Our samples consumed, with beer styles, time, and stereoscopic vision beginning to blur, we wrong-turned our way to Reamstown, a name that, because of all the beer we’d consumed, was twice as hilarious as it should have been. Fortunately, Chris’ creative and whimsical approach to navigation gave us an hour to burn off our previous consumption. Thus, it was with a fresh palate and clear head that we entered the Union Barrel Works.
Suzi dispensing heaven at Union Barrel Works
The Barrel Works looks as if it could accommodate the entire population of the town in which it’s located. An immaculate bar and shiny stainless steel betray the newness of the place. It opened eight months ago. Suzi, the Cheerful Bartenderess kept up an amiable banter as she worked and we tasted.
Me enjoying the fruits of her labor
All the beer from Union was excellent. The Koelsch being a particular standout. Koelsch, a light, low-alcohol ale native to the city of Cologne, Germany, is an uncommon find among American Craft breweries. When done right, as union does it, it’s the perfect session beer. Because of it’s featherweight mouthfeel and alcohol content, Koelsch serves as an excellent companion to hours of leisurely discussion, and pairs well with chicken and fish dishes too.
It’s at this point that things start to get a bit hazy. A quick whirl through the shitty countryside and we fetched up at Stoudt’s, the Munster Mansion of the brewing world. The bizzare, quasi-Victorian decor and closed-off brewhouse makes Stoudt’s seem more like a restaurant that also brews beer instead of a major craft brewer whose beers are distributed all over the place. Predictably, each of us ordered and enjoyed a sample flight of Stoudt’s uniformly excellent beer. Which we enjoyed uniformly.
Patrick comes to grips with Stoudt’s eclectic decor, as well as his beer flight
It’s cozy, in a 19th Century kinda way
After Stoudt’s, we fetched up in a Downingtown, Pennsylvania industrial park. This would have been stupid had the park not contained the Victory Brewing Company.
Victory’s dining area has the feel of a roller rink with tables placed on the skating floor, but neither our group, nor the hundreds of other patrons, were there for the decor. We were there for the Victory Lager, which we can’t get back home, and the freshly released Baltic Thunder. Brewed in the Baltic porter style, but hoppier, Baltic Thunder is a dense, opaque, powerful brew with a chewy body and pleasantly bitter finish. Unlike the lager, which is so on-style you could A/B it with the Helles of Munich, the BT digresses from the parameters of the Polish and Estonian beers which inspired it. A hefty dose of bittering hops lends a distinctly American touch to a relatively homogenous European style. It went great with my reuben.
One of these Baltic Thunder sizes is unnecessary.
Here’s a quick tip if you’re thinking about going on a beer tour: take a commercial brewer along with you. Bruce’s credentials got us a full tour of Victory’s brewhouse led by Tim Wadkins, their Quality Control guy. He explained that, although Victory Hop Devil is their (very deserving) best seller, Victory’s brewers have a passion for German lager. It shows. They’re one of the few North American breweries to do the style justice.
It’s as fun to drink Prima Pils in the back of the house as in the dining area
By this point, most sane individuals would have called it a night. So we headed over to Bube’s, where Bruce drunkenly hit on the cute chick singer of the band that had just wrapped up its set. Apparently, he was impressed that they covered the Dead Kennedys. In homage to Delaware’s proximity, we plowed (sic) through a few Dogfish Head 60-minute IPAs. Then, our night ended somewhat abruptly.
If you’ve read to this point, I can’t imagine why. Suffice it to say that, for beer lovers, southeastern Pennsylvania has a hell of a lot to offer. Sure, you have to dodge buggies, shit trucks, and religious pamphlets, not to mention scrapple, but both the variety of beers and their more or less uniform excellence will make those tribulations worthwhile. If the rest of the country follows this region’s example, we’ll have earned a place among the great beer nations of the world.