Throw a Dart, Find a Brewery: Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania
We’ve had some wonderful brewery weekends this winter often thanks to the Beer Mapping Project (beermapping.com). The new format allows you to spot quickly and easily concentrations of breweries and beer bars that would take hours to hunt down on other sites. The only problem is that there are so many significant concentrations that we’ve had to resign ourselves to not being able to visit them all. Sometimes we come pretty close to throwing a metaphorical dart at the screen.
Elizabethtown was one of those darts and it gave us a first rate weekend. We visited four breweries and could have done much more if weekends were five days and workweeks were two. On the way to Elizabethtown we stopped at Ever Grain (more about this outstanding brewery in another post) and Tattered Flag (the Aleways RemAmber was a sessionable 5.5% and worth another glass or two) before settling in for the night in the wonderfully small town itself. While we found some good beer at every stop and wonderful beer occasionally, the trip reminded us again that you don’t travel just to find good beer – you travel to Drink In the Culture of fun places to drink.
Elizabethtown sports two breweries to serve a population of less than 12,000. Others are a 15 minute drive away. The two in-town breweries offer significantly different experiences. Moo-Duck has a tiny three barrel system that looks like a soup kitchen could make better use of it.
We’ve seen similar setups at Alesation in Winchester and Brew Gentlemens in Braddock, Pennsylvania. What we’ve learned is that good, and even consistent beer, can come from these systems, but it’s really really hard to make that happen.
The beer, therefore, falls short of sophistication, but the hoppier beers were tasty reminders of why hops were at one time a near-universal component of beer everywhere. The best of them, The Great 38, was listed as an IPA, but at 38 IBUs it was just hoppy enough to balance the dusty malt. Rather than bitterness, the beer showed the breadth of flavors that Mosaic can provide when it’s not overblended with buckets of other Antipodean varieties. If you plan a visit check on line to find out when there will be music. We stayed almost all night listening to one of the most versatile acoustic guitar singers that we have heard since the Great Folk Scare of the 60s and 70s. We were told that while the styles of music vary, the quality is always sensational.
The town’s other “brewery” is walking distance away in good weather. . Funk is the better funded, slicker, of the two, though far from the sophistication of a brewery like Troegs. Beers are good to very good, and more polished than those of smaller operations. While beer is a major draw, the kitchen offers enough variety to keep most drinkers happy and the quality of the food is quite good.
Funk also has a good reputation among locals for the quality of its music .
It is worth noting that most of the beer is not brewed on premise – it’s brought in from Emmaus which is about an hour and a half to the east. There is a small brewery on sight that is apparently used for wild and sour beer production. We were content enough to enjoy the Emmaus beers that were conventionally easy to drink.
If you want to spend the night in town, the choice is an easy one. Places like the Amanda Gish House leave us wondering why we ever stay at a chain hotel. Immaculate, comfortable and filled with enough period pieces to qualify as a minor museum, this small B&B can serve as an excellent base to explore Lancaster County or just get away from an urban rat race.
Hosts Ann and Dave Royer are as welcoming as old friends and but are skilled enough hoteliers to be worthy of managing the New York Hilton. They take care of such small details such as the coffee, tea, cocoa and bottled water that are always available and the soothing music during breakfast, but ensure your stay is far beyond simply comfortable. Breakfast for us consisted of baked apples and an asparagus quiche that featured local goat cheese. We were impressed that they were at the next table for the hours we spent at Moo-Duck.
The house itself is a bit short of two centuries old, but includes modern updates such as the two-person Jacuzzi in the largest of the three rooms and as realistic an electric fire as we’ve ever seen. It’s right on the edge of Elizabethtown, which even in its core is hardly a teeming metropolis, so it’s easy to get a good and very quiet night’s sleep.
If you want a sophisticated brewery experience, Tröegs is about a 20 minute drive away. It’s not as intimate or neighborly as Tattered Flag, Moo-Duck or Funk, but the range of excellence continues to astound us. We’ve been featuring several of their beers for the past week or two in our Beer of the Day column—you can still find them if you scroll back through “Beer Reviews.”
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