Trip One – Pubs 4 & 5

[Disclaimer: If you haven’t read the Introduction posting, this may not make sense. You may want to start there before reading on.]

To get to the next two pubs, leave Downingtown and go back to the Turnpike headed west to Exit 286. These two brewpubs can be enjoyed in no particular order – one is south of the Turnpike, and the other is north (Stoudt’s, to the north, doesn’t open until 4:30 most days.) They are both fine places, and your visit might depend upon your beer or food choices.

Union Barrel Works

6 N. Reamstown Road
Reamstown, PA 17567
717-335-SUDS (7837)

UBW is one of the newer breweries in our state, and specializes in German-style beers. The brewer, Tom Rupp (former Stoudt’s brewer) is often described as a brewer who doesn’t care so much for the hops. There are usually 5-7 house beers on tap, and generally one can find Pale Ale, Kolsch, Wobbly Bob Dopplebock, Hefeweizen, Lager, Mai-Bock, and Round Boy Stout. Beer is sold by the pint, but I quite enjoy that they offer a sampler of six 2 oz. tasters for $3.50. They will fill any growler, as well.

This pub is open Tuesday through Sunday at 11:00 AM (closed Monday.) As far as I know, this is not a place to have a tour of the brewery, although you can see where the beer is brewed if you visit the bar. The cozy bar area features an old bar back that dates from the late 1800’s from the old Showboat Bar in Reading. Ornate woodwork, the tin ceiling and PA Dutch influenced arts and crafts decorate the dining space.

While you will not find a large number of vegetarian dishes on the menu, there are some lovely fish and shellfish items for those who choose to enjoy these non-meat offerings. Every review I’ve read of this place raves about the food, and in my limited experience, I agree.

My favorite its the Smoked Trout Chowder – created by the same chef who made it for the 2007 PA Farm Show. There is also Olive Tapenade, Crab Cheesecake (like a crab dip served in a skillet with pita points), Portobello Mushrooms with gorgonzola cheese, Eggplant Gratin, crab cakes, Sesame Salmon, and two very interesting mollusk dishes – Shrimp Magnolias and (this has bacon!) Coquille St. Jacques (sautéed scallops with bacon and mushrooms, deglazed with vermouth and finished with cream and parmesan cheese; served over puff pastry.)

The pub is located in a large brick building with ample parking in the back, and some street parking in front. It used to be a hardware store, so you’ll notice the large windows and enjoy the open space.

For more information, try finding other reviews.

Black Angus Restaurant & Pub (Stoudt’s)

stoudtsRoute 272
2800 North Reading Road
Adamstown PA 19501
717-484-4386
Free tours on Saturday and Sunday afternoons

Just up the road in the opposite direction is Stoudt’s in Adamstown – a brewery that has been around for over 20 years, and a restaurant that’s been around for nearly 50 years. This is a family-owned business with a lot of clutter, and a lot of character. Ed and Carol, and now many of their children and in-laws, are involved at all levels (and Carol is America’s first recognized female brewer.). Besides beer and the restaurant, this place is also known for antiques and the bread (at least three signature bread recipes use beer, and the bread is made with 100-year-old Levin from France.)

Stoudt’s is open Monday through Thursday at 4:30 PM, Friday and Saturday at noon, and Sunday at 11:30 AM. The food menus are available online, and, again, you won’t find it to be exactly vegetarian-friendly. Afterall, it’s called the Black Angus and the tagline on the menu says, “The House that Beef Built”. The menu leans heavily on the German side, and it’s pretty authentic! There is a line under “entrees” that says, “Vegetarian – $17.00; Our chef will be happy to create something for you to suite your needs.”

I’ve enjoyed the raw bar and the smoked salmon (no, not vegetarian), and also the cheese plates (choose three artisanal cheese from list; served with minted lemon rind compote and lavender sugar almonds.) I’ve also ordered some of the veggie sides, like spaetzle and red cabbage, with a salad for my meal. The Portabella Rueben is a unique offering, and the salmon dishes are wonderful. For those who eat steak, it is aged steak in a variety of cuts, and Stoudt’s has an annual Wurst festival if you’re into that sort of thing.

There are free brewery tours available Saturdays at 3:00 PM and Sundays at 1:00 PM. Meet in the restaurant lobby for the tour, and if you can’t make it, you can see some highlights online and watch Ed and Carol talk about Stoudt’s beers!

Brett Kintzer is the head brewer. He got his start at Stoudt’s in 1995, and has been there ever since. In addition to supplying the pub, Stoudt’s distributes in 12 states and the District of Columbia. The beers keep getting better and better, and the climax came at their 20th anniversary with Smooth Hoperator. Check out the interactive beer menu online for the Flagship beers, as well as beers they label as Big, Seasonal and Specialty. As far as I know, you can’t see what’s on tap now, but there is always something great available.

