Cumberland Valley Beer Trail pt 3- Harty Brewing and Desperate Times Brewery

146 Walden Way Mechanicsburg, PA 17050

My next stop on the Cumberland Valley Beer Trail was Harty Brewing in the Silver Spring Township in Mechanicsburg, PA. This little nano brewery located in the tiny community of Walden is owned and operated by Michael Harty and Lauren Ishaq.  But don’t let the small size of their tasting room fool you.  Their beers are big on taste.  

Their American Pale Ale was clear with a golden amber hue and a light citrusy aroma and a hop forward flavor with a light malt presence.

The IPA was cloudy yellow with an orange/citrus aroma and taste, and a slight sweetness that balanced well against a roasted malt backbone.

The Coffee Irish Red had a deep amber red color with a woodsy/malty aroma with a hint of coffee, and a deep malty flavor with a light coffee taste.

The Oatmeal Stout tasted and smelled as dark and rich as it looked with a malty, caramel/maple aroma and taste with a hint of coffee. 

And last but not least, the Coffee Cake Blond Ale had a hazy yellow color and and a smell and taste that reminded me of peaches and cinnamon, with a light sweetness.

Talking to some of the other patrons, Harty Brewing is apparently known for its many experimental beers. Several spoke about a recent jalapeño ale which they claim was unbelievably good.  Lauren, who was manning the bar agreed that a lot of their regulars had been asking for them to make it again.

This was a great little craft brewery, with a warm and inviting atmosphere, a real sense of community, and very good beer!

1201 Carlisle Springs Rd, Carlisle, PA 17013

Desperate Times Brewery opened it’s doors in 2015 and has become a local favorite.  This craft brewery located near the fairgrounds has a prohibition era theme, but a strong German vibe. They have a kitchen with a pretty good food menu with an assortment of German sausages, German potato salad, a schnitzel sandwich, sauerkraut,  and giant pretzels, along with an assortment of sandwiches and other items. 

They also seem to specialize in German style beers such as a lager, bock, German pilsner, Kölsch, and a Hefeweizen, but they also had other styles like stouts, IPAs and porters.

The Black Forest Schwarzbier was a dark lager with a light malty and slightly smoky aroma. It had a nice malt profile for a lager, with toasted notes.

The Desperate Measures Red IPA had a dense creamy head with a mild sweat malt smell.  It had a solid malt presence with a not too hoppy flavor.

The Citra Rye IPA had a clear deep golden color, a sweet malty aroma, and a good malt/hop balance with hints of citrus.

Honest Law Breaker Oatmeal Stout had a strong roasted malt presence, with coffee notes. It had a lot of flavor, but a lighter mouthfeel.

The tasting room is very spacious and open, and the staff was friendly and the beer was quite tasty. I can’t wait to go back again.

Next stops: Market Cross Pub and Brewery, and Burd’s Nest Brewing.

Cumberland Valley Beer Trail, Pt 1 – Roy Pitz and Gearhouse

Near the end of Harrisburg Beer Week I was fortunate to find myself in Carlisle PA, at the very heart of the Cumberland Valley Beer Trail, and was able to sample and enjoy some of the best craft beer Pennsylvania as to offer.

The beer trail stretches from Chambersburg to Harrisburg and currently includes 19 breweries, a distillery and a meadery, with three more breweries, another distillery, and a winery to be added soon.

Of course you shouldn’t explore the Cumberland Valley Beer Trail without a passport. You can get a Beer Trail Passport from the Cumberland Valley Visitors Bureau or any of the participating beer trail locations. Each time you visit a location on the trail you can get a sticker, and depending on how many stickers you collect, you can redeem the passport for prizes such as a bottle opener, coupons, a t-shirt, and a chance to win a $50 gift card!

According to the Visitors Bureau, beer tourism is growing fast, and the beer trail is attracting craft beer lovers from all across the country.  The Bureau reports that 25% of the passports redeemed are from people who live more than 2 hours from the trail, and people from as far away as Florida, Texas, and even Oregon have redeemed passports.

104 N. 3rd St, Chambersburg, PA

The first stop on my beer trail experience was at Roy Pitz Brewing in Chambersburg, PA. They describe their craft beer as liquid art.  I sampled their Barleywine, West Coast IPA, Smoked Porter, and Sour Gose, and to be honest I don’t think they were bragging- just stating the facts.  

Not only was the beer noteworthy, they had a pretty good food menu also.  The Brew House Nachos have pulled pork, shredded Monterey jack, pico de gallo, and scallions topped with sour cream on a bed of tortilla chips.  So good! And have you ever had a cheesesteak egg roll?

The menu also included a number of burgers, sandwiches, wings, and more. And of course no pub menu would be complete without the classic fish and chips! 

The tasting room had a comfortable feel, the staff was friendly and helpful, the food was good, and the beer was awesome!

