River House Brew Pub (Milton, PA)

What a lovely day for a drive by the river and to do a little fact-gathering on some rumors I’ve been hearing about a Lewisburg brew pub! 

River House Brew Pub in the Lewisburg Diner

River House Brew Pub

And it’s true… Or as true as it can be told at this time. The location is technically Milton (by mailing address), geographically located in what might be called East Lewisburg but is really West Chillisquaque Township in Northumberland County. The building is the former Italian Terrace property (which explains some of the strange architecture for a brewpub!) and currently houses The Lewisburg Diner. 

River House Brew Pub welcome signThe pub – The River House Brew Pub – will be run in conjunction with the diner as two eateries under one roof. This appears to be the new brewing location for former Abbey Wright brewer Bart Rieppel (this is an unconfirmed rumor, but from an extremely reliable source!) 

The Pub is a separate business from the Diner…

We went into the Diner, which was open today, and even walked back the hallway to the pub area – it’sRiver House and Lewisburg Diner completely signed (paper signs). There were tables and chairs, but the room was dark and there was no appearance of being open or even having taps available.  I’ve been told that River House does not have a licence to brew yet, but should have it soon, and in the meantime will be serving a selection of microbrews.

I don’t claim to know the county history well, so I’d be interested in anyone who might know of another brewery – successful or unsuccessful – in Northumberland County over the last 30 years. Assuming River House comes to fruition, this may be a first since the closing of Fuhrmann and Schmidt Brewing Co. (Shamokin, PA) in 1975. 

I’m looking forward to seeing what Bart’s got in him outside of the strains of his former location, and I’ll try to keep my ears open for future developments on River House Brew Pub! Another possible stop in the Golden Triangle of Beer?

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Raspberry Beer Run

A major theme on our departure from Madison was seeking out raspberry beers – specifically New Glarus Raspberry Tart, and with the same passion, but not nearly the concern, Founder’s Rübæus.

New Glarus is busy working on an expansion project, and already brewing at the new facility, but I am speculating that they haven’t been producing Raspberry Tart lately. Even at the facility, there were apologetic signs to explain that it can not be purchased on site. This is a unique framboise – a lambic brewed with “Wisconsin farmed wheat and year old Hallertau hops” that is refermented with Brettanomyces yeast found on the Oregon-grown berries – that weighs in at 4% and is found in wax-sealed 22-ounce bombers.

D and Dain went to Steve’s Liquors to get some, but Steve’s didn’t have any. The employee at Steve’s referred them to another store, even calling ahead to confirm five cases were available (but not placing a reservation.) In the interest of kindness, our crew allowed some guys from Colorado to go first in Steve’s checkout line. Don’t you know, those “Coloradans” (we called them something different, but it’s not a nice word to use here) overheard the conversation, drove ahead, and bought ALL FIVE CASES?!?!  We just wanted a few bottles and they bought every last one… At $8. a bottle, who would have thought they would get all 5 cases right out from under us?

So we searched and searched, finally finding success in McFarland, WI – two bottles tucked in the cooler at Bob’s McFarland Liquor, and ten more after a tense search at J & B Liquor (when he figured out what we were asking for, the guy at J & B was so excited to sell so much to us, he threw in a bottle of New Glarus Belgian Red Cherry Ale!) We celebrated our finds by stopping at Culver’s for cheese curds before hitting the road to have lunch,  buy some fudge and cheese, and a take brewery tour in New Glarus.

As for Rübæus, the problem is a little different. We really didn’t look very far at first – we get this in PA, an we were planning to go to Founder’s on this trip. Our hunt for NG Raspberry Tart changed that plan, but we still felt confident we could get this along on our way. At the Great Taste, however, we learned differently. Rübæus, the brewers told us, will be removed from the line-up due to the overwhelmingly increased cost of raspberries. They are brewing a Cherry Ale (not currently described on the website, but now available at the brewery; they were available side-by-side at the Michigan Brewer’s Guild Summer Festival.)

UGH! This news broke my heart, especially because I really didn’t care for the Cherry Ale. I love the 7% beer brewed with raspberry puree, served from a bottle with the prettiest label ever (the only thing better than a Rübæus is Rübæus on tap mixed with Founder’s Imperial Stout!) Unfortunately, it just doesn’t cellar well, so while we did get a case as soon as we got home, and I will savor every bottle, it won’t last long.