Stoudt’s is one of the older brewpubs in the country, and it is recognized both nationally and internationally by the beer community for high quality, consistently created beers.

I don’t recall the serving sizes, or the policy on growler fills, but I’m pretty sure things are liberal at Stoudt’s. The eclectic decor, great beers and interesting menu, paired with the rich history, make this place a destination.

If your designated driver is tired of taking you around, this is a good time to head home. If not, there are some great stops you can make on the way home!

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Trip One – Pub 3

[Disclaimer: If you haven’t read the Introduction posting, this may not make sense. You may want to start there before reading on.]

Victory Brewing Company

Victory Brewing Company
420 Acorn Lane
Downingtown, PA 19335
610 873-0881
Tours on Friday and Saturday at 4:00 PM – wear close-toed shoes

Known for creating world class beers since 1996 (well, they will tell you at the end of every press release that they started out of the back of a school bus in 1973!), you will not be disappointed by a visit to Victory Brewing Company. Not only does the international beer community give accolades to Victory, but the mainstream media (such as Men’s Journal and New York Times) have praised the beer here.

Since this beer tour originated with a drive from Harrisburg to Phoenixville, you can either take PA 23 to PA 113 to US 30, or return to the Turnpike and take PA 100 S to W Uwchlan Ave. to US 30. into Downingtown. Either way, you won’t believe you’re really going in the right direction when you turn left off of Rt. 30 onto Chestnut Street, drive .3 miles, then turn left onto Acorn St. only to turn immediately right into the anti-climactic industrial complex.

If you’ve been to Victory before, but not since May of 2008, you are in for a real treat when you step inside! They experienced a multi-million dollar expansion, and in total, the restaurant grew to more than 7,100 square feet with seating capability of 290 or more. It’s been outfitted with authentic brewery décor, which includes three copper brewhouse tops from old German breweries, an all- Pennsylvania collection of brewery trays, and rich wood paneling throughout the space completes the cozy, old world pub feel. Of special note is the “Brewmaster’s Table” which is a cozy round table that seats 12-15 people within a copper brew kettle top.

Simply said, this former Pepperidge Farm warehouse is now an outstanding brewpub. The bar has been outfitted with 60 taps able to handle 20 different beer styles at any given time. Bill Covaleski and Ron Barchet are the owners/brewmaster, and work with a large team of brewers and staff to supply the pub, retail store, and distribution in 23 states with a wide-range of styles – both German varieties and classic American. Victory will allow you to purchase a half-pint. I’m not sure how they handle tasters.

Growler fills are done using a specially crafted Austrian built filler which is pressurized for a more efficient and longer lasting fill in every growler. For this reason, only German-style growlers are permitted, but they do not have to be labeled as “Victory” growlers.

Victory is open every day of the week, starting at 11:30 AM Monday through Friday, and 10 AM on weekends, and the brunch menu is the only menu available on Saturday and Sunday until 1 PM (all food and beer menus are available as PDFs on the website.) The portions are big (in my opinion) so don’t be afraid to share food. The vegetarian options aren’t marked, but there seem to be enough of them. I especially enjoy their hummus plate.

Brewery tours are available on Friday and Saturday at 4:00 PM. For safety reasons, you must be wearing close-toed shoes to participate. If you can’t make the live tour, there is a photo-tour online and supposedly a podcast (but the link doesn’t work).
[Onward – to Pubs 4 & 5 – Union Barrel Works and Stoudt’s]

Trip One – Pubs 1 & 2

[Disclaimer: If you haven’t read the Introduction posting, this may not make sense. You may want to start there before reading on.]

Iron Hill Brewery – PhoenixvilleIron Hill Brewery

130 E. Bridge Street
Phoenixville, PA 19460
610-983-9333

If you haven’t been to an Iron Hill location (there are 7; soon to be more!) and don’t plan on stopping at the one in Lancaster on the way home, this place opens at 11 AM and is open every day of the week. They brew a wide variety of beers – all very high quality – that span the entire range (light lager, wheat beers, German lagers, porters, stouts, Belgians, India Pale and Pale ales, brown ales, fruited beers…)

Tim Stumpf is the brewer at this Iron Hill location, and you can see what is on tap on the website. The food menu is also available online, and while it is vegetarian-friendly in that items are marked with a green dot, it is not veggie-heavy (mostly pasta and salad; a wrap sandwich and a portobella sandwich.) There are no prices online, but I recall that the prices seem kind of high, but the presentation is beautiful and the portions are generous.

