Scott Morrison and Al’s of Hampden

If you’ve been drinking craft beer in Pennsylvania for a couple of years, then you know the name Scott Morrison. He is a highly respected brewer with four GABF medals under his belt from 2003 to 2006, and well known for his strong ales. He put McKenzies on the map, but left in 2006 after management pressured him to concentrate on more mainstream brews. Scott Morrison groupies have observed that he hasn’t dropped out of the brewing scene, rather has had his hands in happenings all over the east coast. Morrison’s name is associated with influence in places like Dock Street, Sly Fox and many other fine breweries, and rumors continue to fly about where and when he may open a brewery of his own.

If you’ve been watching the beer scene in the Harrisburg (PA) area over the last couple of years, then you know the name Albert Kominski, who opened Al’s of Hampden in 2002, which has been exploding since he obtained his liquor license in 2008. On the surface, it may seem that Al is running a simple pizza shop. Get him talking about food and you’ll get an earful Al's of Hampdenabout his fresh and perfected recipes: his outstanding dough is made fresh every day and combine with signature sauces and toppings for remarkable pizza; the deli meats and cheeses are sliced and grated in-house and combine with freshly baked bread for amazing subs; the soups are started from scratch with hearty vegetables; the meatballs are made fresh from of a mix of ground veal, pork and Angus chuck, two styles of bread crumbs and eggs – no salt needed; the wings have outstanding sauces for a variety of palates.

But get Al talking about beer, and your head might explode! At the moment, Al’s has up to 27 fresh-pour beers available – 3 beer engines, four nitro-taps and 20 CO2 draft lines which can be consumed at Al’s or taken out in growlers (which he can sell you in 64-ounce or 32-ounce sizes!) In addition to the taps, his four doors of coolers house approximately 350 varieties of single bottles, and you can take them home for a mix-a-six price. And it’s not just that he carries beer, but his passion for beer, that draws in such crowds. Al is absolutely a beer geek, and his concentration is on making sure the beers on tap are as fresh as possible and represent a bold spectrum of styles.

So it shouldn’t be surprising to anyone that Al is taking this whole beer thing one step further – opening a brewery operation on premises! If it isn’t clear already, Al strives for no less than perfection, and doesn’t enter into this brewing venture lightly. He sought out an experienced and creative brewer for this project, and came up with a winning answer.

Scott Morrison and Al Kominski will partner in the brewing operation at what will soon be known as Pizza Boy Brewing. Scott’s expertise is sure to bring success to the brewing operation, and fulfill to the beer appetites of south-central Pennsylvania beer enthusiasts. We can expect high quality, pleasurable house beers, sure to have high ratings in the “overall balls” category!

Al has been working with BrauKon of Truchtlaching, Germany to design and manufacture a 5 hectolitre brewing system (as a Getting started on the brewery!measurement reference, 1 barrel = 1.17 hectolitres = 117 litres = 244 U.S. pints), and in fact, will be returning to Germany in a few weeks to brew the test batch on his new system. The Braukon system will include everything from the malt mill to the storage tanks, using an energy saving boiling system (BrauKon EcoBoil) and a semi-automated brewing system.

Just when I didn’t think things could get any better…  Keep your ears and eyes open, or better yet, follow Al’s of Hampden on Twitter or Facebook to follow the whole story!

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Taproom at Spring House – Updates!

There have been a few changes at the Taproom at Spring House in Lancaster, PA (located at 25 West King St., (717) 399-4009).  It is now open at 11:00 am Monday through Saturday for lunch (stays open until 10:00 pm Monday through Thursday, and until midnight on Friday and Saturday), and menu items are now all freshly prepared by Carr’s Restaurant.

Happy hours, with $1.00 off all house beer pints, are 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm Monday through Friday with daily specials.

  • Monday: Steamed Clam Night – featuring one-dozen clam specials
  • Tuesday: Steamed Shrimp Night – featuring ½ and 1 pound shrimp specials
  • Wednesday: $1 off brick oven pizza and $2 off all growler fills
  • Thursday: $1 off pork wings
  • Friday: $1 off your choice of Brewery Dips

The Saturday special is Shrimp, Clams and Mussels (all day) and $1 off Crab Cake Sandwich.

