South County Brewing’s JR Heaps
By Bryan Kolesar
Let’s look away from the sun and check in with what’s happening on Pennsylvania’s brewing scene. This time around, it’s time to focus on a combination of breweries that have long since, or never, been mentioned in the PA column. I’m focusing this month on the eastern side of the state and next month will turn attention to the western side.
Tin Lizard Brewing Co. opened this past spring in Bryn Mawr and the three most visible guys there are Shaun Carney (the GM, formerly of Dawson Street Pub in Manayunk), Luke Loomis (the BBQ Pit Master, formerly from Syracuse, NY), and Chris Young (the Head Brewer, formerly of Conshohocken and Round Guys). Young is brewing on a 5-bbl system and all beer stays in house and is planned, at least in the first year, to be one-offs. A yet-to-be named (or style chosen) beer is being brewed for a big charity event to benefit The Dude Hates Cancer. If you can’t catch up with Tin Lizard on its home turf, they plan to be at the Conshohocken Beer Festival on Oct. 14.
Kyle Price is joining the brewing team in September at Stable 12 Brewing Co. in Phoenixville. Most recently, he was at Stoudts and Iron Hill. Just in time for Price’s arrival, two new 30-bbl fermenters and one new 30-bbl brite tank will be added in late August to help expand production. The next can release at the brewery is scheduled for Aug. 26 when they unveil Crowd Pleaser DIPA. In September, the brewery has its Corn Hole Tournament scheduled for Sept. 9 and Phlight of the Phoenix on Sept. 16.
Hollow Earth Brewing Co. opened its brew cafe in downtown Oxford in late 2016 and owner Charles Melaragni reports that demand has been outstripping the brewery’s production. Melaragni happily adds, “Hollow Earth thus far has not made the same recipe twice. We are constantly challenging ourselves to push beer in new and exciting directions”. They recently increased their fermenter family from four to six and have begun the “the planning of a production facility and cannery that we hope to launch sometime in 2018”. Haven’t tracked down Hollow Earth beers yet? Kegs get out to The Bottle Room (Downingtown) and Righteous Taphouse (West Chester) and the brewery will be pouring beers at the 20th anniversary Kennett Brewfest on Sept. 30.
Doylestown Brewing Co. took a huge step with an eye on the future in January 2017. Owner Joe Modestine proudly reports that the 5,500 sq. ft. production brewery is up and running and now includes a tasting room and new 15-bbl and 30-bbl tanks to replace 7-bbl tanks that they’ve sold. This is giving Head Brewer Justin Low (credited by Modestine with being “the main reason for our success”) plenty to work with, as the flagship R5 Lager will be finding more market space with Nevulis Beverage as its wholesaler. DBC is on track for 2,200 bbl of production output in 2017. In addition to growing his own business, Modestine is paying it forward. He credits Bob Klinetob (formerly of The Lion Brewery) with coaching and consulting expertise that initially got DBC off the ground. Now Modestine is working with new and young ones, to help them “navigate through the complicated legal and logistic maze of the brewing industry.” After they’ve fully built out the new production brewery on Airport Boulevard, DBC intends to provide contract brewing assistance as young breweries learn the ropes of the market. Modestine finds that the “most important part of contracting is establishing a brand first and far too many breweries do not have a brand identity”. Finally, with the Travis Manion Foundation headquartered in Doylestown, the brewery honors the local war hero with If Not Me, Then Who Pale Ale, which was served at the annual 9/11 Freedom Run in Doylestown on Sept. 24.
There’s plenty of new activity as well at Round Guys Brewing Co. in Lansdale. The most obvious and significant is the addition in April of The Underground across the street from the brewery. Upstairs is Backyard Beans Coffee Co. in the front and, in the back, Round Guys’ offsite canning line. Downstairs is a space – The Underground – that Round Guys uses for events such as Physical Graffiti Yoga (complete with body paint, black light, glow sticks, and Led Zeppelin music!) and drag shows. Other popular recurring events over at the Pub include Hot Dog Mondays with a toy helicopter flying challenge and Kinky Quizzo. New out of the brewhouse, look for Secret Garden Watermelon IPA and Transmission IPA both in kegs and cans. Two collaborations will also be available in cans – Sun Bear (an imperial farmhouse ale with Boardroom Spirits) and Rebirth Of The Cool (a coffee stout with Backyard Beans). And plans are underway for a collaboration beer with Highway Manor. When you snag any of these cans, you should also notice redesigned labels, the result of a project that ultimately will replace all brand labels with locally sourced artwork.
