|Baker Street Brewery's founder and head brewer Art Hannemann takes you
on a journey to find the ales. Catch the train for Arty's ride to the New Jersey
suburbs in search of, what else, great beer!
It's going to be a fun trip as Arty reviews and rates a new stop each month
as he takes the rails to the ales.....and beyond!
Off The Rails--A Few Days In Pennsylvania
I had to use up some vacation time before the year ends, and so I decided to
take a road trip to Pennsylvania and visit some pubs I have heard of but never
been to. (Luckily I trained my dog Duff how to drive my van.) Anyway, here
are the details of my adventure off the rails.....
Crabby Larry's Brewpub Steak and Crab House
237 W Butler Ave (202 S), Chalfont PA
This place is a little tricky to find because it is situated in a strip mall, and you need
to check the hours as they are only open Wednesday through Saturday. They serve brew as soon as
they open, but right now the kitchen is open for dinner only. You may ask why are they closed
Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, and the answer is quite simple. Larry and his wife Dani do everything
themselves. Not only does Larry get up way earlier than the local roosters, so that he can get the
absolute freshest seafood I've ever seen in a restaurant (and I'm a chef).
Dani starts work in the kitchen early so they can turn out some fantastic dinners. And believe it or
not, they do all the brewing themselves right on location. When I walked in, the first thing I thought
of was my many vacations to the outer banks. The decor of seagulls and lighthouses was really neat.
And when you sit at the bar the first thing you will notice is the brewing equipment in the front
corner of the restaurant. This brewing system is the coolest thing I've ever seen. It's a 55 gallon
brewing system, and so you know the beer is always fresh. You know the saying "brewed in small
batches, so it's always fresh as can be". I think that was Jim from Sam Adams.
With such a small brewery, I was impressed to see seven different beers to choose from. (They make
15 different beers throughout the year.) If you like to try them all you can ...."Walk The Plank-Try
A Sampler !" First for me was the Whiskey-Vanilla Smoked Porter. This was a very full flavored, full
bodied porter with a bourbon like flavor. This one made the trip worthwhile already!
Next up, one of the best Octoberfest style beers I drank all season and I drank quite a few. Dani told
me than last years was a little better, but I can't see how as this one was Delicious with a capital D !
My third selection was the Dead Man Walkin' IPA, which is continuously hopped during a 90 minute
boil with Mount Hood, Liberty, and Hallertau Hops. Now I don't know where the Dead Man was
walking to. If I were him I'd be walking right back for another pint !!!
Calico Jack Amber Ale was next, a malty smooth drinking ale with a good dose of American hops.
Very tasty indeed. Also on tap were a Raspberry Wheat, Golden Treasure (light in style but with Kent
Goldings you can't go wrong), and the seasonal Great Pumpkin Ale.
This place is definately woth a day trip, and is only 17 miles southwest of the New Hope Bridge. Take
West Bridge Street (PA 179 W) for 1 mile to US 202 South. Stay on 202 South for about 15 miles or
so and you will be in Chalfont. 202 South will change names along the way, but will always have a 202
S sign here and there. When you are in Chalfont and on W Butler Ave (202 S) look for a shopping
center at 237 W Butler and you will find Crabby Larry's. Its on the right side of the road. Bring their
phone # in case you get lost. Remember to check their hours before you go. Visit their web site
www.crabbylarrys.com for more info.
Sly Fox Brewhouse and Eatery
519 Kimberton Rd (PA 113) Phoenixville PA
Sly Fox brews some excellent beers at two locations, and you can probably find them
on tap at a good New Jersey bar near you. Once again it was tricky to find at a small strip mall off the
highway, but after a quick u-turn I was there. It's a nice sized restaurant with a good sized bar and
friendly locals. Behind the bar you can see the big 15 barrel fermenters, brew kettle and mash tun. A
much bigger system than at Crabby Larry's.
There were twelve beers on tap to choose from, as well as four 750ml bottles, growlers and cans to go.
With all that to choose from they still had a demanding crowd. One guy walks in and right off the bat
asks "You got any Double IPA's or anything really hoppy ?" This was my kind of crowd.
