Friday, September 10, 2010

Brewery Tour: Stoudt's Brewing Company

On a brisk Sunday morning, my girlfriend and I hit the Pennsylvania Turnpike, a road that would lead us to Pennsylvania's first microbrewery post-prohibition, Stoudt's Brewing Company in Lancaster County. I had passed the Stoudt's billboard countless times on trips out to State College but really had no idea what to expect from the visit.

We were greeted by the matriarch of Pennsylvania craft beer, Carol Stoudt, who told us that her husband, founder and president Ed Stoudt, would be starting the tour soon. I imagine I felt much like Charlie Bucket did getting a tour from Willy Wonka himself. Ed gave a passionate and lengthy tour through the brewery that had much of the standard brewery schtick but with just a little more panache than most other tours. He explained Stoudt's storied history that dates back to 1962 when he opened his first restaurant that eventually led to the opening of the brewery in 1987. The facility itself, according to Ed, will most likely undergo only one more expansion to reach 13,000 barrels (they're at 10,000 as of now) before they max out. The man and his company are at a comfortable and marginally profitable place right now and have no desire to become "too big."

The hall to the Biergarten where you can even get married.
Ed is a very simple man. He says he doesn't like to drink big beers because he likes to drink a lot of beer. He doesn't drink imports because he doesn't believe the methods of importing the beers is able to maintain the beer's original quality. He believes every American home should have a beer meister in place of a dishwasher. He also hates corn in beer, something he reiterated...over and over. All in all he was probably the best brewery tour guide I've ever had. It was refreshing to listen to a man who has been in the game that long and is still just as energetic and enthusiastic about his product as he was when he began. Ed said that he was in a stupid business and wouldn't recommend it to anyone but somehow I came away from his tour more inspired than ever. Of course I majored in film in college so I guess I have a thing for stupid businesses.

Stoudt's doesn't just offer guests a tour and a great meal next door, they also have a massive antiques mall, bakery, and the rather odd village of Stoudtburg located right behind the antiques complex. The Black Angus Restaurant & Pub at Stoudt's has a great looking menu and obviously offers up the entire Stoudt's beer lineup with one hand pump, unfortunately the cask had kicked by the time our orders were taken. My girlfriend ordered the crab calzone with their Heifer-in-Wheat while I went with the pulled pork with melted cheddar and a Double IPA to wash it down. Unfortunately our waitress was having some trouble that day and brought out two Triples instead. Luckily she let me keep mine so I can't complain about the service too much. I did see a waiter bring a man a bottle of Coors Light which seemed sacrilegious, I'm not sure why Stoudt's even gives patrons the option.

Yes, you can live here

Since I had already, at some point or another, had tried all of their other brews on tap we wandered over to Stoudtburg while I enjoyed by buzz and digested. Stoudtburg is a very odd little complex of European style homes and shops that feels like it belongs in Disneyland. The place was a ghost town on this particular Sunday afternoon so it just creeped me out more than anything but I'm sure my mother would have found it delightfully quaint.

It was nice to be able to spend an entire afternoon at a brewery and I wish more area breweries offered a little more to visiting guests. Stoudt's has apparently become a very popular tourist attraction for the area so they must be doing something right. The entire property has an appealing "homey" quality about it, almost as if your grandparents decided to open a brewery. Surrounded by Lancaster County markets and farms, Stoudt's is a particularly perfect place to visit this upcoming Fall with their Oktoberfest starting at the end of the month. So if you ever find yourself with nothing to do on a weekend afternoon, remember that Stoudt's is one of the few breweries that is actually open on Sundays and Ed's tour starts promptly at 1pm.

Stoudt's Brewing Co. is located at
2800 North Reading Road 
Adamstown, PA 19501


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