This sad news came on the heels of hearing that Founder’s will also no longer brew Devil Dancer. Norman Miller shared the story with Massachusetts readers, and it’s centered around that darn hops shortage.

Well, as far as I know, there is still Raspberry Eisbock from Kuhnhenn in our cellar. If you’ve never had it, you must read the description at this blog (why not read all of the fruit beer descriptions while you’re there – they are terrific reading!)

I’ve now got plenty of raspberry beers to get me through the summer…

Elk Creek Cafe + Aleworks Blog Stats

Since I posted about it for the very first time (back on December 23, 2007), not a single day has passed where a person hasn’t visited my original Elk Creek Cafe + Aleworks post. That’s over 1600 visits in just over 6 months.

Visits to Original Elk Creek Posting

Visits to Original Elk Creek Posting

I’m really impressed with the fact that a visit was made to that post each day since December. And it also has the most comments on my blog.

If Elk Creek ever does a pub club membership, I hope I get a free one out of this. How much in-kind advertising am I providing? They are worth it, though. If you haven’t been there yet go see what you are missing!

Charity Beer Drinking

Over the period of a week in late June, we were on the road drinking beer to support charitable causes – a beer festival, a pub crawl and a special beer on the menu were the impetus for our travels.

On June 21, Tröegs Brewery teamed up with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation of Central Pennsylvania to put on the annual Harrisburg Brewers Fest® – an outdoor beer and music festival downtown. There were two sessions to reduce the crowds of people filling Locust and Third streets and a special VIP session, complete with gift bags.

The festival was advertised with 35 breweries. We know that some didn’t show up, but there was no lack of beverage to be tried. D had to work, and I had a child’s birthday party to attend, so we worked very hard to stick to just the things that were new to us and/or special beers. And with the small plastic sample mugs, it was easy to remain sober.

We had a few favorites from the day, including Lovitz Lager – a watermelon lager from Roy Pitz Brewing Company, Coconut Stout from Church Brew Works, Lichtenhainer – a sour, smoked Berliner Weissbier brewed as a collaboration between Marzoni’s and East End Brewing Company and is based on an obscure German style, Barrel-aged Beekeeper (part of the bottle-conditioned collection at Bullfrog Brewery, and previous to aging, known as the Beesting Saison) and a firkin of Scratch #12-2008, an English-style IPA from Tröegs.

It was good, clean fun in downtown Harrisburg. Live bands played, including one that we really like at the early session (Herbie), and people were generally polite. I picked up an Otto’s tattoo, which finally wore off last weekend, and my favorite tshotshke was the heavy-duty bottle opener from Straub.

At the Harrisburg Brewers Fest®, we learned about the Bavarian Ramble – a fundraiser organized by Mike Hiller, Chief Barbarian at Bavarian Barbarian Brewing Company, to support the Uptown Music Collective. Since we planned to be in the area for the weekend of June 28 anyway, we decided to join in on the ramble around downtown Williamsport.

For a $10 donation, we received 5-10% discounts off food and beverages at The Pub, Rumrunners, Franco’s and the 4th Street Grille and Ale House. The evening ended with a private party at the Bavarian Barbarian Brewing Company where we were treated to a terrific performance by students from the Collective.

We met up with Mike at The Pub – one of my college hang-outs. This complete dive bar for college kids has transformed into a pretty nice little place. In addition to Bavarian Barbarian beers, there were several other very decent brews on tap, and a sizable bottle selection (for Williamsport) behind a large, beautiful honey-toned bar. I couldn’t get over the cleanliness of this place in comparison to my days of hanging there. Even the bathroom was clean and bright, and while I didn’t check it out, I understand there is outdoor courtyard seating.

Rumrunners is a Caribbean-themed restaurant with a huge selection of shelf drinks. I had only been in this building once, and it was so dark I couldn’t see my own hand. Now it is bright and cheery, and the menu looks serviceable. We ate at Franco’s out of nostalgia, but were thrilled to find Tröegs Nugget Nectar on cask there. I enjoyed a wonderful fresh gazpacho and an artichoke and olive salad with balsamic vinegar. We shared the chicken liver and toast appetizer, and D had a pesto with garlic pasta dish. With our discount, it was amazingly inexpensive, and as always, the staff at Franco’s made us feel welcome.