253 Grant St, Chambersburg, PA

My next stop on the Cumberland Valley Beer Trail was  at Gearhouse Brewing in Chambbersburg. This craft brewery is located just around the corner from Roy Pitz.

They had a wide variety of craft beer on tap that would please the most discerning craft beer enthusiast such as a Hefeweizen, Kölsch, amber lager, American and Irish reds, a blond ale, IPAs, and stout.

I had an Angelic Red Ale and the I’ll Be Bock amber lager.   The Angelic Red had a beautiful amber/red color, a nice roast malt aroma with a hint of lightly toasted bread and rich malty flavor. The I’ll Be Bock had a biscuity aroma with just a hint of hops, and a fresh, clean, biscuity flavor with a light caramel malt presence.  Both were delicious.

They also have an eclectic food menu with a variety of items such as poutine (fried tater tots with cheese curds, beef gravy and beer cheese), fish tacos, mac & cheese, and assorted sandwiches and sliders. 

This is a great place to stop in after a hectic day at work, or to unwind on the weekend. Fine beer and pretty good food.

Next stops, Pizza Boy and Ever Grain Breweries!

To be continued…

Big Beer vs Home Brewing?

You would think that Big Beer and homebrewers have conflicting interests. After all, if people are brewing their own beer, they are not buying it from Big Beer. Right? Well, it turns out that’s not exactly the case. The largest brewing company in the world, AB InBev, is not feeling threatened by homebrewing, it’s encouraging it!

To compete with the ever growing number of craft breweries, AB InBev created a special division that’s mission has been to acquire successful and growing craft breweries and make them part of AB InBev. It’s essentially the same strategy Darth Vader and the Emperor tried to use in Star Wars. If they could have gotten Luke to join them, they would be able to eliminate an enemy, and gain more power. Of course, this strategy didn’t quite work out for the Empire, but it seems to be working for AB InBev.

According to the American Homebrewers Association, homebrewers  produced over 1.4 million barrels of beer last year, and that number is growing fast as more and more people begin brewing their own beer.  So how can Big Beer eliminate that competition? Simple. By creating a division dedicated to acquiring the companies that supply homebrewers with what they need to brew.

By acquiring leading home brewing supply companies such as Northern Brewer, AB Inbev can actually profit from the growth in home brewing. As a result, AB InBev is happily promoting that growth.

So, is this a good thing? A bad thing? Or does it really matter? Personally, I find it a little disturbing. Short term it probably won’t make any difference, but long term?

What happens when all commercial brewing is owned by one company, and that same company supplies all the materials and equipment used by homebrewers?

 

Computers, Artificial Intelligence, and Beer?

Technology is progressing faster and faster, and computers have become a part of nearly every aspect of everyday life, but can a computer make a better beer?

Computers have quickly become an integral part of everything we do. In our cars they constantly make adjustments to the engine, warn us when we stray into the other lane, automatically stop the car to avoid a collision, and can even drive us to our destination. In our homes they can respond to voice commands, play our favorite music, and warn us about traffic conditions when we’re getting ready to go to work.

Computers have been used for years in manufacturing for years to assemble, monitor and adjust temperatures and power usage, perform quality control, and identify and correct errors.

In brewing, computers can control nearly the entire process from milling and mashing, to lautering and fermenting, and at any step of the way, the computer could make adjustments- all according to the brewers recipe.

London based brewery IntelligentX, claimed to be the first brewer to use artificial intelligence to brew a beer.  After a customer had tried an IntelligentX beer, they would then log into Facebook Messenger and give their opinions on the beer. However, instead of communicating directly to the brewery, the person providing the feedback would actually be talking to an artificial intelligence (AI) system called ABI, which would take that information, enter it into an algorithm, and then create a new recipe.

Recently Champion Brewing, in Charlottesville Virginia teamed up with a machine learning company called Metis Machine to brew what they hope will be the perfect IPA. According to Hunter Smith, the owner of Champion Brewing Co, by providing the AI developed by Metis Machine with the parameters that IPAs are judged by at the Great American Beer Festival, the metrics from the nationally 10-best-selling IPAs, and the 10 worst selling IPAs at a local retailer, the AI would come up with the recipe for the ideal IPA. The result was the ML IPA.

Carlsburg, one of the most recognized beverage brands in the world, is taking things to the next level with what they are calling their Beer Fingerprinting Project.  Carlsberg will be collaborating with Microsoft,  Aarhus University, and The Technical University of Denmark to develop an AI capable of sensing and measuring flavors and aromas in beer. The idea is that an AI with the ability to taste and smell beer will greatly enhance the process of developing new beers and also improve quality control.

According to Jochen Förster, the Director and Professor of Yeast Fermentation at Carlsberg Research Laboratory, there is currently no rapid technology that can differentiate the complex textures of flavors, but he believes the development of this technology is critical to developing beer of the highest possible quality with the added benefit of reducing the time and cost in developing new beers.

But what does this all mean? Could technology, by removing the human element in the brewing process, ultimately destroy the art and the craft of beer making? Will automation and computer analysis  reduce creativity and brewing innovation ?

