Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Brew Pub Review: Johnstown Brewing Company

It was a rainy Friday evening when I visited Johnstown Brewing Company, JBC. We were there for dinner and to see how this brew pub stacked up. I snapped a few pictures and quickly ducked inside to get out of the rain. The building has been around for over one hundred years under various ownerships Cambria County Country Club, Ye Olde Country Club, Bethlehem Management Country Club and a few other restaurants before becoming the Johnstown Brewing Company (not to be confused with a now defunct brewery under the same name). As you walk in you notice there are steps leading down to the Pub appropriately referred to as The Lower Works. The dining areas that we are interested in tonight are on the this floor however along with a second bar presumably for those waiting for a table. At the hostess station I noticed a glass case with lots of JBC merchandise including pint glasses, growlers, various shirts and even a model train car with the JBC logo on it. Our hostess, Susan Lovette, introduced herself as one of the co-owners and quickly made us feel at home. I asked about a tour. She promised to bring her husband and co-owner around when we were done eating. As we worked our way to the table and sat down I couldn't help but notice all the steel mill memorabilia. It was bursting from the walls and ceiling. There were hard hats from almost every conceivable mill worker position. Wow all that just in the first five minutes...whew! We were seated promptly and I eagerly looked over their beer selections. Since this was a rare visit for me I decided to taste all the offerings and order a sampler which included nine different beers and one house rootbeer. We tried them all from light to dark. Here's the full list with my favorites first:
Incline Plane Ale - Wow, what an IPA. Maybe a double IPA. This was one of their seasonals and by far the best beer of the night. In fact I brought home a growler of it :-) Steel Worker Stout - An American Stout with an awesome roasted grain profile that isn't too thick and is quite drinkable. South Fork Dam Beer - The more daring of the two lighter looking beers here. Do you like bitter, nutty and dry lagers? This one is for you. (I hope I didn't confuse it with Flood Light in my notes.) Those three stole the show, but, the rest were respectable as well:
Flood Light White Hat Pale Ale Lovett Brothers Irish Red 1889 Amber Stone Bridge Brown Ale Hefly Springs Raspberry Wheat
I was very impressed by the variety, quality and sheer number of beers on tap. I honestly didn't go there expecting anything great. Remember I grew up about twenty-five minutes away and most of my family and friends drank a popular macro beer like I.C. Light. Just for the record, I do drink I.C. Light with my Dad when visiting. Looking back, I guess Rolling Rock or Straub was as close to different as you could get. So, imagine me with a huge smile on my face when the nine samples appeared before my eyes spanning from light yellow to amber to almost black. :-) Our meals were very good if not a little pricey. Our server was pleasant and attentive. Soon Ralph Lovette appeared and introduced himself. He told us of the building's history and of how they decided to get into the brew pub business after visiting the Weeping Radish in North Carolina. We walked through the upstairs to the pub downstairs. Wow! What a great little nook to hang out in. Again steel mill memorabilia surrounded you from the wooden patterns used in making steel molds to accident report blackboards to mill safety signs. There's a sizeable bar here with a huge wall of mug club mugs as a backdrop. Next time I visit I'm hanging out downstairs. We meandered our way around to the brewing room. It was definitely small, but, organized well with the fermenters on a scaffold above the brewing equipment. Adjacent to that room was the cooler where all the kegs were kept. Here's a picture of Ralph and I standing in the brewing room. You know I really enjoyed talking to Ralph. He seemed to have a good perspective on the history of the area and seems to know what he wants to do with this brew pub. Ok time for a wrap up. After the tour I purchased one of their growlers filled with Incline Plane Ale. In the process I met Sharon & Ralph's daughter who happened to be sitting at the upstairs bar. All in all JBC and the Lovette's made an great impression on me. I only wish I lived a little closer. Good food, good beer and a wonderful steel town theme make it a required stop for any beer lover! I'll be stopping every chance I get.


Anonymous said...

I visited JBC with my son Adam. While he's more expressive in his description of our visit I'll just say he hit the nail on the head in all categories. JBC is definitely a place worth revisiting not only for the beer but for an interesting spot of local history. I luckd out and got to finish off the remainder of his growler. Great beer!

Adam said...

Holy smokes! Could it be? disrespect intended Dad. Happy to have you aboard.

Man...I've seen everything!

Don't forget to keep that growler for me. Good thing I had you to drink the IPA in the growler I left behind eh?