Craft vs. Commodity


A Tale of Two Taps illustrated by this pic for sure. See my lovely visage/reflection…

Just returned from camping in a state park here in Pennsylvania. Alcohol is not allowed so it keeps beer out of sight to some degree. It does not stop drinking but it does suppress the most egregious and idiotic aspects of over-consumption. I support the policy and as such, didn’t drink any brews while on the campground. Serendipitously,  there was an establishment, The Waterville Tavern, about 4 miles down the road that has stocked craft beer like the local streams and lakes have stocked trout.

Perfect place to hang-out after a day of kayaking and bike riding. Food is simple but great, too. Good mix of a local crowd and passers-through. I ran into a rowdy and rambunctious group of older bike-riders from New York who had peddled over 250 miles in five days and stopped by the tavern to refuel and b.s. I really admired their active lifestyle and it gives me hope that I won’t live for Monday Night Bingo when I retire.

I was pleasantly surprised that craft beer had made such inroads into rural Pennsylvania. I thought that big beer would reign and it was quite the opposite. The Waterville Tavern tilts way in favor of craft beer and I think it is a fairly good indicator that big beer is in trouble market-wise. Sure, they are snapping up some craft breweries like a big fish does to a smaller fish and that worries me. But, since I started this beer blog 7 years ago, the beer ecosystem has dramatically changed in favor of independent craft not commodity beer, “crafty” or otherwise.

There has been a five-fold increase in craft breweries here in Pa. since 2010. Of the 40 craft breweries profiled in 2010, all but two are still in business and I think one of them just switched a location rather than shut down completely. I speculate that even the people who work for the bigs actually keep craft hidden in their fridges at home. Or, they are so loyal that they keep their company’s beers in stock for job reasons. It can’t be taste because theirs has none.

In examining the history of beer in America, there has been three distinct eons (with Prohibition being a long pause button): 1) Shitty local beer or homebrew (Yuengling used to be awful); 2) Mass-produced big beer that took out the downside skankiness of local swill and brewed light, non-offensive lagers; 3) The craft beer movement. Although high abv IPAs reign currently, there seems to be a counter movement back to sessionable lighter beers across beer profiles or higher-abv brews like Belgians. In other words, the beer spectrum is becoming more complete and colorful with craft beer styles.

This is the line-up at the Waterville Tavern:


There are several big fish disguised as small. I hope that the bigs are not just attempting to crash craft beers by muddying the waters about who is who in the pond. Frankly, we are getting to a point where craft breweries like Dogfish, New Belgium. Sierra Nevada, and etc. are so big that they have outgrown their upstart profile. Corporations are not always self-serving sharks but I think a line is crossed when shareholders and Wall Street profits prevails over the workers and consumers. When quarterly returns and profits trump long-terms sustainability, US employment, and taste, then corporations have become predators and should be treated as such legally.

The owner of the Waterville Tavern is a humble man, not a big talker. A former home-builder in Berks County, he is the kind of man who is no longer the rule. Quiet, industrious, hard-working. I asked if I could  take a pic of him and he requested that I take a picture of his place instead. I respected his request and honored it.


On this Independence Day, July 4th, 2017, I salute The Waterville Tavern for its spirit of craft!











The Return of St. Boniface


A Gose Currently On Tap. Usually Not A Fan of Goses But This Was Great. Tart But Not Too Vinegary 

OK, in actuality, I returned to St. Boniface last night. The Return of St. Boniface sounded more heroic and epic. “My grandpa, what big beers you have.” St. Boniface has always had a fairy-tale like vibe to me. Over the last ten years, I have witnessed St. Boniface go from two homebrewers of big ABV beers grow into a decently sized microbrewery, based in Ephrata, Pa.

I was there when they were starting, made a visit to their first beer brewing space in a defunct upscale clothing store’s basement, and now to their current facility. I think it used to be an ice cream manufacturing site. So, I thought giving an update on the state of craft beer was in order because St. Boniface’s story sits right in the center of craft beer’s resurgence.

