Friday, April 29, 2011

YeeHaw! Turkey Hill Brewing Company Dances

When we heard about six months ago that the Turkey Hill Brewing Company was opening, we immediately expected great things since the Inn at Turkey Hill Inn is such a fantastic place to stay and enjoy imaginative five-star cuisine. After our first visit last week, we're here to say they've delivered on every expectation.

From the outside, the building looks like a barn that's been turned into something more--exactly what you can't be certain until you get closer, but the twin cupolas on the roof ensure there's no mistaking the original purpose of this structure. Approaching from the large parking area, the sidewalk passes by windows that let you know the focus of this place is beer. The entrance: a wonderful faux timber frame that beckons and hints at what's inside.

Passing through the doors leads to a reception area where you'll find wood and lots of it. Benches for waiting patrons are arrayed around the room--their seats made of rustic slabs of timber. Wood paneling; and a well executed custom wood staircase ascends to the second floor. To the right in the reception area are windows looking directly into the brewery that is at the same level.

The staircase up places you in a room that on one side has a windowed gallery overlooking the brewery and on the other side a doorway opens into the main space of the second floor which contains a bar and dining room. Simple wooden stools and a narrow bar rail along the gallery windows will be a nice place to watch the brewery in action. Alas on this night not to be: it's time to celebrate boys!

Passing through the opening into the main space, there's a bar straight ahead and dining room to the left. Magnificent and authentic barn framing soars overhead. Well done fellows! The cupola admitting early evening light enhances the framing.

The beer menu strikes a nice balance: there are a couple or three of approachable beers reminiscent of earlier times, an intriguing Belgian Dubbel, and a few nice American-style craft beers where the brewmaster Donny Abraczinskas really displays his deft touch. A six-flight sampler was $8.50, delivered in a carpenter's wooden toolbox and well worth the few bucks. The only beer on the menu not yet ready when we visited was the NewWhirrld Vienna Lager.

The Barn Dance Blonde Ale is a German style Kölsch beer (not my favorite style) and comes in at a light 4.5% ABV. This is a beer to session over; there can be no argument on this can there? This hybrid style can be cloying to us but this one is perfectly suited to bringing to a barn dance. You can not go wrong choosing this beer even if you're more of a Bud Lite drinker.

The Belgian Blonde Ale Bamboozled in Bruges reminded me of Blanche de Bruges (RIP) and was nice and easy drinking. This beer is made for summer and is on the light side for the style at a Witbier-like 5.3% ABV. Doonie's Dubbel is a Belgian Strong Ale--darker and stronger than the Blonde, similar in character and just as easy drinkin'. This dubbel brings it, so watch out.

What impressed me the most was the Epiphany American Pale Ale. Beautiful color, enticing aroma, just the right amount of hop flavor (not overwhelming at all) and lingering lacing on the glass. This beauty squirms into that space just below an American IPA. By that we mean it's a perfect beer for someone wanting to step up to more flavor or when you needs a breather from a string of hop bombs. This one's a keeper.

The Journeyman IPA is a revelation! Crystal clear amber, a delicate yet direct sharp jab in the nose from the hops--guessin' there's C-hops in here. The taste is a bit spicy (Cilantro?) and citrusy. You won't find something like Berwick Brewing Company's Atomic Punk IPA in this beer and it's really not aiming for that. Super good.

The Lightstreet Porter is named after Lightstreet which is a small community just on the other side of I-80 from the brewery. (We haven't been through there in years since PA-487 was modernized oh, 20 years ago, to bypass the town proper. Didn't the store in town have Ma's Root Beer?). This example is served on nitrogen. It's appearance is beguiling its lightness which at 4.9% it truly is a good drinking brew.

Each and every beer was perfect in clarity.

There were a few empty tables when we arrived about 6:30, these quickly filled and there was a wait when we departed. The wait-staff was pleasant and knowledgable of the beer and quick to engage our thoughts on each of the beers. Kudos on that as it shows a real concern. The meals were very good, served quickly.

We didn't get a good look at the bar, other than to see the edge of a very handsome bar rail. We'll have to get back soon for a closer look.

Gee, they've really gotten in right here. Wonderful timber framing reminiscent of the barns I grew up in with innards like the bar and dining room booths hewn from reclaimed building materials. Locally sourced foodstuffs. Beers that are out of this world.

Congratulations to everyone involved! D: I hope you brewed plenty of beer!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Beer Surpasses Water, Tea, and Coffee as Beverage of Choice

Beer: it’s not just for watching football games anymore.

The American Beverage Association has just released the results of a survey that suggests that beer has recently surpassed bottled waters, teas, soft-drinks, and juices in popularity in the United States. When contacted for more information, an ABA spokesman declined any lengthy comments on the matter only offering that the industry was “pursuing new products incorporating beer” in order to profit from the nation’s newfound interest in “tubby beverages”.

We wanted to understand how this wave of popularity is being felt closer to home so we spoke with a Wilkes-Barre PA brewer who informed us that his business has never been better. “As you’d expect we’re supplying lots of kegs to bars and restaurants, but also to ordinary citizens for events like baby and wedding showers, bar and bat mitzvahs and even to some nursing homes. And we recently had contact from a local pet hotel operator who inquired as to the suitability of our beers for small pets.” The brewer continued, “I have noticed a disturbing side-effect though, that many people arriving at the brewery for their kegs, have to be assisted out of their cars due to their oversize midsections.”

We visited a local beer bar for a chance to speak with a few patrons to get their thoughts. We found two who were enjoying some beers from the draught list over lunch. Both declined to identify themselves as they were there on their lunch hour and didn’t want their bosses to know where they were. “It’s an addiction,” one said. “I keep a notebook at home with every beer I’ve ever tasted and it’s up over 1,000 now. And I’ve only been doing this for two years.” During our conversation, the other patron in the bar was furiously swyping the keyboard on his phone so we asked what he was so engaged in. “I’m tweeting about this awesome Trappist ale from Chimay.” When we asked, “What’s a Trappist?”, he responded, “Oh, they’re the high priests of beer from somewhere in Europe. No really. They’re priests that make beer.”

It seems the overwhelming interest in beer has an interesting economic side effect too. We visited a Mr. Z’s grocery store and found the soft-drink manager sadly looking at an aisle and two end-caps brimming with soda. When we approached to get his opinion on the lack of interest in these drinks he intoned that “My pay depends on me moving product and no one’s buying this sugary crap anymore.” But he did get a gleam in his eyes when he concluded, “I can’t wait `til the governor lets us sell beer in here though, I‘m gonna be rich.”

With bottle shops and beer bars catering to a wide array of tastes, blogs and #beer tweets proselytizing about beer, and beer menus, brewery tasting rooms, beer and food pairing dinners, cooking with beer, brewpubs, gastropubs, micro and macro breweries, nano-breweries, pico-breweries, beer of the month clubs, Cicerones, shows about beer on television, radio, and internet, and who knows what else proliferating like dandelions, it’s no surprise that beer has become as American as apple pie and a fat gut.