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River Rat Brew Trail: Flavors of Fall



 

 

It’s been several months since my last River Rat Brew Trail review. With the beginning of autumn just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to re-visit some of my favorite watering holes and see what’s new and brewing in the valley for fall.

Tom Clark of Berwick Brewing spent some time in Germany and knows a thing or two about making lagers. The 2017 vintage of his Oktoberfest is exceptional. It’s an Americanized version, maltier and more robust than many of the traditional German imports, and it’s brewed the old-fashioned way — patiently lagered in cold storage for more than six weeks. Oktoberfest — or any of the other 25 brews in Tom’s lineup—can be sampled either indoors or outside in the brewery’s biergarten — alongside the Susquehanna River, the perfect place to enjoy the fall foliage. Also, be sure to order pizza — one for there and one to go — when you visit. And for those who can’t make the trip to Berwick, fear not. Tom bottled 90 cases of Oktoberfest for area distribution.

Damien Malfara at Old Forge Brewing in Danville has jumped on the New England IPA bandwagon. Naturally cloudy with a soft mouthfeel and bursting with notes of citrus and tropical fruit, this style is taking the country by storm. His tongue-in-cheek named Hype Juice — brewed with Eureka, Azacca, Mosaic, Amarillo and Eldorado hops — will be available at the brewpub in either drafts or cans on Friday. New England IPAs are meant to be enjoyed fresh. Thus, Damien will can the small production run of 100 cases that Friday morning, to be sold later in the day, starting at 4 p.m. “Crazy?” he says. “Nah, just a little hazy.” Four-packs of 16-ounce cans and cases will be available to go, so don’t hesitate. Hype Juice will go quickly. You’ve been warned.

Taylor Rogers joined the crew at Marley’s Brewery and Grille in Bloomsburg this summer. He previously worked as a jack-of-all-trades at the renowned Cigar City Brewing in Tampa, and is looking to make a name for himself as the main man at Marley’s. I’ve had the opportunity to sample several of his envelope-pushing brews. He’s the real deal.

Marley’s is also sponsoring New Brew Wednesday. Aspiring homebrewers can make 12 gallons of their favorite recipe on their small batch system, under the guidance of Rogers and manager Andy Fisher. Their creations are then served in 12-ounce drafts a few weeks later. Yours truly recently participated and brewed one of his New England IPAs. In all modesty, it was a huge hit. If you’re a homebrewer and think you’ve got what it takes, stop in and see Andy about New Brew Wednesday.

Two new beers will be released soon at Eric Kuijpers’ Covered Bridge Brewhaus in Shamokin. Koekieclaus, Eric’s seasonal holiday spice beer, and Hop Harvest Ale, made with freshly harvested Cascade hops from Wagner’s Hop Farm in Hegins, both brews garnered rave reviews at the Lourdes Wine Festival and the Lake Augusta Wine and Brew Festival. Get ‘em while they last.

This is only a smattering of the beers available on the 12-stop River Rat Brew Trail. Additional information can be found at riverratbrewtrail.com. Enjoy this month’s reviews and hoist a stein of Oktoberfest or your favorite fall brew to the glorious season of fall — my favorite time of year.

I couldn’t wait for this year’s release of Old Forge Brewing’s Falling Down Brown. A Brown Ale-IPA hybrid, it’s my go-to beverage for Penn State football and Penguins hockey. It pours clear and luscious mahogany, with shimmering garnet highlights. Falling Down’s thick mocha head resonates aromas of toast, toffee and hops. The body is robust, with plenty of malt backbone to support its flavors of dark caramel, biscuit and chocolate. It finishes with a lingering and thirst quenching hop bitterness. For added flavor, enjoy yours like I do: from an official Old Forge pint glass.

For beer drinkers, autumn is synonymous with Oktoberfest — the centuries-old celebration of a royal German marriage. My friends and I couldn’t get enough of Berwick Brewing’s Oktoberfest, Tom’s malty Märzen, during our last visit. It reddish-amber colored pour sports a thin but persistent beige head. It exudes malty aromas of toast and biscuit. There’s an initial creamy sweetness from flavors of bready Pilsner malt and notes of caramel that segues to a dry finish, with just a hint of Hallertau hop spiciness. Prost!

It’s impossible to celebrate fall without quaffing a pumpkin beer or two. Covered Bridge Brewhaus has one of the area’s best. It’s a little darker than most — deep burgundy brown, with aromas of cinnamon and nutmeg. Its body is rich and luscious, balancing the pumpkin, spice regimen and the secret propriety-flavoring ingredient. This is one of Karol’s fall favorites.

Some say a session IPA is an oxymoron, but it’s tough to argue with Marley’s Red Husky Session IPA. It pours copper amber with a beige head. Aromas of malt and caramel mix with scents of earthy and citrusy Mosaic and Citra hops. The body is solid and malty, like an East Coast IPA. There’s lots of caramel, biscuit and nutty flavor and a pleasant and lingering hop bitterness from traditional Cascade.

(The Brew Dude is published monthly on the Food and Drink Page. For comments, suggestions, or questions, email Mark Pasquinelli at thebrewdude@newsitem.com.)