We managed to get a hotel downtown on Priceline, so it wasn’t expensive to stay downtown, walking to all of the Ramble locations, and we got a ride home from the party at Bavarian Barbarian. Kira and Mike were such wonderful hosts, and the guys in the band were so professional. It was a really nice night out for a really good cause, and also a good opportunity to let me stroll down memory lane a bit (I love Bullfrog Brewing dearly, but I miss exploring all of the other wonderful food opportunities in Williamsport.)

We ended our weekend with scenic drives through the mountains, taking Rt. 445 from Lamar to Millheim, and then driving a back road north of Winkleblech and Sharpback Mountains as a long way to Selinsgrove. In addition to a nice little hike, we stopped at the breweries (Elk Creek Cafe and Selin’s Grove, respectively.) At Elk Creek, we were drinking Old Bertha’s Red 99 – a beer created to support the Millheim Fire Company which has been assisting in the community for 99 years. 50-cents from each pint sold goes to the fire company, so we were happy to help (AND it was a good beer to go with my brunch!)

What a great week of drinking beer for the benefit of others!

Mondial de la Bière – Long (very long) Report

Reflecting on Mondial de la Bière, after three days of tasting (and one more morning to go!) I have determined that this may be the best beer festival I’ve ever attended. Unfortunately I don’t have the means to share photos, but I do have a little (okay – a lot) – to say.

Montreal is a great city.  We haven’t seen as much of it as I’d like, what I’ve experienced leaves me wanting more. The pubs are fabulous and plentiful.  There is a wealth of culture here – the diversity is outstanding.  It is clean, trendy, attractive and eclectic.  And the festival – our raison d’être – is c’est magnifique!  These are just a few of the things I’ve listed:

Pros:

  1. five days of tasting – you don’t have to pack it all into one day or a four-hour session; doors open at 11 AM each day, close at 10 PM and participants have in/out privileges
  2. taste as much or as little as you like – buy as many tickets as you care to, and taste as many beers as you like; very few of the breweries seemed to run out of any particular beer (we missed out on a rhubarb beer, but that’s about it!)
  3. BYO-glass is acceptable as long as it is 12-oz or less
  4. friendly folks running the booths – willing to talk and share
  5. open door – come and go as you like (well, if you get there late and there is a crowd, they do make a line out the door…)
  6. tasting areas that are both outdoor and indoor (under a glass ceiling so it feels kind of like outdoor); Windsor Station and Courtyard is a wonderful place for a festival
  7. the French pavilion, which included 16 exhibitors, 13 of which are microbreweries and one of which was Thiriez (a brewery we fell in love with after Chris and Jen treated us to a bottle at Ebenezer’s Pub in Lovell, ME)
  8. outstanding restroom facilities – ample, clean, spacious and fully functional (complete with a hook on the door designed just for my mug!)

Cons:

  1. five days of tasting where you can taste as much or as little as you like – we like, so we spent a lot of cash!

So what have we had?  Well, we made it a point to taste all of the award winning beers and as many of the 15 anniversary mashes created just for the festival. 

  • Awards were given to twelve breweries for a variety of beers. Among them, I particularly enjoyed Aphrodisiaque from Dieu du Ciel – a stout that tasted rich in chocolate and vanilla (kind of like a stout milkshake.)
  • For the 15th anniversary, Mondial dela Bière has teamed with places such as À la fût (creators of La Survivante), Brutopia (creators of African ale Nigerian Nectar), Dieu du Ciel (creators of Double Triple), Broue Pub Brouhaha (creators of Special B) and La Barberie (creators of Sangri-Bière.)

My favorite brewery of the festival? That honor goes to Hopfenstark.  They are cool guys with great vision and beer integrity. They work hard to make a perfect product, and won’t compromise for popularity.  The Baltic Porter De L’Ancier With Maple Syrup was by far one of the best beers at the festival, and they carried an impressive number of saisons: Station 10 (a sour beer which won a platinum medal!), Saison Station 16 (rye beer) and Saison Station 55(bitter and hoppy.)