Back when I started this 40/40 blog 7 years ago, and abandoned it for the most part at the end of the beer tour in Pa., there were under 50 craft breweries in Pennsylvania. Presently, the number is topping 250. So, the days of drinking beer at all Pa. microbreweries in 40 days–the original trek–appears to be over. A Beer Year, maybe? I think that this second wave of craft beer is essentially here to stay. The first wave was at the end of the 1990’s and a lot of places went boom then bust. Out of that first wave, the second wave came to shore. A few survived the storms, but now the conditions have changed.

It gives me hope that American men have not just decided to ride out their days lazily on their sofas ,like life rafts, drifting aimlessly in the seas of pacific apathy. Drinking neutered beer and living like castrated rats chomping pellet potato chips from their corporate overlords. Cable, keeping them chained to their big screens, caged in suburbia. I may be a rat but don’t put me in a rut.

The U.S. is the world-leader in craft beer and it has nothing to do with the present jackass in the White House. Sorry, I am as Conservative as they come and I find DT so odious as to delete any left or right leaning Facebook posts, either appalling him or applauding him. I just want to avoid him. I would have found Hillary equally as nauseating.

So, here is to all of the good beer out here in our land. We may be down but we are not out. Making America Great Again (one beer at a time).


A Collaboration Brew Between a Square One Kenyan Coffee and a St. Boniface IPA. Most Coffee Beers Are Dark Coffees and Stouts So This  Is An Interesting and Tasty Twist.












Year-Round Yuengling. I’m Bock.


I am slowly adjusting my drinking profile a bit toward Session Beers.

It is not that I have sworn off higher ABV Craft Beers, I have just found that I have a difficult time reducing my beer drinking because of the higher ABV (Alcohol By Volume). Three beers of an IPA for example are hardly equivalent to three Lagers. That 3=3 assumption really needs to be recalibrated but it is very difficult to do mentally and practically.

Although, one could be honest with a cop at a checkpoint and state “I only had three beers” and the law enforcement official would probably reference Keystone Light or some other shitty beer. However, my cousin who is a NYC cop drinks Craft Beer. So maybe my assumption is incorrect about Cops having poor beer taste. Most blue collar types go for the cheapest beer they can. And then go about buttressing the beer gut with reinforcements.

The equation is something like this: Craft Beer Unit consumed (12 ounces) X 1/2 with time being a constant. C X 1/2 = T. In laymen’s terms drink 1/2 the Craft Beer in the same amount of time as a Session with the goal being an equivalent of four sessions at the most per evening. My math might suck. Sorry if it does. My Ph.D. is in Educational Psychology which is slightly more quantitative than social sciences in general but hardly Engineering or Computer Science.

Here is what I have been doing recently: I am defaulting to whatever seasonal Yuengling has out on the market as my primary go-to supplemented by the Black and Tan. I find Yuengling Lager just not flavorful enough to please my palate (see what Craft Beer has done to me?) but appreciate that I can have more than two without getting sluggish.

The adjustment that is working is to drink Yuengling Wheat in the Summer, Yuengling Oktoberfest in the Fall (which in my opinion should be available year round because it is so much better than the Yuengling Lager), Yuengling Black and Tan in the Winter (or the Porter), and Yuengling Bock in the Spring. It is across the spectrum. Choices, like crayons and Crayola, keep me interested. More coloring! I will typically work in a heavier tasting Craft Brew or Belgian in a one-third ratio to the Yuengling style. I try to avoid drinking during the day, too. Another upside is that I have been saving a bucket of money.

I purchased a lovely Rare Vos from Ommegang early in December and have barely touched it. I did get a case of Dirt Wolf Double IPA from Victory in January that guards the Rare Vos in the beer fridge. The Belgian is truly for a special occasion. Like buying diamonds for a lady, best to reserve such blandishments for special times such as anniversaries. At close to $70 a case, one had better have some lesser jewels in one’s beer crown. You can see the Rare Vos behind the Dirt Wolf is you look closely.


My Golden Mean is to drink four or less beers a night (usually the weekend but I do imbibe during the week at times because I have found abstention during the week tends to ricochet into over-consumption during the weekend. A beer with dinner during the week takes the edge off and releases pressure). I used to wait all week for beer like a dog for a treat and it was causing me to tear into the bag (case) once Friday night hit. I am learning Lord, I am learning.