Since I have had some of their ales before I decided to see how they were at making lagers. The
Dunkel Lager was my first choice. This was pretty good and true to the style of a German or Austrian
Dunkel. Not bad at all. Next, as a fan of The Hop Project pale ale series, I had to try the Amarillo Pale
Ale. This was deliciously crisp delivering a smack of fresh hoppiness from start to finish. On
December 11, from 10 am-11pm, they will have all the different varieties of The Hop Project Ales on
tap at once. This sounds like alot of fun, and if you can make it to the event you will probably see me
there. (There are a few hotels in Phoenixville, on Bridge Street to choose from-more on that later).
My first beer there was the Black Raspberry Reserve. Sometimes fruit beers are all fruit and no
beer, more like an overly sweet soda pop. This is definitely not one of those. This was a strong ale
with just the right amount of black raspberry so as not to over do it. What a great trip I'm having so
far, all the beers have been pretty tasty with no flunkers yet !
Next on the list was Renard D'or, a Belgian Golden. If you like a light Belgian this was a good one,
but after the stronger and hoppier beers it was not as full flavored as I would have liked. (When I
came back the next day withfresh taste buds it seemed more flavorful but still was not my favorite.)
Vince Capano, writer of Adventures in Beer Land, was on a quest last year to sample and record
1,000 beers, all different, in 365 days or less. Read his article "The Quest". Vince achieved this
amazing goal, and we had a party to celebrate. A favorite of his was my own English style wheat ale,
so I brewed an extra hoppy version dedicated to this feat which was appropriately named Baker Street
1000+ ale. When I got to Sly Fox, I realized Vince had a lot more drinking to do, and I had a lot more
brewing to do. Now it doesn't say how long it took, but Dale Van Wieren had just sampled and
recorded his 10,000 different brew. And to celebrate Brewmaster Brian O'Reilly tapped a Biere de
Garde named Dale's 10K Brew in honor of this achievement. Lucky for Vince he still keeps his list
going, and the way craft brewing is going nowadays there seems to be new beers to sample every
Sly Fox was my second pub of the day so I ordered a 750 of their Incubus Triple to go and headed
back to my hotel room at The Mainstay Inn on Bridge Street. The triple was excellent, so all in all Sly
Fox is a great brewery and a fun place to visit. Check out their website www.slyfoxbeer.com.
Iron Hill Brewery
130 East Bridge Street, Phoenixville PA
Iron Hill Brewery was located a few doors down the road from my hotel in easy walking distance.
What a lucky coincidence! Iron Hill seemed a little more corporate like and touristy than Sly Fox, but
was a pretty nice place all in all. The brewing process there was very systematic, and they say the
beer travels only 65 feet from start to finish. Brewpubs are great because the beer never goes on a
truck to a warehouse, to a store or bar before you taste it. At a brewpub, the beer goes from the
serving tank to your glass. That's the best thing about it, beer as fresh as can be.
First tap I tried was the Ironbound Ale. This was a litlle light for my taste. I would say ok, but
nothing special. If you're not into hoppy strong ale you will like this one. I decided next to see how
they were at making lagers. The Vienna Lager was really good. Full flavored and enough hops to
please my hop hungry palate. I was happy to see a few good lagers on my trip. When you mention the
word lager many people cringe at the word. They think of bad examples of the style, exported to the
USA because no self respecting European would consider drinking it. Or of course the American mass
produced lagers that somehow are supposed to be served less than a month after they are frost
brewed or some such nonsense. Lagers should take months to mature before they are bottled or
served on tap. Anyway I had another one right away which is unusual for me. I almost never have the
same brew two in a row unless I'm at a picnic or something with a six pack.
Usually I am wary of the fruit beers as I mentioned earlier. I like beer not lollipops. But at Sly Fox I
was surprise how good the Raspberry Reserve was, so I decided to try Iron Hill's Forbidden Fruit.
Another really good fruit beer, and at 9.5% it had a nice kick to it. In fact it was really good so I had
another! The Pig Iron Porter was up next and it was tasty indeed. But the winner of the night was the
nitro tapped Chocolate Stout, Very creamy, very chocolatey , very potent and very good. And so Iron
Hill turned out to be a pretty good brewpub.
