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What are you doing this summer? Find out what local beer is best for you.
As the long hot summer days roll around, SCYP member Andrew Pope, shown here with the "Hammer of Glory" from Beer Week, has a few suggestions for keeping cool, no matter what your preferred activity. So grab a cold one, kick back, and enjoy the read.
It’s finally summer here in central PA. Like a lot of people, to me, there’s nothing like a nice, cold, refreshing beer during these warm, humid days. There’s just something perfect about a summer afternoon with my favorite brew. My only qualm is that I see people picking up the same varieties of lagers (there are two types of beer – ales and lagers—and they are divided by how the yeast ferments, either on the top or bottom) that they’ve been grabbing for years. Why keep going back to the same old thing? Fortunately for you, PA offers some really great beers, and summer is a great time to explore them all. Here in the Keystone State, we have award-winning breweries stretching from the mouth of the Delaware River to the banks of Lake Erie, and you can find many of them right here in State College.
I’m not here to knock “Big Breweries.” This isn’t some sort of pontificating monologue about the superiority of craft beer. It’s just that there are options out there, and some of them are GREAT beers from PA. Listen, we’re young professionals. Leave the beers you over-consumed in college to the kids, and mature a little by expanding your palate. There is really a beer style for everyone, be it crisp and clean, heavy and chewy, big and hoppy, or a massively malty concoction.
Now I’m sure you’re wondering, “Who is this jerk, and why is he telling me what to drink? He doesn’t know anything!” Hey, I’m just making a suggestion, I’m not forcing you to do it. (Something about laws and personal choice won’t let me). As far as what qualifies me…well, it’s simple. I’m a beer fan. I’ve been home brewing for a few years, and have been to enough tastings, festivals, and beer dinners to form an educated opinion. That, and I’m a 5 time finalist for the Philly Beer Geek competition, which is a comprehensive battle in beer knowledge, song & dance numbers, and taste testing. Don’t laugh---Philadelphia is one of the best beer cities in the US! Not only are they passionate about beer, they’re educated about it as well. Finally, I have a computer, I have taste buds, and I am overly opinionated – which makes me perfectly qualified.
As far as the guide itself, I’ve kept it simple – this is based on various summer activities you can do in the State College area, and the beers I feel fit best in the situation and appeal to a wide array of palates. I’ve tried to be as broad as possible, but if you don’t love the selection, that’s ok! I encourage you to go out and use the style of beer I suggest here as a guide and find something new you like to drink. The beers I list are available in growlers, bottles, bombers, and cans. I searched places like Wegman’s, Hop Shop, Sharkies, Brewskies, and the brewpubs that made them. Sadly, I have to leave out some great PA beers, but am literally working with what we have here. Purple Monkey Dishwasher, Monkey Knife Fight and Pious Monk are not available here, so they are not on the list.
1. Yard Work - It’s a fact of life that weekends in the summer often involve mowing, gardening, tending your vegetables, and manual labor. So after all that hard work, you want something nice, clean, and refreshing to sit down with. Nothing with a super strong ABV, just a nice lighter bodied beer to refresh your wearied soul. My suggestion – stick with lagers. Lagers are a diverse style group, so these would be the match you want.
Tröeg’s Sunshine Pils (4.5%, Troegs Brewing, Hershey, Pa): SCYP was lucky enough to visit Tröegs during our Spring Brewery tour, and I saw a lot of people trying this beer. This Pils, for me, is the go-to. I’m not a Pils guy by any means, but this is just really, really well-made beer, similar to a traditional Euro-style Pils, but with a more assertive hop flavor. This would be the beer you want to give your friends who keep talking about that one time they went to a brewery in Germany, and while they can’t remember the name of the brewery or beer, they won’t stop talking about it. This great, PA made Pils should get them talking about something else.
SlyFox Helles Lager (4.9%, SlyFox Brewery, Phoenixville, PA): SlyFox really is one of the best lager manufactures out there. Sure, they make a LOT of good ales, but their Bocks, Pilsners, and other Lagers are fine, fine beers you don’t see made by others. Their Bock Festival & Goat races in May is a fantastic celebration of the lager style. But this Helles, new to the mass markets, is a nice refreshing beer. More of a malt-forward beer, the hoppiness is light, but definitely there. Not a super clean finish, but light enough to really enjoy it after a lot of hard work. Also, the peel top cans are like bowties. Bowties are cool. Just sayin’.