The menu we saw when we stopped in this week for for Mango IPA (which was SUPERB!) included:

  • a crock of Old Bay Corn and Crab Bisque
  • chili with or without “the works”
  • Three Crab Cake Minis
  • a meat and cheese stromboli
  • Pulled Pork Quesadilla with black beans, tomato salsa, avocado, cheddar cheese, and fresh cilantro – sour cream and guacamole are served on the side
  • variety of “Brewery Dips” served with crackers, pita and veggies (dips included Crab, Artichoke and Spinach Dip; Buffalo Chicken Dip; Roasted Red Pepper Hummus; and Curried Edamame.)

I also saw on Facebook and the website that the Taproom will be starting a mug club (April 24th is the first day for to sign-up!)

This is all great news for a place that seems to be doing really well from the start!

Taproom – Spring House (Lancaster, PA)

We made it to the Taproom at Spring House for the grand opening – a little late, but it sounded like the actualSpring House Tap Room - King St opening was delayed by a bit anyway.  And we were glad so many friends, and future friends, were able to be there too – that place was PACKED!

Today isn’t a good day to put in a whole story of our adventure, but I wanted to share a few photos, and simply state that everything was going smoothly!  There were 5 taps on last night – they seemed to change as the night went on. We had the G2 (a sorachi ace hopped version of Seven Gates Pale Ale) and Kerplunk! (a chocolate imperial stout), Spring House - approach from Central Marketwhile our friend who showed up much later was able to have Robot Bastard (Belgian IPA) on nitro.

The staff were handling things really well, especially considering that it was opening night and there was barely space to stand after 5:30 PM. We foundSpring House - Taps seats at the bar, where we could observe all the fun!

They are doing pints and half-pints, as well as growler fills, and I have yet to try the food.

My only disappointment…no purse hooks (bar fail!) Maybe they come later?Zoltar at Spring House

Great job, Matt!

Lancaster County Brew News

The Lancaster paper broke the news, so I won’t go into full detail here, but it’s too exciting not to share!

The Spring House Brewery, which has been operating since 2007 in a converted barn in Conestoga, PA, closed to the public after the weekend of January 15 to concentrate on completing the new taproom. If you’ve been following their Facebook page, you’ve been watching the progress as Matt continually reported.

Spring House Taproom is scheduled to open tomorrow at 25 W. King St. in Lancaster (Phone (717) 399-4009) with 10 taps, including Seven Gates Pale Ale.  The newspaper reports the a U-shaped bar, window bar and a few tables provide seating for 50, and large windows look out to both King Street and Central Market.

Dishes by Diane, a Leola catering firm, will provide the food offerings, and beer will be available to take out in bottles and growlers.

Spring House Taproom Hours (which were incorrectly listed in the newspaper):

  • Monday 4:00 pm – 10:00 pm
  • Tuesday  11:00 am – 10:00 pm
  • Wednesday  4:00 pm – 10:00  pm
  • Thursday  4:00 pm – 10:00  pm
  • Friday – Saturday  11:00 am – midnight

The paper also reported that St. Boniface Craft Brewing Co., a nano-brewery located in part of the former Doneckers Art Works building (100 N. State St., Ephrata, PA; (717) 721-1744) will open its doors for the first time from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm tonight to offer growlers of its Hegemony Imperial Stout. Growlers and kegs of Libation (a DIPA) and Epiphany (a Belgian-style Dubbel ale) will be available soon.

St. Boniface Craft Brewing will have very limited hours – it sounds like Saturday visits are the best bet.

