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!

Cheers,

Mike and Bethany

Plan a Beercation to Vermont and Maine

Hey, Lehigh Valley! Looking to take a beer-inspired vacation in Vermont and Maine? We have a plan for you to make the most of your trip, including where to stay, what to do, and of course, what to drink. We took a trip a couple weeks ago and whittled down our adventure to the perfect plan for a 5-7 day beercation in beautiful New England, home to the best of the ubiquitous NE-style IPA. If you time it right, you can also get some great hiking and fall foliage in, or you can hit the slopes at one of the many nearby ski resorts. Here’s your itinerary:

Day 1: Hit the road and head up to Woodstock, VT. Look for a historic New England-style bed and breakfast, a local ski resort, or even one of many campgrounds in the area. If you have enough time,  you’ll be able to hit some breweries on your way north. Newburgh Brewing Company and Keegan Ales are just a few minutes off 87, as well as a flurry of other breweries in New York State. Choose your pit stops wisely since you have to get back in your car and drive a few more hours. Don’t drink and drive, kids.

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Enjoying the Rock Art Brewing’s Ridge Runner at the top of Mt. Ascutney

Day 2: Enjoy the village of Woodstock! Woodstock is quaint, historic, and full of New England charm with a heavy dollop of artsy, free-range organic pottery types. They are also home to a noteworthy beer store that has lots of unique finds and a load of local Vermont beers – Woodstock Hops and Barley.  Once you’re stocked up on beer, cruise over to Mt. Ascutney and either hike the full climb or drive up the mountain and hike the 1 mile to the summit and observation tower for stunning 360 degree views. If you are interested in museums, the Billings Farm & Museum offers history on Vermont’s rural life, with farming demos and livestock. After your exercise and/or education, Head over to Harpoon Brewery Riverbend,, which is about 20 minutes southeast of Woodstock.

95f416ea-f7cd-46db-a8e5-5cb0c61beb7a-1This is an outpost from Harpoon’s main gig in Boston, MA. It sits right along the Connecticut River at the border of VT and NH. It is delightfully quiet and low-key during the mid-week, off-season time and has excellent beers and delicious house-made soft pretzels (mmmmbeercheese). Head back to Woodstock for dinner at Worthy Kitchen which focuses on farm food and craft beer. We sipped on some local New England beers and Vermont hard cider while munching on poutine and wings.

 

Another Vermont brew at the Quechee Gorge

Day 3: Head east and visit the Quechee Gorge, which sits along the Connecticut River at the divide between Vermont and New Hampshire. Pull over and walk onto the bridge that spans the gorge for a beautiful (and slightly terrifying) photo opportunity. The Quechee Gorge Village is adorably kitschy (and it’s fun to say “kitschy Quechee”) and houses a Cabot cheese store (yum!), alpaca store (with live alpacas you can pet), bakery, souvenir shops, and most importantly, Vermont Spirits distillery. We were impressed by the distillery’s unique gins and spirits infused with Vermont maple syrup and honey. Once you get your fill of kitsch, cruise a bit farther east to River Roost Brewery, which is a small brewery with free (!) samples of 4-5 beers on tap. They had a great selection of NE IPAs when we visited. They don’t pour full pints, but across the road at Big Fatty’s BBQ, you can grab a pint and some amazing barbecue – we recommend the brisket mac ‘n’ cheese.

Day 4: Time to make your way over to Ogunquit, Maine. We found a great bed and breakfast in the oldest building in Ogunquit and had a wonderful stay – Black Boar Inn. Heading east through New Hampshire, you can make a pit stop or two at some fantastic breweries on the way. Don’t miss Henniker Brewing Co. which was one of our favorites of the trip.  It is tucked away in rural NH and we loved its friendly staff, cozy and comfortable vibe, and delicious brews. You can also find a number of breweries in Manchester, NH — however note that many of them don’t open until 4pm, so you’ll have to time your visits accordingly. Once you’re settled into your room in Ogunquit, you can ditch your car and get around the town and beach on foot. It has a stunning walking path right along the water that takes you through Ogunquit and up to Perkins Cove, where you can find the ultimate lobster roll for a classic Maine meal.

