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Aug 23, 2014

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Stoudt Brewing Co.

By Gregg Smith

There is an area in eastern Pennsylvania that is a mecca for a wide variety of travelers. Whether they are in search of outlet stores, antiquing, or the gentle peacefulness of the Pennsylvania Dutch the burgh of Adamstown is conveniently located in the center of these attractions. And if you are a beer drinker and further disposed to capping the day with a good glass of beer, the Stoudt brewery may be just the place for you.

Stoudt's, the family name, which in the past was also spelled Steud, Staud, and Staudt is just off Rt 272 and directly attached to the Black Angus Restaurant (not part of the chain). The business is set up so the brewery owned by Carol Stoudt, an accomplished brewer, can sell its beer to her husband Ed and the restaurant. A sharp eye will notice that the two buildings are actually separated by a narrow passage which is necessary to comply with the archaic distribution laws of Pennsylvania that do not allow direct sales under one roof.

The brewery uses a 30 barrel brewhouse of 15 tanks (...30, 60 & 90 barrel fermentation tanks.) Under the watchful eye of brewers: John Smulowitz and Kevin Sondey they produce ales through infusion and lagers by traditional decoction process. Capacity now stands at 7 thousand barrels a year and will go to 12 thousand with 3 new tanks scheduled to be in operation in November. That's great for the brewery but the improvement employees most celebrated was the late 1991 installation of a new bottling line. Originally they used a vintage 1902 bottler combined with a hand labeler that for years sat in a museum and had been stored in a an old barn. The filler just happened to fit champagne bottles which became a virtual trademark of Stoudt's beers. Those original green bottles have been replaced with brown to better protect the beer.

Sales range from Massachusetts to North Carolina but the best proof of Stoudt's brewing prowess is their continued success at the Great American Beer Fest. In 1994 the haul was two golds and two silvers distributed among their beers. Three brews are regularly available: a pilsner, a munich style gold, and an amber. These are further complemented by rotating specialties. The Pils is a good place to start and presents an excellent rendition of the German pilsner style, clear with a soft nose and moderate carbonation. There is an assertive hoppy bittering that goes to a finish starting with the very noticeable saaz hops and lingers into a balanced malty but dry ending.

The Golden Lager is a bit darker than the Pils and presents a luxurious golden hue. The nose foretells the taste with soft inviting hints of the excellent malt and hop balance. Your taste buds are greeted by its smooth malty flavor and a delightfully complex finish that quickly goes from malt to hops and back with the hops finally winning out. It took home a gold medal from the 1992 Great American Beer Fest.

The amber is a low carbonated, medium copper colored brew that sports a sweet malty nose with just a small hint of flowers. The finish starts malty but the hops come through at the end. This is the Stoudt's rendition of the amber style you'll find in most brew pubs, but a notch above in smoothness. One of the rotating specialties, a bock, is a beautiful deep amber with reddish hues. As with the others carbonation is light and fine. The body has a medium to full maltiness with a long lived finish that is best slowly savored. The Mai Bock was another of the gold medal winners at GABF '92.

Tours of the brewery are available on the weekends. But this is not just another brewery to drag family and friends through. Should you be there in the summer be sure to take time for the adjoining antique mall, and then finish the day at the continuing Germanfest which runs during the warm months and guarantees a good time along with the choice of at least a half dozen brews. And if you're in the area during any local parades you may be treated to one of Stoudt's trademarks - the "Vat Mobile". Made from an old mash tun and discarded parts it is a very appropriate brewery float and is usually accompanied by the local heroes "Bock Man and Boy Barley" in their endless quest for good beer. They've even been the subject of a cartoon strip; ask for a copy at the brewery or bar. For long range planners the summer is an excellent time to visit, as the brewery once again hosts the Mid Atlantic Microbrewery fest.

Before you head home be sure to stop at the tap room and restaurant. As you walk in the foyer one surprise is a fully restored 1928 Packard. Rumor has it the last time it was on the road was for Ed and Carol's wedding. It now occupies a place of honor not far from the cabinet full of medals from the Great American Beer Festival. A classic wooden, victorian styled, brass-railed bar is the focal point for the beer. Surrounding it are rooms that contain collections such as presidential campaign buttons and another filled with Pennsylvania brewerania. The restaurant also has a nice wine list that includes Robert Parker ratings. In all Stoudt's has something for everybody and for beer drinkers it has consistent GABF medal winners.

Gregg Smith

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