Monthly Archives: April 2012



Last Sunday, we were in the city of Harrisburg to attend a church service where two of our friends were guest musicians. Harrisburg apparently these days is three times more dangerous than Philly. Yikes. I checked out a map of the most recent crime map to see if we were possibly headed for a Sunday morning stick-up. What the heck happened, what the heck is happening? The city of Harrisburg has become a hellhole. All the more reason for a church to be doing its work of preaching, teaching, and discipleship.  After the service concluded, we debated where to catch some lunch.

We hiked over to the Appalachian Brewing Company a few minutes away. Normally I am fairly reticent about drinking beer during the day. Leaves me sluggish. Yet, a relaxing brew or two with friends on a Sunday afternoon with a good burger is not a bad plan. I had a bit of an edge because I drank too much coffee that morning and wanted to chill with a cold one. I opted for the Trail Blaze Organic Brown Ale. Definitely hit the spot with the burger. Always good to have food with drink, it moderates consumption. Festive.

My dream one day is to make my own organic ale from the bottom up so this offering from ABC is a bit model for what that might look and taste like. I want to grow my own barley, malt it, harvest homegrown hops (I actually have the hop garden started), and cultivate the yeast. Off the grid, not for electricity, but for beer. Green beer. I tried to grow the barley last summer and it was doing fine, with intense watering, but when we left for California and Vancouver, British Columbia, last July for almost three weeks, the barley baked to brown and dead. Like straw.

Beer, like communities, is better when the ingredients are of a high-quality. The Brown Ale from ABC is a very good beer. Unfortunately, Harrisburg has a real bad element in the mix and it had better start raising up those qualities that enrich the community rather than cause it to become a desert of destruction and mayhem. The trail to Hell is also paved with bad intentions.               


St. Boniface – Bring on the Axe


I know, I know. I have been horribly deficient in posting beer blogs on 40/40. I have not however been bereft of beer. Just time. While my bierkergaard blog foams over into fandom, I have disowned my beer blog. 40/40? Never heard of it, her, him.

Maybe, probably, certainly–if you are not from Lancaster County, Pa.–Land O’ Amishmen and Churches and Outlet Malls (how does that happen, this odd confluence of piety and consumerist spirit unleashed?), you have never had the blessed occurrence of St. Boniface descending on your palate like Jehovah upon the earth is judgment. These dudes are Christians and they make a mighty brew. Show discretion Ye Drinkers!

A local pub was having a tasting “take over the taps of St. B.” It was righteous, it was mighty. Like John the Baptist declared to to the impenitent, “The axe is laid at the root of the tree.” Although John did not drink spirits, he would have to commend St. Boniface going after the Big Boy slothful makers of tame brew.


It Was A Dark and Stormy Day/Beer: Iron Hill West Chester Octagon

No, I am not going to plagiarize Snoopy’s opening line in my title (It was a dark and stormy night), but I will employ it as inspiration. All writers beg, borrow, and steal, others work.  Attribution, my reader, attribution.

Last Saturday in Eastern Pennsylvania, we slid back into some winter-like weather. It felt like late November or early December. It was cold, drizzly, dark, in the college town of West Chester. My buddy was holed up in a music shop testing out amps for his Bass, our wives were pumping money into the local economy through clothe purchasing, and I jumped around from shop-to-shop.

I bought some great smoked Gouda cheese at a gourmet food shop, toured several other establishments, but spent most of my time reading a book about beer in a discount book store. I felt guilty doing so, thus I bought a book by Garry Wills called “Head and Heart, American Christianites.” Originally, the price for the book hot off the press was $ 29.95…I purchased it for $ 3.98. The book about beer was interesting but hardly a deep read. The Wills had cooled off considerably since being taken out of the publisher’s oven. Like day old bread.

After my musician buddy had exhausted his musical muse, we connected out on the streets of West Chester. I was heading back to the music store and he was heading out. We decided to walk over to Iron Hill Brewery to sample the local drafts. Iron Hill permits its brewmasters some flexibility in styles beyond the Iron Hill standards. That consistency combined with creativity is a great balance. Don’t know why Raspberry Wheat is always on tap, though. Must be for the girlies and girly men. I don’t like fruit flavors in beer as a rule unless it is sour cherries in Belgian. If you want fruitiness, drink some sangria. The West Chester Iron Hill is right in the middle of town, unlike the Iron Hill in Lancaster that sits across from Franklin and Marshall College but not much else except a street of shops. Thus, the West Chester Iron Hill has more of a village pub feel rather than a strip mall.

I decided upon the Octagon. Picture above.


OG: 1.105   Color: 14   IBU: 50   Alc by Vol: 9.9%

“Belgian Quadrupel. Rich, dark, malty and very complex. Belgian Abbey yeast, dark candi sugar and a huge assortment of specialty malts create layers of complex fruity aromas and a warming finish.” The chalk board at Iron Hill must have had the ABV wrong. It listed it as 14%. The website shows it to be different. I was going to draw and analogy between the firepower of the Octagon and the Pentagon. At 14%, the Octagon would be nuclear in power. Coming in at under 10% still makes it a formidable brew, yet not mushroom cloud in a glass. It was the perfect beer for a dreary day, warmed me bones and lifted the spirits. My buddy and I had some good guy time before our wives arrived. West Chester is a great town with a lot of cool amenities without kicking off a touristy vibe of  “give us your money and get the hell out.” Towns that turn too touristy and commercial, lose their souls. They become human zoos with cage like stores, designed to get visitors to feed the natives. A town should be able to stand on its own two feet without being fed by outsiders. Such sufficiency creates a spirit of life hard to duplicate when visitor dollars prop up the economy. Iron Hill for all its franchise savvy business sense and money making power (and it rakes in boatloads of dollars with its model), still has a heart. The I.H. plan is very head-like…strategic and extremely well-executed. The heart makes it a place where one wants to return over and over again. It is a friendly upbeat establishment no matter which one you happen to go to. I.H. has it down to a well-written book. More power to them…in a field of copycats who plagiarize others work, Iron Hill Brewery is an original.