5 Questions with Lew Bryson
Lew Bryson just might have the best job in America — he gets to write about beer. Bryson has published four books on beer, including Pennsylvania Breweries, which had its fourth edition released in 2010.
With the State College BrewExpo happening August 11 at Tussey Mountain — the event benefits Coaches Vs. Cancer — Town&Gown talked with one of the leading experts on Pennsylvania beer to find out what’s happening around the Keystone State.
T&G: Pennsylvania obviously has a great tradition when it comes to beer making. What do you think the state of beer making in PA is now as maybe compared to other states?
Bryson: Well, we’re in great shape, and, happily, the surrounding states are starting to catch up. We’re not as saturated as some states — Oregon, Colorado, Michigan, California — but the number of small breweries that have opened recently and continue to open is encouraging. What I really like to see about PA is that the new places are staying open, even the ones that are way out in what used to be no-craft-beer zones, like Yorkholo up in Mansfield. And then, of course, there’s Yuengling, which continues to kick butt in an amazing way. Not craft beer, but it ain’t Bud Light either!
T&G: What breweries in the state seem to be setting the trends when it comes to PA beer? And what are they doing?
Bryson: I’d say East End, Tröegs, Weyerbacher, and Yards. East End is shaking things up tremendously in Pittsburgh with a great variety of lower-alcohol beers. Tröegs brings new stuff constantly with the Scratch series — an excellent proving ground. Weyerbacher’s Brewer’s Select series has been fantastic, and their sours are always interesting. Yards is putting out a lot of cask-conditioned stuff, including their excellent Cape of Good Hope IPA. You can never really overlook Victory, either — the Braumeister Pils series alone makes them a leader. Sly Fox has completed their new brewery and finally has the capacity to flex their creativity a bit, so look for them to return to a leadership position.
I’m purposely leaving out PA’s excellent brewpubs here, though places like Nodding Head and Otto’s definitely do have an influence, and Iron Hill — although Delaware-based — keeps the pressure on.
T&G: Are there any up and coming or new breweries people should be keeping an eye on?
Bryson: I’ve had some excellent beers from Spring House, and they just keep growing. Haven’t had any beer from Susquehanna yet, but there’s some excellent brewing talent and serious capital there, so I expect great things. Old Forge has some excellent beers that are now out in cans. Breaker is growing and just getting better. And I enjoyed Helltown’s beers last time I was in Pittsburgh.
T&G: Here in Happy Valley we have a few breweries with Otto’s, Gamble Mill, Elk Creek. What are your thoughts on the scene here?
Bryson: Mostly that you’re very lucky! I’ve been trying to talk the wife into a long beer weekend up there for years. Otto’s and Elk Creek are two of my favorite brewpubs, and Gamble Mill is growing in my esteem. That said, I think the area could definitely support a few more!
T&G: Hypothetical question: You’re stranded on a desert island and can take three PA beers with you to drink. What three do you choose?
Bryson: Otto’s Triple D for my big beer. Penn’s Kaiser Pils for my everyday beer. Selin’s Grove Kriek for pleasure!