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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Brewery in my backyard!

For the longest time, I had wished for a small brewery to open in Annville, PA. As most people know, both Brewslut and I hail from Shamokin, PA. However, we've called Annville (our adopted town) "home" since 2000. Over the years, every time I'd see an interesting building in town come up for sale on the market, I'd say, "That would make a great spot for a brewery!" Years passed and Annville remained a college town bereft of its own little brewery.

Until now, that is!

Flying very low under the radar is the recently established Rotunda Brewing Company. Owned by the same group of three brothers that run the Batdorf Restaurant in town, RBC started off as a small bottle and "mix a six" shop situated a few doors down from the restaurant on West Main Street. A while back, they began brewing in earnest on a tiny 1-barrel system, making its beers available at the Batdorf. I decided to go out on a limb and try a pint of the Annville IPA (the only house beer on tap at the time). It sure sounded great on paper: an unfiltered NE style IPA with Citra, Mosaic and Galaxy. And you know what? It wasn't bad! To be honest, I really wasn't expecting much.

Rotunda Brewing Company tap handles.

Fast forward a few months, and Brewslut and I decided to head down to the Batdorf for Trivia Night. I was surprised to see these four RBC offerings on tap:

  • Annville IPA - I was told that this is out-selling ALL other beers on tap at the Batdorf... and they have a pretty decent selection of locals, regionals, and nationals. 
  • Squirm - Sweet potato ale aged on vanilla beans, cinnamon sticks, and ghost peppers
  • Steubenfest - a Märzen, or Oktoberfest style, lager
  • Left My Wallet in El Dorado - an IPA brewed with oats as well as Lemon Drop, Zeus and El Dorado hops
I must admit that I was intrigued by Squirm because of its unusual combination of ingredients, but I was cautious to try it due to its use of ghost peppers. I've had some chili pepper beers in the past that have... well, let's just say that they have caused some future discomfort in the posterior region. Lucky for us, an older couple was sitting next to us at the bar and became adopted allies for our trivia team. They ordered a sampler flight of the aforementioned four beers and only took about a sip of each, then graciously offered them to Brewslut and I. The Annville IPA I'd had before, so I let Brewslut polish that one off. The Fest and El Dorado IPA were decent attempts that were neither memorable nor horrendous. However, the Squirm was pretty damn amazing! 

I was surprised to see a brewery employing a 1-barrel system execute a beer with these ingredients (especially the ghost pepper) with such finesse. The end result was a well-balanced, high ABV ale that concealed the alcohol heat really well. The ghost pepper character was spot-on and played nicely with the other ingredients, especially the vanilla, which produced a sweet, cooling effect. To top it off, they floated a few mini-marshmallows on top for some added aesthetics. Overall, I was pretty bowled over with this beer. I told my Team D(r)INK buddy (who was competing against us at a nearby table) about it, and he decided to try a pour. He too was quite impressed. 

Full pour of Squirm (courtesy of Untappd gallery)
I bumped into the manager of the bottle shop when we were there, and he informed me that they may be dropping the bottle shop and bringing in a 7-barrel brewhouse to ramp up production. I was pretty stoked to hear that, as I think they have some potential to make some interesting stuff. I will say, however, that the draft prices have gone up considerably over the last two years, and the house beers are a bit pricey, in my opinion. Still, if their house IPA is their top selling draft beer, then more power to 'em! So it looks like Rotunda Brewing Company is poised for some exciting times. I'm anxious to stop back in soon to see what they're up to. I see they currently have a Double Black IPA on tap called Chewbacca (perhaps a nod to Firestone Walker's Wookey Jack) that I'd like to try. Next time you're cruising through Annville on Rt. 422, pop in for a quick beer and check out what's brewing!

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