Even given the explosive growth of the craft beer industry it may seem strange to say that sleepy little Elizabethtown, PA has two breweries. Moo-Duck Brewery opened eight months ago and has a wonderful location a stone’s throw across from the beautiful train station. Then, this past week Cox Brewing Company opened its doors to the general public for growler fills.
A fellow beer drinker and I decided to visit the two during an especially rainy day. What we came to find is two completely different approaches to craft brewing.
Our first visit was to Cox Brewing Company. Cox is a veteran-owned brewery started by Nick Cox and Tim Kreider. Pulling up to the industrial park located brewery you immediately get a sense that these guys are passionate about their service to this country and brewing beer. The winks and nods to military service are everywhere but are not overwhelming and tastefully give it character.
Three beers were on tap: Liberty Lager, 82nd Amber Ale and CH-47 IPA. Talking with Nick and Tim about the beers showed they had put thought into their product and its place in the local market. Cox makes beer for people that may not have considered trying a craft beer. The three brews are as approachable as the men brewing them.
The Liberty Lager is a pale lager brewed for the guy that likes an ice cold Budweiser tallboy but wants something with a bit more bite, or to support a local business. The beer was dry and clean with a easy noble hops bitterness in the short finish.
82nd Amber Ale was the best of the three with a great color and a thick frothy head that sticks to the glass. Medium bodied with a proper malts and hops balance for the style. Tim put this beer as between a Yuengling and Sam Adams and that description nails it. The guy that regularly orders a “lager” at the bar would be wise to consider this one.
CH-47 IPA is a crisp ale with a easy drinking bitterness. CH-47 is not bombed out with hops but instead provides a gateway for the first time IPA drinker. Clean in the start with a slightly dry finish it would make for a nice compliment to a burger.
Brewing beer requires hard work and can be described as an investment of “blood, sweat, and tears.” For Nick and Tim this looks to be true. They are investing themselves in this business. In fact, Tim lost three fingers building a Jockey Box; due what I assume is to an accident with a saw. Nick and Tim are committed and passionate about both beer and veteran service.
When asked if they plan to sell pints at the brewery they expressed a focus on continuing to to serve their bar and restaurant customers in the area. They do fill growlers and offer generous samples at the brewery making it well worth a visit.
Our next stop was Moo-Duck Brewery; a short five minute drive from Cox. I have visited Moo-Duck about a half-dozen times since their opening and after about eight months I feel like they are starting to hit a stride. The beers are coming into focus; as exemplified by their two seasonal beers now on tap.
Honey! Strawberry Blonde is brewed with 48 pounds of fresh local strawberries, carefully picked and cleaned by hand. By the pictures in the link you can see they are the tiny, bright red variety; these I personally favor. The only thing the beer missed was tiny seeds to pick out of your teeth. Crisp and refreshing but not overly sweet. Its soft pink hue and bubbly light body complimented the flavors well. Strawberry in the nose and slightly tart and sweet in the finish. It was wonderful and the perfect example of what is possible with local seasonal brewing. It is highly recommended.
The last beer of the day was Big Sit Summer Ale, another fruit beer made with lemon and orange peel and dosed with orange blossom honey. The citrus tones are evident in the nose and the honey comes across nicely in finish. Light and refreshing with lemon and orange coming though as equals playing well together. Eminently drinkable this is a great beer to enjoy on your back porch.
Kristen Brubaker was tending bar and again greeted me with a warm welcoming approach and was quick with a refill of my glass. Talking with her that day and with Mike previously reveals the different approach this couple has compared to their new neighbors. Mike (the brewer) and Kristen are former environmental educators. This permeates their approach to both the brewing and the business. These beers and the food they offer are based on what is local and fresh and are just outside the mainstream.
These two breweries are juxtaposed in many ways that provides a fascinating look at the different approaches available within this booming industry. Cox Brewing Company and Moo-Duck Brewery are servicing the same community in different ways; both in brewing style and business plan.
While Cox is sticking to traditional styles, Moo-Duck is trying daring variations on the classics. Cox is servicing local restaurants and only recently started selling growlers. Moo-Duck is slinging the beer at their own bar and only going into restaurants and bars cautiously; as they pointed out in a recent Beer Busters podcast.
But both are clearly committed to the community. Cox is partnered with veteran charities that they support and are doing good by those that served. Moo-Duck partners monthly with a local charity to offer a “charity brew” providing 50 cents from each pint sold.
Moo-Duck and Cox are both an example of what community brewing is capable of providing. Breweries historically had been and should be part of the community they service. Seeing this develop in Elizabethtown is adding to the quality of the community. “Drink local” is not just a slogan. Drinking local beer is good for the economy and for the industry. So if you are in or near western Lancaster county or just passing through… give these two a try.