Lehigh Valley Brewer’ s Guild Beer Festival

 

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Lost Tavern’s Cloud 7 NE Style IPA. Yum!

Wow! The Lehigh Valley Brewers guild Brewfest was another smashing success. This year it was hosted by the awesome folks at Lost Tavern Brewing in our little home town of Hellertown, PA. For those of you who don’t know, this was the second annual brewfest held by the LVBG. All of the breweries in the Lehigh Valley join forces to put on an awesome festival with great music, food, and of course beer. The representative breweries were Yergey Brewing, Weyerbacher, Two Rivers, Hijinx, Sole, Hop Hill, Cave, Funk, Fegley’s, and Lost Tavern. (One of our favorites was unfortunately absent). Colony Meadery and Hardball Cider were also there with some great options just in case beer is not your thing. But beer should always be your thing.

The Lost Tavern crew: Kenny Rampola, head brewer Anthony Gangi, and cicerone Derek Lutz

The breweries turned out some of their flagship beers as well as a large sampling of some often surprising concoctions. Our favorite of the day was the Mosaic Dutchtown DIPA from Two Rivers Brewing in Easton, PA. While all the beers at the festival were great, this one was just a cut above the rest in terms of complexity and a full and rounded flavor profile. It is crisp with plenty of floral, citrus, and banana notes. The finish is predictably hoppy with just enough bitterness to round out the fruity, tropical, flavors from the Mosaic hops. The fun of this beer is that Two Rivers uses the same Dutchtown DIPA recipe and experiments with different hop variations. This one is triple hopped with exclusively mosaic hops. Two Rivers hit the mark on this one!

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Sole is super serious about beer

One of my other favorites was the Blurred Lines, a Zwickelbier  from Sole Artisan Ales. If you’re anything like me, you have no idea what the hell a Zwickelbier is. (pronounce tzv-ick-el) Being a little bit of a beer nerd, I had to do some research on this one. According to that most reliable of sources, the internet, a Zwickelbier is a type of Kellerbier (although some sources use Zwickelbier and Kellerbier  interchangeably.) No idea what the hell a Kellerbier is either? You are not alone. A Kellerbier (‘cellar beer’ in German) is a traditional German lager from the Franconia region of Bavaria. It is aged unbunged in, you guessed it, a cellar.  This beer is on the lighter end of the spectrum and is a pleasant departure from the bold and biting IPA’s that tend to dominate a lot of craft beer lineups. It is very refreshing and sessionable at 5.0% ABV, but still incredibly complex. It’s light-bodied and pilsner-like but with a fruity, slightly tart middle. The finish is delicate and crisp with a pale ale level of hoppiness at the end. I loved this one and I really appreciated the nod to traditional German flavor profiles that do not lean so heavily on huge bold flavors and high ABV that American craft breweries seem to favor. The refined brewing skill that people have come to expect from Sole are boldly on display with this one. Not sure if they are selling this in at its taproom in Easton, but if they are it is a must-try.

Hijinx Brewing Co. from Allentown may have had the best overall lineup with three beers that were all very well executed.  The Far Darrig Irish Red Ale was dark amber with chewy caramel malts and a hint of bitterness at the end. The Imperial stout was exactly what you want and love about imperial stouts with a coffee/chocolately nose and alcohol finish. The Kung Fu Gnome was a Belgian blonde with a little sweetness and peach flavors. All three were very tasty and demonstrated that Hijinx can excel at a variety of styles.

Some other great beers that we had were the Funk Double Citrus Imperial IPA and the Lost Tavern Cloud 7. If it needs to be said the Funk Double Citrus is, well, citrusy! It’s a west coast style IPA, jammed with plenty of juicy hops! Lost Tavern’s Cloud 7 was more of a New England style IPA with a piney, aromatic nose and tropical notes. Both are awesome and absolutely warrant a trip to the brewery!

What we loved about this beerfest was that at 3 o’clock many of the breweries brought out new special beers. Unfortunately, we could not stay after three so you are going to have to visit the breweries if you want to try them. But we love the idea and hope that is a feature that continues in future fests.

