Mifflinburg (PA) Brew Pub is Right on Track!

It looks like things are starting to roll for the much-anticipated Rusty Rail Brewing Company (a.k.a. Rusty Rail Brew Haus) in Mifflinburg, PA. A logo has been released and the job of Executive Chef has been posted. But the thing I really want to know about is the beer! RustyRail

I’m here to tell you I still know nothing, but thought I’d spread the word anyway. Feel free to comment on this post if you have insight to the brewer, the brewing styles or any other plans related to the brewhouse and brewing process.

The location is a spacious three-story brick factory lined with windows and featuring exposed wood beams inside. It is located off 8th Street adjacent to the new Buffalo Valley Rail Trail on property owned by Ritz-Craft Corporation. The building was constructed in the late 1800’s and once used as a wooden truck body manufacturing facility. It looks perfect for a multi-story brewing facility and restaurant complex!

Mifflinburg has a great transportation history. In 1825, Mifflinburg served as a major point on a Turnpike spanning from Bellefonte to Northumberland. But Mifflinburg, also known as “Buggytown, USA”, is most famous for the buggy manufacturing that boomed between 1840 and the early 1900’s. In 1899, multiple buggy works made more than 2,000 buggies, carriages and sleighs, which were sold all across the United States.

The first railroad between Mifflinburg and Lewisburg was built in 1871. Elaine Wintjen of the Union County Historical Society reports that by 1885, the Lewisburg Center and Spruce Railroad Company ran to Laurelton, Spring Mills and Lemont, where it connected with the Bellefonte and Tyrone Railroad. Using the “cow catcher” of an old steam locomotive in the logo, Rusty Rail Brewing Company celebrates this often overlooked piece of Mifflinburg’s history.

With all of this in mind, the operators indicate the theme of Rusty Rail is “turn of the century, industrial revolution, with a craft beer, eclectic feel.” They state that the restaurant will include quality craft beer and scratch-made food with entertainment in a fun, unique atmosphere. They have been in communication with Borough Council to review plans since at least July 2013, and locals tell me it will be at least a full year from then – maybe more – until it opens.

I’m looking forward to learning more, and hoping Rusty Rail will prove to be another Susquehanna Valley destination brewery and pub!

Changing Taps: River House and Bullfrog

“Bart doesn’t brew here anymore.”

River House Beer List (July 21, 2011)

River House Beer List (July 21, 2011)

It’s a little bit third hand, but three independent (and reliable) patrons of River House Brew Pub chatted with me this evening and said they were told this today while patronizing River House, and I see someone also posted a comment to support it. Funny. I just saw Bart at the Selinsgrove Hops, Vines and Wines Festival last weekend, and there wasn’t a hint that anything was amiss.

I heard a bit of the story on what happened, but since it is all rumor, I’ll just let the image back up the fact that he’s gone. I’ll disagree with the poster who said, “Crap on tap is back,” – these are some very nice taps – but it’s disappointing to see that things didn’t work out.

On the other hand, things didn’t work out back in April at Bullfrog with Nick Micio, but by May, it was all straightened out.  Although I haven’t had time to write about the fabulousness I discovered there in June, brewer Nate Saar has stepped in and stepped right up, brewing tasty treats like Somnus Viduata (coffe saison brewed with a variety of specialty malt and aged on 9 lbs of Colombian Magdalena coffee), Peche Panache (saison with bret, brewed with wheat and oats plus 80 lbs of peach puree), Stark Weiss (a German wheat with hints of chocolate covered banana), and Captain Drinkable (Czech-style unfiltered pilsner.)

If things really come in 3’s, I’m really hoping that the news out of Berwick is the other story of change for our Susquehanna River based breweries.

Without change, there would be no butterflies. ~ Anonymous

You Got Peanut Butter in my Chocolate (Stout)!

Mmmm…Chocolate!   Mmmm…Peanut Butter! 

Two great tastes that taste GREAT together – we’ve known that for a long time. But how often do you find them in a beer?  I have, a couple of times, but last night I had one that drove it right out of the ballpark! Spring House Brewing Co. was serving up Chocolate Peanut Butter Stout on nitro at the Taproom in Lancaster, PA, and it was outstanding!

Beer List at the Taproom

Photo Credit: Taproom by Spring House Brewing Co. Facebook

Served in an Imperial pint glass, this beer was pitch black with a dense and creamy, thick tan head. It’s made with local Wilbur chocolate and what was described as a peanut butter powder (perhaps dehydrated peanut butter?), and the aroma off the glass was like splitting open a fresh peanut butter egg.

The flavor was so well balanced – like the darkest chocolate cake blended with a savory peanut butter frosting. It has lingering chocolate flavor, blended with a light hop bitterness and subtle peanut butter sweetness that masks the 8% ABV, making for a perfectly drinkable pint (so good I could drink it again and again!)

