Going to Erie turned out to be as far geographically as I could go in Pennsylvania for 40/40.
And if 40/40 was a game of Twister, the stretching it took to go from Lancaster, to State College, to Erie, and then to Pittsburgh, in a little over a 12 hour period almost split my metaphorical psychological shorts in trying to cover all of the dots. That Erie was so hot that it felt like Madagascar didn’t help me chill. The iced beer and cool people I found there did.
Before commencing 40/40, I had contemplated doing a U.S. tour of microbreweries by Amtrak. When I really thought about it and worked out the expenses–financial, energy, and relational–it was clear that this plan by rail was too grandiose. But an automotive trip through Pennsylvania to visit microbreweries was realistic and sufficiently adventuresome. So, I did a modified “all aboard!” In Erie, I did have the opportunity to get some train stuff in.
When I pulled into Erie, I first visited the Erie Brewing Company. While in town, I drove a little farther into the city and came to The Brewerie at Union Station. Check the picture of the outside of the building, a former train station:
The building is truly magnificent both inside and out. Read about a little of its history here. In the history, there is a story about a couple who lost a daughter at the station to a tragic accident and whose ghost supposedly haunts the place. While I am not one to heartily endorse tales of the paranormal, I did feel as strong sense of nostalgia as I walked around the building, sensing and imagining the thousands of people who had come before me and who had passed through this station in the trip of their lives. Life is a series of stops and starts and stations.
It was a little eerie yet interesting in Erie to see scenes like this:
Here is a closer look at the “Tickets” sign:
Clever use of the Tickets sign to list the beers on tap. There was another sign of departures and and arrivals with more information about the beers (sorry about the crappy quality of the pic):
Talk about baggage…I got some and have to unload.
I have to get on the philosophical rails here for a bit. I won’t be on them long. In going all over Pennsylvania, stations, signs and sights of earlier prosperous times, indicative of optimism, the whir of industry, the construction of the American Dream, remain. Yet, much of it is now empty, silent, rusting, and beaten by the hands of time. When people jibe me that “Go drink your beer” as if this trip is one long party jag, it makes me somewhat sad, alluding that I am some juvenile 46 year old. No, what I am doing is paying homage to our Pennsylvania history, to the people who have come before us in the very same places, where beer played an important role in the journey of their lives, where clinking the mugs in celebration or crying in one’s beer alone, trying as best one could to deal with the tragedies, big or small, that had happened.
And yes, I am having some fun!
Pennsylvania microbreweries, their innovation, their “get it done” work ethic, their willingness to take chances with brewing techniques, their homage to quality, gives me hope that all is not lost in this fine state. Take a moment today, when you drive through the Pennsylvania countryside (or get to a place where you can get to some place where the strip malls end and the trees grow again), and step out of your car and take a look around. Imagine as if you are seeing this beautiful place for the first time.
Well, speaking of beauty, back to the beers:
By the looks of it, I look liked the J. Koehler the best, as it is the emptiest. Or, it might be lower because it is closest. That is a possibility, too. Notice the Apparition Ale…
Little known to me at first, was that the “Conductor” of these fine brews, the Brewer himself Gary Burleigh, was sitting to my right at the bar. We chatted for a good half an hour about all things brew and I learned a lot.
I noticed that he had a liter bottle of some beer called Imperial Red Ale by the Lavery Brewing Company. I asked him where I could buy a bottle. He gave it me for free!
Since I was due in Pittsburgh a couple of hours later, I got some ice from the friendly bartender and chilled it in my mini-cooler so I could give it to my brother as a house-warming gift. I will leave the bloody red hand graphic story untold as to pique your interest!
Read an interview with the one of the owner’s of Lavery Brewery here (he is the husband in the husband and wife team). The Imperial Red Ale was a strong and tasty concoction. This ain’t no Bud Light “Here We Go” and their it went tastelessly and mindlessly down the gullet. No, this bad boy packed a punch and stuck around like a neighborhood tough flavor-wise.
As I pulled out Erie, with a stiff cup of coffee in my system on my way down to Pittsburgh, I savored the Erie experience and was so glad that I had come her way…may I come again to your town soon.