Overall, we had an awesome time and had some awesome beers. The Lehigh Valley brewing community is a vibrant one and it continues to grow so keep supporting your local breweries!

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Whoa! Big bottles of Belgian style dark ale from Weyerbacher, D’Tango Unchained. If you like tart, black cherries smothered in malts, this beer is for you!

 

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Hampton Ave, Hellertown

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Poutine anyone?

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Yergey!!

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Lehigh Valley Brewers Guild Beerfest 2016

We have been blown away by the rising craft beer scene right at home in the Lehigh Valley. Not only are fantastic small breweries opening everywhere from Easton to Emmaus, but the beers are truly remarkable with unique, mature, and complex flavor profiles that rival many breweries that have been operating for years. This past Sunday, we were thrilled to attend the Lehigh Valley Brewers Guild Beerfest, which celebrated the Lehigh Valley craft beer scene. This is the first festival of its kind – with only local brewers featured – and it was a huge success. The weather was perfectly cool and crisp for this festival held right outside of Two Rivers Brewing in Easton, PA. There was a great crowd – enough for a fun atmosphere but not so much that you had to wait in lines to get your glass filled. The live music was fantastic, and the food options were perfect. We got to see some of our old favorite local breweries, including Bonn Place Brewing CompanyLost Tavern Brewing Company, and Yergey Brewing, and we started planning blog posts for other awesome local breweries, including Cave Brewing CompanySole Artisan AlesFunk Brewing, Hijinx Brewing CompanyWeyerbacher, Two Rivers Brewing, Fegley’s Brew Works, and for a beer alternative, the Allentown-based (and excellent!) Colony Meadery.

Now, let’s talk about the beers. Each brewery poured a few different options ranging from classic brews from each brewery to seasonal or unique small-batch brews. We tried nearly all of the options and will share our favorites from each brewery. Check it out below.

Bonn Place: We have raved and raved about Bonn Place for their fantastic beers, cozy atmosphere, and incredibly friendly owners. Sam’s excitement to share his beers and connect with patrons at the festival was tangible – mid-way through the festival, he told us,”this is what it’s all about!”. Their Beerfest offerings did not disappoint, including Colin’s Irish-Breakfast Stout, the Lapin L’Orange Double Farmhouse, and the Gose Busters Lacto-Cooler (that name!). Mike was all about the Colin, a collaboration beer developed with Keystone Homebrew, due to its malt-forward, oaty taste. I was surprised to find that the Lacto-Cooler was a hit for me; I am not big on sour beers, but I found this gose to hit the spot. It has a mild saltiness which cuts the acidic sour, producing a slightly tart but well-balanced brew.

Cave Brewing: Cave is close to the top of our list for a full blog post feature. They are a nano brewery located near Bethlehem, PA with plans to eventually open their brewery doors to the public. Despite not being open just yet, their beers are popping up all around the Lehigh Valley and are garnering a loyal following. They poured the Gourdolious Spiced Pumpkin Ale and Drew’s Hand Stout. The Gourdolious is a single-batch heavy-hitting pumpkin ale, made with two pounds of pumpkin. Crazy. Meanwhile, the stout has sweet notes of cocoa and roasted coffee that complement the malt-forward taste nicely without being too overpowering. Mike was a big fan of the stout and was craving more after the festival ended. Can’t wait to check Cave out again in the future!

Lost Tavern: Lost Tavern has a special place in our hearts. It opened only a few months after we bought our first home in Hellertown, and we couldn’t wait to check them out. It has now become one of our regular stops for local craft beer due to its energetic and fun atmosphere, unique brews, and crazy good live music. They did not disappoint at the LV Brewers Guild Beerfest, pouring the Hop Air Balloon American Pale Ale, Fall Spiced Cider, and Maple Bacon Amber. Mike loved the hoppy bite of the pale ale and I was smitten by the cider. Many hard ciders are very dry, but this one is semi-sweet and much more juicy and full bodied than others we’ve had. The Maple Bacon Amber brought lots of smoke and sweetness for a unique fall beer.

