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In The Brewhouse: ShawneeCraft Brewing

In this 2nd installment of my In the Brewhouse series, Kerry and I pay a visit to ShawneeCraft Brewing in Shawnee on Delaware, Pennsylvania.  Brewery manager Jason Startari was kind enough to take time out of his Saturday afternoon to show us around the Shawnee grounds and the brewery.

ShawneeCraft Brewing, Taproom,Craft Beer, Pennsylvania
The taproom at the ShawneeCraft brewery

True to Nature, True to the Craft.  These are words that ShawneeCraft Brewing brew and live by.  It is their philosophy, and you can see it in every part of their brewing process and taproom.  According to Jason, it is "their motto and driving force in what they do."

"True to Nature"

ShawneeCraft strives to use local and organic ingredients wherever possible.  They brew with organically grown barley and hops.  Some ingredients are grown and produced right on the Shawnee property, such as honey, which they collect from their own beehives. 

"True to the Craft"

ShawneeCraft's brews are steeped in tradition.  From their website, they brew "beers like your great-great-great grandfather would have drunk (assuming he had good taste)."  All of their beers are unfiltered, unpasteurized and (when botled) bottle conditioned.  

ShawneeCraft Brewing, Barrel Room, Craft Beer,Pennsylvania
ShawneeCraft's Barrel Room

The hallway to ShawneeCraft's brewhouse and cellar is filled with barrels.  "The barrel room is really where our desire to make traditional styles of beer shows itself," Jason told us.  For such a small room, they had lots of different beers aging.  There were several barrels of 2 year old gueuze, a kriek with 60 lbs. of locally picked sour cherries, frambozen with organic raspberries, oude bruin and more.

Jason provided us with some insight into how they develop their popular Bourbon Barrel Porter:

          "When we get bourbon barrels in, the first run through is usually our Imperial Porter.  We brew an imperial strength porter, age it in the bourbon barrels and then blend it with fresh Imperial Porter to get the right kind of flavor we are looking for.  After we've used up most of the bourbon from the barrel, we steam clean the barrels really well, so we can use the barrels for beers that we don't want the bourbon flavor for."

These barrel aged beers are truly a passion and an art for the brewers at ShawneeCraft:

     "We check all of our barrels periodically to make sure what is going on is what we want to be going on.  For instance, when we make our Kriek, we want the cherries to stay at the top of the beer in the barrel.  If the cherries sink to the bottom, you won't get the best flavors in the beer.  So we keep on eye on things, making sure the aging is going the right way."

     "We at ShawneeCraft really believe that the barrel ageing process is where science and art collide.  Brewing in stainless steel is very scientific.  You know your inputs and you can calculate your outputs.  With barrel aging, you still have to be scientifically correct, but you also get to express yourself artistically a bit-- especially with the blending that goes on before bottling.  We really enjoy these styles of beer.  One, because they're traditional, and two, because of the artistic expression we think they represent."

ShawneeCraft Brewing, Fermentation Tanks, Brewhouse, Craft Beer, Pennsylvania
ShawneeCraft fermentation tanks and brewhouse.  Me (left) and Jason (right)

ShawneeCraft currently has five 10 hL (~8.5 barrels) fermentation tanks, with one 20 hL fermentation tanks on the way.  "We'll do around 825 barrels this year, up from 525 barrels last year.

Jason on ShawneeCraft Brewing's expansion:

     "It's not our goal to try and take over the world.  We're not trying to become Sam Adams.  We're not trying to sell beer in California or Illinois.  We always thought that if we could service Pennsylvania and a 100-mile circle around Shawnee, then that's an incredible market.  That includes NYC, New Jersey, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, and a lot of really good markets in between.  If we can't do a really good job servicing that market-- if we have to go outside that market to sustain ourselves-- then we're not doing a good job.  We're not doing something correctly.  If we can service all of that market very, very well, then that should be enough geographic territory for us. We will have made a long term, viable and interesting brewery."

ShawneeCraft Brewing, Bottles, Session Porter, Saison Cuvee, Bourbon Porter, Craft Beer, Pennsylvania
(From left to right) Session Porter, Saison Cuvee 2013, Barrel Aged Porter

If you're lucky, you may find some ShawneeCraft bottles at select Pennsylvania bottle shop and bars.  A more certain way to get some is to stop by the taproom at the brewery.  Right now, they have 3 types of bottles.

"We've been trying to bottle as many of our beers as we can, just to see how they bottle condition.  Our Reliables (year round beers) we've been putting in the 500 mL bottles.  It's a little bit of a challenge; we love the bottle and love the look, but to package tons of those is a little tough.  They don't work with our label applicator, so we literally label those by hand.  It's fun, and a cool idea, but it's not a sustainable practice.  Intermittents (seasonal releases) have been going in 750s with a cap, and Heirlooms (barrel aged beers) have been going into the 750s with a cork and cage packaging.  For the labels, we wanted something that was simple, that sticks with our style, not too busy, not too crazy. We wanted a lot of symbolism, especially in the Heirloom labels: the tools, and the keystone for Pennsylvania, and some mysterious stuff to keep with our glyph."

ReliableAparius (dry honey pale ale), Biere Blanche, American Blonde Ale, Double Pale (IPA), Session Porter (conditioned for nitro draft)
IntermittentsGold Lager, Vienna Lager, Raspberry Blanche, Oktoberfest, Doppelbock, Saison, Pumpkin Saison, Chestnut Braun Ale, Triple Pale, Dubbel, Tripel, Imperial Porter
HeirloomVery Special Old Pale Ale, Gueuze, Frambozenbier, Kriek, Oude Bruin, Sub Rosa (Trappist-style Belgian Strong Ale), Bourbon Barrel Porter, Bier de Garde

Also, the ShaweeCraft Brewing taproom hosts a Rhythm and Brews Music Series. "It's another way for us to try and support local craftspeople," Jason explains. "Music and beer go so well together. We bring music into the taproom every 6 weeks or so. We did one for Halloween, which was an absolute blast: costume party, 2 bands and a lot of fun! We have another Rhythm and Brews scheduled for December 14. It's going to be an Ugly Christmas Sweater Party with some Christmas flair, and should be a lot of fun!"

If you are in the Shawnee or Delaware/ Water Gap Area, I would definitely make it a point to stop at ShawneeCraft Brewing and their brewpub, The Gem and Keystone.  They are located on the same property, so you could even visit both.  The brewery taproom is open Wednesday - Sunday from 1:00 pm - 5:00 pm, and Thursdays until 10:00 pm.  The Gem and Keystone is open 7 days a week.

ShawneeCraft Brewing
One River Road
Shawnee on Delaware, PA 18356
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