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April 2011
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Penn Brewery's Microbrewers Fest

Penn Brewery has an interesting history, especially most recently. In the last few years, the long time owner Tom Pastorius sold it to someone, that someone ran it into the ground quickly, and Tom Pastorius eventually bought it back. Penn Brewery was closed during this last transition and has recently re-opened to its former glory, including the restaurant, brewing, and bottling.

But that is not today's story. Today's story is about their Microbrewery Fest held out in the large beer garden. The UB and I went, and sampled about 25 beers; most of which we had not tried before (and we try a lot of beers!) In the past at brewfests, I've tweeted as I sampled, but today I tried something new: I recorded my reactions. I will attempt to summarize my list here, but also link to my more immediate reactions to each beer as I tasted them.


Brew #1: Appalachian Brewing Company, of Harrisburg, PA; Espresso Stout.

Every time I go to Harrisburg, I make sure to stop in at ABC Brewing. Their food is very tasty, and their beers are often delicious; and this sample held up to that standard. Drinking this Stout was like drinking chocolate covered expresso beans; but only if they're light on the chocolate. Very chewy, but not terribly sweet, and leaves that coffee bean aftertaste in the mouth that is enjoyable for those who like the taste of coffee. This was one of my favorites of the day.

Brew #2: Full Pint, of North Versailles, PA; All-in Amber Ale.

This was an amber ale with a heavy wheat finish to it. But I found it somewhat usual; not bad, just not terribly interesting. I would still visit the brewery if given the chance as they're not that far away, and I hope to see more interesting brews from them soon.

Brew #3: August Schell Brewery, of New Ulm, MN; Hopfenmalz 150th Anniversary Brew.

I should preface this review with the statement that I do not like overly hoppy beers. I had a … bad experience with beers early on in my drinking years, and have not been able to drink them since. So, looking at the name of this beer, I fully expected to not like it. I did not. However, I did find that it was a lot less hoppy than its name suggests, so those who like somewhat hoppy beers may have more luck than I with this one.

Brew #4: Smuttynose Brewing Co., of Portsmouth, NH; Old Brown Dog Ale.

This was a very chewy quaff. I found it akin to drinking a brownie that's been smoked over a wood fire for hours. The charcoal finish to it was very strong, but it was a sweet smoky taste. I did like it.

Brew #5: Victory Brewing Co., of Downingtown, PA; Whirlwind Wit.

I've had this before, and it's something I like to order and sip in the summer. For a Wit beer, it's rather chewy, but definitely maintains the orange peel overtone with wheaty finish. Very smooth.

Brew #6: Brooklyn Brewery, of Brooklyn, NY; Local #2.

Another background preface here, I started out a wine snob before getting into beer tastings. So when I find a beer that makes me think "Cabernet", I adore it. This is one of those beers. It's a very heavy sweet, with an almost sour apple overtone, but the finish is a complex blend of tastes that I love. This is a beer I'm going to seek out after today.

Brew #7: Brewery Ommegang, of Cooperstown, NY; Hennepin.

This was very interesting to me, because it really tasted like I was drinking the beer version of champagne. Very light, sparkling, and had a certain granny smith apple finish to it. I could easily see this as a great poolside or porch brew for lazy summer evenings.

Brew #8: Main Street Grille & Brewing Co., of Garrettsville, OH; Black Watch

A Scottish Style Ale, I expected heaviness and a certain almost scotch taste to it; I usually enjoy these being a scotch enthusiast on the side. However, that is not what I encountered in this Ale; instead it tasted like eating Maple-infused sausages. Being a vegetarianish sort, this was not appealing to me. The UB loves sausages, though, and loved this brew.

Brew #9: Lancaster Brewing Co., of Lancaster, PA; Rumspringa Golden Bock with Honey.

This is another brew that the UB and I disagreed on, though this time I really loved this beer, and he was not as enthralled. It is an incredibly smooth honey brew, as though it took on the creamy texture of the honey, but not as much of its sweetness. Very nice.

Brew #10: Philadelphia Brewing Co., of Philadelphia, PA; Fleur de Lehigh.

Another of my favorite beers of the night, this was very much like drinking a very sweet ginger beer. In fact, there's a local restaurant, Royal Carribean, that makes its own Mango Ginger Beer; this brew made me think of that drink, but with more flowery finishes. I liked it a lot.

Brew #11: Main Street Grille & Brewing Co., of Garrettsville, OH; Razzle Dazz Ale.

This was a very smooth and syrupy Apricot Wheat beer. So much apricot flavor, it really was like drinking Apricot jam; which is too much syrupy sweet for me. However, those who like the lambics will probably love this brew.

Brew #12: North Country Brewing Co., of Slippery Rock, PA; Breakfast Blend Mild.

When I was young, I spent a lot of summers living out of tents in the middle of some Rocky Mountain ranch. We learned some of the ways of the cowboys as a result of this lifestyle. One of these habits was how to brew coffee; namely, you have a pot of coffee grinds that are leftover from previous mornings, and you throw in some fresh grinds and boil the whole mess with water. This turns into a very strong coffee, but not as strong tasting as it would coming out of a percolator. There would also be a hint of the smoke from the fire we'd boil this concoction over. I tell you about this, because the Breakfast Blend Mild reminded me of these morning cups of joe, sitting in the middle of Idaho, watching the sun rise over the mountains.