Perfect Fills Come to Harrisburg

You thought Al’s of Hampden was already rockin’ the Harrisburg area beer scene with:

  • 20 CO2 tap lines  for in-house consumption, 1L and 2L growler fills
  • 4 nitro lines (one on his fancy, new nitro faucet)
  • 3 handpumps
  • 350+ beers for take-out (in six-packs, mix-a-six bottles, singles, bombers and 750 ml bottles)
  • live, real-time updates to the beer list on display in the shop and via Feedburner

Well, tonight he’s installing a counter pressure growler fill machine, which is essentially identical to the Austrian-built Alfred Gruber growler filler at Victory Brewing. It will create the perfect fill, the counter pressure fill will keep your beer fresher even longer.

Follow the installation on Twitter – complete with photos!

Tröegs Splinter Series Release

The first two offerings from the Tröegs Splinter Series go on sale today at 10 am in the Tröegs Tasting Room. Question is – how early are people lining up and how soon will it sell out?

This beer is being sold for $22.95 a bottle, and there is a two-bottle limit per style, per person, with only 300 bottles of each beer available, and only on sale in the tasting room.

The barrel-aged Mad Elf is being called “Splinter Red“, and the barrel-aged Scratch 3 (tripel) is being called “Splinter Gold.” Exact details are provided (copied from Tröegs Facebook page and BeerAdvocate) :

This special reserve beer lives and breathes. Captured before filtration, refermented in wood and aged in the bottle with living yeast, Splinter is an experimental series that pushes the brewing boundaries and transforms our beer in new directions.

Here are some details on each beer:

Before filtering the final batch of 2008 Mad Elf we racked some beer into bourbon barrels for six weeks of tender loving care. After bottling, we aged the beer for approximately eight months. This allows the tart cherries to push to the front. Subtle vanilla, bourbon, charred wood, coconut and toasted nut endnotes emanate from Splinter Red.

The transformation of Scratch #3-2007 to Splinter Gold has been a slow rest in oak wine barrels dosed with brettanomyces. During a two-year aging period the horsey flavors of the brett combined with the Westmalle yeast used during primary fermentation to create a complex blend of flavors. Bone-dry and 12% abv, Splinter Gold is highly carbonated.

I imagine it’s going to sell out fast, although I’ve heard speculation otherwise from the staff (silly staff!) Our buying crew is already waiting in the parking lot on this chilly Wednesday morning (but I am not among them!)

Even if you aren’t interested in buying the bottles, it might be worth your while to visit the brewery today. They will pouring samples of Mad Elf 2008 from 101 ounce bottles that have been chilling at the brewery for the past year, and tapping a keg of Scratch 21 (Naked Elf ), which  will be available for growler sales.

It’s gonna’ be a beery good day in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania!

Pizza by a River: The One Guy Experience

Pizza and a RiverWhen I first visited One Guy Brewing Company  just a week after the opening,  I knew it was good enough to make it. Approximately 19 months later, I’ve seen an amazing transformation!

From one room with plain walls, a simple bar, a unisex bathroom, a small brewery in the back – a place that only sold simple hot dogs and encouraged you to bring your own food – Guy has created a space to accomodate all of his fans!

This spring, the inside had a great expansion which included a second room, a women’s restroom and a funky paint job. And outside, Guy graded and gravelled an area overlooking the river.Beer Garden

At approximately 40′ x 80′, fenced on two sides, lined with tables – some under tents – and adorned with a variety of torches, this is a great outdoor space! Steps in the back The Beer Windowcorner lead to a serving window for beers, and bathrooms (currently porta-potties, but planned expansion for plumbing) are available on the opposite side. And there is room for bands (and now, a zoning permit allowing music until 11 pm!), as well as expanded parking.

If you were following the stories, you may have heard about the hoops it was taking to get this beer garden open, but patience and persistance prevailed, and it became a treat to end the summer!

In addition to the fabulous expansion of the facilities, Guy acquired a Blodgett commercial pizza oven creating a new layer of love for the pub. On Friday, we were able to try out the pizzas along with a couple of beers while enjoying a beautiful late summer evening on the river.

We enjoyed a Margherita pizza and the Steve-O Inferno – covered in fresh vegetables, including some nicely hot peppers – which were hand-made and delivered to the table by Guy. The thin crust and light homemade Hondo Pintssauce was just perfect. Along with it, we had a couple of beers: Hondo Keller, Atomic Punk IPA and Oktoberfest. Everything was perfect!

