BEER CLINIC :: Electric City Craft Brew Fest 2013

by Dr. Carol Westbrook on May 15, 2013

… with Eugene Westbrook and Annie Tasker.

Save the PlanetApril upon us, it was time for the Second Annual Electric City Craft Brew Fest, in Scranton, PA. You may recall that I attended the First Annual ECCBF in April of 2012, shortly after I moved to Wilkes-Barre.  It was a great introduction to the beer culture of NEPA.  The fest was a great success.  I tasted a lot of beer!

This year I had two helpers, Gene Westbrook and Annie Tasker, my son and his fiance.  Our agenda–to pick out a selection from our regional breweries to serve at an upcoming family event, expecting about 50 guests.  We set the following specifications:  the beers could include both lagers and ales, had to be available in bottles or cans, and the majority should be session beers (alcohol <5%). And of course, they would have to be wonderfully tasty and pair well with food.  We collected our 5 oz. beer glasses, and started tasting.

susquhannaOur first stop was Susquehanna Brewing Company, SBC.  This brewery is a Valley  success story, since they started almost from scratch a year ago, released their first beer in May 2012, and now have a line of 4 very diverse brews, all available in bottles.  We tasted:

– Goldencold Lager:  This is by far the best lager at the festival, beating the local standards, Yuengling and Stegmaiers,  hands down.  Refreshing, great with food–and I am NOT a lager lover!

– 6th Generation Stock Ale unfortunately was not on tap at the festival, but it has long been my pick for a perfect session ale; at 5.5% AB and 44 IBU, it’s well balanced.

BreakerBreaker Brewing Company is another up-and-coming brewing company in the Wilkes-Barre area.  They have been increasing production but are still not consistently bottling, so you have to find them on draft in the area.  They have opened a highly acclaimed tasting room, which is worth visiting for the hilltop view, as well as the beer.

– Lunch Pail Ale is a nice, mild, clean session beer that is lightly hopped and eminently drinkable.  A great favorite of mine and good with food.

– I Love PA, (IPA) is one of the best IPAs in the region, but hard to find on draft.  It was one of the best IPAs I tasted at the Fest this year.   I don’t believe they are bottling it yet.

ShawneeCraft 004Shawnee Craft Brewing Company was the one to keep an eye at the last festival, being a small brewpub in a ski resort area with a commitment to quality and organic ingredients.  They had a lot of potential.  At the time they did not distribute outside of their brewpub, but this year I have seen them on draft at several bars.  At the BrewFest, I tasted their Session Porter and was very taken with it.  On Nitro tap, it is more Guinness than Guinness itself!   A great beer, I hope to see it in my neighborhood pubs soon.

imagesThree Guys and a Beer’d:  this brewery has a relatively low production of consistently high quality beers with unusual names. Among the beers we tried:

Ladder Dive Rye IPA:  was my “best of show” last year.  Tastes as good this year as it did last year.

– CarbonD’Alien   This is a Pale Ale session beer.  At 5.5% ABV, with a good head and perfect hop.  The name refers to a UFO encounter on November 9th, 1974, when a small group of teenage boys reported seeing a glowing, unidentified, flying object crash into a pond near the southern edge of Carbondale, PA.  I’m not sure of the connection between the event and the brewery, but I can speculate.

imagesVictory Brewing Company, located near Philadelphia, previewed two of their summer beers.  One caught our eye (and palate).

– Swing Session Saison is a light summer beer, with added grains (rye, oats, and wheat). Not very hoppy, it features orange and lemon flavors, and at 4.5% you can drink it all afternoon.  This was Annie’s pick of the show.

* Ed – Grab it while you can! Victory informed us that Swing Session Saison is a seasonal Spring offering.

OldForgeBrewingCompany2012Surprise! Old Forge has a beer!  Old Forge is a town noted for the best pizza in the country (and probably the most pizzerias on a single stretch of Main street ).  I was surprised to see that they now have a brewery.  I was even more surprised to find that they produce their beer in cans, rather than in bottles–a growing niche market, glad they are addressing it.  Their beers hold up beautifully in cans.  We tasted:

Overbite IPA  at 7.5% it’s a very acceptable Pennsylvania-style IPA. It’s nicely balanced, could use a bit more aroma (more dry hopping).

T-Rail Pale Ale  at 5.3% ABV, a very drinkable session beer, well hopped and true to style.

* Ed – See “Comments.” Note that Old Forge is located in Danville, about an hour or so from Old Forge, PA.

imagesFlying Fish is a favorite local NJ brewery, and I have enjoyed everything they produced; I am particularly fond of their Hopfish IPA.  They are now creating a line of beers named for exits on the New Jersey Turnpike.  We tasted two:

Exit 16 is an 8% IPA, beautifully hopped to 62 IBUs with Citra, Columbus, Centennial, Simcoe and Chinook; it is then dry-hopped with Chinook and Citra hops to give it an elegant nose.  A real knock-out.  Eugene’s pick of the show.

Exit 4 is a Belgian Style Trippel at 10.2% ABV, and it was my husband Rick’s pick for the Fest.

At this point it was time to stop.  So many beers, so little time, and so early in the day.

SUMMARY:

Our picks for our family dinner–all available in cans or bottles, produced locally, and mostly session beers:
– SBC Goldencold Lager
– SBC Sixth Generation Ale
– Victory Saison
– Old Forge T-Rail Pale Ale
– FlyingFish Exit  16 IPA

A few comments about the Electric City Craft Brewfest.  The biggest change this year was free food, which is a wonderful idea, especially if you expect to start drinking at noon. The crowds were bigger this year, and I was glad that I purchased V.I.P. tickets, which allowed us early entry with a smaller group of tasters.  The festival was larger this year, expanding to all 4 floors and the mezzanine of the Scranton Cultural Center, and featured over 60 beer selections from over 30 brewers.  Unfortunately, not all of the showcased beers were what I would call “craft beers” since much of the space was occupied by the larger distributors, who included some mass-market beers in their offerings. On the other hand, if that’s what it takes to get people into the venue and introduce more of them to good craft beers, then I am in favor. I look forward to next year’s event.
Dr. Westbrook’s invaluable book, Ask an Oncologist is available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Amanda May 17, 2013 at 2:41 pm

The Old Forge brewery is in Danville, PA

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Candice Dolgash May 17, 2013 at 4:11 pm

Glad you enjoyed the brewfest. Unfortunately, though, you are slightly misinformed. Old Forge Brewery is actually from Danville and has no connection to the town of Old Forge. They are, however, an excellent brewery nonetheless!
If you’re interested in learning more about local and craft brews, you may like to join us at the Waldorf Beer Club. We meet for tastings once a month. We hosted the beer education at the ECCBF. Find us on Facebook!

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