Day 5: Depending on the length of your stay and willingness to drive around Maine, one option would be to spend the day in Ogunquit and enjoy the boutique shops, restaurants, and ice cream shops while relaxing on the beach. Another option would be to make the 50-minute drive up to Portland, ME, which is one of the meccas of craft beer in New England. There are loads of them — you could spend a whole weekend there and not run out of breweries to sample.  Prior to heading into Portland, we had chatted with some locals about their favorite breweries to visit in Portland, and Bissell Brothers was mentioned quite a bit. One local said that it will probably be mobbed, as it is the “hot brewery” this year. Portland apparently has one brewery every year that all the cool kids go to, and this is the year of Bissell. Well, sometimes we want to feel like cool kids, so we planned our first stop to be Bissell Brothers. We arrived five minutes after they opened, walked in the door, and immediately walked back out. It was a big, airy space that was positively swarming with customers. If you’re up for a long wait and crowds to get a killer pint, it may be worth it. We didn’t want to spend half the day waiting in line so instead headed into Old Portland. We grabbed a lobster melt (so good) at Eastender and imbibed from their small but mighty list of Maine brews, finally getting a pint of Bissell Brothers (it was delicious) and an IPA from Maine Beer Company (also delicious). We then made our way to Liquid Riot Bottling Co. in Old Portland along the waterfront and nabbed seats that overlook the wharf. They had an awesome DIPA – the Beer Has No Name (+1 for Game of Thrones reference) that went down perfectly with a bowl of New England mussels and cockels. You may run into signs for Sebago Brewing Company — this would be one to skip. It was impersonal and felt like the Applebee’s of craft beer, housed in a Comfort Suites in Portland. Driving home from Portland we’d recommend two pit stops – one for lobster rolls, and another at Barreled Souls Brewing Co.. We loved the atmosphere at Barreled Souls — cozy, dark interior and a lawn area outside with Adirondack chairs and cornhole. They boasted some of the most unique beers we saw on the trip, with lots of funky sours and barrel-aged monsters.  Finish up your evening with artisanal pizza and craft beer at Cornerstone, a walk on the gorgeous Ogunquit beach at sunset, and some hilarity at the local piano bar.

Day 6: Try to quell your state of depression when realizing it is time to head home after such an idyllic beercation. Heading back down to PA, you can make one or two more pit stops at breweries in NH. We visited the largest brewery of the trip, Smuttynose Brewing Company. It’s a great choice to stop if you are in the area and interested in checking out a larger production system and a range of high quality beers (and lots of cute merch with the Smuttynose seal logo). They have a great on-site restaurant which is perfect for lunch. If you have more time, you can also visit the fishing village town of Portsmouth, which is home to a few craft breweries and a lovely waterfront. Five hours later, you’ll arrive back in the Valley, ready to brag to your friends about your amazing beercation.

This trip is easily adjusted for length of stay/activities/time of year. We can’t wait to visit the area again, especially Portland, ME to check out more of their craft beer scene. Thinking of having your own NE beercation? Tell us about it below!

Local beer and beautiful beach. What more do you need?

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

Sneak Peek! Yergey Brewing in Emmaus, PA

Get ready for another fantastic addition to the Lehigh Valley craft beer scene. Local brewer Jim Yergey is preparing to open the doors of Yergey Brewing on September 23rd, 2016, at the corner of 5th and Railroad Streets in Emmaus, Pennsylvania. Mike and I had the pleasure of visiting his brewing space and learning about Jim, his nano-brewery, and his distinctly personal and impressively delicious flight of beers.

Jim’s commitment to and enthusiasm for his craft were evident from the moment we shook hands. Although he does have an impressive beard, Jim is not your typical craft brewer. He brings to the table a doctorate in chemistry  and a 30-plus year career as a research chemist for Merck, resulting in a complex understanding of the brewing process on the molecular level. He guided Mike and me through his brewery with unbridled excitement, highlighting his Criveller brewhouse setup and pre-insulated ABS glycol system. He spoke of some of the challenges with adjusting from a small home-brewer’s system to a much larger nano-brewery set up, though you wouldn’t know it from the quality of his system and brews.