I did a little searching, and learned of another beer with this profile on tap this month. BandWagon Brew Pub inChocolate Peanut Butter Stout Ithaca, NY currently has a Peanut Butter Chocolate Stout that is coming in at 6.8% ABV. Another one that is also currently obtainable is Peanut Butter Coffee Porter at 5.5% ABV from Willoughby Brewing Co. in Ohio. It would be fun to add these to my portfolio of consumed peanut butter beers.

I’m pretty sure I had the Peanut Butter Porter (5% ABV) while visiting Boston Beer Works in 2006, and I know I drank an Über Goober Oatmeal Stout (6.5% ABV) in 2009 at Short’s Brewing in Bellaire, MI. These were both pretty good, but the Porter went way too light on the peanut butter flavor, and Uber Goober had sour untertones of stale legumes.

In other peanut butter beer news, has anyone seen or had the Blue Moon Peanut Butter Blonde? Did they make it outside GABF? A beer blogger there made me laugh with her quote, “I only tried this because it had peanut butter in it. It had a huge peanut butter nose, which was super interesting. Then I made the mistake and tasted it: wheat, peanut butter lager-y grossness…”, but since she also didn’t like New Glarus Raspberry Tart, I’m not sure we’d have similar opinions.

If you’ve ever doubted that peanut butter and chocolate belong together in a beer, get yourself to Lancaster and try this out. If you’re feeling really adventurous, blend it with Planet Bean Coffee Stout (can you say cake and coffee?) I’ve been waiting for someone to brew a Peanut Butter Whoopie Pie Stout and name it “Carolyn’s Obsession”, but this may just fill that need without the personalization.

If brewer Matt Keasey doesn’t keep this on as a regular, I don’t know what I’ll do – I’m in love with this beer – and if he doesn’t enter it in GABF, he’s crazy!  It is by far the best peanut butter beer ever.

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!

Turkey Hill is Hiring!

It’s no secret that The Inn at Turkey Hill in Bloomsburg, PA is opening Turkey Hill Brewing Company Pub & Grille – it’s all just a matter of when. They started taking applications for line cooks in mid-February and announced that Tuesday and Wednesday of this week will be a job fair for servers, bar keeps, and dishwashers (interviews will take place from 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm), and according to their Facebook page, they are hoping to open in just a few weeks.

I first tasted their beers at the 2009 Hops, Vines & Wines festival in Selinsgrove. I thought the variety of saisons were interesting, and by all means, ready for prime time. At that festival, they were saying it would likely open in the spring of 2010, and renovation photos on the red, wooden barn dating back to the late 1700s started showing up in April.

I don’t know how far into renovations workers were on May 8, 2010 when the barn crumpled to the ground under the force of wind gusts ranging from 30 – 50 miles per hour, but it was terribly disappointing news.

Owner Andrew Pruden, however, did not give up, and work began on the new facility July 12, 2010 with a barn raising announced the morning of October 29. Pieces of wood from the old barn were saved and are being incorporated into the new structure. It’s a beautiful barn (see photos on Facebook!) which will feature the brewery, a brew pub and a casual dining restaurant at the entrance to the Inn with pub-style food emphasising local ingredients. Brewer Donny Abraczinskas will be brewing up to ten different be beers which will be on tap at two different bars. There will be brew house tours, beer and food pairings, and overnight Brewer’s Room packages.

At Taming of the Brew 2010, they offered Barndance Blonde , Reminiscent of Raspberry, Urban Abbey Apricot Wheat, St. Abban’s Irish Red Ale, Doonie’s Dubbel, Winter’s Solstice Saison, Rolling Fog Barleywine and a cask conditioned ale called Best Bitters. A few weeks later at the 2010 Hops, Vines and Wines festival, they served up Barndance Blonde, Token to Hoboken Hefeweizen, Iron Street Cherry Porter and A Mid-Summer’s Night Saison. They’ve announced in the past week the brewing of a Pale Ale and a Belgian Blonde.

The opening of  Turkey Hill Brewing Company Pub & Grille is really exciting news for Bloomsburg and the Inn!

Bullfrog: Change is Brewing

In the recent invitation to the “Say Goodbye to Terry Hawbaker” party, it was announced that Nick Micio has been named the brewer to succeed Terry at Bullfrog Brewery. He comes to us from Fegley’s Brew Works (Allentown), and from what I’ve scoured off the Internet, he has a pretty nice resume.

Micio is a graduate of the American Brewer’s Guild and apprenticed at Russian River Brewing Co. Prior to his stint with Brew Works (September 2009-present), he brewed at Moat Mountain Brewing Co. in North Conway, NH.  Some of the beers in his portfolio include Moat Rauch n’ Rye (a German-inspired lager) and Lefty’s India Brown Ale (a deep brown beer with citrus hops and dark malts.)