- Otto’s Spring Creek Lager (4.7%, Otto’s Brewery, State College, PA): This Vienna lager is a little heavier than the others, in terms out mouth feel and body, but not all lagers are super light, and this is a nice demonstration of it. The hops sort of come in midway as a balancing act in the flavor, but the sweet malt flavor is what really shines here, (not in a cloying way, though). I’m sort of surprised there aren’t a few more lagers at either brewpub in the area.
Penn’s Kaiser Pils (5.0%, Penn Brewery, Pittsburgh, PA): So, Penn Pilsner is another beer by Penn. It…actually isn’t a Pilsner. No joke, it’s a Vienna lager. The beer comes from one of PA’s oldest families (insert counterintuitive joke about PA of your choice)--Tom Pastorius, the brewery’s founder, is actually a descendant of Francis Pastorius, colonial Poet, politician, and the founder of the Germantown section of Philadelphia. Tom himself was a well-regarded beer man, and remembered as an important figure in the PA brewing resurgence. The biscuit-y flavor from the malt is up front, but a solid hop bite shows up and flows through to the end. A finely constructed western PA representative for this style.
We live in a valley in the middle of the Appalachians. Hiking through the forest and hills is the perfect way to spend a summer day. Go out, see nature, look for wildlife, identify plant life-- heck, re-enact that scene from the “Sound of Music” if you so choose! (We’ve all done it, and I won’t judge you if you wore a costume, either.) My point is that we have a lot of nature, and beer is a great thing to take in with all the scenery! I think lighter-to-medium bodied, hoppy beer would complement the environment and let you refresh yourself, and maybe give you a little strength along the way.
Yards Philadelphia Pale Ale (4.6% Yards Brewery, Philadelphia, PA): For years, this has been Yards’ flagship beer (although some claim that title has been taken over by Brawler).As an American Pale Ale (APA), it’s a stronger hop profiled version of the classic English pale ale. I have a soft spots for Yards, as their owner has danced with kegs (ok, it was a Firkin) to make good on bets made with bar owners. (Look it up, it’s on the interwebs.) I mean, who doesn’t love someone dancing around with kegs? As far as the beer, its lighter bodied than some APAs, with a slightly sweet upfront taste, with a big citrus hop flavor that is gets bitter, but doesn’t overpower.
Springhouse Seven Gates Pale Ale (5.6% Springhouse Brewing, Conestoga, PA). This one is named after a local ghost story. This lets it double as a go-to beer for Halloween parties (too soon? hey – being prepared is key). As a bonus for storage/utility while hiking, this beer is canned. It has a solid hop presence, but the hop flavor is much stronger, like an IPA, but just light enough to say it’s a good APA.
SlyFox Phoenix Pale Ale (5.1%, Slyfox Brewery, Phoenixville, PA): SlyFox loves cans. And why not? They store easily, the crushability makes disposal easier (and slightly more enjoyable), and are lighter then bottles. Side note: cans are acceptable for tailgating, so keep that in mind. This might be my favorite APA. This is much more aggressive, like Springhouse, but I think it balances the malt a little better. I mean you get the malt in the background, and it doesn’t fade, sort of like a backbone for the beer, but it definitely has a big, aggressive hop flavor. And when I say aggressive, I don’t mean so much that it’s off-putting, but it is right there in front of you to enjoy.
3. Pool, lakes, rivers, or “downthashore”.
Ok, I cheated a little there. Hitting the ocean is not possible out here (barring major natural disasters as seen in The Day After Tomorrow). But you might go visit someone by the beach, so bring them a beer! Often people will bring sweet and fruity cocktails or throw limes in beer while relaxing by water, so why not just grab some beer with the fruity flavor already added in! There are plenty of sweet options available out here, in addition to sweet non-fruit beers.
