B1rthr1ght Brew1ng Hits the Ground Running

Something feels different in the air in the quaint, sleepy downtown of Nazareth, Pennsylvania. Could it be the throngs of new faces dipping into the local businesses along the historic main roads? Town gossip about wood fired pizzas and local beer? A subtle scent of hops and malted grains in the air? Thanks to B1rthr1ght Brew1ng Company, the answer is all of the above. B1rthr1ght Brew1ng opened at 57 S. Main Street in early February 2018 after years of planning and preparation. It is the first brewery to open its doors in the town of Nazareth, and it has already taken a lead in breathing fresh air into the historic downtown. We recently visited the brewery to check out the new space, imbibe some brews, and chat with brewmaster Wayne Milford.

img_1879Wayne has an impressive resume when it comes to brewing. He has over 20 years of brewing experience under his belt, including a long stint with Dogfish Head, a tour of brewing with some heavy-hitting European breweries, and designing and establishing six different craft breweries around the country. As if that wasn’t enough, he also has a degree in Intensive Brewing Science from Vermont’s American Brewers Guild. At long last, B1rthr1ght Brew1ng represents Wayne’s time to fully embrace his knowledge and passion with a brewery of his own. Ask Wayne about his brewing technique, and his love for all things beer becomes immediately palpable. His expertise extends to all aspects of the brewing process, including harvesting, testing, and utilizing his own yeast for brewing. Although he considers himself an “IPA guy,” his brewing skills extend to many varieties of beer, ranging from lagers to sours to Belgians. img_1876The philosophy behind B1rthr1ght Brew1ng encompasses not only excellent beer, but also sustainability and contribution to the local community. Wayne and his family are now Nazareth locals; the three “1s” in the brewery name represent Wayne’s three children who were a part of the brewery from its very beginnings. Similarly, B1rthr1ght Brew1ng embraces family and community through developing the “Birthright Cycle,” which will create a symbiotic partnership with local farmers and vendors to minimize waste and maximize the grassroots community feel of the brewery and Nazareth as a whole. Tasting the local flavors through freshly brewed beer is one of the greatest parts of local craft brewing, and B1rthr1ght Brew1ng is truly capitalizing on it. Wayne is currently brewing off-site and is (im)patiently waiting for his brewing equipment to arrive at B1rthr1ght within the next five weeks or so. We can’t wait to see the Cycle fully in action.

img_1871We found ourselves in hop heaven while sampling their draft beers. We tried three varieties of IPA and a pale ale. One of our favorites was The Constable, their double IPA. This beer captured everything we love about IPAs — a bright juicy snap that quenches your thirst with a floral bitter finish, coming in at 8.4%. Endlessly quaff-able. We also loved Mosaic Mirrors, a double dry hopped double IPA at 8.2% ABV that showcases big fruity flavors, a soft, smooth mouthfeel, and a hefty dose of dry hopping with mosaic, citra, and moteuka hops. The beers all showed maturity in flavor profile and reflect Wayne’s decades of brewing experience. He spoke mysteriously of some more exciting brews to come in the near future, but for now we will have to wait and see what he has in store.

img_1880Now, on to the pizza. Oh, did we not mention the pizza? Yup, they have skilled chefs, a big open kitchen, and a wood-burning oven serving up thin crust, perfectly crispy gourmet pizzas that are top notch. We tried the “Sir Mallard Newton” (that name!) which features duck confit, figs, caramelized onion, baby arugula, balsamic, and lardons. It was stellar. You can also find some salads and sammies on the menu.

img_1878B1rthr1ght Brew1ng truly captures the spirit of craft brewing through its impeccable beers, delicious food, and commitment to the local community. Swing by for a beer (or three) and chat with any of their friendly and passionate staff to hear about it for yourself. Their official grand opening ceremony and ribbon cutting will be Wednesday, April 18th from 5-7pm. Congratulations to Wayne and his team on this new adventure!


Bethany and Mike

Local Brewers Collaborate Earlier than Planned

Eight minutes earlier, to be precise. When two of our favorite local breweries come together for a collaboration beer, we get pretty damn excited. The intrepid minds behind Bonn Place of Bethlehem and Lost Tavern of Hellertown got together and released Eight Minutes Early, a full bodied double cream ale with vanilla, cocoa, and Monocacy Creek Coffee served on traditional draft or nitro. On its own, it is rich and smooth with a strong coffee backbone brewed with the rare and difficult to find Souther Star hops from South Africa. However, this beer shines brightest when each brewery introduced their own unique twist to a cask version with variations aptly named Fire and Ice. Bonn brewed the Fire version which introduced cinnamon and cayenne peppers to finish it off. The additions really round out the beer and add some kick. The spice is subtle but builds slowly on the palate and after a couple sips you will notice a pleasing burn.

Lost Tavern brewed the Ice cask, which added spearmint and peppermint to the original brew. This one is truly unique and complex akin to a peppermint mocha coffee. You can definitely skip that piece of gum for the ride home.

