Hops ‘N’ Clocks

Rod Smith and Chad Rieker from CKW with their Major Award

This past Friday The National Watch and Clock Museum hosted their eighth annual Hops ‘N’ Clock beerfest in Columbia, PA.  This was the fourth time I have attended this unique and perennially sold out event.  The National Watch and Clock Museum is one of those great secrets of Central PA.  It’s a hidden gem.  Since opening in 1977 it has grown from less than 1,000 pieces to more than 12,000 artifacts and time pieces detailing humanity’s efforts of tracking the passage of time.

In early July each year the museum invites local brewers and restaurants to take over the building and ply visitors with tasty libations and light fare.  For a small donation ($30) you get a ticket for three hours with a up to a dozen breweries and a near equal number of restaurants each offering generous samples with the opportunity to check out the entire museum.

This year saw a great lineup of Lancaster and York based breweries including, Gift Horse Brewing, Wacker BrewingLancaster Brewing Company, Liquid Hero Brewing, and Columbia Kettle Works; as well as Roy Pitz Brewing, and Troegs. Bailee’s Homebrew & Wine Supplies had an assortment of homebrewed beers and offered tips for prospective and established homebrewers. The fest was not all beer with J & J Miracle Mead and Wyndrindge Farm poured samples of a mead and hard cider.

A number of great food options included two from Columbia; Prudomme’s Lost Cajun Kitchen and Bully’s.  Both restaurants have impressive and well curated beer selections if you are ever in the area.

Music was provided by Fire in the Glen playing a lively mix of traditional Irish and Scottish folk/drinking songs.

The sold out event was well attended but not overbooked.  It was easy to get a refill with more than enough of time to try all the offerings.

Many great libations were on hand but some of them stood out more than others:

Odin Stök by J & J Miracle Mead is a fully fermented buck wheat honey mead.  It drinks dry and heavy; tasted of buck wheat honey but lacked any of the sweetness.  This was my first time trying mead and it was an interesting experience.  Clocking in at 18% ABV, Odin Stök was for sipping and would make for a nice after dinner drink.

Citra Wheat by Gift Horse Brewing Company was a well-executed American pale wheat ale with a healthy dose of Citra hops.  Dry and citrusy it made for an easy drinking beer that stood up well among a room full of good brews. Gift Horse’s Roasted Irish Ale was also good with plenty of roasted malts and bready notes.  Gift Horse is still working towards completing their brewery in York but once it is done I plan to pay a visit.

Rülpsen Meister by Liquid Hero Brewery is a Roggenbier.  If you have not heard of the Roggenbier style you can be forgiven.  It was a first for me as well. I don’t know if Rülpsen Meister was true to style as it was my first but it did have a great rye spiciness along with a solid body while being quaffable.  If you get the chance to grab one of these it is highly recommended.  Each year that Liquid Hero has come to this event they bring a surprising style or uniquely brewed beer.  It’s shows commitment to the event and is really appreciated.

Bitter Beer Face by Bailee’s Homebrew was a 100 IBU pale ale that lived up to the great name.  The homebrew was an impressive tasting beer regardless of it being brewed in someone’s garage; I assume.  A intensely bitter pale ale dosed with a variety of hops.  It provided a dry long finish that showed off the resin and dank flavors.

Citra Session by Columbia Kettle Works was the best beer I had all night.  It was perfectly executed and showed off the Citra hop flavors beautifully. Heavy in citrus and tropical notes in the nose with a slight grapefruit.  It was properly bitter with a clean and light mouthfeel and a crisp finish.  Easy drinking and refreshing, Citra Session stood head and shoulders above the rest.  I was also not the only one to think so highly of the most local of brewers attending as Columbia Kettle Works won the “People’s Choice Award.”  Columbia Kettle Works is a short five minute walk from the museum and had plenty of local support.

Hops ‘N’ Clocks was a great event that supports a great museum.  If you would like to attend next year look for it the first Friday after the 4th of July with tickets going on sale in early June.  It is a great time and provides needed support for a community trust and you will be hard pressed to find a more unusual atmosphere for holding a beer festival.

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