Today’s pick comes from beer writer Lew Bryson, author of a number of books, a slew of articles, interviews, and columns, and at least two blogs. Lew’s pick comes from Pennsylvania Brewing Company, informally known as Penn Brewery.
Call it the Ghost of Christmas Beer Past: you can’t get this excellent American-brewed bockbier this December. Penn Brewing fell apart early in 2009, a tragedy for those of us who loved their well-crafted lagers and looked forward to the annual release of this beer on St. Nikolaus’s Day, December 6. Last year’s release (the first one I was ever able to make; December’s tough for a choral singer) was accompanied by a special release of a bigger “Brewmaster’s Reserve” version in a 750 ml bottle tucked into a red cloth sack.
This beer was special. It was an event. Here in Pennsylvania, where we have to buy beer by the case — don’t ask — Penn St. Nikolaus stood out, with a beautiful, bright red, semi-gloss case that many used to package Christmas gifts. People were stunned by the brewery’s demise, but the beer that was mentioned most often as a loss was this one, with its label bearing the richly-colored Thomas Nast portrait of St. Nick himself. It is the ghost at the feast this year.
Happily, it’s also the Ghost of Christmas Beer Future! In a holiday miracle, former brewery owner Tom Pastorius has put together a team of investors and bought the brewery back; last week they were in the brewery, cleaning tanks and getting ready to brew beer. They hope to have the brewpub open for New Year’s Eve. No bock this year — no time to properly age it — but the promise for next year is sweet enough.