When we got to Elk Creek Cafe (see below), it was still raining, so we hustled in and grabbed two spots by the end of the bar. Owner Tim Bowser was behind the bar, and after I got Thomas set up with a root beer, Tim and I and brewer Tim Yarrington got to the interview in the back room over glasses of the new Mid State Trail Nut Brown Ale: this glass seemed to have a mineral tang to it -- "Water," Tim said, and shook his head -- but later it tasted fine: on the dry side, unlike the sweeter Brookie Brown. Might have been something in the glass.
What we talked about in the interview will have to wait for the book; mostly history and philosophy, really. Why Tim wanted to start this place (he'd been thinking about it for almost ten years, and he and I had talked it over at Selin's Grove five years ago); why he did the Equinox Cafe coffeehouse before; how very much-pro brewer Tim Yarrington wound up in Millheim (Tim was one of four GABF gold-winning brewers who put in resumes for the position); and the three legs of the Elk Creek Cafe (house-brewed beer, locally-grown and sourced food, local and regional music). It's an interesting story, and one that I think has deep meaning for the future of craft beer in America.
But I also ran the taps. I was quite a bit happier this time than before. The beers were okay before, even good, and I've always liked the Poe Paddy Porter. But this time they had a new dimension, a new life, and I could tell Tim Y. was happier with them. "I've got it dialed in now," he said. Tim doesn't do big beers very often; he does 3.5-6% beers, and he's all about balance. It's working; I'd have been happy to have a full pint of any of these, including the new Penns Valley Pilsner, a blocky, bitter pils with some real heft to it, well-built without any flab, and a strong dose of Hallertauer in the nose. This was about the time my friend Sam Komlenic showed up, and had a glass of the Pilsner. He'd had it before and was looking for more.
Thomas had a smoked turkey sandwich, and enjoyed it. I finally tried the "shrub," a set of flavored sweet vinegars, locally-made: they are mixed with seltzer and ice. I had the ginger, and it was wicked refreshing. Sam suggested it would be good with barbecue, and I think he's right. He and I walked up to the Penns Valley Meat Market and got some meat, which I always do when I visit Elk Creek. I got their very flavorful jerky, and two links of smoked kielbasa: delish.
We left, Sam following, and drove down to Otto's. We left Sam's van there, and Sam proceeded to take us on a tour of Penn State main campus. Wow. We were duly impressed by the size and beauty of the campus. Kinda made me proud to be Pennsylvanian. Then it was back to Otto's for the lunch I hadn't had time for at Elk Creek. More on that in the last installment.
Just being impressed by Penn State now? Any place that offers the Ice Cream Short Course is vital territory to me.
It's just a tremendous campus. So beautiful just to walk around. I attend a conference or two there each year and am always amazed by the place. And with the resources pouring through that place the academics are top notch too.
I get what you mean by saying that it kind of makes you proud to have that be our state university.
The wife and I stopped at Elk Creek last autumn after a football game. I thought the place was great and really enjoyed that porter. If we get to a day game again this year I hope to visit the brewpub again.
Anyone have an idea of how crowded Otto's is after a game? I've never been there and am usually just trying to get out of town once the game ends, but maybe Otto's would be a nice diversion while traffic clears.
Harry, Otto's is a destination, and tends to be busy after most games, but the wait for a beer shouldn't be painful. A wait for food, maybe more so.
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