Good pubs, Good Beer, Good People

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Hops in Harrisburg

Lancaster Brewing Company—Harrisburg Edition

By Kurt Epps—The PubScout


Having visited and enjoyed the Lancaster Brewing Company in 2005 at its original digs in the old tobacco warehouse on N. Plum St. in Lancaster, I was pleasantly surprised to motor past its newest edition in Harrisburg. That's where we normally stay when visiting my eldest son's college, Elizabethtown, about twenty minutes east. Paying for college these days means finding bargain motels and the Red Roof works nicely. It's clean, convenient and very reasonable, even for the rooms with indoor toilets. There's a great Irish bar right across the road from our Red Roof called Gilligan's, and we usually frequent it because it has a substantial beer menu, good food and reasonable prices. But it does not make its own beer.

So the LBC ( with its own beer ) beckoned, and being just two minutes down Eisenhower Blvd. from the Red Roof, we passed on Gilligan's this time.

The weather was brutal: windy, rainy and raw, and nothing's better than a warm and cozy pub on a night like that. The building looked rustic on the outside, and I was surprised that the interior décor of the LBC was less rustic than upscale—almost Scandinavian—in ambience, bearing a strong resemblance in appeal to the Triumph chain back east. The bar was packed—it was Friday at Happy Hour, after all—and I was glad I had made reservations, but the dining sections had available space, so our party of five was quickly seated.

Our server Allie was most efficient and friendly, but advised that neither the Hefeweizen or the Rare Rooster were available. No matter. I was looking forward to the Oktoberfest, which used to be called Franklin Fest, and one of my favorite dark beers of all time—Lancaster Milk Stout. Both were available, as was the outstanding Hop Hog and something called Shoe-Fly Porter.

The menu was eclectic, with appetizers averaging about $8-9. The Reuben Egg Rolls, recommended by both Allie and a gregarious and helpful manager named Brent, were delicious, and the missus positively raved about her Butternut/Squash soup.

My entrée was an order of Meat Loaf, gravy made with Milk Stout. The portion was about the size of Rhode Island, and after my appetizer, the ample creamy mashed potatoes topped with onions and two O-fests, I was doubting whether I would be able to finish it. Made with a mixture of lamb and beef, it would have been a sin to leave any, and taking it "home" to a Red Roof was not an option. So I finished it. The missus found that her Lump Crabcakes were good, but again the portions were so large she had to leave some behind. Cody's Filet Mignon (with Milk Stout demi-glace) was perfectly done, tender and flavorful, but also so large that even he had to leave some. That might have had something to do with the seven rolls with butter and two Sprites this growing lad consumed before the main course came, though.

None of us had any room for dessert, but the affable Brent brought over a beer concoction he called "Chocolate Covered Strawberry." It was a mixture of LBC's Strawberry Wheat, Milk Stout and a rim-shot of chocolate syrup. It sounds unusual for sure, but having had my share of ice cream porters and stout floats, I knew that what often sounds funky winds up being really tasty. That was the case with Chocolate Covered Strawberry. Surprisingly good, and perfect for the beer nut with a sweet tooth, it is probably not on the Weight-Watchers menu.

Brent also dug out a bottle of the Rare Rooster, a pale ale with a subtle rye flavor. Not a bad beer, but it needs more rye flavor. My recommendation is to ratchet up the rye so it's not too subtle. An experienced palate may detect it, but the average joe will not, unless it's more pronounced. Triumph's (NJ) Tom Stephenson made a beer some years back called Jewish Rye, and darned if it didn't taste like fresh rye bread. LBC's brewers are certainly capable enough to turn this beer into a "must have."

But aside from Hop Hog for the Hop Heads, the "must have beer at LBC remains the Milk Stout. It's everything an English sweet stout should be—including not overly sweet—with magnificent notes of roasted barley.

In all, our visit to LBC/Harrisburg was certainly worthwhile, made better by a friendly, efficient waitstaff and managers. I especially liked the walls done in a "History of Beer" motif, beginning at 4300 BC (in the year of my birth) and winding up at 2007. It's a good place with good beer and good food. Our tab for a party of five came out to about $30 each without the tip. Hammurabi would have approved.

Though the unseasonable chilly, rainy and raw weekend weather report caused Al Gore to script a new movie called "An Inconvenient Winter," knowing that LBC was going to be providing the beer the next day at Elizabethtown's Alumni Oktoberfest event the next day was as comforting as the Milk Stout.

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