Rotunda Beer Co. really began to take off in the summer of 2016. They share property in Annville with Batdorf Restaurant and are brewing six batches a week with two new releases every Saturday according to brewer Eric Stubbs. He says that while they currently brew on a Sabco system, the brewery has begun the process of purchasing a 7-bbl system with the hopes of having it installed by January 2018. Northeast IPA, Berliner Weisse, and Gose have been three styles popular with their customers.
In Mount Joy, the historically fascinating Bube’s Brewery was founded 150+ years ago by a Bavarian immigrant, Alois Bube, whose heritage can still be felt today. Vince Zanghi, head brewer, has been manning the mash paddle for the last two years and continues to make technical improvements, most “unseen by the public to improve the beer, the quality, and the efficiency”. Zanghi and assistant brewer Mitch Romig focus on classic German styles along with current styles – such as kettle sours – that customers often seek. The 3.5-bbl brewhouse, providing for the biergarten and three different restaurants onsite, allows for the “creative freedom” that they enjoy in brewing the beer they produce, which is only served at Bube’s in a town where they have “pride in their history”. One beer, however, that you could find most regularly through the years at Bube’s, regardless of the brewer, is Speakeasy Pale Ale. It’s based, as Zanghi describes, on the notion that the brewery’s location “may or may not have been operating as a speakeasy back then”. A new venture for the brewery later this summer, or early fall, is tentatively being called the Ghost Beer Series. The project’s objective will be to create special beers in extremely limited quantity (approximately 50 22-oz bomber bottles) and play off both the idea that special releases appear, then vanish, and the numerous ghost stories that surround the brewery. Be on the lookout in the fall for a partnership with Bullitt and its chipped-up wood barrels, as well as an appearance on the Travel Channel’s Food Paradise show.
Old Forge Brewing Co. in Danville opened in 2008 but is not so old that new things aren’t still happening. On Aug. 13, the brewery’s first ever bottle release was actually three beers from the newly created Brewers Reserve Series and each was featured during a three-course pairing dinner. The beers were small batches of dry-hopped Saison, Imperial IPA, and Tripel Cerise that resulted in approximately fifty cases of each in 750-ml caged and corked bottles. A release party on Aug. 17 made the beers officially available to the public and will become more widely available at select retail accounts in late August or early September.
At South County Brewing Co. in Fawn Grove, owner JR Heaps has brought in Rick Powers to manage the taproom and James Arrison to manage sales in Central Pennsylvania. The taproom has taken advantage of recent legislation allowing them to serve PA-produced wine and distilled products. It will also be playing host on the recently completed patio to a cancer fundraiser on Oct. 7, complete with a BBQ food truck and live music. Behind the taproom wall, the brewhouse staff is looking forward to later this year when they will be taking delivery of more fermentation tanks and a counterpressure canning line that as Heaps describes, will “allow us to get really low dissolved oxygen levels in the can which means better quality and fresher flavors for our customers as well as faster turnaround on our production”. Expect the next release in the Gelato Series to land in late September; it will be called Wheat & Oats, a Double IPA with lactose sugar.
Pocono Brewery Co. opened in early June in Swiftwater giving the area a boost in local food and beer options. The brewpub is in the building where Pocono Brewing Co. used to reside, but never actually brewed beer. Jean-Luc Vitiello, brew master and co-owner, has been enjoying his wood burning oven and new 10-bbl brewhouse. The oven is turning out custom wood-fired pizzas and Pocono is bringing in local mushrooms for the kitchen and local wine from Sorrenti’s for the bar. Vitiello has been releasing a new beer on nearly a weekly basis and continuing the Magic Bus Series by saying goodbye to the Rustic Wheat and hello to the Strawberry Wheat, which was brewed with strawberries from a nearby farm. Pocono Pines Pilsner was also recently released and its unique local twist has spindles from area Douglas Fir trees incorporated for a piney aroma and flavor. As they hit a more steady state, the brewery anticipates getting flagship beers into the retail market and beginning to can or bottle select in-house specialty beers. They’re also building a refrigerated truck, from which they can serve at special events, both at home and on the road. In the meantime, they’ve given the Great American Beer Festival a first try and entered three beers for judging.