To compensate for a week of overworking (several missed lunch hours and one 14-hour day), I left the office early on Friday afternoon in search of adventure. And since D was also free, we agreed it should be a beer adventure! We headed north to Williamsport to check out Bavarian Barbarian Brewing Company, which, if you’ve read other postings on this blog, you’ll know has been a site of curiosity for me for months now.
It’s great seeing the neighborhood improving westward on Third Street. The row houses have restored fronts, the old furniture store is now a bright office supply store, there is a gallery and a diner and now…Bavarian Barbarian! It is located directly across the street from CA Reed Party Supplies and there is plenty of on street parking. Look for the metal sign above the entrance door (between Mom’s Deli & Diner and Holy Ghost Carwash), go straight down the hall through the door at the end, into a coat room, and through another door, and walk into the 9000 square foot work of art!
I remember this building as a car dealership, but we were told it has also served as a food bank (giving it a great floor structure for the brewery) and alfalfa growing house (supplying a perfect cooling room.) Barbarian Chief Mike Hiller has transformed the space into an attractive and full-functional brewery. His bought-new equipment is organized in straight lines across the far right wall, displayed dramatically with colored theatre lights (Kira offered to turn on the overhead fluorescents for better photos, but I liked it just the way it was!) The brewing area is sectioned off from the tasting area by the clean lines of metal railing and bartop littered with interesting local and beer-related literature. The tasting room space, at approximately 600 square feet, has beautiful yellow-orange walls with a huge Bavarian Barbarian logo painting and a tasteful grouping of memorabilia spanning Mike’s history and his future. There are plenty of comfy chairs, as well as red-topped bar stools in the tasting area.
Kira (Mike’s wife) was our host for our very first visit. She was extremely welcoming and took lots of time to share all she could with us. On his ten-barrel system, Mike is currently producing two ales, but plans to expand the line to five and will begin to include some seasonals…all in due time, though. One of the great things for the visitor/consumer about this being a brewery/manufacturing facility (as opposed to a brewpub with on-site consumption) is that the PLCB will allow tasting sizes up to 12 oz, and that Mike believes this is the ideal size for assessing his product. Beers can be purchased on-site by the growler (and Bavarian Barbarian has a deposit program on their own growlers, so if you don’t want to add another one to your collection, you don’t have to!), sixtels and half-barrel kegs.
The beers are currently on tap in 14 Williamsport locations, and also in Lewisburg. A distributor from the Hazelton area (is it Quality Beverage?) also picked up their product recently. It’s important to note, however, that it sounds like Mike is not committed to using any single distributor just now, rather focusing on the quality of his product and getting it out locally. Another future dream (which I can’t wait to see a become a reality) is the canning of his product. With pioneers like Oskar Blues, 21st Amendment, Sly Fox, Caldera Brewing Company and Surly, it is becoming acceptable to beer drinkers, and it is certainly more friendly to the environment. As Mike was quick to point out, the number of people who come to the Williamsport area to enjoy the outdoors could do so in a safer and more light-weight way with cans. Also, cans cost less in terms of fossil fuel expenditure when transporting (less weight; less surface area), are generally made from recycled material and easily recycled, and don’t require extras such as labeling, adhesives and caps.
Okay, so back to the first visit – Kira was a wonderful hostess and we met one of the investors who had lots of good things to say. We filled a growler, and then headed out. The reason we couldn’t meet Mike during that visit is that he was at a book signing. Had I known the book signing was none other than Tom Bailey, author of “The Grace that Keeps this World” and the signing was being held at Otto’s Bookstore – one of my favorite places in all of bookstore world – we would have high-tailed it down there. Instead, we went to Bullfrog Brewery, where it was very crowded, but we found a spot at the bar where we enjoyed Blue Collar Brown on cask and talked with Steve for quite some time. But what we couldn’t get at Bullfrog was the beer my dad wanted us to fill his growler with.
So…at 7:30 we headed back to the Bavarian Barbarian where we were tickled to see Mike behind the counter! (D whispered to me, in an excited sort of way, “this might take awhile!”) We had a great visit with Mike, keeping him there too long engaged in conversation, and got a second growler filled. He’s a really animated and interesting fellow with a passion for the Williamsport area and for the beer. After meeting him, I hope more than before for success of this brewery. He gives a good name to good beer.
I’ll write about the beers later, and add some photos and links to this post, but for the moment, I need to hit the road for a firkin tapping of Nugget Nectar!