Funk Brewing: Funk Brewing became a popular Lehigh Valley brewery right off the bat when it opened in 2014 in Emmaus, PA. Their beers pop up in many area restaurants and are highly sought out in the valley and beyond. They have even opened a second location in Elizabethtown, PA due to their high demand. While we plan to do a full blog write-up of Funk in the coming months, we can tell you that their brews are not to be missed. They poured the T-Rex IPA and the Falliage Chai Saison at the Beerfest. We sampled both, and the T-Rex was the front-runner for us. While bitter with the classic IPA hoppiness, it packed a juicy, fruit-forward brightness that left us craving more. The Falliage was a unique saison with its notes of chai tea and a bitter finish.

Hijinx Brewing Company: Hijinx is another small local brewery that first opened in Allentown, PA in 2011. Over the years, Hijinx has amassed a steady following and has since upgraded their brewing space from a 400 square-foot garage with a single-barrel brewing system  to a 4000 square foot space with a 10-barrel brewing system. Mike and I visited Hijinx last year and were very impressed not only by their beers but by the friendliness of the staff. We were also thrilled to find that this unassuming building also hosts the Colony Meadery as well as County Seat Spirits distillery – what more could a proud lush want? Hijinx had some great pours at the Beerfest, including my favorite of theirs, the Barista’s Choice, which is an ultra cozy porter with Honduran coffee beans roasted by the Taylor Roasted Coffee House in Northampton, PA. There’s nothing we love more than seeing local business collaborate and support one another. Keep an eye out for more blog action featuring Hijinx in the coming months.

Two Rivers Brewing: Two Rivers, the host of the festival, opened in 2013 in Easton, PA. A full-service restaurant plus brewery, it is a great place to enjoy a gastropub menu (hello, duck fat fries with truffle oil!) while drinking excellent craft beer. Two Rivers recently blew up in local media for winning a gold medal (one of only two golds in the entire state of Pennsylvania) for the Six Fingers Sam at the Great American Beer Festival this year! They have a lot to be proud of. At the Beerfest they poured the Bomb Maker Bock and Sixth Street Sour, and we were lucky enough to snag a sample of the Six Fingers toward the end of the event. The bock was a big hit with Mike with a load of roasty, malt flavor laced with a bourbon kick from being aged in bourban barrels. The Six Fingers Sam was incredibly unique – a true farmhouse saison with a major funky streak from the Brett hops balanced by more delicate notes of chardonnay and lemon. A big congratulations on the gold medal win!

Sole Artisan Ales: We have heard about the enigmatic Sole Ales but hadn’t had the chance to taste their offerings or meet brewer Joe Percoco until this event. Currently describing themselves as a “Gypsy Brewery,” Joe and his wife brew their beers at an already well-established brewery but plan to open their own brewing space in Easton in the coming months. Despite their current lack of a brick-and-mortar brewery, their beers already have a cult following and have garnered great respect in the local craft beer community. Mike and I were blown away by the Turbo Nerd, an incredibly smooth, juicy, melon-forward X-IPA. They also poured the Electric Velvet, an Imperial Latte Stout they concocted using cold-brewed coffee from Electric City Roasting. We can’t wait to try more from Sole!

Yergey Brewing: We are big fans of Jim
Yergey and his newly opened Yergey Brewing in Emmaus, PA. Jim’s approach to brewing reflects maturity and a fine-tuned, well-honed craftsmanship due to years of homebrewing. His passion for his beer is clear in his interactions with customers and excitement to share his brews with others. He poured a couple familiar favorites, the Hoptileitious Double IPA and the Friend of the Devil Belgian Dark Strong, for the Beerfest. You can’t go wrong with the Hoptileitious – although it packs a lot of hops, it has a smooth maltiness that makes it go down easy. Friend of the Devil is the quintessential fall/winter beer with notes of winter spices, caramel, and dark fruits. Partway through the festival Jim poured some of the Hot Chocolate, a chocolate porter laced with spicy chili peppers. Mike and I missed the boat on the Hot Chocolate since it was tapped out in 15 minutes! Also, how cute are these new double-walled beer tumblers they are selling?