He’s got big shoes to fill, following in the steps of some terrific Bullfrog brewers: 

  • Charlie Schnabel (1996-2001, owner of Otto’s Pub & Brewery in State College, PA)
  • Carl Melissas (2001-2004, who crafts such fabulous beers that we followed him to Green Man, and now Wedge Brewing Co. in the River Arts District of Asheville, NC)
  • Terry Hawbaker (2004-2011, moving on to brew for a new place at 1113 Walnut St. in Philadelphia, PA – first known as “The Grainery” but just last week announced as “Philadelphia Grain Exchange” now known as “The Farmers’ Cabinet” – where he will brew small batch artisan sour, wild fermented, barrel aged and saison style beers for 4 of the planned 24 taps.)

When Bob Koch, his late wife Harriet (1943-2010) and their son, Steve, opened the doors of Bullfrog Brewery in 1996, there was nothing else like it in the area. An explosion of brewpubs and breweries has cropped up in the area over these 15 years, and Bullfrog has kept a stronghold on the attentions of the eager public and beer enthusiasts across the country.

Despite the fact that I live 90 miles away, Bullfrog played a part in bringing my husband and I together, and served as a place where my family congregated to celebrate both life, and the ending of life, many times over.  People who know how much we love Terry and his extraordinary wife, Sam, have asked if this will be the end of our allegiance to Bullfrog. Alas, I view it as an opportunity for a the Koch’s to embrace change, for a new brewer to shine, and  for our dear friends thrive in their innovative Philly venture.

I can’t wait to hug Terry (and give kisses to Sam), shake hands with Nick (and possibly meet his wife Dorienne?), and celebrate with all of the Kochs on Sunday night!

Be(er) My Valentine!

Central Pennsylvania is a great place for chocolate and beer, and this weekend you’ll find two great things that taste great together all over the area! Last year my friend Barb and I set out on our own South-Central PA Chocolate Stout Tour, which included Tröegs Scratch #27, Iron Hill Oompa Loompa and Spring House Kerplunk; our big miss was Stout’s, with a Valentine’s special of Fat Dog Stout brewed with chocolate and cherries and served on the hand pump.

This year, I’m not sure I’ll get out to all of the events, but the ones I know about add up to a sweet line-up!

Tröegs is releasing Scratch #41 (aka Cacaoabunga Redux) – a chocolate stout with 50 pounds of roasted cacao nibs and a healthy dose of vanilla beans, Simcoe and Galena hops, giving it a described “blast of bittersweet chocolate and a rich finish”. This 6.6% ABV stout is another collaboration with Scharffen Berger Chocolate (featured in last year’s Scratch #27 and a subsidiary of The Hershey Company). There is a purchase limit of one case, or two six-packs and two growlers, per person, and like all Scratch beers, you’ll only find it on tap at Tröegs .

Iron Hill in Lancaster is hosting an event called Chocolate Beer Craziness on February 11 from 5:00 – 8:00 pm in Celebration of Valentine’s Day. It will feature five chocolate beers available on tap:

  • Overload Stout (served on nitro) – an Imperial Oatmeal Stout is brewed with locally roasted coffee beans and local Wilbur chocolate (9.55% ABV)
  • Shokolad Stout (served on cask) – brewed with Wilbur’s cocoa nibs and aged on Madagascar vanilla beans (9.6% ABV)
  • Oompa Loompa Chocolate Stout (served on nitro) – an English Sweet Stout is brewed with 35lbs of Belgian bittersweet chocolate, milk sugar, and Madagascar vanilla beans (6.5% ABV)
  • Cowabunga Porter – a slightly stronger version of the Pig Iron Porter, brewed with Wilbur chocolate and toasted coconut chips and aged on vanilla beans
  • Bourbon-aged Cowabunga

Spring House has Kerplunk! Imperial Chocolate Stout, made with an amazing amount of Wilbur chocolate and west coast hops (8.1% ABV)

Lancaster Brewing has Double Chocolate Milk Stout, brewed with chocolate nibs and added lactose with Cascade, Goldings, and English Fuggles hops (6.8% ABV)

Stoudts is putting on 2X Chocolate Porter, a porter created using “several types of specially roasted malts to give it a deep, dark color, with bold notes of chocolate being the predominant flavor”. (7.0% ABV)

Do you know of more? Add them in the comments – I’d be so glad to hear about them!

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.

Let’s Try This Again

Beer & Cheese pairing at World Cafe LiveI needed a little break. I took a long break. So, yup, you missed out on all my beer adventures over the last 10 months. Just of the top of my head, they included:

Obviously, it’s been a busy 10 months. And this just scratches the surface. But it brings me up to speed so that I can get back to the business of writing instead of feeling like I need to play catch-up.Selin's Grove 14th Anniversary

Thanks to those who encouraged me to take this back up – I hope I don’t let you down. Thanks to my many designated drivers for getting me to and from events. And if you are reading my blog for the first time, welcome.Picking Hops at MoonlightA wine stop on our NoCal Beer Trip

East End Brewing - GratitudePizza Port - San ClementeJackie-O's