Craft Beer Bars: The Cloverleaf Tavern

ImageThe Cloverleaf Tavern in Caldwell, NJ was the first craft beer bar I ever went to.  I’d heard about the bar’s signature beer promo:  The MBA.  The MBA stands for a Master of Beer Appreciation.  It’s the greatest idea in the history of beer ideas.

When you sign up, you get a card with a list of beers on it.  Ales, IPAs, Lagers, Belgians, Seasonals and more.  Every time you have a beer on the list (start with the seasonal that’s in season so they don’t run out)… it gets checked off.  After a year,–yeah it takes about a year)–you get your degree.  Your name up on a plaque, a gift card, a t-shirt, and the right to drink out of a 20 oz glass when everyone else gets a regular old pint. 

I got to try some great beers when going for my MBA (of course I have it).  Dogfish Head Old School was probably the highlight, drinking that to substitute for Dogfish Head 120–which was out that year.  Plus, there are some “regular” beers to help initiate the uninitiated… like Stella Artois.  Flying Dog Doggie Style Pale Ale was a great one as well.

But getting your MBA is just the start.  After that, you move on to the PhD–you guessed it (or maybe you didn’t) Professor of Hops And Drafts.  This program is much more intense.  It’s a year long program, broken down into semesters (aka Seasons).  Each season there’s a new beer list-13 to 15 beers to try before the next season comes along.  At the end you get another t-shirt, another plaque, a bigger gift certificate, and you can drink out of an even bigger mug. 

Definitely the highlights of my drinking at the ‘Leaf came here.  Schlafly AIPA was discovered because of this program.  McNeill’s Dark Angel stout.  As we went through the program, my friend and I checked off our favorite–and, unfortunately, least favorite beers–of the season.  I finished my program last winter.  You can do it again, as the beers are always changing.  Each time you go through the program, the rewards amp up.

And the Cloverleaf is a place to get more than just beer.  They have great burgers (and have introduced me to the wonder A-1 sauce on a burger), a fantastic Sunday brunch, and some very cool promotions.  If you’re just getting into craft beer, this is the place to go.  A great place to learn about beer, and to discover your favorite styles.

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