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Great Eastern Microbrewery Festival

October, 1999

By Bobby Bush

Beer is beer nearly everywhere in the world. But never has it been more revered than in Adamstown. This eastern Pennsylvania town, an hour's drive from Philly, is the home of Ed and Carol Stoudt, who just happen to be the proud owners of Black Angus Restaurant & Brewery Hall and Stoudt Brewing Company, respectively. Since 1987, this loving couple has served fine German food and award winning lagers and ales.

And since 1991, they've staged the Great Eastern Invitational Microbrewery Festival within the confines of their huge beer hall. As in years past, Carol's fest is a multi-part affair. This year she threw a three day beer extravaganza in June, followed by a one-day, two session beer event on August 7 (the subject of this dissertation). There's another coming soon, an Oktoberfest of sorts, on October 17 (be quick, call 717/484-4385 to reserve your ticket).

It was warmly humbling to know that we were among an elite group, limited to 1200 attendees at each session. The line moved quickly through the open gates into a large courtyard, mostly enclosed but, tall trees within, still open to warm night breezes. Taster glasses in hand, we paused long enough to sample several of Stoudt's excellent brews from their bar before walking briskly amongst tables where 17 other breweries provided ample samples.

No surprise, Pennsylvania was best represented with nine breweries in attendance. New Jersey sent three. Two each arrived from Delaware, Vermont and Maryland. Brew Moon, from King of Prussia, PA, and Pittsburgh's Foundry Ale Works were the only no-shows. Their loss. Even the brewery rep servers, who stayed very busy for at least the first half of the four hour program, seemed to be having fun.

Included with the price of admission was a delicious Wurst buffet, which consisted of three different sausages, German potato salad, hot pretzels with mustard and Ed's famous handmade bread. Besides Stoudt's own Belgian-style Double and Triple Bocks, other memorable beers included a supple John Harvard's (Wilmington, DE) Schwartzbier; New Brunswick, NJ's Harvest Moon's dry hopped Shoot the Moon IPA, which was also available without the post-brew hops addition for contrast; Victory Brewing's (Downingtown, PA) wonderfully nefarious Hop Devil IPA; and Wolavers Organic Ales with their organic Pale Ale, brewed in Middlebury, VT.

The Wolavers, a traditional English Pale Ale, was not remarkable merely because of its wholesome organic nature. The brewery's festival station just happened to be near the stage where a crowd had gathered to partake the zany music and crazy antics of one of the best music-to-drink-beer-by bands we've ever heard. Forget those loathsome oompa bands, those tear-in-your-beer guitar troubadours and those Village People wanna-be's. With music rapidly shifting in style - "Rocky Top" to "Friend of the Devil" - the Daisy Jug Band, obviously well schooled on beer hall fun, had their boisterous audience singing, screaming and dancing. The fun-and-games was so captivating, many happy fest-ers let their glasses run dry. That's why we stood our ground by Wolavers table, helping ourselves to that wondrous organic, gotta-be-good-for-you Pale Ale.

Carol helped out behind the bar while Ed busily prepared fresh bread. Time flew. Before we knew it, last call had arrived and we slowly traipsed into the night. This summer version of the Stoudt's festival was history.

Adamstown and Stoudt's Brewery know how to celebrate beer. Enthusiasm, hard work and devotion were evident everywhere. After this festival-turned-party, beer will never be the same to me. The Great Eastern Invitational was a keg of fun.

This article first appeared in Focus Magazine of Hickory, North Carolina.

Bobby Bush

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