I just read that Yuengling Lager is now the 19th best selling beer in America, and the only beer not associated with the Bigs in the Top 20. Although it is hard to argue that Yuengling is David to Bud’s Goliath. Considering that Yuengling is still a regional brewer, it has established an enormous market presence emanating from Pennsylvania outward down the Eastern seaboard and perhaps a bit into the Midwest. Although it stalled in Boston. Yuengling Lager just is not good enough to displace Sam Adams up in Beantown. Both Yuengling and Sam Adams tend to inhabit the same beer space. Better and more expensive than the Bigs, but not as good and expensive as the Craft. Yuengling is making a fortune off this Niche. As has Sam Adams.

Sam Adams is generally a better beer than Yuengling across the beer categories yet it does cost more. Yuengling tends to be in the lower range and Sam Adams tends to be in the higher range of the cost and quality continuum.

And you may ask what makes me a purveyor of such opinionated perspective? I have cred.

Back a couple of years ago, a buddy and I were Homebrewing an Anchor Steam out back and he commented how technically-minded I was about the process. It was kind of ironic because he is a high quality HVAC technician by day, an excellent Bassist by night (he is in like four bands), and brews a lot more than I do–although, at the time, I had probably brewed more batches than he. Since then he has far surpassed me in batches.

Although I did co-brew a fantastic Vlad the Imperial Aler Russian Stout last year that another buddy (co-brewer) and I cellared for a year and just previewed at a party down at the Candy Factory in Lancaster City, accompanied with Russian food, and a lecture from a erudite friend of mine who digs Russian Literature and Writers. That was super fun.



This wall wordings from the Candy Factory gives me hope that Craft Beer is here to stay and people are starting to pull away from the Death Star and Darth-like nature of the Big Brewery conglomerates like InBev (I think that is how it is spelled…I could care less if it is wrong).


The Empire is striking back. It always does. Yet, might doth not maketh right. One can hope that Craft Brewers continue to cooperate in the face of the common enemy. Fratricide is what the Buds and Millers want and we must stay focused on the strategy of deconstructing the oligarchies that reign. It is like the Military-Industrial Complex in Beer. Wasn’t that the point of Sam Adams deeds in the Boston Harbor with tea and tax?


My best friend and I had made a trip up to Boston in the Fall and happened to stumble upon Sam Adam’s Jamaica Plains Brewery where tours and testing of new recipes takes place. We were in town for a Fermentation Festival and this certainly and serendipitously colluded with the Festival even though there was no formal affiliation. Cool when that happens!

Verboten @ The Fridge




Yes, indeed, I am still alive and still drinking beer. Blogs wither and  wane. This blog lives if only in my dreams. One of the great developments since 2010 when the 40/40 blog was flowing like a kegger is that there are more microbreweries than ever in Pa. I recall about a decade ago that the Valley Forge Brewing Company was one of the first microbreweries in operation. I loved it tagline” “Join the Revolution!”

Alas, Valley Forge Brewery didn’t survive. Like most revolutions, it was one of the casualties. It was a large venue in an expensive retail location. The Fridge, where I visit on a fairly often rotation, is on the smaller side but it fits the scene in Lancaster very well. The Federal Taphouse in Lancaster City on the other hand seems doomed like a dinosaur. I just can’t see it making it over time. After the romance wears off of being the new place, establishments settle down to the status quo. And very large venues just seem poorly equipped to survive. Better to start small and then expand if the market seems to be catching onto the vibe.  Avoid the expensive lease and staffing costs. The whole “build it and they will come” is usually B.S. and really bad advice.

One of the few Micros that I never visited in my 40/40 travels was Weyerbacher. Located in Easton, Pa., it puts out bruising beers. Easton’s favorites son is former heavy-weight boxing champion Larry Holmes. Thus it is fitting that Weyerbacher packs a punch with its brews. I made a serious mistake a couple of years ago when I brought a sampler case from Weyerbacher to the Jersey Shore. Not summer beers. All more suited for deep winter. Not cool. I knew better. I couldn’t drink the beers until the sun went down, like Dracula. I have had the goal to get to Easton for a visit but I fear the drive back and there is not a whole lot else that I find interesting about Easton so I wouldn’t been keen about staying over. Since the beers are heavy, and the distance over two hours away, it just stays out of reach.