Some of the more distinctive beers were La Carotte from Microbrasserie du Lievre (a beer brewed with carrot), Viotlette (made with Aizelles (?) and violets) and Verte (made with Denepi) both from Mont Blanc and Juliette from Brasserie Uberach.

In addition to plenty of beer, we have made plenty of new friends and enjoyed spending time with friend who are not so new to our lives. 

  • Our Thursday night table at Dieu du Ciel grew from four to fourteen as friends came and left. With sixteen of their own beers on tap, and all of them right on, it was hard to make a choice!
  • On Friday evening, we had a great cookout on the deck, which just happens to straddle the property of our friend Josh (party host) AND the bed and breakfast where we are staying. Several of the attendees were MontreAlers, and it was great fun to meet them.  Josh bought a wide selection of cheeses and beers (mostly from Vermont), and D brought a large selection of beers from our cellar. One of the stars that night was Stonecutter Scotch Alefrom Renaissance Brewing Company in Marlborough, NZ.
  • Saturday morning started with a trip to Metro Joanette – a grocery store where we found an awesome beer selection, which I hope to write about it a later post because of our À l’Abri de la Tempête find…
  • Saturday afternoon we left the festival with Beth, Jim, Mark and Matt, and we met up with Cornelia and Ray, forming an impromptu pub crawl!  We started out at the microbrewery L’Amer à Boire for Czech lager and stout, then moved down the street to Le Saint Bock, where they brewed their own beers and served plenty of other products on draft and in a wide array of bottles. Next we went to Le Cheval Blanc for a quick visit before taking a cab all the way down to Vices & Versa where 29 Canadian beers were available (and none of them Molson!) I particularly enjoyed Postcolonial IPAfrom Hopfenstark and Hoppy – an IPA from Brasseurs et frères.
  • Tired of all the same food at every single pub (nachos, chips, frittes, pizza and pannini), D and I found a nice little Peruvian restaurant called Chicho, where we had a great meal before returning to Josh’s apartment to dig back into the bottle tasting
    • My pick of the night was Rock Art Double IPA;
    • Josh chose Green Flash Imperial IPA as his favorite;
    • Troy liked the Otto’s Double D IPA and the Smuttynose Wheat Wine quite a bit, but his pick of the night was the 2007 Dark Lord Imperial Stout (even in comparison to the 2008 Dark Lord);
    • D was most impressed by the 2005 Bushwakker Wheat Wine (which we are calling a “double import”, since it traveled from Saskatewan to PA for cellaring, and now to Quebec.

Obviously I have a lot to say about this trip, and really, I could keep going, but it’s seriously time for bed.  I’m going to slack on the links for tonight, and sign off.

 

Nor’ Easter in May

With visitors from out of town at the house and a spike of good weather, it seemed like the ideal night for an impromptu picnic. Friends gathered in the backyard, D fired up the charcoal, and soon we were having the first picnic of the season!

There were lots of good things to drink, but the beer of the night came toward the end of the night, when we broke out the Nor’ Easter Winter Warmer (Batch 2) from Captain Lawrence Brewing Company

It is described as a Belgian dark ale brewed with elderberries and aged in bourbon barrels. It is an extremely dark brown to deep purple, only letting bits of light flow through on the edges of the glass. It has very little carbonation, and the thin head in a purplish tan. The scent of bourbon mixed well with that of dark fruit and roasted malts. That scent translated into flavor as tart fruit, chocolate and alcohol, and a slight oak flavor added to the finish.

This was an excellent choice, and I was glad only three people were sharing the 750 mL bottle.

Advocate for Six-Pack Sales in PA

I stopped paying attention to this issue with the crazy holidays, so thanks to Lew Bryson for putting up a post about the ammendment to House Bill 606.  His post, as always, is comprehensive, but if not convincing enough for you to act, read on at Beer Advocate, Beeryard News and my childhood local paper.

If you support the amendment to House Bill 606, you need to contact your legislators, and let them know you support the ammendment as written, which allows the sale of six-packs at beer distributors. Make it clear that a limit to 12-, 15-, or 18-pack sales is not acceptable.

