TAPS at the Cashtown

No this posting is not about the beer selection at the Cashtown Inn; it is to remind the readers of American Public House Review that on Wednesday evening March 26th, the results of the investigation conducted by the team from The Atlantic Paranormal Society will be revealed on “Ghost Hunters.” The show airs on the Syfy Channel at 9:00 PM, and will be rebroadcast at 11:00 PM. 

The natural skeptic in me appreciates the no-nonsense scientific techniques employed by this particular group of paranormal detectives. The lack of theatrics coupled to their honest analysis and frank assessment of each individual case lends credibility to a profession that all too often has been the domain of hoaxers and charlatans.

Bar at the Cashtown Inn

During a recent luncheon at the Cashtown Inn, which is purported to be one of the most haunted taverns in America, I was able to conduct my own inquiry into the otherworldly activities associated with this Civil War landmark. Unfortunately my own personal contact with the spirits was limited to the superb potables recommended by the owner, Jack Paladino. Regrettably, my sensitivity to the spirits seems to stop at my palate. So until my third eye becomes functional, I will have to rely on gaussmeters, EVPs, thermal imaging and the trusted judgement of the crew from TAPS.


Obama raises the political conversations at home and in the tavern

The topic of conversation at most taverns usually centers around something lighthearted, such as sports or movie stars behaving badly.  But recently, thanks to perhaps the most followed presidential election in a generation, politics has made its way back in to the public house.  Still, the mainstream media most often discusses the horse race aspect, the personalities, or the “he said, she said” stuff.  Rarely do we get a national election that brings important issues to the forefront.

For most of this presidential primary season, that is exactly the way it has been.  Despite a war, serious economic issues and ballooning fuel and food costs, we still spend our time hearing about what amounts to nothing more than thinly veiled name calling.  But for better or for worse, Senator Barack Obama created a seismic shift in the political landscape this week by vaulting perhaps the most difficult subject of all, race relations, on to the dinner tables and up to the bar rails of America. 

What the ramifications of the speech are is a debate that is important to have, even if a conclusion is hard to come by.  Obama was forced into the subject by the controversial comments of his long time friend and pastor when he was clearly hoping to avoid it.  But it is hard not to admire the manner with which the senator took on the subject.  No doubt some advisors would have cautioned him to step lightly and do the politically easy thing by divorcing himself of the pastor, the church and everything that comes with it.  He could have pulled a Captain Renault and pretended to be “shocked” that such words are ever uttered, and many politicians would have done just that.

Instead Barack Obama took this very difficult subject head on in a manner that was enlightening and sometimes difficult to hear.  He reminded us that racism is still a fundamental issue for our country and talking about it is not much easier now then it was fifty years ago.  This speech could just as easily be the moment that defines a president or signals a candidate’s downfall.  Either way, few can argue with the historic significance of Obama’s words.  He finally put in motion an adult conversation on a sore subject that has been long overdue.

Published in: Uncategorized on March 22, 2008 at 5:15 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Walking in our father’s footsteps.

My grandfather passed away when I was a teenager.  I was your typical self absorbed kid who thought the world revolved around me and my sheltered world.  I never had the chance to appreciate him like one does as they mature.   For many years the pain of his death overshadowed the memories of the man I called Pop, but as I grew into an adult the memories became easier to handle.  Over the last few years, I have even tried to research his life, especially his service in England during World War II.  What I found was a fascinating American journey by someone who was incredibly talented, brilliant, and influential on those who knew him.

Pop in Glastonbury, England 1944

What I remember was a somewhat broken man, a man who lost his wife to cancer and was resigned to watching the rest of his life pass by.  I recall him sitting by his window in Jersey City, and I have a difficult time recalling him being anywhere but in that seat.  What I couldn’t comprehend at the time was that while he was parked there he was doing the London Times crosswords and considered the New York Times puzzle to be simple.  While I saw the paintings and woodcarvings on the wall, the fact that he created them never seeped passed my ego into my brain.  He told me very little about his life and even less about his feelings.  But he always had brownies for us and a smile on his face when his grandsons arrived.  We loved Pop, but I do wish I could have asked him more and learned from his experiences.

My father and my uncle have told me only slightly more.  For one reason or another, they never spoke much about their father.  Even now, as an adult, I still discover things from them I had never heard before about their childhood and growing up with my grandparents.  Some of those new discoveries came when my uncle Robbie wrote an amazing piece for the American Public House Review back in November of last year. 

His search to find the place where his parents honeymooned is one I have read many times.  This type of pilgrimage to discover one’s past is a journey many people can only dream to make.  Read “In Search of the Lamb”.  Every family has a story to tell the younger generations, but few of us get to follow in the footsteps of our fathers.

