On a dangerously snowy Saturday at noon, December ’12, my wife and I leave Jersey and venture South towards Philly. Before landing there, we stop by Lansdale, a quaint industrial town 25 miles northwest of Philadelphia that houses ROUND GUY BREWING COMPANY. Owned and operated by a Penn State and Notre Dame grad, the tap room opened for business in June.
Located at a diminutive art space just off Main Street behind a pretzel place, the pale blue-walled boutique pub (with dramatic ebony ceiling) keeps it simple with a light food menu, sofa lounge, popcorn machine, TouchTone jukebox, electric dartboard, small TV and easygoing sessionable ales.
Sitting at the bar directly in front of the tap handles, we order the bratwurst (cooked with Doppelbock), Grilled Ham & Cheese with hot-peppered provolone and The Bird (turkey, cheddar, bacon and Ranch dressing on sourdough bread). These menu items go fine with the lighter selections on the beer menu above the wood bar.
“We had been corporate and were both tired of our jobs,” PSU grad Rich Diliberto explains as my samples get poured. “We wanted to try something different. I called Scott (Rudich) one night and said we should start a bar or a band. Since we didn’t play any instruments, we decided to open a brewery. A few weeks later we got a home brew kit. Our second batch won first prize for an Octoberfest. Our stout even won a local contest.”
Getting the ball rolling by 2011, Diliberto and Rudich waited for permit approval while perfecting their craft further, leading to a host of stylistically diverse libations.
“I’m a big fan of German lagers,” Diliberto says before proving his case with Round Guy Doppelbock. Its peated dewy earthiness and plum-sugared toffee malting allow wintry nutmeg-cinnamon-coriander spicing to emerge alongside whiskey-dabbed black cherry, raisin and date illusions (as well as chestnut, pine nut and praline).
At this point, Buffalo native Rudich chimes in as I down the beige-hazed, lemon-puckered, limestone-salted, white wine-soured Berliner Weisster (a lactic brettanomyces-affected light body with dry barnyard funk that really shines when raspberry or woodruff syrup gets added).
The Golden Domer recalls, “My dad drank Old Milwaukee and Piels. We lived a few minutes from Canada and drank lots of Molson and Labatts, the better Canadian versions with a more challenging flavor. The first legitimate 6-pack I bought was Pete’s Wicked Ale. Though the beer of choice at college was Miller Red Dog.”
Getting into Belgians and Guinness, the first beer that really ‘wowed’ Rudich was Theakston Old Peciulier, followed quickly by Morland Old Speckled Hen. Currently, he’s trying to keep up with the demand for his own Pennsylvania suds.
Three soft-toned Belgian stylings capture my attention at this point. First, there was Buh Nanan Hammack Saison, with its saltine-crackered banana-clove entry, white-peppered lemon pucker and light alcohol burn. Next, candi-sugared Chubby Bob Dubbel brought subtle plum-dried banana sweetness to its honeyed wheat base. Moisson Saison, a mellow cask ale, offered citra-hopped orange souring to tart lemon-limed Granny Smith apple, cherry and mango illusions (as fusel alcohol notes embitter the backend).
Though the cocoa-powdered cherry-tart Chocolate Pooch just kicked, bittersweet Fuzzy Muttness Stout filled the gap for dark ale lovers with its black chocolate-sweetened dark toffee entry, oats-charred coffee roast and dry rye malting as well as tertiary bourbon, molasses, vanilla and licorice dabs.
Dry India Pale Ale fruiting, resinous hop-charred grains and chocolate malts enveloped Alpha Black Back, a Black IPA deepened by Blackstrap molasses, licorice and currant undertones.
Finally, as the food finished and the snow continued to fall, I got around to possibly the most approachable ale on tap. Soft-toned Mini-Bob Belgian Pale retained a black-peppered earthen dewiness and rye-spiced dried fruiting.
A milk stout and new porter are being brewed for January as well as an apple brandy barrel-aged saison and rum-barreled IPA.
Tired Hands, another fascinating 2012 find located 25 miles South, may craft richer elixirs, in general, but those looking for milder moderations may lean towards Round Guys.