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The Beer Circle » Al's of Hampden, Bars, Breweries, Capone's Restaurant, Lancaster Brewing Co., Monk's Cafe, Pizza Boy Brewing Co., Stoudt's Brewing Co., The Beer Circle, Tröegs Brewing Co. » The Beer Circle Eastern PA Brewery Tour Recap

The Beer Circle Eastern PA Brewery Tour Recap

Editor’s Note: We would like to thank everyone who joined us on our beer excursion. We all had a great time, met some interesting people, drank some good beers, and hope to do it all again soon. For those of you who missed out, the following post will demonstrate why you shouldn’t have! We hope to host more trips like this in the future, stay tuned for more details.

Al’s of Hampden

Bob and Russ carpooled up and were the first to arrive at Stop #1. As we were ordering our casked and double-dry hopped Oskar Blues’ Deviant Dales we struck a conversation with the guy working the hand pump, who turned out to be the namesake – Al, of Hampden, himself. Since much wasn’t going on, he gave us a guided tour of Pizza Boy Brewing Company, Al’s brewery, whose beers are served upstairs at the bar.

First up in the tour was the stainless steel brewing and fermentation room. As we were talking one beer was happily bubbling away next to us–and resulted in many a fart joke. It was a brewer’s version of a whoopie cushion. In another tank was the next batch of Al’s Triple Mango IPA–concocted by the homebrewers who had won a Tröegs brewing competition; the winner to be featured in their Scratch Series. The mango hadn’t been added to the tank yet, but the hop aroma definitely had a tropical note to it. Next up, was the aging room where Al had two batches of lager sitting in refrigerated tanks lagering away. Tucked behind shelves of supplies were four wine barrels (two white and two red). We were given the great opportunity to smell one of the barrels which was filled with a soured bock, something Al picked while learning the ins and outs of homebrewing in Germany, aging on raspberries. The aroma was simply AMAZING! Lastly, in the back room was another batch of Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon and Laird’s Apple Brandy barrels waiting for some barrel aging. We’re definitely going to have to come back to Al’s when those barrels are tapped, or even possibly bottled!

Al's Fermentation Tanks

Near the end of the tour, Garrett and two friends joined Russ and Bob with Al. When we got back upstairs, Jeff, his fiancée, and another friend met us. Finally the motley crew was complete. The food, as always, was great. How can pizza with bacon and ham go wrong? It was great that Al took the time to give us a tour of the brewery and to talk to us about some exciting plans in the works for Al’s of Hampden and Pizza Boy Brewing.

Tröegs Brewing Company

We left Al’s and started the race convoy to the new Tröegs brewery and tasting room (T2) near Hershey Park, PA. Beautiful location with a gigantic tasting room. As we walked into the tasting room who should we see? None other than Al! We made a beeline for the bar to ordered our first round: Nugget Nectar on tap was clearly the most popular choice. Our sources tell us that this particular batch of the Imperial Amber Ale was tweaked slightly, and most of us thought the difference in hoppiness was noticeable–although freshness might have played a part in that. Bob missed the writing on the menu that said you could “float” any beer with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or else he would’ve done a Nugget Nectar experiment. Russ and a few others, for their second round, ordered Java Head “floated,” which you’ll see a review of this week.

T2 Tasting Room

We grabbed our beers and took a self-guided tour of the brewing and bottling rooms. The scale was fantastic. It’s hard to image the scale of a major brewery after walking through Tröegs setup. We were particularly amazed with the tanks that held 600 kegs of a single beer. That would take you a long time to work through!

Garrett and Russ for size comparison

Right around this time  the power went out. The Beer Circle was having too much fun and the Pennsylvania LCB had to shut us down. Well, at least that is the rumor we’re trying to start. The sad thing was looking at the people walking up to the front door getting turned away. Later, however, we felt their sadness as the cash registers gave out. We couldn’t order any more beer! About this time we realized that the original tour schedule was a bit ambitious, which forced us into some modifications.  The group had to split up.

Stoudt’s Brewing Company

Garrett’s part of the tour made their way to Stoudt’s Brewing Company, and took a seat at their Black Angus Restaurant and Pub.  The beer selections were excellent, as one would expect from Stoudt’s.  However, this pub didn’t seem to be the greatest atmosphere for relaxing and enjoying a few brews.  While the waitstaff was helpful, friendly, and courteous, the group found the atmosphere to be rather uptight, formal, and almost uncomfortable for the task of simply catching up with friends; it’s more like a formal restaurant than a brewpub. It’d probably be a good place to grab a nice dinner, though.

Stoudt's Brewing Company

The decor in one of the rooms was very cool, however, with plenty of old beer memorabilia adorning the walls.  Also, guys – check out the bathrooms for some rather ‘unique’ art.

Lancaster Brewing Company

After Stoudts, Garrett’s splinter group made their way down to Lancaster Brewing Company.  This seemed to be a bit more the atmosphere that the gang was looking for.  Unassuming and homelike on the interior, they still have a great food menu.  While none of the crew took the time to eat dinner here, the steaks and other delicious-looking selections frequently went past us.  Their Milk Stout is an excellent choice, and, at the recommendation of a friend (thanks, Leanna!), Garrett mixed this with a Lancaster Strawberry Wheat to make a unique concoction reminiscent of a chocolate-covered strawberry.  While this was a neat flavor sensation, he’ll probably stick to the straight Milk Stout next time.  After a quick dinner and bottle shop stop, Garrett and company’s portion of the tour wound to a close.