So, how did a retired chemistry PhD end up opening a nano-brewery in Emmaus, PA? “My wife is letting me do my thing!” he stated with a grin, pouring us samples of his Friend of the Devil (FOTD) Belgian Strong Ale. Jim is actually quite seasoned when it comes to brewing beer; he began home-brewing more than 20 years ago while living in Montreal. He noted that there was a dearth of beer varieties during that time, and he wanted to drink something richer than the run-of-the-mill options available. Jim continued improving his home-brewing skills until taking a brief hiatus while raising his children. However, once they became of drinking age, home-brewing soon became a family tradition.  Jim and his two sons would brew together every year between Christmas and New Year’s Day, creating more nuanced and flavorful varieties each time. Jim’s beers indeed reflect maturity and refinement – it is clear that he is no rookie to brewing. FOTD is excellent (Mike’s favorite!), with a nose of clove, a dark fruit flavor profile, and a punchy 9-9.5% ABV. Jim and his family eventually left Montreal and have now been living in Center Valley, PA for more than 17 years, making Emmaus an ideal location for Yergey Brewing.

Hoptileitious DIPA

Fast-forward to August 2014 when Jim decided to enter his Hoptileitious double IPA into the “Brewer For A Day” competition hosted by Fegley’s Brew Works. Hoptileitious won with flying colors, affording Jim the opportunity to brew his beer at Brew Works that winter and distribute it during Lehigh Valley Beer Week 2015. Hoptileitious was a big hit, selling out in just 45 minutes at Jim’s local haunt, the Limeport Inn. We weren’t surprised to hear this – the Hoptileitious offers an addictive balance of a malty middle and hops at the front and end. It would be a great IPA gateway beer for those expanding their palates to include more bitter varieties as well as an excellent option for those already into hoppier ales. The success of Hoptileitious set the wheels in motion for Yergey Brewing to move from dream to reality.

We also sampled Three Kings and a Wench, an Imperial Stout (my favorite!), which has that perfect creamy-yet-dry mouthfeel of a good stout and leaves with a lingering roasty taste, like a strong cup of coffee. It’s another heavy hitter at 9-9.5% ABV – I could see this one sneaking up on you. Be sure to ask Jim to tell you the story behind the name of Three Kings and a Wench – like all of his beers, it has quite a tale behind it! Finally, we tried the hot Chocolate (lowercase “h” version), a chocolate porter, which had a strong nose and taste of cocoa, though the sweetness wasn’t overpowering. The capital “H” Hot Chocolate will be in the works soon, which adds a homemade chili pepper extract to the chocolate porter for a spicy kick. Also upcoming are a Red IPA, Weisenbock, and a Session IPA made with all local ingredients.

What is Jim’s biggest hope for Yergey Brewing? “I just want people to have fun and share stories,” he replied after a moment of thought. For Jim, it’s all about the interaction with his customers, the connection he has with other brewers and home-brewers in the region, and producing excellent beer that reflects not only his brewing skill but his connection with his family. Yergey Brewing is ultimately a personal reflection of Jim, from the recipes he developed with his sons, to the beautiful black walnut bar and table tops he constructed by hand. For Jim, that’s what brewing is all about.

We will be there for Yergey Brewing’s opening weekend and hope to see you there, too! Let us know what you think in the comments!

Cheers!
Bethany

 

 

New Brews at Bonn Place!

Hmmm, what is there to do on a long holiday weekend? Visit our friends at Bonn Place, of course! After being up all night replacing their failing glycol system with new copper pipes, Sam and Gina were as friendly and inviting as ever despite their lack of sleep. Mike and I were excited to  check out some of their new offerings, and we were far from disappointed.

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Brunch and Bunny

First and foremost, we need to talk about the Scottish Brunch, which Bonn Place developed in collaboration with Monocacy Coffee Co. An amped-up version of the original Scottish Breakfast, it features the original wee-heavy Scottish ale brewed with local coffee beans and lactose. This beer blew me away. It has an incredibly roasty, coffee flavor with a creamy sweetness from the lactose. The Scotch ale base gives it a dryness that balances out the warm, sweet notes for a very satisfying, addictive brew. Fantastic.

Another highlight from the new offerings was the Bunny Farm Double IPA. We sampled this while it was still in the tanks a few weeks ago and loved the fresh, mango flavor. Sam did a second round of dry hopping before it hit the taps, and it produced a perfectly bitter, citrus-forward DIPA. Bonn Place describes it as having “more hops than a bunny farm,” which is a fitting slogan. Mike quickly put his pint of the Bunny Farm down the hatch – it’s a superb beer for the last few weeks of summer.