While at Iron Hill, I recommend the pizza made with a malted barley crust from their ample
supply of malted barley. It was really good and nothing goes better with beer than pizza !!
Check out their website for more info and their many locations. They now have one in Jersey. The
website is www.ironhillbrewery.com
240 Lancaster Ave (US 30 West), Malvern PA
It was a rainy Thursday morning, and I arrived at 11:45 am at Mckenzi'se Brewhouse just in time to
get the last parking spot in the rather large lot. So I thought right away, this place must be good. And
I wasn't dissapointed. They had eight beers of their own to choose from as well as two guest beers.
The first being Ommegang Hennepin and the second Great Lakes Edmund Fitgerald Porter.
I started right away with Wicked Wills Pale Ale. Claiming to be triple hopped, it could have been
quadruple hopped. No wonder this place is packed so early on a rainy weekday. They have a nice big
bar surrounded by big screen TVs, but best of all there were lots of pretty women here drinking beer
before noon. A blessed thing.
Being a fan of the TV show My Three Sons I had to try Uncle Charlies Bitter Next. This place has no
fear of hops and Uncle Charlies comes up big. Very malty with a hoppy nose of East Kent Goldings
MMMMM!!! Unicorn Amber Ale was more of an English style brown ale with a good hop to it. If you
like hops you can not go wrong here. These beers are not over hopped, the malt body seems to be just
right to balance each one to perfection.
Now to see how they are at lagers. They had two on tap. A light Lager and Gringalets Dark Lager. I
am not a fan of many beers with the word light in the name so I went for the dark. It was pretty
good, but the ales here were so good it was my least favorite of the lineup. Also on tap were Shanes
Gold (pilsener), Black Lab Stout, and a spiced Pumpkin Ale. Mckenzie's has more than one location
so check out their website www.mckenziebrewhouse.com for the location nearest you. All in all
it was a good little side trip before I went back to Phoenixville for the night.
Triumph Brewpub- New Hope
400 Union Square Drive, New Hope PA
Last and maybe least was Triumph Brewpub in New Hope PA. I'm not saying that the beer wasn't
good, it just was the least impressive place on my trip. First of all the parking situation is ridiculous.
Why you have to pay to park in a strip mall parking lot is beyond comprehension. It's not like you
are on a main street that needs to keep the limited spaces available for people to come and go. It
seems like a money making scheme for the town.
Anyway, on tap was a Rauchbeer, Begal Gold IPA, Porter, Honey Wheat, Amber Ale and Dunkel
Weizen. The Rauchbeer was my first choice. Made with beechwood smoked malt, I found it to be way
over smoked for the body of the beer. Next I tried the Bengal Gold IPA. This was a little sweet for an
IPA, and although it was pretty hoppy the over sweet maltiness of the body just wasn't right for the
style. The porter was pretty good though. Nice and full body and pretty flavorful with a slightly hoppy
nose. This was the best of the three. I would have stayed to try the Dunkelweizen but the hour on my
parking stub was up and I didn't want to get a ticket for overstaying my alotted time.
Behind the pub runs a tourist train, and since I usually write about taking the rails to the ales I
asked about it. The bartender told me the Newv Hope-Ivyland Railroad is a nic scenic train ride
through the surrounding area. It runs south to Ivyland and comes back without stopping anywhere.
There is however a bar car that serves drinks so maybe I'll come back to try the other beers at
Triumph and ride the rails. I think they deserve a return visit as I hate to judge a place if I've only
been there once. Their website is www.triumphbrewing.com.
Summing up My Trip
First of all I had a great time. Most of the driving was on scenic US 202 and it wasn't that far to
Phoenixville. The Mainstay Hotel was a good location but The Columbia Hotel looked nicer and was
actually closer walk to Iron Hill. The websites offer links to maps and area hotels. If you have more
time you could go to Victory in Downingtown as it is not far from Mckenzie's. Also in Lahaka was a
place called Porterhouse but it was closed when I passed by.
My ratings from favorite to least favorite:
1) Crabby Larry's
2) Sly Fox
3) Iron Hill
See you next time when I'm back on the tracks
taking "The Rails to The Ales"
Rails to Ales........and beyond ////////////////////////////////
by Arty Hannemann
click on pictures to enlage