Lancaster Brewing Company

Capone’s

Leaving the brewery portion of the trip, Bob and Russ made their way towards Philadelphia and Capone’s in Norristown. Their combination of great drafts and a really unique bottle shop made it a tough place to pass up. Needing some time for Russ to continue digesting that “floated” Java Head Stout, they first stopped at the bottle shop in the back of Capone’s . It was pretty shocking at first, with multiple vintages of a number of really great beers, fresh Beer Geek Brunch Weasel, and Port Brewing Company Mongo IPA. The selection was like a who’s who list of great beers. The oldest beer in the store they could find was a 2005 Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout. At prices that fit such old beers, it was tough to pick just one to walk out with, but Russ settled for a 2009 Weyerbacher Riserva and Bob nabbed Nebraska Brewing’s Fathead.

Now to the bars and taps! Both writers were really impressed with the “classy” decor and feel of the bar. It was a local bar. Some of the people were dressed in jeans while others were dressed much more formally, heading out for the evening. Capone’s is known in beer circles as a must-stop for good taps but bottled Coors Light and Whiskey Cokes were more popular a choice than the absurdly well-populated draft list. Russ opted for a flight, and Bob grabbed a pint of Voodoo Brewery‘s Cowbell on nitro, which was decadent. Russ grabbed the Cowbell, but wanted also to try Double Crooked Tree IPA from Dark Horse which was one of the best IPAs he’s ever had.

Monk’s Cafe

The final stop on the original trip plan was Monk’s Cafe in Philadelphia. After luckily finding a parking garage close to the bar, Bob and Russ made their way into the mob that populated Monk’s. Awed by the 3L bottle of Supplication, Millenium Gueuze, and various Cantillon empty bottles on the bar, they gazed to the tap list and saw Pliny the Elder on tap. Jackpot. Let us tell you, it was delicious. Not to be outdone, they checked the “Beer Bible” that was the bottle list, and located Cantillon‘s Rose de Gambrinus. Figuring they needed a sour to complete the day, and Bob’s desire to collect the unique label, the two splurged and loved every second of it. Somehow, the Beer Bible also made its way back to Virginia.

Russ shows off Pliny the Elder on the Left, and Rose de Gambrinus on the Right

Stateline Liquors

At this point Bob and Russ were pretty tired and wanted to get back to the Northern Virginia area, but Stateline Liquors was not to be missed. You see, Bob learned from a previous trip that if you spend >$300 on single bottles of beer that you become a rock star. He also signed up for the Buyer’s Club that gets you 10% off on future visits. He was generous enough to let Russ take advantage, too. This is one of those stores where they have not only a long list of beers you’ve only heard of before, they probably also have a vintage or barrel aged version. Russ grabbed a number of IPAs, barrel aged stuff from Mikkeller to Stillwater, and fulfilled his funk craving. Bob picked up a number of DuClaw Brewing & Stillwater beers and Funky Jewbelation from Shmaltz, among others. Bob realized that he was starting to act like a kid in a candy shop so he decided to put a few bottles back before his wife killed him because of all the bottled beer already in their basement.

Conclusion

All in all, the tour was a great success. Bob and Russ didn’t get back to Virginia until after 12:30 am, but it was definitely worth it.  Garrett’s bunch was spending the night with a friend in Lancaster, which was much more convenient. Nothing is better than sharing great beer with some great people. This was the first time for many of the writers at various stops along the way. The only regrets included the fact that we couldn’t drink every beer on every menu we came across. Those of you who live in the area have a number of gems, we at The Beer Circle are jealous, and were happy to have been so wonderfully accepted in Eastern PA.

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Written by Bob Pack, Russ Beck, Garrett Miller and Jeff Kupko

Simply put, Bob is a beer lover. He goes out of his way to try new beers whenever he can find them. The love of trying new beers had resulted in a beer label collection of over 1400. When it comes down to it, Bob is a hop head. He loves IPAs (including double and black). Stouts are a close second. His tweet reviews on @nova_beer are simple and approachable. Let him know what you think. Find Bob Pack on Google Plus

Filed under: Al's of Hampden, Bars, Breweries, Capone's Restaurant, Lancaster Brewing Co., Monk's Cafe, Pizza Boy Brewing Co., Stoudt's Brewing Co., The Beer Circle, Tröegs Brewing Co. · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

13 Responses to "The Beer Circle Eastern PA Brewery Tour Recap"

  1. Had a great time on the tour with you guys!

    1. Thanks for hosting us, Kenton!  Looking forward to your guest post!

  2. Greg says:

    Gonna make my own Java Head float.

  3. […] on our Eastern PA Beer Tour this last weekend a number of beers stand out, but only one was truly unique. A “beer […]

  4. […] getting the change to hang out with fellow beer lovers at events like The Beer Circle’s first beer tour of Eastern PA. Stay tuned for information on another event in mid/late […]

  5. […] Brewing and enjoyed a power outage while at Tröegs. You can read the recap of the tour via this link. We hope to see you on August […]

  6. […] for a great day of food, friendship, and beer. Feeling nostalgic? Check out the recap from our Eastern PA tour and tell us which was […]

  7. […] for a great day of food, friendship, and beer. Feeling nostalgic? Check out the recap from our Eastern PA tour and tell us which was […]

  8. […] a considerable amount of brewing capacity.  The Beer Circle has stopped by here on a previous beer tour (and even got to witness the power going out), and Kenton wrote a guest piece on the brewery some […]

  9. “Garrett and Russ for size comparison” – Yes, Garrett is much taller than Russ.

  10. […] and is spread across the year with 2 other Brew Fests hosted in May and October. The Beer Circle visited the place before for samples of their own beer, but I decided to give the brewery another go, meet some new […]

  11. […] which they speak, however, is not the same Al’s of Hampden which they’ve visited on a previous beer tour, this was something new – something the beer community has been much abuzz about for some […]

  12. […] learned both at Churchkey (links to a review of Zwanze Day 2012 and also the beer itself) in DC and Monk’s Cafe in […]

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