Growlers!We didn’t take any beer home this time, but were thrilled to see Guy is using the Nalgene growlers (or as Dave Hoops, co-founder of Fitger’s Brewhouse in Duluth, MN calls it, the “Adventure Growler” – introduced in response to the glass restrictions in the nearby Boundary Waters, a popular spot for canoeing, kayaking and camping.) Perhaps when the Peach Wheat comes out (and it will…it’s back there just sitting…), we’ll need to add to our growler collection!

I couldn’t help but notice that Berwick looked just a little bit brighter and a little more progressive on this visit. (Is it a coincidence that I thought about writing this a day before the Press-Enterprise wrote in the Roses and Thorns column, “Raise a glass to Guy Hagner, who has turned his dream of being a brewmaster into a growing business in Berwick…Because he took a chance on himself, Berwick is a better place.”?)

If you’ve never been there, why not try getting there for the brewpub’s first Oktoberfest, slated for Oct. 8-11 and 15-18!?!

Catching up with December

Between a real breakdown in our home technology (i.e. we needed a new computer) and technology overload at work (i.e. I’ve been working overtime on a project at work), I’ve had time to do some beer traveling, but no time to write about it. The work project lives on, but I’m now the proud owner of an Acer Aspire One in pink, so I have reliable and speedy Internet access at home again. Maybe I’ll be a better blogger…or at least write more frequently.

So there is a lot to catch up on, and I hardly know where to start.

  • I have more Pennsylvania Brewery Roadtrips up my sleeve, which are a special tribute to my sister.
  • There was a fast-paced and fabulous “Dark Side of Michigan” trip over the Black Friday weekend which I didn’t even mention on here (but I will in another post!), where we visited many great Michigan breweries.
  • We got to try out Old Forge Brewing in Danville, not just once, but twice, and we finally made it to Spring House Brewery in Connestoga.
  • There are a few Iron Hill and Sly Fox stories to be told. Among them, a gathering of 31 librarians at Sly Fox in Royersford, a cask ale festival at Iron Hill in Newark and the Sly Fox IPA Project in Phoenixville.
  • We combined the Iron Hill trip with a visit to a great beer bar called Quotations (where I had Pumking on nitro!) and the new Earth Bread + Brewery (where I didn’t mean to downplay the beer, but loved the McManis Viognier 2007.)
  • Brass Rail Beverage finally opened the deli, where great beers are constantly rotating on the five taps, and the bottle selection is outstanding for this area (the website does not reflect the awesomeness of the store.)
  • For the first time in 11 years, Appalachian Brewing Company brewed a beer that I could recommend to a friend.
  • Our friend Julie stopped in unexpectedly turning a growler sharing evening into a full-blown tasting night, and that same weekend we attended “Firkin Winter Solstice Sunday” at Selin’s Grove Brewing to help them celebrate their 12th Anniversary.
  • And then there has been the past week which has afforded many opportunities for sharing and tasting good beer.

I think I’ll start with the Appalachian Brewing Company beer, since it appears to be an anomaly that isn’t even acknowledged by the website. I was visiting the Abbey Bar at ABC on December 13 for the Herbie Christmas show, and my friend Brandi offered me a sip of her beer, saying, “Have you tried THIS? It’s called Batch 666 and it’s really good!” This was not a beer available on their board – it was only advertised on a single poster behind the bar – and to this day, has not appeared on the website nor have they responded to email inquiries about it. It was delicious! Labeled by the bartender as a Winter Warmer, my five acquaintances who had it all agreed it was more like a dark lager, Munich dunkle lager or dopplebock. It was medium dark in color and had a light body, but carried strong coffee, caramel and chocolate aromas. There was a hint of citrus hops and strong roasted malt flavors. It was a seriously well done beverage. I hope they will tell the world more about it, and continue to produce it, because it is seriously the first really great thing they’ve produced since I first started going there in 1997.

