Off the main drag in a red brick edifice formerly housing St. Joseph’s Catholic Monastery, Wilkes-Barre’s BREAKER BREWING COMPANY is the brainchild of day-time engineers Chris Miller and Mark Lehman. Going up the wood ramp to its backdoor entrance during my initial May ’13 visit (and December ’17 followup), I enter the still-developing microbrewery’s spotless sample room and meet the friendly entrepreneurs at the alter-like mahogany bar.
Lehman, a hop-headed Sierra Nevada Pale Ale lover since ’94, began brewing operations out of Miller’s garage in ’09, making small batch brews that kept running out due to local popularity. Nowadays, a clean tan-tiled brew station with 150-gallon tanks, mash tun, and brew kettle overlooking the Wilkes-Barre valley serves as the engine driving this expanding business. Presently, 20-plus local bars carry Breaker’s approachable fare.
Framed pictures of ancient factory workers and barrel-breaking prohibitionists line the wall behind the serving station (made from rectory church pews) while curtained windows, exposed ducts and a blackboard beer list also don the provincial interior. Though only Lunch Pail Ale, I Love Pa., and Potbelly Pumpkin Ale have been bottled for consumption as of this date, Lehman claims he’d like to expand the line. Look for a Double IPA and Barleywine in the near future.
Saddling up to the bar, I begin my two-hour session with assertive flagship offering, Lunch Pail Ale, where sharp India Pale Ale-like fruiting and astringent hop bittering pick up floral-spiced orange-tangerine-lemon tang over its toasted barley spine.
Easy drinkin’ lighter-bodied 5 Whistle Wheat provided bark-dried grain husk to lemony banana-plantain tartness, candied orange lollipop sugaring and raw-honeyed acridity.
Easygoing Golden Blonde Ale plied perfume-hopped coriander, orange peel and lemon zest to a mellow grain malt bill, scattering tangy mandarin orange, navel orange and tangerine undertones below the surface.
Named after Pennsylvania’s indigenous coal, hybridized Anthracite Amber Ale combined ESB-derived earthen peat dewiness and weedy grain must with red ale-like citric spicing and caramelized sugaring, finishing with a rye-dried black tea bittering (and vegetal hint).
Another hybrid, Phoebe Snow White IPA (with its Lackawanna Railroad ad moniker) blended white-peppered Belgian fungi yeast with India Pale Ale-related sweet orange peel zest and lemon-pitted bittering, bringing musty cellar pungency to tertiary dark floral nuances and wispy sage-rosemary herbage.
Lively I Love PA (India Pale Ale) segued floral grapefruit-peeled orange rind piquancy into pelleted reedy hop bittering and pungent rye-malted grouting.
Before heading out, sampled Old King Cole Stout, a deep-roasted dark ale cajoling hop-toasted dark chocolate, charred tobacco and freeze-dried coffee notes.
A tribute to the local mining businesses that once ran America’s Industrial Revolution, Breaker Brewing should interest any brew hound traveling thru the capacious Keystone State.
On a cold New Years Eve 2016 afternoon sojourn, my wife and I sampled eight goblet samplers (five of which were previously untried India Pale Ales) at the lacquer wood-furnished old convent section. An eclectic menu of artisan pizzas, paninis and salads went well with each carefully flavored elixir.
Botanical pine-needled Mosaic hop tropicalia enveloped clean-watered sensation, Smooph Mosaic, a crisp medium-bodied IPA bringing lemony orange zest and passionfruit to the fore while tangy mango, pineapple, peach, grapefruit and red apple illusions gain strength atop the sugary caramel malt spine.
Bitterer Citra-hopped version, Smooph Citra IPA, guided musky lemon dryness and tangy orange-peeled mango, peach, pineapple, grapefruit and papaya juicing to its crystal-pale malt base.
Dank earthen wood tones deepened the grassy hop astringency of Terra IPA, as orange-peeled yellow grapefruit bittering contrasted candied mango, peach and pineapple sweetness.Wood-dried orange rind and grapefruit pith bittering surfaced above light pale malting for Earthly IPA.
Cascadian-styled Black Diamond IPA let dark-roasted chocolate malting, black licorice remnants and black grape wisps contrast dry-hopped charcoal char.
Detonator Series – West Coast ESB combined brisk IPA fruiting and hardwood lacquering with dewy peat malts, leaving tangy clementine, navel orange and tangerine in its wake.
For dessert, two stylishly deviant ales sufficed.
Sugared hazelnut glazed Banana Hazelnut Ale while rotted banana sweetness and sharp hop spicing picked up rich S’mores and Kahlua undertones as well as bubblegum hints.
Before heading out, we enjoyed Patchtown Chocolate Mint Porter, a Dutch cocoa and mint-infused porter with mint-leafed black milk chocolate milking picking up Christmastime nutmeg-ginger-wintergreen spicing for its Junior Mint/ creme de menthe finish.
During pre-July 4th heatwave, visited with wife and dog, Roscoe, utilizing the centralized patio deck to enjoy rangy elixirs.
Surpassing every stylistic competitor, well-defined Wild Watermelon IPA let its dank dry-hopped watermelon rind frontage gain cucumber-watered honeydew resonance, mild limey sourness and musty compost snips over oats-flaked spelt malts. Peculiarly nifty.
Capturing the essence of a tropical milk-sugared breakfast cereal, Short Shake Imperial IPA glazed Madagascar vanilla bean sweetness with cotton-candied marshmallow residue before its champagned mango-guava-papaya tang kicked in alongside brisk (IPA-styled) grapefruit-peeled lemon rind bittering.
Equally compelling tropical summertime treat, Escape IPA, perfectly re-created a sour pina colada as its pureed pineapple and milky coconut insistence obtained salty lime acidity and wispy peach-apricot undertones for the perfect Citra-Mosaic-Simcoe-hopped dessert.
Utilizing tart wild blueberries, 5 Whistle Wheat Blueberry moved from sweetly tart to lightly lemon-spritzed souring above its sugared wheat spine.
Hoppier and less lemony, 5 Whistle Wheat Mixed Berry coalesced tart blueberry, boysenberry, blackberry and huckleberry fruiting over briskly clean juniper hop bittering.
Lemon-juiced Laurel Lime Lemongrass Ale saddled its herbal lemongrass adjunct with musky cologne-spiced reminders.
On softer light side, mild Light Headed IPA brought dry wood tones to moderate yellow grapefruit and lemon rind bittering above oats-flaked cereal graining.
Mellower still, politely citric sweet Summer Up Blonde Ale (Batch Orange) provided the perfect summertime refreshment with its gentle mandarin orange, clementine and tangerine tang riding above the dainty pale malt setting.
Jasmine-flowered tropicalia, Jasmine IPA, regaled cologne-perfumed lemon zest with coniferous juniper-tipped fern woodiness and light herbal nuances.