Otto’s Apricot Wheat ( 4.7% Otto’s Brewpub, State College, PA): You really can’t go wrong with wheat beers. They are a staple beer for people year round, can vary in strength, and can be spicy or sweet, depending on which yeast strain you are using. Even more than the regular hefeweizen, the apricot wheat has been a go-to conversion beer for years. Buddies who only drank Coronas, sisters who disliked craft beer, ex-girlfriends who hated beer – all of them enjoyed this one. The fruit is slight, not overpowering, and not super sweet. The mix of flavors is a great introduction to the world of craft beer, and I always suggest people try it.
Victory’s Mad King Weiss (6.2% Victory Brewing Company, Downingtown, PA): This was FINALLY released in 22 oz. bombers this year, and quite frankly, I couldn’t be happier. For years this was draught only @ Victory’s brewpub, and then they slowly transitioned to selling kegs. It’s an all-time favorite of mine, and now it’s available all over. There is a sort of banana flavor prevalent in wheat beers, mixed with a subtle spice from the yeast. It comes together really nicely, and is very refreshing. There is no super hop punch, there is not boozy aftertaste, no cloying sweetness. Just a really well-made wheat beer. This is my benchmark for all US wheats, and if you think I am wrong, I don’t want to be right.
Erie Brewing’s Derailed (5%, Erie Brewing Company): Though a mostly forgotten style, cream ales can be great for summer beers. Malty but not heavy, they can cool you off in the sun without filling you up too much. So Erie went ahead and made a sibling to their Railbender, a fruit beer called Derailed. You get the mild sweet malts you find in a cream ale, and you add a nice dark cherry flavor to finish it off. Not a very filling beer, but a nice fruit flavor alternative to mango, pineapple, or strawberry.
Happy Valley Brewing’s Stratus Loftbeir (4.7% Happy Valley Brewing Company, Lemont): This was a hard beer to nail down for me, and it was actually really enjoyable. They call it a hybrid ale, so I am going to guess a combo of California Common & a Cream Ale? Maybe the easiest-drinking beer of HVBC, it has a sweet, medium body, and tastes like it uses corn. It’s sweet, with a clean finish, but not really crisp. And it’s refreshing. All in all, I really like this, despite having a profile I normally wouldn’t touch. This would be a good beer to introduce to people unfamiliar with craft beer.
3. Barbequing/Grilling/Smoking/ fire + meat/vegetables
People get angry about food+fire terminology, so this is a catchall. This might be the toughest section, as there are so many styles that COULD work, and so many variations in cooking techniques that change the flavor parameters. So, in the interest of speed and variety, I am going to list a cooking style/type/ ingredient, and make a few recommendation with a brief description. There is quite a bit of personal preference involved here, so please keep that in mind.
Grilled Veggies: My first suggestion this for would be something sweet, with a little heft to it. Hoppy COULD work, but could also throw off your tastebuds, so proceed with caution. Recommendation: Golden Monkey (9.2%, Victory) – sweet, spicy, not heavy, but has some weight to it. Keewaydin Cider (5.5%, Otto’s) very sweet, with hints of tartness. Light. VooDoo GranMet (9.5% VooDoo): swirl of flavors, mixes nicely.
Grilled Chicken: using olive oil, a mustard base, or nothing at all, you want light, and either spicy or clean hoppy flavor. Recommendations: Otto’s Golden Ale (5.5%, Otto’s) sweet upfront, a little pepper spice. Yards Saison (6.5%, Yards). sweet & spicy, mixed nicely. Sort of dry. Robot Surf Factory (5.8%, Springhouse) a pineapple pale ale. It actually works well.
BBQ Chicken: You need to balance out the sweet and tangy, but still complement. Craftsman Brown Ale (5.2%, Happy Valley Brewing) very Malty, sort of nutty flavor. Works with BBQ sauce. Spring Maibock: (6.4%, Otto’s) light-bodied. Very malty with a nice hop background. Good representative of the style. HopDevil (6.7% Victory) hoppy with a strong malt backbone. If you want to introduce someone to IPAs, THIS is the beer you use. The spicy hoppy flavors mix well with BBQ sauce.
