amount of advertisement that they put towards the event. Honestly if I wasn’t here the week prior I might have not even known the winter beer night was happening. Where’s the winter theme? The place looks like it does every other night, where’s the faux fireplace or the faux snow?
Let me put ambiance aside though because I’m here for the beer, right? I had started my night with a $7 bowl of buffalo chili and Firestone Walker Abacus. I picked up my chili from the beer window and noticed right away that I just paid $7 for a cup worth of chili and needless to say 5 minutes later I was forced to order a $6 Cubano sandwich because that small bowl of chili didn’t even put a dent in my dinner appetite. When my sandwich arrived I had already finished my beer so I ordered my second drink, Brew Works Rude Elf’s Reserve. After a few bites of my sandwich I noticed that my tongue was on fire from what tasted like wasabi, I looked in my sandwich and didn’t see anything green. I took a glance at the menu to see if they had listed wasabi as an ingredient and they didn’t but the sandwich above my included a horseradish mayo. They should have listed that as an ingredient because I would have told him to leave it out, that has no place in a Cuban sandwich. My drinks were both over 10% abv though so I had to eat everything or it was going to be an early night for me. This was my first time not ordering a muffaletta and I was sadly disappointed, next time I will eat before getting to the bar.
Let me put the food aside though because I’m here for the beer, right? My buddy Jason M ordered the Avery Mephistopheles 17% ABV something I was too yellow to try but I did have a small sample and it was awesome but super boozy. My Rude Elf was great, and reminded me of the Sly Fox Christmas Ale except heartier and more cloves but that wasn’t a bad thing because I really enjoyed this beer. My first beer the Firestone Walker Abacus was a truly outstanding example of a barleywine. Just try it, nothing I can say here will give it justice. There winter tap menu was extensive though, everything had a very high in ABV, so high that a 9% Three Philosophers was a serious consideration for something low on ABV.
So what do I take away from the night? Poor planning, promotion and execution can lead a potentially great night, sour. The advertisements of the night was very minimal, the twitter feed didn’t start announcing this until the day before and the ambiance could have been decorated to evoke a winter theme. I honestly believe that the idea of resting on laurels of a hip 80’s arcade themed bar is beginning to fade, it was great and new last year when it opened but they can not count on that to continue moving business forward. With bars in the area developing serious electronic marketing campaigns, ignoring those mediums will only disconnect the bar from the public.
I write this critical write-up because I truly like Barcade and I want to see them succeed. They are bringing some great craft beer to the area and having great events that expand the craft beer scene in Jersey City, so seeing that fade is not something I want to happen. February 9 they will be bringing Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Brewery there and of course I will be on hand to enjoy the night and maybe if I’m lucky they will promote this evennt like they did winter beer night and I might have a chance to actually talk to Sam… pipe dreams…
Stay Thirsty but Stay Different!