So I left the three kids at home alone, jumped in the car with my wife, Karen, and headed west to the Pocono Mountains and beyond for a two-day excursion on Good Friday, April ’11. Our trip began at Shawnee-On-Delaware’s bucolic Gem & Keystone Restaurant, a maroon three-story Colonial edifice perfectly in tune with the surrounding wooded countryside. Located at the Shawnee Inn & Gold Resort alongside a rolling stream in easternmost part of the Poconos, this fabulous eatery served beers crafted at SHAWNEE CRAFT BREWERY by Leo Bongiorno. As if to prove winter still had one last breath, I spotted a few leftover snowflakes before entering.

Earning a solid rep since opening September 2010, Shawnee’s uses locally grown ingredients for its fine organic beers and vegetarian-friendly food. Featuring an upstairs banquet area, main level dining and two back decks, the capacious hunter green-walled wood-furnished lodge also housed a larger downstairs bar with big screen TV’s, billiards, darts, and firepit. Sitting at the diminutive low-ceiling left side main bar (with 2 TV’s), friendly bartender Shawn Copeman hung out while I quaffed eight well-rounded beer samplers with outstanding crab cakes plus oak-grilled crostini bread chock-full of fresh mozzarella, roasted garlic, basil, and tomato.

Crisply soft-toned ‘Green Drinks’ (sans chemical preservatives) included subtle nitro-injected Session Porter, a nutty chocolate nicety gathering advertised ‘black currant overtones’ amidst ashen mineral grains. Refreshingly clean Biere Blanche witbier brought hard candied lemon souring to white-peppered curacao orange sedation and tertiary banana-clove-coriander reminder. Even better, Raspberry Blanche (a hopped-up Biere Blanche adjunct) saddled its tart raspberry rasp with limed brimstone pucker, oaken cherry pungency, green grape tannins, champagne-like Chambord desiccation, and sour ale-like brettanomyces acidity.

Approachable Barrel Aged Double Pale (based on Old World IPA recipe) retained smooth nitro-injected creaminess atop citric honeyed peach. Elaborate Belgian-styled farmhouse ale, 2010 Pumpkin Saison Cuvee II dropped ‘pie sweet’ pumpkins into cinnamon-nutmeg-allspice conflux contrasting earthen fungi underside.

Indifferent lager heads might regale astringent yellow-fruited corn-dried pungency, Gold Lager. Neophytes may give the nod to corn-sweet, wheat-cracked, malt-soured, vegetal-dried American Blonde Ale or musty honey-soured mocha-spiced Stock Ale.

Upon my May 2012 lunchtime revisit, I sat at the downstairs bar in the light green-walled Lower Level Tavern getting drinks from bartender Nicole Chinnici. Hand-carved wood furnishings decorated the exquisite mahogany bar while five tables, several TV’s and a billiard table filled out the room. I consumed three previously untried beers during the one-hour stay.

Closer to a hybridized porter, mocha-malted Belgian Dubbel brought Belgian chocolate spicing to its toasted cola-hazelnut-praline conflux and dried tobacco roast.

Despite a heightened 10.5% alcohol volume, Kentucky bourbon-aged Nitro Bourbon Barrel Porter retained a soft flow as subtle brown chocolate creaminess worked its way into chocolate liqueur, sherry and port illusions.

Less intriguing, Brown Ale layered its pastry-caked brown sugar malting with soapy peanut-shelled walnut bittering.

Got back to Shawnee on way to Poconos, November ’18, quaffing Kirkwood Kolsch, a crisply clean moderation with Noble-hopped herbal spicing, lemon-rotted green grape tannins and floral-bound hardwood dryness.

Also, tried barley-roasted, caramel-spiced Will Rogers Red Ale, a prim centrist moderation.