Burgers: IPAs and malty beers. You can really play around with burgers, as toppings affect their pairing. Pallet Jack Belgian Pale Ale (6.3%, Otto’s) hoppy, sweet, spicy. I love the style and it works with a lot of types of food. Midnight Ryder Black IPA (5%, Happy Valley Brewing) nice roasted malt, strong hop flavor, and uses rye. Jolly Scott (5.2%, Appalachian Brewing) honestly, I have never been big on Appalachian, BUT, this malty brew actually works really well with a medium rare burger. I can’t figure it out, but it works.
Pulled Pork & Sausage: you can use some of the beef & chicken suggestions, and here are some more that would work: Verbotten (5.9%, Weyerbacher) sweet Malts, peppery spice. Another winner from Weyerbacher. Scarlet Lady (5%, Stoudt’s) bready malts, finishing with sharp, bitter (but pleasant) hop LaGrave (8%, Tröeg’s) Caged & Corked, a Belgian from the Trogner brothers. Sweet. Dry. Hoppy finish. Interesting beer that might work even better if you age it.
4. Sitting Around a Fire.
Fire pit, campfire, bonfire. There is something primal about fire, and as a 6,000 year old beverage, beer is the perfect complement. When you have a bit of cold air around you, and you gather in front of the fire to warm up, grabbing a big, hearty, strong beer will help to warm you up. You want something potent, the stronger the better, so you can sit down, and slowly sip your beer while enjoying the night. These beers, strong and hoppy or sweet and malty, are a great way to end your night.
Springhouse’s Big Gruesome (8%, Springhouse Brewing, Conestoga, PA): Chocolate Peanut butter beers. I really, really like them. I recommend tasting this and Sweet Baby Jesus side by side to see which you prefer. The brew is actually light-bodied. Peanut butter is stronger than the chocolate flavor. It’s not a hearty beer, but it is very solid. However, when it comes to style, it’s not what I think of when I have an imperial stout. Incredibly easy drinking.
Tröeg’s Troggenator (8.2%, Tröeg’s Brewing, Hershey, PA): It’s a big, malty lager. This hearty beer is easy drinking and very flavorful, and it comes in tallboy cans. Uses the famous German – “ator” to designate the style’s name. It’s an incredibly easy drinking, but well-rounded beer. Strong, tasty, and simple. Perfect beer to sit back and drink during long campfire conversations.
Weyerbacher’s Blithering Idiot (11.1%, Weyerbacher Brewing, Easton) This is a BIG hearty beer. It’s the sort of beer that puts hair on your chest and a spring in your step. It’s a slow sipper, with a big boozy flavor mixing the hops and malts. If you’re not used to the style, this can be a punch in the face. Pour it into a snifter and enjoy the night.
Neshaminy Creek’s Imperial Chocolate Mudbank Milk Stout (9.1% Neshaminy Creek, Croydon, PA): This is basically a big, sweet dessert beer. It has a tiny bit of necessary balance with the oats and really slight hop notes, but it’s very rich overall. The sweet chocolate flavor mixes with the creamy milk stout character. The version of the beer you find now is obviously a few months old, but the aging has helped it! No real hop profile, but it mixes malty sweetness, smooth oat flavor, and a lingering heartiness that really fills you up. Great beer to end the night.
So there you have it, folks! My great guide to beers that will last you through the warm summer months. Hopefully the suggestions I’ve made will suit every part of the season for you. As I said before, there are a lot of great PA beers out there, and I encourage you to try them all with some of your friends. Cheers!
The results of the 2014 SCYP Olympics is below!
Thanks to all of you who made it a great event! Scoreboard photo credit to member Louise!
Patrick Chambers had his audience captivated. The Penn State men’s basketball coach held court over his tablemates, telling stories and sharing advice.
Chambers covered a lot of topics: what it was like growing up the youngest of 12 siblings, whether he thinks the NBA should adopt an age limit (he does), recruiting and how he uses social media in an age when seemingly everyone updates Twitter every couple of minutes.
Chambers wasn’t addressing a recruit, the alumni base or potential donors. Instead, he shared his insight with about a dozen members of State College Young Professionals last Thursday afternoon in the lower level of Rotelli in downtown State College.
Read the full article by SCYP member John Patishnock, on the Centre County Gazette.
Welcome to SCYP’s guest blog posts! We hope they’ll give you a first-hand look at what it’s like to live, work, and play with young professionals in State College!
