In the long list of great things you can say about craft beer, the one element that’s at the top of my list has always been the social element that it, as well as other adult beverages of choice, brings to the forefront. Certainly, we all come together over the frothy libation. But what we take away from our experience is not limited to the drinks, but more so the people we engage with. Memories are made and can often last a lifetime, and the drinks we consume simply act as the common thread that brought us to the table.
This past Fathers Day weekend, I had the opportunity to further embellish that theory as my Dad and I toured the Southern Tier Brewing Company in Lakewood, NY. Southern Tier rests about 55 minutes from our hometown of Bradford, PA and has always held a special place in my personal craft beer fandom not just because they’re so close to home…but because they make insanely good beer!
Southern Tier is available in 32 states across America and has a well-renown and celebrated list of offerings on a seasonal and year-round basis and boasts such staples as Southern Tier IPA, Phin and Matt’s, 2XIPA, 2XStout, Live, UnEarthly, and many more. But most craft beer enthusiasts know Southern Tier for the one and only Pumking, a seasonal Imperial Pumpkin Ale that lives up to its name and reigns supreme over any pumpkin beer I’ve tried. Some have come close…but they just haven’t been able to wrestle that crown away.
Although I’ve been to the actual brewery on several occasions to spend time in The Empty Pint, Southern Tier’s gorgeous pub where every beer they have in distribution is available on tap, this was the first chance I had to tour the brewing facilities and discover how these great brews came to life. The fact that my Dad was by my side made it all the better.
We got to see the birth of beer from the very start and Clyde, our tour guide, gave our group a great explanation of the processes of craft beer creation from idea inception right through to fermentation to bottling to distribution. Typically, we only appreciate the final product that touches our lips. But there’s truly a labor of love that goes into every beer’s life span, and tours like this let each of us get a better understanding of every aspect it takes to get that beer into our hands and, as a direct result, a greater appreciation for our favorite beverage.
The tour concluded in Southern Tier’s tasting room, where we were allotted four samples of brews born a mere 50 feet away. The first one my Dad and I shared was Mokah, an Imperial Blended Stout from the Blackwater Series that’s brewed with chocolate and coffee. This beer came to fruition when Southern Tier brewers combined two other popular Blackwater offerings, Choklat and Jahva. In my beer travels, this one had slipped passed me until Saturday, but thankfully that’s all in the past. I was particularly impressed with the thicker body behind this beer and the sweet yet subtle hints of cocoa and a cup o’ joe. A great dessert beer for sure.
We also tapped into Gemini for the first time. I’d heard nothing but ravings about this one, so naturally a hophead like me was going to partake and, just as naturally I discovered, enjoy. Gemini is brewed with six varieties of hops and four varieties of malts, resulting in a bitter, hop-infused punch balanced nicely with the sweetness of malts. You don’t even have to ask, the answer is yes…a growler of this came home with us to enjoy with Fathers Day dinner on Sunday.
To anyone that’s nearby Southern Tier’s beautiful location in Lakewood, I highly recommend you take an afternoon to visit. Whether you take the tour or simply grab lunch and a few drinks at The Empty Pint Pub, you’re certain to find some memories of your own, as well as some tremendous beers!
As I said at the beginning, beer often becomes the byproduct of the memories. And as we relaxed on the patio and toasted a few more of Southern Tier’s creations, we got to spend time together as father and son. Being one that’s always held tradition and memorable moments high, this was another experience I can store away in the extensive bank that is my history and look back on with a smile. And as I took in my surroundings on that beautiful Saturday afternoon, I could tell I wasn’t alone. Everyone in attendance was making their own memories and sharing in good times with those closest to them.
And it was all brought together by craft beer. THAT…is a beautiful thing.
A special thanks to Southern Tier Brewing Company for continuing to be an enormous bright spot in the craft beer revolution! Your facility is pristine, your service tremendous, and your beer top of the line. Keep doing what you do.