The first time I entered the former establishment at 1034 Willow Avenue, it reminded me of Paddy’s on “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia”… which might not be the most flattering comparison. Sure, the drinks were priced very reasonably, but it could be argued that the place needed a little TLC.
Fast-forward to 2015: the bar at 1034 Willow Avenue is now occupied by The Ale House—a revitalized establishment in every sense.
The Ale House has a great local following, with plenty to offer beyond its drink selection. Yet in spite of these upgrades, they still pour some of the most reasonably priced drinks in Hoboken.
I had the pleasure of talking to bartender Brian Daly, who has the top-notch wit to match his top-notch service…
(For the record, I agree with his assessment of Alice Cooper—although 2014’s Super Duper Alice Cooper documentary was fantastic, as was the Supermensch documentary about Alice’s manager Shep Gordon.)
hMAG: How would you describe The Ale House to someone who hasn’t been there before?
The Ale House’s Brian Daly: Did you have a friend with a cool basement/game room when you were a kid? This one is for adults. It’s the perfect place to meet friends for fun. We have a free pool table, shuffleboard and darts. Plenty of TVs to catch your favorite games. Nice bathrooms, too!
H: How does The Ale House compare to its prior establishment in the location?
B: McMahon’s Brownstone was the previous name. Now it’s The Ale House, and if you had been here years ago, you’ll notice the improvements: Drinkable drafts, normal prices, things not falling apart, improved scent, sunshine…you know, a billion times nicer. And free popcorn!
H: What are some of the activities or promotions that make The Ale House a great place to hang out?
B: Everyone loves our shuffleboard table, and we have a league that plays a couple times a week competing for a trophy that is almost the size of the Stanley Cup, for some reason. Group parties with drink specials are a constant presence. Our “126 Special” allows you to show us your bus pass and you’ll get the first draft, any draft, for $2 (or $3 wine/well drink). I’ve seen you bus people go by on Willow at the end of the day. You all need a drink.
H: How did you get your start as a bartender?
B: “Hey, you drink here a copious amount of time every week. Want to pick up a shift?” That’s how it happened at ye ol’ Quiet Woman pub on 1st Street many moons ago.
H: What is your favorite part about bartending?
B: Serving a fun crowd. When the people are cool, trustworthy and have a genuine aura of good times surrounding them, we can all have a laugh. And telling people we don’t have pickle juice. Sorry kids, but pickleback shots are disgusting. What’s wrong with you?!
H: If you weren’t a bartender, what would you be doing for a living by choice?
B: Overseeing the first run of colliding protons with lead ions experiments at the Large Hadron Collider facility in Geneva. Or a tugboat captain.
H: If a customer wants to get the best possible service, what are some things that they should avoid doing?
B: Snapping, yelling, puppy-dog eyes and being an overall impatient person. And have your order ready when you approach the bar. Saying “Uhhhhhh I dunno” is an easy way to earn a forgetful face.
H: What is the strangest drink you’ve ever had to prepare?
B: A Screaming Viking, but with an unbruised cucumber. Who does that?!
H: Is there a song that you’ve heard one too many times on-shift? A song that you’ve heard so many times that you can barely stand to be behind the bar when it comes on?
B: Alice Cooper’s “Poison.” Shut up Alice, you were never scary. Go play some golf.
H: When you’re not on-shift at The Ale House, where in Hoboken do you like to spend time?
B: Apparently Freddy’s Loft laundromat. I’m dirty a lot.
H: Finally, Brian, any last words for the kids?
B: Bring your empty glasses back to the bar when you’re finished. We appreciate common courtesy, and appreciative bartenders are your best friend when it’s crowded, right?
Cheers Brian—this one’s for you…