Our first post comes from member and beer aficionado Isaac Gerg, and describes SCYP’s Spring 2014 Brewery Tour.
Beer, Wine, and Good Times: The SCYP Brewery Tour
It’s a brisk Saturday morning in central Pennsylvania. I'm in my truck about to stop at Sheetz to get a morning coffee pick-me-up and a quick breakfast. The windows are cracked and the fresh air is blowing in the cab. Its just after 8:30.
The truck is parked and I dash into Sheetz. There's a line of about a dozen people. Hunger is written on everyone's face. No one looks awake, no one is talking. Its hard to believe in less than half a day, I will have shared a story or a laugh with most these people even though I don’t know any of their names.
The last people fly into the parking lot and run for the bus. The door closes and we are off. A few more people are starting to chat. I make small talk with my seatmate, mostly about coffee and how I desperately need it. The bus pulls out of the parking lot and begins our voyage east to the lands of rich wine and hearty brews. Wooo Hooo!
The rolling PA hills fly by as I look at the window. Our first stop is a mere 45 minutes into our journey. Over the loudspeaker two SCYP board members, Jon Hartzler and Devin Pennebaker, welcome us to the town of Belleville, a town they grew up in, and the home of Brookmere Winery.
Brookmere greets us with a big red barn surrounded by acres of farmland. Its exactly the kind of scene you'd hope to see in central PA. The bus passes by an Amish buggy. We shuffle off as soon as the engine silences. A noticeable buzz is in the area, one soon to be in our heads!
The hosts of Brookmere are very welcoming and accommodating. Their winery is nothing short of an estate. Its accompanied by the Vineyard Inn and The Pavillion, both of which the owners lead us through on a tour.
As soon as we enter the tasting room, we are greeted with a wine list and told about their more popular varieties. The list features five types: red, white, blush, fruit, and spumante. I went immediately for the reds and enjoyed their Twisted Trio and Shawnee Red. Those favoring whites raved about their Autumn Gold and Niagara. At this point, everyone in the crowd is awake and chatter fills the space.
Some folks begin to buy some bottles of wine to take home and the owners take us outside and show us around the estate. Let me tell you, an estate it is! We grab a quick photo from the top of the Vineyard Inn. Along the way, I introduce myself to a few new faces and ask about the recently purchased wine they are carrying and what they liked about it. Others are jumping across the creek and still others are discovering The Pavillion, prepped for a wedding reception.
The driver boards the bus and starts it up. The sound gets everyones attention and slowly we all pile on. Our hosts get on the loudspeaker and ask the group of their impressions of the winery; they are met with cheers. We are definitely loosened up now. Beep, beep! The bus signals as it backs up and begins to pull out to our next destination: Drunk Monkey Brew Works.
As the bus pulls into Lewistown, PA, the home of Drunk Monkey, our hilarious SCYP hosts Devin and Jon introduced to the area and the brewery. The scenery at Drunk Monkey is filled with post-industrial brick buildings and huge stacks of bee boxes. I'm wondering what's going on and am quite intrigued. We shuffle off the bus and head into the tasting room. A guide greets us with a huge smile and motions for all of us to come in. He begins to fill us in on the history and uniqueness of the brewery. It turns out Drunk Monkey brews their beer under the Captain Jack label. He explains the bee boxes we saw outside--Drunk Monkey has a third generation beekeeper and a lot of his honey makes it into the brews. Even the bottles are unique--each variety has its own color cap. Everyone gets in line for a taste.
After hitting our taste buds with some of their delicious brews, a few of us sit down on a bench outside to make room for others to join in the fun. Some of us know each other and those we don't, we introduce ourselves to. Each of us tells a little bit about where we are from and how we arrived in State College. I share the bench with grad students, young professionals, new friends and old. People hail from as close as Brockway and as far as Ukraine. Talk about interesting conversation! After a bit of socializing, the bus fires up and we're off the next destination, Tröegs Brewery.
On the way to Tröegs, our hosts keep the fun going through team trivia. My seatmate and I are completely awful at it and instead work on coming up with a clever team name.