Please – help me take back the basement – advocate for six-pack sales in PA!

We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby!

So I’m planning a business trip to Pittsburgh in a few weeks, and I want to show my co-workers (who are also my friends!) a nice time.  One of our only free moments is Tuesday night, so I thought we could relax and enjoy an evening at Church Brew Works, however, it will be Tuesday, November 6 – Election Day in Pennsylvania. 

For a moment, my heart stopped…please don’t tell me we’re going to have to go to Eat ‘n Park!  (Kidding!!  If we had to go to a dry restaurant, I would have chosen La Feria.)

Now, understand I’ve been working EVERY Tuesday night for at least four years, so I haven’t had an opportunity to experience Election-night imbibing.  But I do recall one of my first post-drinking-age election nights when I was shocked that they couldn’t serve me simply because it was Election Day.

Well, we’ve come a long way, PA, because apparently in 2000, Act 141 lifted those restrictions (wahoo!)  Perhaps I new that, and simply forgot.  It looks like we’ll be visiting The Church!

Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery, Farmville NC

How very lucky for us that Duck-Rabbit was brewing on Friday, and accepted us as visitors!  This crude-on-the-outside building on the edge of town is a sparkling vision on the inside.  The smell of brewing came wafting out the doors, and it was fabulous to meet the friendly guys inside.

Paul (the owner and head brewer) and Ken (the self-described crazy homebrewer and right-hand man) are masters of the craft and extremely personable guys.  They run a great operation, and focus on dark beers.  Paul is a philosopher (formerly a professor, if I understood correctly), and Siebel graduate.  He’s been brewing for 20 years, and worked in Cincinnati and Louisville (Pipkin – now defunct) before opening this facility with a 20-barrel brew kettle.

They can’t sell on the premisis, but pointed us in the direction to where we could purchase Duck-Rabbit products.  But we were offered tastings of the four standard brews.  Here are a few (brief) impressions:

  • * Amber – good tasting American amber; high in carbonation
  • * Porter – really enjoyable; dark, roasty and a smooth oiliness in the mouthfeel
  • * Brown Ale – my favorite of all the ales; full hoppy flavor – made with Amarillo (YUM!) and Saaz hops, it had a fabulous aroma and equally pleasing flavor; not an English Brown, but a hopped-up good ol’ American brown
  • * Milk Stout – the subtle sweetness of this stout gave it a bright, lively flavor

We learned that the Brown Ale is made with a process called First Wort Hopping (FWH), which was a new concept to both of us.  It raises the IBU’s without creating an overpowering hop aroma or bitterness, resulting in a more balanced beer.  Perhaps that is the other reason I liked it so much.

We also learned about the seasonals: Barleywine (made with 95% Amarillo hops) in the winter, Rabid Duck Imperial Stout in the spring, Wee Heavy Scotch Style Ale in the summer and Baltic Porter in the fall.

I hope to get photos up as soon as we get home…we’ll see if that happens!

There’s a New Pub in Town

A few weeks ago, while walking down the street in search of sushi, we passed an old college hang-out of my friend Eric.  The Blessed Oliver Plunket had a cool name, and promising tudor fascade, but it was a dingy, dirty smoke-filled hole, and I personally never ate or drank there.

Well, we noticed someone open the door and we were nearly blinded by the bright, clean interior.  The light was shining through the latice work on the windows, and a new sign was hanging on the outside.  Alibi’s is the old Oliver Plunket all cleaned up!  So, today, Barbara and I tried it out for lunch.

They must have used Kilz on the walls to get out the smoke odor, and they completely refurbished the flooring.  The walls are creme color, chair rail to floor is black, and red accents abound.  It is classy and attractive, clean and smoke free.  I even pointed out there are round skylights, probably not seen in decades with the soot build-up.

The food was great – my steak salad had THE MOST tender strips of steak on it, and it was cooked to order.  The beer list was also pretty nice.  I was there during work hours, so I didn’t scrutinize it too hard, but I will be stopping in sometime soon for a Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA, or something else tasty, very soon!

The staff were incredibly attentive, and everyone showed great concern with our satisfaction.  I was certainly impressed.  This will be my next stop for a beer in Carlisle, PA.