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Mooey-San

The Mooey-San is another unique offering. It involves a steel cask-conditioned version of the Mooey, which is their flagship bitter, blended with wasabi, ginger, and jasmine leaves. It would be spectacular with sushi, and if you head over to Bonn Place today you can get a pint of it for just $3! Be there or be square.

We can’t wait to check out two upcoming brews – an Irish Stout, which is a collaboration with Keystone Homebrew (and will be named after Colin, Gina’s new nephew!), and a French provincial-style ale featuring Mandarina hops and Brett wild yeast. Bonn Place is seriously on a roll!

Swing by Bonn Place and let us know what you think!

Cheers!

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!

Cheers!
Bethany & Mike

 

Proper Brewing Company

It has been a long time since I felt heat as oppressive as this past Saturday in the Lehigh Valley. The temperature reached close to 99 degrees with a heat index pushing 110. Not to mention the ultra-high humidity which left us feeling like we were wrapped in a steaming hot, wet blanket all day. It was a no-brainer to make a visit to Proper Brewing Company, another local gem located in historic Quakertown, PA.

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Proper is still in its very first year of business, having opened late November 2015. It is in the heart of downtown Quakertown, housed in a building steeped in history – the Palace Theater – which originally opened its doors as a silent movie theater back in the early 1920s. It was closed in 1950 and later housed the Dimmig Appliance store prior to its current use. The space offers Proper plenty of room for their craft operation as well as space for a large bar, tables, and full kitchen. It is run by couple Brian and Kris Wilson who have been Quakertown residents for over a decade.

img_7154Prior to moving to Hellertown, Mike and I spent two years as Quakertown residents ourselves. We were ecstatic when we first discovered Proper while attending McCoole’s Beer Fest in the spring of 2015. While they hadn’t yet opened their doors, Proper offered a few of their beers for sampling at the festival, which were already top-notch. When the brewery finally opened, we couldn’t wait to check it out.

Although we’ve been to Proper a number of times in the past, we were impressed on this most recent visit by some improvements to the atmosphere of the brewpub. As a former theater, the interior of the building is vast. With incredibly tall and wide walls and extra-high ceilings it would be easy for the brewery to feel stark and cavernous. However, the owners have hung photography featuring artwork by Steve Tobin, a local world-renown sculptor, as well as warm lighting for an inviting feel. The impressive air conditioning system was also fabulous with the melt-your-face-off humidity.

img_7153Since their opening, Proper has consistently offered a great collection of beers. Their IPAs and stouts have been the stand-outs each time we have visited. On Saturday, we both got a flight and sampled 8 varieties of their beer. The Cinema Citra IPA is incredibly balanced and refreshing and makes excellent use of the Citra hop, adding a zesty, fruity bitterness. It was a perfect pairing for a hot, humid day. Mike was also very impressed by the No-Name Stout, which is a chocolate malt stout that offers just the right touch of cocoa sweetness with a slightly hoppy, barley-focused finish. Despite not being too big on fruit beers, I was impressed by Your My Boy Blue, a limited release which features a Belgian-style witbier with a dose of blueberries. Although the blueberry flavor was present, it wasn’t overly sweet due to a bright, slightly tart and bitter finish.

img_7156In addition to beer, Proper offers a full food menu featuring classics like Bavarian soft pretzels with beer cheese (drooling), a variety of flat-breads (try the BBQ pork with bacon and slaw!), as well as burgers, sandwiches, and even desserts (stout float anyone?). They have also joined forces with some Bucks County wineries to offer a selection of wines and hard ciders. It appears that cocktails may also soon be on their menu – yet another reason to visit! We love the community-oriented approach of Proper – they are part of the Quakertown Revitalization Project, aimed at revamping the historic town center. They also value their connections with other local business and are active in featuring live music from local artists.

It has been exciting to see Proper grow from a table we visited at a local beer festival to a full-fledged beer and food operation. Visit Proper yourself for some excellent brews and to support a great local business in Quakertown.

Any breweries you’d like to see us review? Let us know in the comments! For another local gem, check out our review of Lost Tavern!

Cheers!
Bethany