Craft beer runs through her veins
Just as the Bakers of the world can trace the etymology of their surname far enough back to discover their ancestors were once, well, bakers, my maiden surname says a lot about my lineage – Pivarnick.
What’s so special about that, 99.98 percent of you may ask? Pivarnick, a variation no one has yet explained to me on my relatives’ family name, Pivarnik. Or Pivornik. There’s a surprising lot of us.
But as anyone who has visited the Czech Republic – or Slovakia, where we trace our roots to – can tell you, pivo, the ubiquitous term seen on tavern signs and menus around the country: it’s beer!
That’s right. I come from a long line of lushes. I kid. But not really.
The point is, drinking beer is in my blood. And when enjoyed responsibly, this malty beverage can offer a complex flavor experience that rivals wine tasting in popularity.
In fact, craft beer drinking has experienced a surge of popularity, spurred by the increased availability of small batch, independent brews distributed at local bars and festivals, such as Hibrewnation, Beers, Brats and Bands, and York County Heritage Trust’s History Untapped.
What makes a craft beer a craft beer? The Brewers Association – an organization of more than 2,000 U.S. brewery members and 43,000 members of the American Homebrewers Association – defines craft beer by three hallmarks:
- Small: Annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less (approximately 3 percent of U.S. annual sales).
- Independent: Less than 25 percent of the craft brewery is owned or controlled (or equivalent economic interest) by a beverage alcohol industry member that is not itself a craft brewer.
- Traditional: A brewer that has a majority of its total beverage alcohol volume in beers whose flavor derives from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and their fermentation. Flavored malt beverages (FMBs) are not considered beers.
Small. Independent. Traditional. Check.
Still, for those whose palate is about as nuanced as deciphering the difference between Coors Light and Milwaukee’s Best (I don’t judge – I was in college once), the world of craft beer can be an intimidating one that seems closed to those out-of-the-know.
Which is why I’m launching “She’s Crafty,” a bi-monthly column that will appear in The York Dispatch’s food blog, Food for Thought. I plan to take you on my journey as I discover the flourishing craft beer scene in York County – from local watering-hole favorites such as Beer Mongers in Dallastown to a growing number of festivals and microbreweries popping up in York.
For my inaugural post, I recently visited the brand-new facilities of recently-launched microbrewery Crystal Ball Brewing Co. in West York, featured in York Weekend.
Head brewer Ryan Johnstonbaugh offered up a sample of the brewery’s flagship beer, a coconut porter.
Porter is a dark style of beer, with a medium to a medium-full body, descended from brown beer. Crystal Ball’s coconut porter is a traditional brown porter brewed with English dark malts, with a twist on the classic from the addition of toasted cocount. It’s in the mid-alcohol range with 5.2 percent ABV. For more technical specs, it also has a rating of 24 IBU (refers to the International Bitterness Unit, a standard for measuring hops) and 30 SRM (an indication of beer color). Look for later columns to delve deeper into how you can use these ratings to explore craft beers, but for today let’s stick to the beer.
Which is fantastic. For anyone looking to dip their toe into the frothy waters of the world of craft beers, Crystal Ball Brewing Co. seems a good place to start with what Johnstonbaugh promises to be beers that will be what people like to drink. The coconut porter was surprisingly smooth and silky, with a balanced malty-toasted flavor enhanced by the subtle tropical coconut. The coconut is far from overwhelming, and I was delighted to find the brew wasn’t overly sweet. It was robust without being too filling – I could have had a second glass. Or two. Some of my favorite dark flavors – coffee, chocolate – came to mind when taking in the scent. This was a well-crafted and enjoyable beer.
I’m not alone in my opinion, it would seem, looking over the brewery’s Facebook page. Fans of the coconut porter took to social media to declare their excitement for the inclusion of the brew at the upcoming Taste of Pa. Wine and Music Festival after it was announced by event organizers March 26, with one fan declaring it, “a masterpiece.”
The brewers and their initial offerings – the coconut porter, a pale ale, an IPA and a lager – will also be on tap at the brewery’s debut event at 6 p.m. Thursday, May 22, at White Rose Bar & Grill, 48 N. Beaver St., York.
Stop in. Order a coconut porter. And begin tasting the world of craft beer with me.
– Amy Peiffer is the entertainment editor for The York Dispatch. Her craft beer column, She’s Crafty, appears twice a month in the Food for Thought blog. Follow her on Twitter at @yorkweekend or @amyrpeiffer.