The weekend of December 19 was a fun one for us. It was the Harrisburg Christmas Bird Count weekend, so we were in the area, and decided to spend a quiet Friday night at home, joined by Brandi and Ffej, to share some recently acquired growlers. D made dinner, which we had just sat down to when the phone rang. It was a most unexpected call from our friend Julie of Bruisin’ Ales fame, whose flight was diverted to Harrisburg because of ice. How fortuitous, since we didn’t think we’d get to see her at all during the holidays. We opened growlers of Cape Cod Berry Merry Holiday Ale – an amber infused with cranberry, orange and cloves – and Spring House Two Front Teeth Holiday Ale– a Saison withsubtle cherry; but this was just the start. It was a fun night with the opening of multiple bottles:

  • Bullfrog Beekeeper
  • Green Flash Le Freak
  • Midnight Sun Sockeye Red IPA
  • Russian River Pliny the Elder
  • Three Floyds Moloko Milk Stout
  • Pisgah Valdez
  • Great Lakes Barrel-aged Blackout Stout, and
  • a 2005 bottle of Stouts Old Abominable Barleywine.

And the most fun was hanging out with good friends, sharing stories and listening to music. It was a late night, especially with an early-morning bird count ahead of us, but worth losing a little sleep!

This week of Christmas has also been delightful for many reasons, but since this is a beer blog, I’ll focus on that. First, our Christmas surprise – Spoetzl Shiner Holiday Cheer– which we shared on Christmas Eve. This is a Dunkelweizen made with Texas peaches and roasted pecans, and it was quite delightful! Unfortunately, it ended up being spilled during an exhuberant gesture, and we lost most of it, but it was great while it lasted.

The night before Christmas Eve, we enjoyed a growler of Roy Pitz Truly Honest Ale with D’s family, which was part of the growler-fill half-price sale on December 22. For Christmas day, we cracked two of our homebrewed beers – the NyQuAle, which became drainpour (the other bottles will sit for a few years before we try it again), and our COW Stout (Chocolate Oatmeal stout on toasted Walnuts during secondary fermentation.) We also opened the traditional Harvey’s Christmas Ale.

The day after Christmas we started our “Golden Triangle of Beer” tour (encompassing Selinsgrove, State College and Williamsport).  On Friday, we drove up to Bavarian Barbarian Brewing to taste, and buy growlers of, First Snow Ale. This is my favorite brew from this place so far. It is described as a smooth, dark winter warmer with caramel and chocolate notes, and weighs in at 7.5% ABV. Cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and ginger flavor this beer, which has the same flavors I savor in my homemade molassasginger cookies. Mike hit the nail on the head with this one! After getting a second growler for my cousin, we headed off to Danvilleto have dinner with Ffej and Brandi at Old Forge Brewing Company. This was our second visit since they opened, and things were hopping! The place was pretty full, but we found a table upstairs. The same four beers were on – nothing new yet – so I had the T-Rail Pale Alealong the spicy carrot ginger soup and veggie quesedilla. Old Forge beer still has room to grow, but the food, atmosphere and service are right on. I’ve got faith things are going to get even better, and this place will stay on our agenda.

Later that night, at a party with our friends Jason and Megan, we cracked our second Roy Pitz growler – the Daddy Fat Sacs Imperial IPA. Several other good beers were brought out, including my first beer from Copper Kettle Brewing – the Celebration Wheat – and Brouwerij de Molen 1914 Porter.

On Saturday, D had another Christmas Bird Count and I had a lie-in, but we met up for lunch with my parents at Selin’s Grove Brewing Company. My parents had not had the IPAsince it was reformulated to be a bit more citrusy, and D got himself the 2008 Saint Fillian’s Wee Heavy. From there, D and I headed north, back to Bavarian Barbarianto get more growlers filled with First Snow Ale for family members, and later met up with Heath and Kim for dinner at Bullfrog Brewery. It was during that visit that we learned of the Sunday night Pub Club potluck dinner. Since it was already our plan to be in Williamsport for a Christmas Bird Count the next day, and the wrap-up was at the Bullfrog, we were perfectly placed to attend, and so we did. We’ve always been out of state during this time, so we were unaware of this annual event where members supply the food and Bullfrog supplies the beer.