Totes adorbs.

Weyerbacher: Ok, time to be honest here. Weyerbacher is one of the most well-established breweries in the Lehigh Valley, founded in 1995 in Easton, PA.  Its beers are found far and wide, especially their big sellers like the Merry Monks Tripel and the Imperial Pumpkin Stout. Weyerbacher is also active in giving back to the local community with food drives and supporting home brewers in the area with yearly competitions. Despite its popularity, Mike is just not a fan of their beers. He claims he has tried many of them and has yet to find one he likes. While I haven’t yet been totally smitten by any of their pours, I have been pushing us to sample them whenever we can to find that elusive Weyerbacher beer that hits the mark. At the Beerfest, I was pleasantly surprised by the Easton Brown and Down, a roasty chocolate brown ale that was a great pairing for the cool, crisp weather. Mike enjoyed it as well, though he remains skeptical. This could be a turning point in our relationship with Weyerbacher – only time will tell.

Fegley’s Brew Works: Brew Works is another well-established Lehigh Valley brewery + restaurant with two locations in Bethlehem and Allentown. Their beers are frequently found throughout PA and NJ and have received multiple awards at national beer festivals. Mike and I have sampled their beers regularly over many years and can attest to the quality and growing diversity of their selection, including the Black IPA and Devious Imperial Pumpkin. They poured the Pumpin’ Ain’t Easy Dry Hopped Kettle Sour and the Fall Bock at the Beerfest. Since you know about our feelings about sour beers, we both went for the Fall Bock and weren’t disappointed. It’s an easy-drinking, toasty fall beer with warming malts and notes of vanilla and cocoa nibs. It would go down especially easy with an order of their soft pretzels with beer cheese soup!
We have to give a quick shout-out to Colony Meadery who produce a wide range of meads right in Allentown, PA. If you haven’t had mead, you should give it a try for something a little different! Made from fermented honey, we love its smooth texture and versatility for mixed drinks or enjoying on its own. The Better Sasparilla variety, which they offered at the Beerfest. is downright addictive.  Another special thanks to Porters Pub for offering an incredibly good sauerbraten sandwich and cheddar ale soup to keep us warm (and relatively sober) during the event.

We could go on and on about our excitement for the craft beer scene in our region, but you probably already stopped reading a while ago. So we’ll pack it in and see you next time!

Cheers!
Bethany

Upper Bucks Brewfest

ub-brewfest-mugThe Upper Bucks Brewfest is one of our favorite beer festivals in the area. The event is organized by Quakertown Alive!, a community organization whose mission focuses on the revitalization of the downtown Quakertown area, so the proceeds of the event all go back into the community. While we love the charitable mission, we were also smitten with the amazing beer selection that was compiled by one of the Quakertown Alive! volunteers and local craft beer icon, John Dale. John owns and operates the historic Spinnerstown Hotel which has arguably the best craft and imported beer list in eastern Pennsylvania (and is one of our favorite places)!

Upper Bucks Brewfest featured a heavyweight lineup of major craft breweries including Ommegang, Dogfish Head, Bear Republic and Deschutes. They also featured beers from some of our favorite Lehigh Valley and Bucks County breweries such as Hijinks, Free Will, and a limited release brew from The Proper Brewing Company  in Quakertown . Below are some of the standouts from the festival.

Bear Republic Red Rocket Ale – This may have been my favorite beer of the day, though I guess I shouldn’t be surprised given how many awards it has won. The Red Rocket is a Scottish-style red ale that very perfectly balances a pinch of sweet malts complemented by a spicy, hop finish. This beer actually made me think that I might be drinking too many IPAs and not enough red ales – trying something a little different was definitely rewarding. Loved it!

