Playing To Your Strengths

Playing to your strengths is generally good advice. It lets you play the game or do the work with the greatest chance of success. During a recent visit to Moo-Duck Brewery in Elizabethtown, PA that concept of “playing to one’s strengths” came to mind.

 

I had ordered a glass of Moo-Duck’s 291 Experimental IPA. This slightly hazy, light bodied, 5.8% IPA was unusual. It had a bit of citrus in the nose along with sweet smelling flowers. I was expecting it to be a mosaic hopped beer as I took my first sip but this was herbal and earthy. While it had floral notes, as the beer warmed up in the glass the floral quelled and herbal notes took complete control by adding a slight spiciness to the front and a long finish of faint eucalyptus and mild mint. I liked it.

The name of this beer is in reference to the hops that give it the distinct flavors, Experimental Hop 291, or LORAL as it has been branded. Moo-Duck’s newest small batch IPA beautifully showcases this relatively new hop variety.

What brewer Mike Brubaker has done here is play to his strengths. I have said it before when describing Moo-Duck and it is just as true today: Moo Duck’s beers are best when they are playing with earthy, flowery, and herbal flavors; the flavors of the outdoors.

291 Experimental IPA does just that.

You would be hard pressed to find a guy more down to Earth than Mike or his wife Kristen. So it makes sense that their beers should also reflect this. 291 Experimental IPA plays to their strengths and in the little I know them, their personalities. Easy drinking but earthy, it is a unique IPA that nicely showcases a new hop profile you probably have yet to meet.

Cheers!

Post Script:

Moo-Duck currently has The Remedy on tap as well. If you are looking for an herbal and flowery beer, brewed locally, you will be unlikely to find one more daring or interesting one. This wheat beer is brewed with local honey and an insane amount of Chamomile.

There are times where certain styles just work for a brewery. A great example of this is Victory Brewing Co. and pilsner. It a style of beer they work with well. They make many other fine beers but if its a pilsner, you can take it to the bank that it will be a world beater.

I have dropped some hints to it on Twitter, but tomorrow night I am recording Ep. 4 of The Operation Shutdown Podcast… and I really think this one will be gangbusters. Expect it to post sometime over the weekend. If I am lucky, it will be done by Friday night.

Juxtaposed Breweries Help Define Community Brewing

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.