Published in: on March 20, 2008 at 11:53 am  Leave a Comment  
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Braveheart brings a bit of Scotland to Pennsylvania

The only thing I don’t like about the Braveheart in Hellertown, Pennsylvania is that I don’t live close enough to it to become a regular.  But this is such a remarkably great Scottish pub that I have often made the nearly 90 minute trip just to sit and enjoy the atmosphere, conversation, and great beer selection.

Braveheart bar Hellertown, PA

Chris Poh is also an avid fan of the Braveheart, and he had the great opportunity to photograph this wonderful place, write about it, and get to know the folks who run it.  He was quickly taken by its perfectly stated influences.

Between pints of Belhaven Scottish Ale we are escorted on a tour of this fine establishment by Robbie, the manager who has found his way to Hellertown, Pennsylvania by way of Manchester, England and Ayrshire in Scotland. I am very impressed by this structure. For a new pub attempting to capture the spirit and look of the land of William Wallace and Robert Burns, it has not given into the temptation to overdo the theme, as so often is the case with most American attempts to recreate the UK or Irish public house experience. The building is a good balance of historic renovation, local craftsmanship and Caledonian authenticity.

Many great pubs tell their own great stories.  But like other works of art, a pub can also remind us of other stories and connect us to some that may not seem at first obvious.  In his article “Brave McKenzie”, Chris’ time at the Braveheart brings to mind an old aquiantance whose journey across the pond may not be all the dissimilar from Robbie and his mates.

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

I have the pleasure of working for a very humorous Scotsman.  A few weeks ago he asked if I could do something on the 17th.  I looked at him cross-eyed and asked him, “Are you kidding?  That’s St. Patrick’s Day!  I can’t work on St. Patrick’s Day!!”

He rolled his eyes and responded jokingly, “You Americans are crazy.”

His reaction made me wonder if we here on this side of the pond perhaps take the holiday, one my friends and I often refer to as the “High Holy Day”, perhaps a bit too seriously.  Is it silly for us to take the day off from work, travel long distances for parades or parties, or pull that tacky shamrock sweatshirt we haven’t worn in a year from out of the back of the closet? 

The St. Patrick’s Day celebration at Jim Thorpe, PA

There is a sort of “amateur hour” quality to St. Patrick’s Day as well that can be a bit frustrating.  For one thing, it is nearly impossible to get into my local Irish tavern, no less have a barstool waiting for me as on every other day of the year.  You have to squeeze your way to the bar as you navigate a sea of people you’ve never seen in the place before.  And they are all singing one cliché song after.

So I can understand why my Scottish friend may see all this as a bit silly.  But that is also because he doesn’t understand what it means to us here.  There is something uniquely American about St. Patrick’s Day in this country.  For better or for worse, the Irish here have had a very different journey then in other parts of the world.  Any religious aspect has been nearly lost on this holiday.  Now it is a celebration of the heritage and culture that we are lucky enough to have been blessed with.

We get together and toast to our loved ones, proudly boast of where our families originated, or remember with a tear in our eye how our grandfathers would sing along to “Danny Boy”.  Sure there is a lot of silliness to St. Patrick’s Day.  But I am not the only one who ranks it at the top of my list of favorite days of the year.  To us it is much more than green beer, corned beef, or the dreaded “Unicorn Song”.  It is a day where our families multiply to include the millions who have shared similar journeys and familiar stories.

So here’s to a healthy, safe, and laughter-filled St. Patty’s Day.  Slainte, my friends!!

Published in: on March 17, 2008 at 8:09 am  Comments (2)  
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Finding an Irish Heritage in Jim Thorpe, PA

As we approach St. Patrick’s Day, and the weekend that is sure to fill Irish pubs all over the country, we continue to highlight the Celtic themed taverns covered inside the American Public House Review.  Today we go deep into the mountains of Carbon County, Pennsylvania to find a truly Irish-American heritage at the Molly Maguires.

The Molly Maguires in Jim Thorpe, PA

The deep and painful history of coal mining in this area of the country permeates the town of Jim Thorpe, PA.  The Molly Maguires focuses on the labor struggles that took place as a result of this sorted past.

So who were the Molly Maguires?  History has lost most of the details to their story, and much of it was shrouded in secrecy.  There is even some who question whether such a group ever existed.   But what we do know is that there were groups of coalminers who fought their companies and attempted to unionize the labor force.  One such group, many of whom were hung in Jim Thorpe when it was known as Mauch Chunk, is now known in history by that name.  It is their legacy that defines the unique Irish-American heritage of this little town.