As mentioned, the other night I did grab the Weyerbacher Verboten at The Fridge. The Fridge is the local beer establishment favored by many in my circle. It has over 400 beers, mostly in bottles, available for consumption. It is like that old kid’s song, “How much is that puppy in the window?” The beers sit eagerly in the fridge behind the glass waiting to be picked. It is a great place to try stuff out. There is nothing less disheartening in the world of beer purchasing than buying a case where one does not enjoy the brew. It winds up becoming a marathon of drinking down the bottles in a reverse Chinese Water Torture. Every drip is painful. I am far to cheap to dump out beer, although I am thinking about pouring down the drain a Frankenbrew that I recently made.

I had bought a gallon beer kit at Staples of all places on the bargain table. It was like 24 dollars with all of the equipment plus the malt and hops. I decided to convert the Pale Ale to a Belgian Pumpkin by adding pumpkin filling like one makes pies out of, spices, and sugar. I wanted to hike up the ABV. Well, it turned out pretty bad. It is thick like soup. I am convinced that Pumpkin Beers are only a dash of vanilla, a slight amount of nutmeg, and maybe some pumpkin oil essence. Let me put it this way…the brew is so thick it doesn’t even filter through a cheese cloth, it literally just sits in the cloth like a bathtub. No drainage. None. Besides the thickness, the brew tastes decent. It is far hoppier that I imagined. I am thinking that all of the pumpkin sludge kept the hops in the brew rather than allowing them to filter out. When the wort was warm, the thickness had not set in but I think that the hops fused with the pumpkin and  caused the hops to stay in the liquid.

On the plus side, I discovered that Mason Jars make a decent container to carbonate the brew after most of the fermentation is finished in the priming tank. The jar top did buckle a bit but the seal held, the glass did not explode, and the jars are easy to clean and replace. So, I may use mason jars again in the future when bottling. It seems like the jar tops can be used again besides the slight kinking.

So, there you have it. The 40/40 blog is still punching and off the mat. Not knocked out, still swinging. Happy 2015. Long live the revolution!





Columbia Kettle Works


Very difficult to believe that it has been four years since I completed the Pennsylvania 40 Day 40 Craft Brewery Tour. Guess I am just never going to get around to writing that book. It will be on my gravestone as one of my great life’s accomplishments. Ph.D, Rugby Player, 40/40 Tour.

Back then four years ago, Lancaster County was a weak sister on the Craft Beer scene here in Pa. Now, she is bitchin’ (in a great way). Lancaster City is booming, besides the still dumb and unethical cops, goofy self-congratulatory (he really likes himself, it is obvious) bow-tied mayor, and some small city provincialism. Lest the reader think that my observations are unfair about the authorities in Lancaster City, let us just say I have had several issues where I personally experienced incompetence and even dishonest behavior from bottom to top of both the police department and the Mayor’s office where I was a completely honest party. There are consequences when those in power dismiss legitimate grievances and attempts for redress. Neither party (the police and mayor) were minimally ethical and competent.        

Lancaster is no Philly but it does not have to be. I can get to town in 12 minutes, always find free parking after 6, and then head back to the ‘burbs after the night is over. Many craft beer menus and venues.

Although I did get a parking ticket the other day for not getting my car off the street when the grimy asphalt  was being cleaned. “Sign, sign, everywhere a sign. Do this, don’t do that, everywhere a sign.” That is a long-lost lyric from some 70’s song. Felt like I should have turned in my Metro-Philly bred card. Rookie mistake. Twenty bucks down the sewer of city government. A bit stiff of a fine but not much I could do. Can’t fight city hall. Even a piker city hall.

I live in the western part of the county, officially in postal Columbia. Not the town but general vicinity. Within whiffing distance. Talk about a near miss, Columbia almost became the Capitol of the United States of America. If so, where I live now–a non-descript townhouse of lower middle class citizens–would probably be the setting for one of those non-descript Federal buildings that populate the D.C. landscape like bureaucratic behemoths. Instead, Columbia is a beat-up river town with a depleted manufacturing base and the working poor. It is a proud community but one that has seen better days. It is holding on, by an arthritic grip.