To try both cask varieties, you’ll have to visit both breweries, so be sure to plan ahead. While you are at Bonn Place, also give the Nice Item Northeast Pale Ale a try. It’s a cloudy and dank pale ale loaded with hoppy goodness and represents a rare departure from Bonn’s typical English-style beers. At Lost Tavern, be sure to also check out the recently released Udderly Lost – a toasty, chocolate-forward milk stout.

Check them all out at Bonn Place and Lost Tavern and let us know what you think! It’s always a blast to have a beer and chat with Sam from Bonn and Tony of Lost Tavern. And don’t forget – it’s BYO pink flamingo at Bonn Place, so follow the flamingo link to find the cheesiest lawn ornament to add to Sam’s burgeoning collection.

Check out our other posts featuring our favorite local (and not so local) breweries here!


Mike and Bethany

The Bonn Place Brewing Company

Bonn signTo say that Sam Masotto is passionate about beer is a gross understatement. He and his wife, Gina, are co-founders of the Bonn Place Brewing Company which opened its doors for the first time on July 31st of 2016. Bonn Place is nestled in a cozy, compact-yet-impressively-efficient former garage on the corner of Taylor and Mechanic Streets in the heart of south Bethlehem, PA. The space exudes a harmonious blend of rustic warmth with industrial modernity, and Sam’s eye for unique and historic decor makes the place feel as comforting as your grandad’s living room – that is, if your grandad had massive oak-clad tanks of beer in his home. Everywhere you look reveals something exquisite and often personal, from a chandelier made from wooden wheels dating back to the 1860s, to the red Bethlehem Steel I-Beam spanning the ceiling, to the growler on display paying homage to Newburgh Brewing Company, where Sam honed his craft as an assistant brewer for three years. Sam’s discerning eye and meticulous refinement of his brewing space reflects his goal for guests to not only feel welcomed into the brewery, but to also “see what goes into” brewing beer, as he sees the brewery setting as a reflection of the craft as a whole.

Mike and I were thrilled to see another local brewery open its doors only a mere ten minutes from our home, so we emailed Sam and Gina right away to find time to sit down with them and try their beer. Sam immediately called Mike and invited us to come down the following day to meet him and his wife, check out the brewery, and of course drink some beer. He and Gina were incredibly welcoming from the start, with their love for connecting with other beer geeks palpable even during that first phone call. Bonn Place was hosting an album release party for Phillipsburg-based comedian (and friend of Sam and Gina’s)  Glen Tickle that night, so we were able to stick around after for some laughs and more beer as Glen and a group of fellow comedians entertained a crowd of friends, family, and fans at the brewery.

Sam and Gina poured us an impressive selection of beers to sample. The offerings at Bonn Place lean more toward English-style beers which are traditionally more malt-forward compared with their hop-centric American counterparts. Sam noted that the water in the area lends well to English-style ales due to its low minerality and similarly low pH level; however, hoppy beers are in the works but require an addition of gypsum to alter the water’s minerality for a more hoppy flavor.
chalkboardThe first beer we sampled was the Mooey Pub Ale, a classic English bitter at 4.8% ABV, which Sam told us about like a proud father. He noted that this beer came out as close to ideal as possible, highlighting its incredible clarity in both appearance and taste. Indeed, the Mooey was remarkably drinkable with a smooth malt-forward body and clean finish. The Mooey earned some bonus points with us when we learned that it’s named after “Big Fat Moo,” an oversized polydactyl Maine Coon cat belonging to Gina’s family. We have a similar giant Maine Coon ourselves, so we were of course excited to hear about Mooey and her impressive girth.

As we later sipped on the Opus Amber, a 5.8% ABV American amber ale named after the brewery mascot, a French Bulldog who lived near Sam and Gina on Bonn Place in Weehawkin, New Jersey, we learned more about Sam and Gina’s journey to Bethlehem. Though neither are Lehigh Valley natives, they fell in love with Bethlehem when working as actors in the hit play Tony ‘n Tina’s Wedding, which was performed around the country, including five times at Bethlehem’s Steel Stacks. Sam has been homebrewing beer since 2008, a passion which was nurtured through working at The Pony Bar in NYC and subsequent internships at Chelsea Brewing, New Jersey Beer Company, and Newburgh Brewing Company. He had dreams of opening his own brewery for years, and he and his wife had originally set their sights on a farmhouse in southern New Jersey for their new brewery. However, they faced bonn facade.jpegnumerous challenges with the farmhouse which resulted in revisiting their love for Bethlehem as a potential home for Bonn Place. It wasn’t long before they were notified of the building available at 310 Taylor Street, and despite its drab drop ceilings and stark white walls, they took the plunge and began construction in April of 2015. Sam spoke of many nights spent in the building with his Subaru parked inside, a small cot on the floor to sleep on, and meals of liverwurst and Genesee Cream Ale while he worked to transform the space. Discovering beautiful brick walls beneath the Sheetrock and the red steel I-Beam hidden above the drop ceiling helped him visualize the impossible – turning this former garage/Pizza Hut/dojo/plumbing supply company into Bonn Place.

