Thursday, September 29, 2011

Mancation 2011 Recap: Part 1

This past weekend was the 5th Annual Mancation, a camping trip that my male family members started and has now spread to include some friends as well. It’s no surprise that beer is a crucial part of a weekend where a bunch of guys spend majority of the time sitting around a campfire and playing ladder golf. While my Uncles are usually content with their Yuengling and Moosehead bottles my friends and I have always taken advantage of the Lancaster area’s eclectic beer scene but of course are not above grabbing a case of Schaefer and Smithwick’s, the two beers we brought on the first Mancation when we were poor college students without a clue. It’s a tradition that lives on but we now make sure to bring along some more…errr…respectable beers.

My Maple Bacon Smoked Porter was brewed specially for this weekend and was a big hit, especially with the mountain man breakfast that my Dad cooked up Saturday morning. I am more than pleased with how this batch came out given the great chance for failure. The maple is a bit stronger than I had hoped and I would have liked a little less sweetness to come through but that’s a small nitpick. If I were to brew it again I would try and get it a bit smokier with more smoked malts and maybe even a little more bacon. The smoke is really subtle on the finish but comes out much more noticeably as it warms up which doesn’t take long in front of a roaring fire. It’s nothing too offensive which was the point since I knew some of the guys wouldn’t be used to smoked beers and it ended up being pretty well balanced with a great mouthfeel. It even has some decent enough head which proves that you can put a fatty meat into your homebrew and still keep some head so take that!

A few Mancations ago we were given a tip at Lancaster Brewing Company that there was a small start-up brewery nearby in Conestoga in a guy’s barn which had a small tasting room in the loft. We obviously had to check the place out so we put the address into the GPS and forty minutes or so later we found ourselves at Spring House Brewing Company. We spent the whole afternoon talking with the owner, Matt, who offered up endless samples of his beer and walked us through his whole story. That visit was one of my favorite brewery memories, there were no other visitors and Matt was more than willing to just hang  out for the day. The barn/brewery is literally a stone’s throw from his house and you definitely got the feeling that the brewery was Matt’s baby. Every following year we made sure to stop by to see what new brews the barn was churning out and every year the place got a little busier with locals coming in to fill their growlers. That all stopped this year though, the barn is no longer open to the public because they have a much more hospitable spot in downtown Lancaster, the relatively new Springhouse Tap Room.

We stopped by for lunch on Saturday, the bar was packed and majority of the tables were filled. Oh how they’ve grown. The beer list had some intriguing choices like the Mango IPA but I was quickly disappointed when I was told that it had actually kicked. My second choice was their Peanut Butter Chocolate Stout, something that wouldn’t normally be up my alley since it sounds awfully gimmicky but I’m glad I went with it anyways because it ended up being one of the most memorable beers I’ve probably ever had. With a nitro pour it is a deep and dark brown with a chocolate milk looking head that just oozed over the sides of the glass (which should be noted are nonic pint glasses, one of my favorites). On aroma alone, this beer delivered, it smelled like some sort of Reese’s milkshake with a bit of a roasted kick, just pure decadence. It was just as impressive to taste, milk chocolate and slightly roasted peanuts coat the palate with a sweetness that never became too overbearing. A more bitter dark chocolate flavor started to take over towards the end but it was still creamy and smooth to the last drop. It was really a very unique beer but it never became too much for me despite being so rich in all aspects. Following up this behemoth was virtually impossible so I went with the Imperial Ray Gun, their red ale, to go along the BBQ chicken wings and we hurried out of there before our parking meter expired.

Next up was the Lancaster Brew Pub just a short drive away. Now I rarely ever go for a Lancaster beer when I see them at home but I always find myself appreciating them more and more with each visit. The bar itself is a really low-key and charming spot with a very friendly staff ready to pour you a beer or two. I went straight for their Gold Star Pils which they don’t bottle, I’ve seen some pretty harsh reviews of but they must have changed the recipe because I really enjoyed it. Clean and crisp, a little more caramel and sweeter notes than most pilsners but still a solid beer. We all ordered a round of their Oktoberfest which is nothing spectacular but decent enough when you’re in the middle of a weekend like this. It’s got a bit of spice and roasted malts, real smooth finish with no hop presence to speak of, just the kind of beer I was in the mood for. Knowing we had a long night ahead of us, we removed ourselves from the copper plated bar and headed back to the campsite.

The rest of the evening faded into a bit of a blur as plenty of different beers were poured and shared. The most notable beer of the night was most definitely Stone’s 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA which I enjoyed the large spread of impeccably smoked BBQ that we devoured for dinner. This one is absolutely pitch black with a frothy head and an incredibly inviting hop aroma, some earthy spice and heavy dose of Citra. The taste followed suit with some sweeter and fruitier flavors coming out as well. There was much in the way of roasted malts, the hops are obviously the main attraction. It’s velvety smooth mouthfeel and warm alcohol finish hit the spot as we feasted like kings in front of the fire.

Later in the night, after what some people would call one too many beers, I popped open my bottle of Elysian Night Owl because I couldn’t go through a whole weekend of camping without at least one pumpkin beer. This beer may have been the one to encourage us to go out and “borrow” a couple of paddleboats around 1 am or so but I’m guessing that would have happened anyways. Somehow we got back to our tent without incident and rested for what would surely be a painful Sunday morning. More on Sunday in the next post.



  1. Sounds like a good time. I want to get out to the Spring House Tap Room but it's a bit of a haul from Philly.

    Also, I thought the Stone 15th Anniversary was really great. I wasn't even a big fan of the Sublimely Self-Righteous but with the added sweetness in the 15th, so good.

  2. As you can see there is plenty out there to do if you ever wanted to make a day of it.
    And I definitely want to grab myself a couple more bottles of the 15th, such a bad ass beer.