The Lancaster City newspaper recently wrote an in-depth piece about the past, present, and future of Columbia. The article touted the Columbia Kettle Works as perhaps a positive harbinger of things to come to the downtown. When you are the only new thing downtown, it is easy to be numero uno. Like those inbred Christian schools with three kids per grade, so being the Valedictorian or Salutatorian isn’t exactly a Darwinian race to the top of the intellectual food chain.

It is a long shot because the problems of Columbia are much deeper than a skin itch. They are structural in the bones and reflect the loss of manufacturing and craft in the United States. Pennsylvania is pock-marked with small towns that used to be vibrant. Local industries, or an industry, that paid decent wages so individuals and families could have a good life. Now, the Wal-Marts and convenience stores crush the middle. One end, the  ravenous merciless monster. On the other end, the weed-dwelling scavenger picking the bones for leftover meat, selling junk food/drink like a crack-dealer, ciggies, gas, and lottery tickets. Pennsylvania promotes the state lottery out of this dystopian trap. Roll the dice. Gambling going to save Pennsylvania? Righto! Wal-Mart’s recent initiative to invest in American manufacturing might be a case of too little too late. The country is in a coma and Wal-Mart and other big retailers have almost killed the mind, spirit, and body. Time will tell if we can bounce back.

Neither will craft brewing but it is legitimate fighting back with skill.

Here are the plusses of craft brewing:

– Better product, support local craft brewers keeping money in the community and not given to some corporate death-star sucking the life out of an area, cool venues (a lot of historic buildings, factories). Etc., Etc., Etc.

As far as I can tell, there are no downsides to craft brewing besides some people getting too big for their britches. Success has a way of breeding arrogance and some craft breweries are starting to develop that flavor. You can now stay in a Dogfish Hotel for a crazy amount of money ($ 250 plus a night in Lewes, Delaware) like Disneyworld. Really? Are you going to have little Dogfish Caps like Mouse Ears too? How about a mascot? And a trolley? And incessant tunes in the background with the “It is a Dogfish world after all.” Sorry Sam C., it is starting to look self-aggrandizing. Rocky with a manicure and perhaps a pedicure. The price just sounds pretentious. “Oh, I stayed in the Dogfish Motel. Aren’t I just the coolest dude?”  I will not be staying there unless the 90 Minute IPA comes out of the showerhead. I will still visit the brewpub in Rehoboth for sure.

Yet, for all of the success of craft brewing, here is one glaring problem behind the golden hues. Most of the equipment (i.e manufacturing) is not made in the U.S. We can make all of the beer we want yet until the process reaches into the hardware side of things, we are not geared to move forward literally.


Gearing is a good way to look at progress. As a community rebuilds, the various components mesh with one another and create momentum. In the end, there is still a lot of analogue in the world. Until we are Avatars in The Matrix, our connection to the physical world–even if accessed and mediated digitally–are boots on the ground. Try to eat your phone.  Or drink your Beer App.

I almost cried when I found out where the Columbia Kettle Works Stainless Steel tanks were made:


Ah, where else but that historical hotbed of brewing art and science: China. Most industrial strength and sized brewing equipment is manufactured in Germany or Italy from what I have discovered. Although these tanks are hardly like what Troeg’s or Victory have just recently had installed in major multi-million dollar upgrades, which came from Germany, these tanks are not trifling. They are good sized and will pump out a lot of product.

I get that the owners of Columbia Kettle Works need to cut cost as new entrepreneurs. It is hard, hard, work getting to profitability and frankly for many years, new businesses are fortunate even to just break even. Obama’s comment that “You didn’t build this” was half-correct but also half wrong. As one who doesn’t look like has ever worked in the private sector except for perhaps a throw-away teen job that financed his Pot habit, Obama has been tending the public trough for a long time. He is a smart dude, successful, analytical. Too Liberal and victim-oriented for my palate and he doesn’t have the air of a man who has ever had to carry an enterprise from start to finish based almost solely on his own effort. His being selected President was an attempt by the American electorate to escape the Republicans and Neo-Cons apparent insatiable hunger for war. Community organizing? That sounds like what the mafia does to collect its dues in a merchant district, just a governmental shakedown instead. I want my check!

True enough that these brewing tanks couldn’t even been bought from an American manufacturing company. Kettle Works by China…maybe should be Kettle Woks?