This year, Terry broke out preview bottles of a few coming attractions:

  • Beesting Saison
  • Houblonium P38
  • Barrel-aged Old Toad Barleywine
  • Barrel-aged Wolfsblood Scotch Ale
  • Saison Noire

Also, we were able to get 2005 Old Toad Barleywine on tap, Bruggetown Blonde, and my favorite – Edgar IPA.

It’s worth mentioning that during the bird count, we did stop in at the Valley Inn for a taste of Abbey Wright Brewing Company’s Vanilla Latte Stout. This is a 5.8% ABVale brewed with five pounds of Grigg’s dark roast coffee and vanilla beans. It was served on nitrogen, and overall, a very good beer. Not too sweet, and very creamy. Unfortunately we observed the same as previous visits – there are no other Valley Inn patrons drinking Abbey Wright beers, and the staff don’t know anything about it (one staff member said to another, “I thought the stout would taste more like the IPA!”) Ugh.

To finish out the triangle, today we decided to drive over to Otto’s Pub & Brewery. I enjoyed a glass of Appel Trippel, and D had the Winter Warmer, both of which were served in 12-oz goblets.  The trippel weighs in at 9.5% ABV and is a tasty drink. There is virtually no hop profile, and the apple is subtle beneath the malty, honey flavors. The winter warmer is 11.5% ABV, and it is spicy and tart with sour cherries.

So that’s what we’ve been up to… I hope to get details and photos of the Michigan trip up this week, and will make a New Year’s Resolution to be better with the blog. It will probably last as long as my diet, but I’ll try!

The Road to Asheville

We’re on the road again – traveling to Asheville, NC for Brewgrass (we made the papers before we even left home!) Last night we had dinner at Cally’s in Harrisonburg, VA, and stopped for a few $3.00 pints at Blue Mountain Brewing Company in Afton, VA.

Every beer we had was enjoyable, but the one of special note is Summer Haze Dry Hopped Pale Weizenbock(at Blue Mtn.), which was rich and spicy with clove and well balanced by the hops, yet retained traditional banana and bubblegum notes.

We’re looking forward to the rest of our trip – eating some good “Q”, tasting some great beers and visiting our Asheville friends and fellow beer travelers. Hopefully I’ll find a moment to log in and write about it, but if you don’t hear from me, assume I’m having way too much fun!

Weldspatter IPA Now Available

D and I were just talking about Mike Hiller and how things are hopefully going in Williamsport. How timely that this news just came across my radar…

Bavarian Barbarian Brewing Company is pleased to announce that Weldspatter IPA is now on tap! Samples and growlers are available at the Horde Room in the brewery, located at 429 W. 3rd St. The beer is also on tap at Kimball’s and B21 in Williamsport.

Weldspatter I.P.A. is a hoppy, though well-balanced beer with a sweet hop flavor and Elysian aroma. This unfiltered beer has a richer, more golden color than most other pale ales. The hops in Weldspatter I.P.A. include Phoenix and Pilgrim varieties imported from England and an American variety called Nugget. India Pale Ale beers typically go very well with pungent cheeses, grilled meats and spicy foods.

Great news, and congratulations!

Weldspatter I.P.A. was the winner in the Barbarian’s Selection ’08 Campaign, which allowed voters to choose the next beer style. It was announced April 1st and immediately brewed with an expected release date of Friday, April 11. Unexpected problems arose during filtration, which ultimately ruined the characteristic hop flavors inherent to the India Pale Ale style and the release was postponed.

In celebration of the release, the brewery will offer growler fills of this new brew for $8 now through the 3rd of May.  I doubt I’ll make it up for that, but perhaps a friend or family member will get a chance to check it out.

Okay…the best thing about sharing this news is that I got to use the word “Elysian” in back-to-back blog postings – when does that ever happen?