Friday, August 18, 2017

Drifters – "Under the Boardwalk" (1964)

Under the boardwalk
Down by the sea

Most people seem to agree that the boardwalk that the Drifters were singing about in their 1964 hit single, “Under the Boardwalk,” was the one in Atlantic City, NJ.

Forgotten Boardwalk Brewing is located in Cherry Hill, NJ, which is a good hour’s drive from Atlantic City.  But Forgotten Boardwalk’s owner furnished her tasting room with skeeball machines, fun-house mirrors, and other items reminiscent of what you might find along the Atlantic City boardwalk, and the names of Forgotten Boardwalk’s beers refer to tall tales and “pretty true stories” of the Jersey shore.

For example, FB’s “Funnel Cake” ale is named after a favorite boardwalk food.  “1916 Shore Shiver” IPA references a century-old shark attack that left four beachgoers dead and seven other wounded.  And “What the Butler Saw” wheat beer pays homage to a sleazy peepshow film that was popular in penny arcades a century ago.

Growler the Cat
FB’s mascot, “Growler the Cat,” was inspired by the feral cats that lived under the Atlantic City boardwalk and chowed down on discarded bits and pieces of hot dogs, French fries, and other Boardwalk viands.

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I stopped at Forgotten Boardwalk for some refreshment on my drive back from Cape Cod in July.  Visiting FB was easy because it’s located only a few miles off I-95 (a/k/a “Highway from Hell”).

I liked Forgotten Boardwalk – in fact, I liked it a lot.  Here’s why.

Forgotten Boardwalk’s
unprepossessing entrance
First, while the FB tasting room was located in an unprepossessing industrial park, the place had real style.  

As noted above, it was furnished with quirky beach-themed stuff – including a couple of operating skeeball machines:

The Forgotten Boardwalk glassware, T-shirts, and can designs were attractive and idiosyncratic.  One of its pint glasses had a particularly colorful design:

Another FB logo glass had a weird shape that immediately caught my eye.  I was told to put my mouth at the lowest point of the rim of the glass – directly over the cat logo – to drink.

That positions the higher side of the glass so that it covers your nose, concentrating the aroma of whatever you were drinking:

The second reason I liked Forgotten Boardwalk is that it had an interesting and idiosyncratic lineup of beers.  

FB always has a few basic brews available – including a pilsner, an IPA, and a Belgian-style wit beer.  But they mix things up with seasonal releases like a smoked porter and a couple of potent imperial IPAs. 

The brewery goes all-in with a variety of barrel-aged limited releases they call “Sideshow Attractions” – which have included saisons aged in red and white wine barrels, a Belgian strong ale made with potato that spent time in apple brandy barrels, and a porter and a stout that were aged in bourbon barrels.

The third and perhaps most important thing that made me glad I visited was the way the Forgotten Boardwalk bartenders treated me and the other customers who had dropped in.

Marysia greeted me and made it clear that I should feel free to ask for a taste of anything that interested me.  (Most microbreweries do offer gratis samples to customers, but some do so a little begrudgingly.  It’s as they’re afraid that you’ll have a few complimentary tastes and then skedaddle without buying anything.) 

Based on her advice and a couple of samples, I chose a limited-edition barrel-aged version of FB’s “Morro Castle” smoked porter.  It was an excellent choice for me.

As I enjoyed my beer, Kai – the other bartender on duty – was thoughtfully quizzing a couple about their food and drink tastes in an effort to help them choose the Forgotten Boardwalk offering that they would most enjoy.  After serving them a couple of cans of a FB IPA, he pulled a third can out the fridge, poured small samples from it, and handed one to each person standing at the bar– including me.  

I’m not an IPA fan, but I’m also not a person who looks a gift beer in the mouth. So I took a taste and was pleasantly surprised by the balance and drinkability of the 100-IBU IPA.

When I told Kai that I was expecting the IPA to be way too bitter to be to my liking, he explained to me of why an IPA’s IBU (“International Bittering Unit”) rating was not necessarily indicative of its bitterness.

An attractive environment, unique and tasty beers, friendly and knowledgeable bartenders with a customer-first attitude – what’s not to like about Forgotten Boardwalk?  Not a thing, if you ask me.  

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Forgotten Boardwalk gets something that some small breweries do not.  

While a tasting room can be an important profit center for a microbrewery, it’s highest value is as a branding tool.  

There’s only so much beer you can sell at a tasting room – which is probably open only a limited number of hours.  To be truly successful, most small breweries need to sell their product to people who drink beer in bars and restaurants, and who go to retail stores to buy six-packs to take home.  

If I have a good experience at a brewery tasting room, I’m much more likely to choose one of that brewery’s beers instead of one from a competitor the next time I visit a bar or a package store.  

This large prize wheel is mounted
behind the Forgotten Boardwalk bar
Sure, the beer has to taste good.  But there are more good-tasting craft beers available these days than you can shake a stick at.  Often as not, the reason I pick one brand over another is that I have a good feeling about a brewery I’ve visited.  

Because the folks at Forgotten Boardwalk treated me and their other customers right, I want to see them succeed.

Unfortunately for Forgotten Boardwalk, I live outside its distribution footprint.  (Cherry Hill is well over a hundred miles from my home.)  But the next time I travel to or through New Jersey, I’ll look for opportunities to have one of their beers. 

And if they grow sufficiently that I start to see their offerings on the tap lists and retail shelves in my neck of the woods, I’ll happily show them some love.

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The night before the Drifters were booked to record “Under the Boardwalk,” the group’s lead singer – Rudy Lewis – died of a suspected heroin overdose.

But the show must goes on, so the Drifters quickly called up one of their former lead vocalists, Johnny Moore, who skedaddled down to the studio and recorded the song.

Here’s “Under the Boardwalk,” which made it to #4 on the Billboard “Hot 100” in the summer of 1964:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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