Another dark secret of American manufacturing. A lot of the machinery in our manufacturing is not made in America. So, Made in America is often only true in a physical placement sense. Until we have American machines being worked by American citizens on American soil, we are skirting the truth. Lower the tax rates for businesses, cut out all of the loopholes that allow corporations to discharge everything as business expenses–fancy dinners, fines wines, luxurious lodgings, etc. No one should be fooled by the self-indulgency behind the façade.

All of this ranting (but true) has got me thirsty. Here is their Coffee Stout:


I am usually not a big fan off coffee stouts because I don’t drink caffeine after 12 noon, even if it is encased in a tasty brew of both coffee and beer. But, I made an exception because I didn’t have to get to bed  early for work the next day, so I could pine late into the night. This beer was expert. Great taste. Two great tastes that go great together. The founders of Columbia Kettle Works are good friends who have worked together at some technology or engineering company for years. Their quantitative qualities comes out in their beers in their clean execution, simply décor, minimal menu designed for efficiency (not trying to be a gastropub which makes things much more complicated), and just general well-run vibe. It looks like every staff member have jobs to do, even if they are not getting paid, so the place hums along like a hive of worker beer bees.

The place has been a busy beehive when I have visited both times:


The crowd looks like a combo of townies and suburbanites. Or what they call in West Virginia, the creekers and the hillers. Just heard that yesterday on some discussion about a book about Ronald Reagan that he was both the hard-luck kid and hero, from both side of the tracks–when beginning decidedly on the wrong side. The California sunny kid, Teflon President, who told entitled American teens in the 1960’s to stop acting like a bunch of long-haired miscreants but did it in such a non-Nixonian manner that many of them voted for him as they returned from their drug and sex addled senses 15 years down the road when they too were parents pursuing the American Dream gone darker.

Reagan’s Alzheimer’s apparently manifested itself with him screaming that the team needed him in the locker room. A Gipper Pep talk. Never underestimate the encouraging words of another. We like to think words don’t matter and only actions count, forgetting somehow that words are actions in and of themselves.

Final Pic, just like it:


I love the life being symbolized coming out of a beer keg. It is a nice, thoughtful, and clever touch. May the Columbia Keg itself grow into new life.


Yuengling Summer Wheat


It has been an endless winter here in Pennsylvania. Soviet-Era Drago uttered to Rocky in whatever Roman numeral “I must break you.” Well, we have broken. I think Putin has found a way to bring meteorological Cold War to the East Coast States. 

You know when everyone in the office has caught the same Cold, that Winter has taken its bite out of our hide. So, when I heard that Yuengling was adding a Summer Wheat to its repertoire, I was giddy. Summer in a bottle, liquid sunshine. Keep your orange slice, give me the beer. Spring has come. I was at the local distributor the other day and what did I see, three cases of Yuengling Summer Wheat lookin’ at me. I want one.

I brewed a Wheat Beer once and it proved more volatile than a wild woman. Exploded my precious bottles. Never again. Best to leave the Wheat Beers to the professionals. The problem is that most Wheat Beers are expensive, like a Materialistic Girl. Blue Moon, a Coors offering, runs close to $ 40.00 diamond dollars. Craft Beers are around the same. Yuengling once again has filled a niche, a vacuum between the Big Beers that suck and the Craft Brewers that jack up the price like blackmail.

The Office portrayed Pennsylvanian’s like stupid oafs, downright weirdos. Like California should be pointing its finger. Yuengling once again shows that the old school has more cred. What is so very cool is that Yuengling is an old dog learning new tricks. I highly recommend this brew if you can get your paws on it.    

The Yuengling Wheat Beer is freaking awesome, a warm breeze, a premonition of sunny days ahead.      


Joe Six Craft


I am creating a new term. At least I think it is new. I don’t want to check. I would rather have the delusion of originality rather than the confirmation of conventionality.

It is Joe Six Craft. The origin was watching my cousin consume some Ithaca Flower Power IPA yesterday. My cuz is a New York City cop. As wide and big as a side of beef and street smart. He got into craft beer when he and his partner went off duty and bought a couple of craft brews. Flower Power. Cops and Craft with a Hippie Vibe.

He really gravitates towards the IPA’s. I do believe that the mass brewers are in trouble. When a cop in NYC passes on your beers, it doesn’t take street smarts to know that the ‘hood has changed.