The Shepherd & The Knucklehead Pub in Haledon, NJ is named after a Christopher M. Schiavo novel that explores the duality in man. According to the book, every man has two sides–the responsible and the irresponsible and our constant struggle in life is to find the perfect balance between the two. The plot focuses around a character named Oliver Tweed (and his sock monkey companion) attempting to discover how best to utilize the dueling sides of his personality.
What any of this has to do with one of the largest beer selections on the east coast is beyond me, but maybe that’s just me using the idiotic side of my brain instead of the logical part. Anyway, The Shepherd & The Knucklehead Pub is famous for its 90 beers on tap that are, as they put it, “all microbrews and always rotating”. It also boasts an expensive and complicated nitrogen and carbon dioxide system and glycol machine that ensures a perfect pour every time.
It is also no stranger to the public’s eye as The Shepherd & The Knucklehead has received accolades such as Best Craft Beer Selection in New Jersey, Top 5 Beer Bar in New Jersey from CBS NY, Top 26 Watering Holes for the Craft Beer Lover from NJ Monthly and the 2013 NJ Monthly Critic’s Choice Award for Restaurant with Best Beer Selection.
Despite the enormous success and attention, if you walk into The Shepherd & The Knucklehead, you will find a bar as calm and relaxed as any in New Jersey. The wooden bar top has a curved lip for elbow resting and is accentuated by a red back-light. The back wall is lined with bronze taps interrupted intermittently by open-faced cabinets of liquor bottles and dry erase boards promoting the special beers for that particular night. Thick leather-set menus are filled not with food, but with beer; pages and pages of beer broken up into categories for ordering or general perusing.
The simplicity of the bar is juxtaposed by a modern trivia computer machine on the bar and an equally sleek music machine on a side wall. Next to this machine is a cabinet filled with board games. Hanging out enjoying some microbrews and an item from their very unique food menu, why not indulge in a game of Trouble?
Perhaps the best connection between Christopher Schiavo’s book and the pub that uses its name is that if there is a duality to every bar like there is to every man, The Shepherd & The Knucklehead toes the line perfectly between notoriety and understatement.
If you don’t believe me, use the responsible side of your brain and visit it yourself.