Fifteen months later, the Masottos opened the doors of Bonn Place, just in time for MusikFest 2016. Although the Mooey has so far been the biggest seller, other draft gems have gained attention as well. We tried the Pig Tale Pale Ale, both in its traditional form as well as on Nitro. At 6.2% ABV, the pale ale still has a strong malt backbone but laced with a slightly more bitter and citrusy bite. The nitro edition smoothed out the edges of the pale ale, adding an almost creamy texture  to the mouthfeel. We also tried the Scottish Breakfast, which is a “wee-wee heavy” featuring 6.8% ABV. Sam noted that the Breakfast has caught the eye of beer enthusiasts more than his other draft offerings due to its rich flavor profile featuring notes of warm caramel and coffee. He shared an exciting collaboration beer in the works – the Scottish Brunch – which will feature local coffee from the Monacacy Coffee Company. Sam spoke passionately about the importance of being a member of the local community, both in terms of connecting with other Southside Bethlehem businesses as well as the larger community of local brewers. He shared that the local brewers meet monthly to offer one another support, noting that the competitiveness that often comes with brewing beer hasn’t been a part of his experience in Bethlehem so far.

caskSam took us behind the scenes to check out the brewing equipment. Despite the small space for the operation, the Masottos have clearly made the most of what they have to work with. Bonn Place has a number of tanks, with some gorgeously clad in oak to exemplify the English style. The real show-stopper is a 1,000 liter 100% French oak foudre, which is typically seen at wineries and distilleries. Foudres have been popping up in breweries more often due to their use for wood-aged beer, especially sour ales. Sam was currently brewing a fiesty wood-aged wild ale in the foudre when we visited, and he gave us some samples of the beer despite it not being fully complete. The beer had a lot of personality with a very sweet nose of overripe peach and Romano cheese, but a tart, bright and somewhat biting fruity flavor profile. We also sampled a double IPA that is still in the works. The double IPA had been hit with one dose of dry hopping, though may get a second prior to being served. It had a delicious fruit-forward flavor of mango and apricot, and Mike and I both voted for one more round of hopping before it hits the floor to bring out some more bitterness.

sam and ginaSam and Gina’s interest in experimenting with beer left us with a lot of excitement for what is to come at Bonn Place.   In fact, if Sam himself was a beer, he stated that he would be a “spicy chipotle brown ale” because he loves spicy food, is loud, slightly crabby, and dark due to his Italian roots. Would he ever brew this “Sam Ale?” Believe it or not, he has already made a batch of it back in his home-brewing days.  We’ll have to keep an eye out for the “Sam Ale” to pop up at Bonn Place!

Bonn Place is a brewery not to be missed. Sam and Gina’s vivacious personalities and unrelenting tenacity are reflected in every ounce of beer they serve and every inch of their brewing space.  “It’s us,” stated Gina, reflecting on their journey to open Bonn Place. Casting a glance at Sam across the bar, she stated, “I’ve never seen someone push so hard for what they wanted.”

Visit Bonn Place for yourself and let us know what you think!

Bethany & Mike


In Our Fridge: Ommegang Soothsayer  

You would be hard-pressed to find another craft brewery in the United States that better embraces the rich Belgian brewing tradition more than Brewery Ommegang located just outside of Cooperstown, NY. The brewery is nestled comfortably in the foothills of the Catskills Mountains on a 136 acre former hop farm with an impressive entryway styled after a Belgian farmhouse.


Ommegang Brewery Entryway

I have long been a huge Ommegang fan for its Three Philosophers quadruple, the Hennepin Saison, and the Gnomegang Blonde ale. So, I was very excited to try more of the limited release beers that I have been seeing pop up at our local bottle shops.

This weekend I sampled the Soothsayer Belgian-style Dark Ale. This might quickly become a new favorite Ommagang beer for me, though it would be next to impossible to unseat the bourbon barrel-aged release of the Three Philosophers that we discovered at the brewery this spring. The Soothsayer definitely has all of the characteristics of a strong dark ale but the brewery omitted the spice for this particular offering.


Soothsayer on the Deck

Although I love Belgian beers I find that the spice can sometimes be overdone, particularly when this style is attempted by American craft breweries. However, Ommegang has truly refined their art and the resulting Soothsayer is a very smooth, malty, and drinkable beer with all of those familiar, distinctive Belgian characteristics without the spice.

It pours very dark brown, almost black, and is brewed with a variety of malts, Spalter Select and Styrian Golding hops, and Ommegang’s signature house yeast. It packs a punch with an ABV of 8.9% but without the alcohol-forward taste. Ommegang advertises tasting notes of coffee and chocolate and suggests pairing with a rich cheese or dark fruit desserts.  I enjoyed mine with a deck, a cigar, and a quiet, sunny Saturday afternoon which I thought was the perfect pairing.

Check it out here: http://www.ommegang.com/blog/meet-soothsayer/

Mike and Bethany