A boxcar on a train is what it says it is…a box car to move product on the rails. Basic, unpretentious. While I wrote that Troegs was the the “whole package,” Box Car Brewery is literally one package, one graphic, one beer. No frills. Check out the picture:
“What will you have sir from Boxcar?”
Ummm, the Original Ale?
“Good, because that is all we got.”
I hopped the rails last Sunday (I know, I am behind in my writing) and made my way to an old area haunt of mine. After college, I had lived in West Chester, Pa. It was a great place to be as a young adult. So, I knew this trip to Boxcar Brewery would be a bit of a trip down the tracks of the past. Little did I know, how far into the past I would travel to and from Boxcar’s station.
Music is often a soundtrack to my travels. Often songs in some way capture the spirit of the place and the trip. As in the days of old, after I pulled off the Turnpike at the Downingtown exit, I fiddled with the radio jumping in-between WMMR and WYSP. Although the rock stations don’t play exactly the same format of music, there is enough overlap, that it is not unusual for me to jump between the stations and hop onto one of the station’s trains, so to speak, to find a song that I like. I imagine this is common place for Philly-area folk. These rock rivals have been competitors since the Ice Age.
One of the most classic rock tunes of all time came on one of the station’s: Dont Fear the Reaper from Blue Oyster Cult. Boy, talk about memories. I especially dig the opening lyric: “All our times have come, Here but now they’re gone.” I sensed the crowd at Boxcar would be young and that I would be old in comparison, reminding me that my youth times are gone. I was right.
There are few things more sad that an older man trying to look young and act young. So, it is best to act my age and I try to not look like a chaperon at a middle school dance. Hey, I am a young 46. No comb-over…yet.
Here is one of the owner’s, Jason, Chief Hobo-In-Charge, giving a tour and as it were in Boxcar’s one room, roughly about the size of a college dorm:
Jason came to microbrewing through wine-making while living out in California. I asked him what he thought was most interesting about making beer and he said, with a hint of wonder in his eyes, “Fermentation. ” True enough. Where would we best without yeast that does its work either with oxygen or without oxygen? Have to like its yeoman “make it work” approach. We Americans could learn a lesson from the yeast. Here is a little brewing science for you.
There is a dash of the “Mad Scientist” vibe in Jason which I imagine is an asset for anyone who wants to hop on the microbrewery express train. Yet, there is a method to the madness. I like how Boxcar is developing the brand of the Boxcar Original Ale from the bottom up rather than being too ambitious by developing other styles. Hard-working, like yeast, he and his partner are doing it all with a ton of sweat equity…Hoppitat for Humanity? BTW, I swear, if I hear one more pun about “Don’t worry, be hoppy” or some variation, I am going to weep. C’mon people, don’t be lame. Come up with something original.
If I heard Jason (one of the owners) correctly, the Original Ale is only dry-hopped. So the ale does not have that bitter taste so common to microbrews.
I think this was done more for effect because during the making of beer, this is not the best time to hop the beer.
I am becoming more of a fan of hoppy beers but it is a work in progress. Kind of like how it took awhile for me to like straight black coffee, dropping the sugar and cream. My wife, The Traveling Food critic, has told me more than once that as people age, they can crave stronger flavors because their taste buds are on the downside of acuity. My response is, “So what is your point?” as I eat a jalapeno raw. I have been doing this since a teenager which is probably why my tastebuds are fried like Jim from Taxi. I know I am dating myself like Carbon 14.
Recall how I wrote that I would delve further into the past than I imagined? The keyboardist in this band is someone who I went to junior high school with 30 plus years ago and who introduced me and my bus mates, via his boom box to the artistry of Stevie Wonder back in the 1970’s on the way back from the 7th grade trip to Williamsburg, Virginia late at night. Here is some live footage of the funkmasters themselves: The New Kings of Rhythm . The get–together certainly had a frat party vibe with the music:
Here is his funkness, one Richard Washington himself:
I met another dude Dave Rankin, who I did not go to junior high school with, who paints skateboards or “decks” to be hip (the event had skateboarders doing their thing, too. His company is called Effigy:
I have a ton of respect for artistic and technical visionaries like Boxcar Brewery, the New Kings of Rhythm, and Effigy. Achievement and success is hard work. Sometimes riding the rails is rough. I take solace in the below verses from Ecclesiastes:
I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. 13 That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God.
What did I think of the brew? Clean, crisp, nice.A good respite from hard work. Not enough hops, though. Y’ know, I like strong tastes, me being aged and all. All aboard!