Deschutes Chainbreaker – I get so excited on the rare occasion that I see this beer out here in the Eastern US. It is one of my favorites and there is absolutely no better beer on a hot summer day than this outstanding white IPA.  Chainbreaker was one of the very first commercially available white IPA’s, a style that marries the hop forward style of an IPA with the gentle spice of a Belgian wit. Deschutes brewery is located just East of Portland, Oregon and I first had this beer on a backpacking trip in the Northern Cascade National Park near Seattle. It was fairly recent that they have broken into the Pennsylvania market, so if you haven’t tried any of their beers yet, I highly recommend you try anything from their solid lineup. Another excellent Deschutes beer is the Fresh Squeezed IPA, a seasonal release, which was also at the brewfest.

Dogfish Head Biere de Provence – This is a relatively new offering from Dogfish Head that I was excited to try. It is inspired by the similarly-named French herb blend that often includes marjoram, bay leaf, chervil, and lavender, which are all used in brewing this beer. This was not my favorite of the day. While it was unique and consistent with the courageous, experimental beers that Dogfish Head is well-known for, the three ounce pour that I had was enough for me. It was a medium-bodied ale that had, as you might imagine, a powerful herbal finish. This might be good with some fish or chicken at dinner but it is definitely not an easy-drinking session ale.

ub-brewfestThere were many other fantastic beers at the Upper Bucks Brewfest – check out the full list here.  We hope to see you at next year’s Brewfest to support the Quakertown community and drink some quality beer!

Cheers!

Mike

 

Lansdale Beer Tasting Festival 2016


Greetings!
We had an amazing weekend due to the Lansdale Beer Tasting Festival in Lansdale, PA, this past Saturday afternoon. We went with a good friend of ours, Karen, who is also a beer aficionado. The afternoon began with a brief scare when I (Bethany), IMG_6507who am generally the one who is always organized (read: anal retentive), couldn’t locate my electronic ticket on my phone. Thankfully, I was ushered to a side table reserved for those in disarray to search for the ticket record on a staff member’s iPad. The crisis was averted and my ticket was located, though I was hot with disgrace until I had enough beer samples that I forgot about the whole thing.

This event is positively massive with over 150 breweries and close to 300 beers to sample. We attended this festival back in 2012 and had an awesome – but broiling hot – time. They stepped it up this year with a giant tent for more shade from the sun.

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The beer selection was very impressive with a range of breweries and beers. Some heavy hitting highlights included Ballast Point (Sculpin for the win), Boulevard, Deschutes (Hop Slice, anyone? Were wishing for some Chainbreaker, though!), Evil Twin, Otter Creek (Mmmm Fresh Slice!), Firestone Walker (though we are still waiting for Wookie Jack to show up at a festival), New Belgium,Victory, and Ommegang (love me some Gnomegang!). There were also some notably good smaller breweries, some local to the area, including Conshohocken, Wiseacre, Brick by Brick, and 2SP.

The crowd was a fun mix of young and old, often bedecked with pretzel necklaces and beer-themed hats and shirts. We even found Waldo, chatted with numerous beer-fueled strangers, and deftly avoided making eye contact with a gentleman in polyester Halloween costume-esque lederhosen. There were frequent “woos” and an upbeat, party-like atmosphere with live music and flowing activity.FullSizeRender (4)

The tent was crowded but lines held rarely more than 1-2 people ahead of you. Porta-potties were clean (enough) and plentiful. No one seemed to overdo their drinking that we noticed, keeping the festival classy and comfortable.

What wasn’t so great? We immediately noticed a seemingly large number of dark beers. And not black IPAs or lagers. We’re talking heavy imperial stouts, chocolate porters, and other beers that seemed discordant with the brilliantly sunny, 90 degree June weather. We couldn’t bring ourselves to sample those more heavy offerings, opting instead for hoppy and thirst-quenching varieties. And really, we get it – what better way to get rid of your last remaining kegs of winter porter than a beer festival? But a 10% Russian Imperial Stout just doesn’t scream summer beer fest for us.

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All in all? A great festival with an impressive beer selection, fun crowd, and lively atmosphere. We are already excited to see what Lansdale has in store for next year!

Cheers!

Bethany and Mike