When we pull into Tröegs, two things are on everyone's mind: beer and food. It’s after lunchtime and we are hungry! We shuffle off of the bus and into the brewery, where we are greeted by the hosts in a huge cafeteria-style dining area with rows of tables and huge beer stills in the background. This place screams “brewery.” The hosts at Tröegs explain how the tastings and dining experience work. A few SCYPers inquire about the tour they signed up for weeks ago--apparently Tröegs brewery tours fill up quickly!
I meet a handful of new people in the group and ask if I can sit with them for lunch. We quickly form a cohort and head to a table. A few more SCYPers see our group and we immediately ask them to join us. Soon our little group is occupying a whole row of tables.
Where do I begin with Tröegs? The Perpetual IPA is one of my favorites. All of their brews really speak for themselves. If you've never had them, I suggest you stop reading this and go get some! I had been to the old Tröegs location several years ago and can safely say that their new place was a much needed upgrade, and everyone enjoyed their beer. This stop was well-planned for lunch, as the food was as amazing as the vibe of the place. Tröegs teams up with local farms and their menu has everything: small plates, large plates, appetizers, sandwiches, and desserts. We all dig in, and as we eat, we look up to see friends on the second tier getting their tour from one of the brewers. I have to remember to sign up for the brewery tour next year!
While enjoying washing down our lunch with some hearty brews at Tröegs, we also met up with the Carlisle Young Professionals. Really friendly bunch of people, all similar ages as us. A few of them went to Penn State, which served as an easy icebreaker to meet the rest of the group. We chat with them for a bit before taking off to our next spot, Cassel Vineyards near Hershey.
Looking out the window as the bus drives into Cassel Vineyards, you see endless rows of grapes growing--like something out of a movie. The moment we step off the bus we are greeted by one of the owners, the friendliest guy you could ever meet. He begins by telling us the history of the winery and some of the characteristics that make it unique. For example, the grapes at Cassel never leave the property until you buy one of their wines and take it home with you!
Cassel gives us a tour of their winery as well as plenty of time to taste. Their list is made up mostly of whites and reds, but also had a few blushes, fruit wines, and one port, Chocolate Ruby Royal. Chocolate and wine together at last--it is a huge hit.
It’s now mid-afternoon and the sun is out. Cassel has a really cool outdoor sitting area and everyone is relaxed (well, mostly everyone, some people did cartwheels!). I meet more new people and ask one of them to take a picture of me in front of the grape vineyard before we leave to return to State College. The afternoon has had such an incredible vibe: everyone has just been taking it easy, hanging out, and just enjoying the sun AND the wine!
Our final stop is AL's of Hampden in Enola, PA. This place is incredible -- they have over 100 beers on tap and a huge menu of pizza, pasta, and sandwiches to complement them. As soon as I walk in the place, I can’t help but notice a row of beer taps 20-plus feet long and the flatscreens listing all the available beers. Standing in front of the monitors is like being in an airport figuring out what gate my flight is, except now I'm figuring out what tap my beer is! Once you find it though, ordering is easy and by the number. “81,” I tell the bartender. I’ve chosen AL's Bean Dream, a Vanilla Porter, which AL brews under the name Pizza Boy Brewing. Soon I have a beer in one hand and a slice of pizza in the other. I began looking for a place to sit.
A quick look around the room and I realize our "old" friends from Carlisle Young Pros are here to join us. I shuffle over, pull up a seat next to them, and ask how their beers taste. All of us share what we’re drinking. I talk about my porter, which I'm becoming a huge fan of. With over a hundred beers on tap, there's a beer for everyone!
I stand up to get another beer and take a quick look around the room. It's been a long day for our group and what started out as a quiet Saturday morning is now a bustling group of friends sharing stories. After a little while, we get the signal from leaders--it’s time to get back on the bus and head home.
Unlike the morning, the bus ride now is noisy and vivacious. Jokes are told, trivia is played-- everyone is having a great time. We talk about our favorite wines and beers from the day and share what purchases we made along the way. After time, the noise dies down. It’s a long ride back to State College, and we all get well-needed rest on our return.
Overall, I would say the brewery tour is definitely one of my favorite SCYP events! Hope to see you on next season's tour! Prost!
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