Personally, I don’t think so.  Making it easier to get the results you want or reducing  human error doesn’t impede creativity. I believe we are still a long ways away from an AI saying, “Wait! What if I add (this strange ingredient) during primary fermentation?”  It still takes a human being’s imagination to create something new, and a human’s drive for something new and different.

Technology is amazing, but it’s really only as good as the people who use it.

 

Scott’s Addition In RVA!

If you are planning a mini-vacation, a weekend getaway, or just a night out, I can’t think of a better place than Scott’s Addition in Richmond, VA. This historical district currently boasts 5 craft breweries, 2 craft cideries, a meadery, and a craft distillery, not to mention over a dozen restaurants, coffee houses, and even a bakery: all within a 4-block radius!

Scott’s Addition was originally planned as a residential neighborhood. However, in 1927 it was re-zoned for industrial and a number of large plants, commercial buildings and warehouses were built, sometimes replacing the existing homes. The area thrived for a time, but then it started to decline. More and more buildings became empty as businesses began to close or relocate to larger and more modern facilities.

Fortunately, in 2010 a renaissance began in this mostly forgotten neighborhood. Buildings were renovated and turned into apartments, new apartments were built, and businesses began to return. Seeing the potential of this revitalizing neighborhood, Isley Brewing Company was the first craft brewer to move into Scott’s Addition, opening their doors on Oct. 23, 2013.

Since then they have been joined by Ardent, The Veil, Väsen, and Three Notch’d craft breweries. Buskey and Blue Bee cideries also moved into the neighborhood, as well as Black Heath Meadery. And of course, we shouldn’t forget Reservoir Distillery who opened their tasting room doors in 2009!

But there are more than just craft beverages in Scott’s Addition. Each brewery is likely to have a gourmet food truck parked right there, and if you’re looking for something a little different, there’s the Urban Farmhouse Market & Café, Peter Chang’s, Lunch|Supper, ZZQ Texas Craft Barbecue, The Dairy Bar, and many more restaurants. No matter what you are in the mood for; Chinese food, barbecue, seafood, burgers, sandwiches, or even a hearty breakfast, it’s there.

And did I mention The Circuit? It’s an arcade bar and, while it’s not a brewery, it does feature 44 self-service taps with both craft and non-craft beer,  ciders and wines, and an arcade with pinball machines and some of the best classic arcade games like Crazy Taxi, Asteroids, Donkey Kong, Defender, Frogger, Galaga, NBA Jam, Guitar Hero, Packman and more!

If you’re into award-winning craft beer or cider, mead, finely crafted distilled spirits, good food, live music, and/or vintage video games, you should check out Scott’s Addition.

So, what are you doing this weekend?

Beer Without Hops?

Charles Denby went to UC Berkeley to work with Jay Keasling, a pioneer in the field of synthetic biology and a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, to work on developing sustainable transportation fuels . Dr Keasling  developed a process to make microbes, primarily bacteria and yeast, increase their production of complex molecules called terpenes. These terpenes could then be used as commercial products such as the antimalarial drug artemisinin, fuels such as butanol, as well as aromas and flavors used in the cosmetic industry.

But one day Dr Denby, who also happens to be a home brewer, had a thought. The molecules that give hops their hoppy flavor are in fact terpene molecules. If they could create bacteria and yeasts to produce terpenes for flavors and aromas in cosmetics, why not create a yeast that would produce the flavor and aroma of hops in beer?

Dr. Denby and his colleagues spliced DNA from basil and mint, two plants that naturally produce the hop-flavored terpenes, into brewer’s yeast. The intent was to create a yeast that would produce terpenes which would recreate the flavor and aroma of Cascade hops (one of the most popular hops among craft brewers) in a beer without using any actual hops.

The result? In a blind taste test between the yeast-only brews and traditional craft beers made with hops, 40 participants ranked the hop-free beers as actually “hoppier” than the conventionally dry-hopped beers.

But why make a yeast to do what hops can already do?

Hops are one of beer’s four essential ingredients (hops, water, yeast and barley), and there are a lot of varieties, each with its own unique flavor and characteristics.

However hops are expensive. They are a resource-intensive crop, requiring large amounts of water, and the characteristics of a particular hop can change from year to year based on rainfall, heat, and the amount of sunlight.  Even the same variety can have different characteristics when grown in different places.

By replacing the need for hops with a brewer’s yeast which can produce the same flavors and aromas, brewers can get more consistent results and a uniformity of flavor than they can’t get using actual hops- and without the added cost of the hops.

Of course there is some concern that consumers, who are already wary of genetically modified foods, might be a little weary of a bioengineered beer. However, Dr Denby points out that in most brewing processes, yeast is pasteurized and processed out of the beer, so the beer wouldn’t actually have any genetically modified material in it.

For good or bad, one day soon, your favorite IPA could be hop-free.