Brew #13: Stoudt's Brewing Co., of Adamstown, PA; Heifer-in-Wheat.

This was a very definite hefeweizen, complete with banana peels and clove tastes to its creamy wheat tastes. I like hefeweizens, mind you, and this one was no exception. But, I did not find it really exceptional, and since I live 2 blocks from a Hofbrauhaus and its similar tasting Hefeweizens, I would not seek this brew out. But to give Stoudt's version credit, it was able to bring out the banana peel tastes a bit more.

Brew #14: Fat Heads Brewery, of North Olmstead, OH; Bumbleberry Honey Blueberry Ale.

If any of you are following along with the recordings, you'll discover that I'm showing my drunkenness at this point! In any case, this is something I've had before, seeing as there is a Fat Heads bar on E Carson about 10 blocks away from my house; but I really like this one. You may notice that I don't like overly sweet beers, but I do like fruity ones. Well, this brew epitomizes all I love in a fruity beer, heavy on the interesting fruits, but it's balanced by the honey here to keep it a little less tart and more smooth. Very delicious.

Brew #15: North Country Brewing, of Slippery Rock, PA; Stone House Stout.

I normally reserve stouts for winter drinking, when I need something heavy to warm me up from the inside out; in summer I prefer the lighter brews to cool down my insides. Stouts are usually in the former category, but sometimes I find one that falls into the latter; this brew is one of those. Surprisingly light and citrusy -- very citrusy, actually -- I would happily drink this on a hot summer night when I'm just plain in the mood for a stout (but not its heaviness).

Brew #16: Great Lakes Brewing Co., Cleveland, OH; Blackout Stout.

A very chewy and robust brew. Another of what I consider to be "wine like", in that it has a very complex set of tastes to it. I really liked this one.

Brew #17: Main Street Grille & Brewing Co., of Garrettsville, OH; Kevin's Big A.R.S. Porter.

Very smoky brew, even the nose is smoky. But it's very smooth despite the smokiness, and that mellow quality balancing out the smoke is what won me over to this brew.

Brew #17: Fat Heads Brewery, of North Olmstead, OH; Voodoo Monkey Chocolate Stout.

Unexpectedly, a smoky stout, but light enough to drink freely. It would be good for sitting around the campfire or grill, lazily drinking in a late summer evening.

Brew #18: Brooklyn Brewery, of Brooklyn, NY; Local #1.

It tastes like a red ale, with a touch of honey in it. I found it tasty.

Brew #19: August Schell Brewery, of New Ulm, MN; Firebrick Lager.

Citrusy, but not terribly interesting. I'd have expected from something named Firebrick to have a sort of smokiness or other sort of indication of a firebrick oven; but this was uninterestingly like any other lager.

Brew #20: Southern Tier Brewing Co., of Lakewood, NY; Oak Aged Unearthly.

This was just way too hoppy for me. The vanilla front end might be interesting for those who like hops, but I couldn't take more than a sip.

Brew #21: Sly Fox Brewery, of Phoenixville, PA; Royal Weisse.

Very citrusy, crisp, with just a hint of its weisse roots. Surprisingly citrusy, actually. I found it very interesting, but wasn't sure if I actually liked it.

Brew #22: Full Pint Brewing Co., of North Versailles, PA; White Lightning.

I just loved this beer. It was full of honey flavor, but light and crisp. Almost like drinking honeysuckle or honey dust; I could easily consume far too much of this brew.

Brew #23: East End Brewing Co., of Pittsburgh, PA; Blabber & Smoke.

This beer is like drinking bacon. If you truly love bacon, like cannot get enough of it, you would love this beer. There are many who cannot get into drinking bacon, though. I am one of those people.

Brew #24: East End Brewing Co., of Pittsburgh, PA; Blackstrap Stout.

A tart stout, with hints of smokiness. Actually, more than smokiness, it hints strongly of charcoal. This would be a great brew for cookouts with the grill running.

Brew #25: Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., of Chico, CA; Kellerweisse.

Fresh, beer taste. I didn't like it, too much Coors and not enough Weisse for my tastes.

Brew #26: Lancaster Brewing Co., of Lancaster, PA; Strawberry Wheat.

Very creamy and just bursting with strawberry, reminiscent of strawberry Runts candy, or strawberry jam, or strawberry shortcake (the doll). I don't normally like beer that really punches me in the face with its fruit like this, but… the creaminess of this fruity beer makes it very interesting, and balances it out a bit. I like it, but I'd have to drink it in small doses as a dessert beer.


So, all in all, a very good set of 26 beer samples. I will note that there were many more beers than we sampled on site (for instance, we had none of the Magic Hat brews.. or even Penn Brewery's itself!), but that was because in interest of calories, time, and drunkenness, we wanted to concentrate on the beers we haven't had before, or haven't had in a while. If you are local, and a beer lover, I recommend hitting this brewfest next year!

Comments

Appalachian Brewing Company has really yummy root beer too.

The pretzel rolls are good as well.