I recently had a sweet male bonding experience taking my 12 year old son Sammy to his weekend soccer tournament in Lancaster, PA. While the Amish folk in horse-drawn carts were probably underwhelmed by our decision to blast the Notorious B.I G., we kept our windows down and our system up. We chatted a bit as we drove about the demise of Biggie and Tupac, East coast vs. West coast rivalries, and what it means to be an OG. I explained gangs are bad, but competition and expressing yourself creatively can be good. He looked confused but stayed interested.
My beer-geek-radar was humming as I pulled into town because just down the road from our hotel was Adamstown,home of Stoudt's Brewery; truly one of the East coast craft-brewing OGs. I emailed founders Carol and Ed Stoudt with zero notice on the off-chance they might be at the brewery and warned them that Sammy and I were headed there to meet Grier and Mariah for dinner. The ladies came up separately and later (as Grier had a violin thingy and I bet their whole ride was hip-hop-free).
Ed Stoudt bought the steak restaurant from his father in the 70's and couldn't find any good fresh German beer to serve so he and Carol decided to brew their own. This was in the mid-80's. Before there was even a craft brewing scene. Imagine how challenging a brewery project was in that era. They went west to visit Anchor and Grant's brewery and a few other pioneers but when they came back east and opened Stoudt's they put their own unique thumbprint on the burgeoning beer scene. The few craft breweries of that era focused on ales, but Ed and Carol focused on their beloved German lagers and literally created a market for beers like Helles and Oktoberfest.
Sam & Ed
As we entered their parking lot, it was Stoudt's bready-earthy pilsner my palate was salivating for. Luckily for me it was on tap and I started with a pint and some oysters. My luck held and as Mariah and Grier pulled in - so did Ed Stoudt. I handed him a 6-pack of 60 Minute and asked him to join us for dinner. Over the next hour he held court and told story after wonderful story about the early days of Stoudt's and craft beer. About Carol taking sample champagne bottled of Scarlet Lady down to fancy-Philly restaurants after dropping the kids off to school. About hosting early beer festivals that grew into regional pilgrimages for beer lovers. About making not just beer onsite, but bread and even cheese. It was obvious how proud he was that he and Carol's daughter became their resident cheese maker. It meant a lot to me, as Mariah and I struggle to find balance between our family-time and our family-business-time to have Ed share these stories with the four of us.
The Picasso Room
I grabbed a pint of their cask ale, then Ed took us on a tour of his favorite room in the restaurant - the Picasso Room. He explained that on a trip decades ago he discovered a portfolio of rare Picasso prints in the corner of a Paris used bookstore. He had them framed and designed a room around their awesomeness replete with Sinatra-esque swanky wood-and-velvet banquettes. Every detail in every room was as well-thought out and as lovingly constructed as the recipes for their beers. Expressing yourself creatively, as I reminded Sammy later that night, can be very good indeed. Examples abound: in hip-hop and in the establishment of a certain OG brewery in the hills of Pennsylvania.