But besides peaking into a somewhat forgotten history for those of us who are tourists to the area, Molly’s is also a great place to stop for a drink and some grub.  I have been there on more than one St. Patrick’s Day.  And even though it is somewhat subdued when compared to the local parade day, it is still a great place to sit and observe the holiday.

Mitchell’s Cafe offers an honest Irish Ceili

With only three days until St. Patrick’s Day (and who’s counting?) we take a look at one of New Jersey’s great and largely unheralded Celtic gems.  Ed Petersen makes his way into Mitchell’s Café in Lambertville, a beautiful and quaint town hugging the Delaware River, for a roaring session of traditional Irish music.

Mitchell’s Cafe in Lambertville, NJ

While Mitchell’s may not look and feel like your typical local Irish pub, on the first and third Wednesday evenings of each month it looks, feels and sounds like you have been transported straight to the heart of County Cork.  Take a look at some of Ed’s feelings on this event…

As I search for a few words to convey the richness and joyfulness of this evening in Mitchell’s Cafe, all I can find to say is that the music was beyond description and the comradery beyond compare. The experience perhaps embodied perfectly that quality in a tavern which we at the AMERICAN PUBLIC HOUSE REVIEW are forever seeking; and when we find it, share it with you. What is that quality? It’s not about beverage selection, the food, the decor, nor even the history of a pub. It’s about the energy and the fellowship found inside its walls. It’s about the soul of a place, and the spirit which is created when folks convene for no other reason than to share an hour, hoist a glass, and celebrate our journey together towards .  .  . who knows where?

Now if this seems like hyperbole to you, then you haven’t seen a true Irish Ceili in person.  It can raise your spirits instantly and keep a smile on your face for days after.  Have a look at Ed Peterson’s “A Bonny Celtic Music Session”.

In session at Mitchell’s

Musings from the Boat House

Boat House sign

Make no assumptions based upon the masthead at American Public House Review. It would be foolish for anyone to quantify through some formula of critical analysis the merits of a great tavern.

The bar at the Boat House

Such an endeavor would be akin to rating the ability of the great houses of worship to fuel man’s spiritual aspirations. It is enough to say that there are those things which are truly self-evident.

Recently, my wife and I visited a dear friend, who after thirty years as pastor of a prosperous parish, had been reassigned to lead a new congregation. Past visitations were limited to the rectory where, surrounded by the trappings of the Church of Rome and the generosity of the flock, our congenial host would offer sobering commentary on those human characteristics that often compromise the intent of religious life. But on this particular day the melancholy of a wearied ministry was replaced with a new ecclesiastical zeal. An invitation was extended beyond the priestly domicile; we were summoned to view the church.

St. Mary’s Sanctuary

 Upon entering the sanctuary, I instantly understood the reason for my friend’s spiritual reawakening. I could go on at some length describing the finer details that make this space such a unique expression of man’s relationship with the divine; but no architectural critique or exploration of craftsmanship and the use of materials would bring about an understanding of the wholeness or holiness of this place. My words could not provide further clarity. Revelation can only come about through individual experience, so I will end this part of the rumination by stating that if Saint Mary’s could expand the water into wine miracle to include fine ales and single malts, it would be featured prominently in this publication.

But alas  American Public House Review is not about chapels, churches or cathedrals–it is about saloons, pubs, taverns and taprooms. And the Boat House in Lambertville, New Jersey is among the finest of those aforementioned institutions, and it was also a major source of inspiration for this  journalistic enterprise.
Glasses Raised…Spirits Lifted…Journeys Shared

by Chris Poh


Chris PohAt some point during the cobbling together of this particular issue someone requested a file name for November’s content. After a cursory review of the articles my response was call it “The War Years.” Whether by intent or fortune this author and our merry band of stringers seemed to have wandered into pubs that have a profound connection to the armed conflicts that have defined this nation. It seems that guns, guts and glory have always been the convenient forte of the fourth estate.

Contained within these pages are the memories and stories of those who have fought, and in many instances given the last full measure on behalf of country. Framed in perfect settings of wood and stone, and accented with the trophies and artistic depictions of battle, these stories take on a lore and grandeur that soften the suffering and hardships of battle. But in many other locations throughout this land are much simpler rooms that serve as the final post for those that truly understand the brutality, bloodshed and tragedy of war. To these veterans and legionnaires we raise our glasses.

Next month our reporters take on rough seas and salt water. Our roving scribes will be anchored in bars from the beaches of California to the rugged coastline of Maine. As for me, the only salt that I’ll taste will be on the rim of a Margarita glass from the relative calm of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Till then we wish you a great November and a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Published in: on March 11, 2008 at 1:34 pm  Leave a Comment  
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