My food recommendation? Treat yourself to a bowl of Roasted Carrot Soup – it’s delicious!

I’m pretty certain you won’t get a brewery tour here, but the brewing process is thoroughly explained on the placemat. The website doesn’t give serving-size detail, but I’m sure you can order half- and full-pints at Iron Hill, and we did a full tray of 4-oz samples on our last visit, so I assume that is available all the time. If you want to take home a growler, you’ll need to buy theirs – they won’t fill outside growlers (and I think that’s stooopid so I refuse to get them!)

Sly Fox Brewhouse & Eatery

519 Kimberton Road (RT.113)
Pikeland Village Square
Phoenixville, PA 19460
610-935-4540

Sly Fox opens at 11:30 AM on most days (noon on Sunday), and is open every day of the week. Sly Fox keeps the beer list up-to-date online and the full menu is also onlineas a PDF. It is not a vegetarian-extra-friendly menu, but there are sandwiches and entrees available without meat. The food is okay…

Head brewer Brian O’Reilly keeps at least 12 beers on tap, and the selection is a wide-range. You can take home their beers in bottles and, since they added the first canning line in the Mid-Atlantic region back in 2006, Phoenix Pale Ale is a staple in our house. I’m sure they fill growlers, but I don’t know if they will allow you to bring your own empty.

I highly recommend the Rt. 113 IPA and the Black Raspberry Reserve, if they are available. I can’t recall the serving sizes, but I’ll be able to report back in mid-December when I make my next visit.

If you go on a Friday, it’s likely going to be special. On the first Friday of every month, Incubus Tripel goes on tap. On the second Friday of the month, a new Hop Project beer is released, and on the third Friday of the month, a firkin of cask ale goes on.

Like Iron Hill, I don’t think you’ll get a tour here, so plan to just visit for drinks and eats.

[Onward – to Pub #3; Victory!]

Trip One – Heading East

[Disclaimer: If you haven’t read the Introduction posting, this may not make sense. You may want to start there before reading on.]

My first roadtrip is a tour that keeps close to the PA Turnpike and Lincoln Highway (Rt. 30), and starts with a 1.5 hour drive from the Harrisburg area, mostly on the Turnpike, to Phoenixville, then brings our travelers back west over the course of the day. Remember – they have a driver, so they can conceivably do all of these!

The plan (which may change as I type!) is to have them go from Phoenixville (Iron Hill and Sly Fox) to Downingtown (Victory), then to the Reamstown / Adamstown area (Union Barrel Works and Stoudts).

If they aren’t too weary, I recommend they continue back to Lancaster (Iron Hill and Lancaster Brewing) and possibly Conestoga (Spring House). Like each of these tours, there is always the possibility, once back in Harrisburg, to visit the other Lancaster Brewing location, Appalachian Brewing Co. in Harrisburg or Camp Hill, and, my favorite of the three, Tröegs, now featuring a true tasting room.

Now for the details (I’ll edit this post to include all of the links…)

Pennsylvania Brewery Roadtrips – Intro

This is the beginning post to a short series I’m planning to compile especially for my sister. She and her friend Wendy would like to go on a beer tour of Pennsylvania. They’ve got the designated driver all lined up, and now they just need a route. That’s where the blog and I come in.

The next couple of postings, assuming I keep up, are my versions of a couple of different beer-themed road trips, all originating from the Harrisburg area, which can be completed without an overnight stay.

Right now it is in my plan to rule out all beer bars, simply because there are so many terrific ones that it will be hard to recommend just one, and she seemed more interested in brewpubs. I’ll try to say a few interesting things about each place, but if readers have anything to add, your comments are very welcome.

These are my personal recommendations to my sister, but I highly recommend anyone even thinking about taking a road trip like this purchase my friend Lew Bryson’s book, Pennsylvania Breweries, and making sure to check his updates page. (If you don’t want to buy it, perhaps you can check it out at your local public library.) Another great resource, which many of you know, is Beer Advocate – even if you aren’t into beer trading and rating, it’s a great site to find out about places and offerings in real time.

I hope this becomes a helpful resource!

  • Trip One – Heading East from Harrisburg to Phoenixville and Back

Coffee Bender on Demand!

One of my favorite beers will soon be available in cans – and hopefully in our own cellar! Surly Brewing Company, which won’t be able to sell growlers anymore due to some strange Minnesota law that prohibits breweries who produce more than 3500 barrels a year from selling growlers, is moving Coffee Bender into cans.

When we were in Minneapolis last March, we talked to Todd, who said this was a possibility. I’m glad to hear it’s a reality, and it’s reported very well at the Beer News site.