Finally Checking Out the Lehigh Valley Ale Trail

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A couple years ago, I wrote about the Lehigh Valley Ale Trail, a now defunct website (my blog post is still very much intact) promoting the robust (I’m currently re-watching Season 1 of  Veep, and if you watch, my use of robust will make more sense to you) craft beer scene down in the Lehigh Valley. I said at that time that I was going to check it out soon, but like so many things I say I’m going to check out soon, I let it marinate for four years, despite the fact that I drive through that area often. The Lehigh Valley has had some major PA breweries,  I’m thinking Fegley’s and Weyerbacher specifically, around for a while now, but while the factories here may be closing down, a new crop of breweries, is springing up.  A recent, very positive visit to Bethlehem, another visit to East Stroudsburg (which is Lehigh Valley adjacent), and finding several Funk Brewing beers on tap at local places that I really liked, renewed my interest in checking the area out. I had nothing on tap (pun highly intended) this past weekend, and it was set to be something of a dreary day, so seemed to be the perfect opportunity to finally check it.

Emmaus Theatre

There’s a bevy of locations to choose from if you’re heading down to the Greater Allentown area, and we went down with a pretty open itinerary. Funk was the one brewery I 100% wanted to hit, and we figured Yergey Brewing was also a definite, as they are very close, but other than that, the day was pretty fly by the seat of your pants.  Funk and Yergey are located in the small, also biblically named town of Emmaus, about 5 miles south of Allentown.  Emmaus is very charming in its own right, with a very picturesque town center, and an old school movie theater that at least outwardly, looks better than most old school movie theaters. Funk and Yergey are located one block from one another, on opposite ends of an alley, which made for a very convenient 1-2 punch.

Funk beers
A man next to us was giving away free Krispy Kreme. Thank you sir, may I have another.

I enjoyed Funk as much as I thought I would. The taproom is small, and sparse, as taprooms often are, located just off of a very busy traintrack, which was kind of a shock to this born and bred and used to abandoned train tracks NEPA guy. We got two full flights, in order to sample all 8 beers they had on tap. One of my brewery complaints is that all too often, with the oversaturation of craft beer, different brews don’t stand out, or if they do stand out, they’re a little gimmicky. I was impressed that all 8 of Funk’s beers tasted unique, without venturing into that jalepeno-strawberry-double-hopped-saison-stout-hybrid territory that never quite tastes right.  I really enjoyed their Tumbleweed Pale Ale, and had already tasted, and give me seal of approval to the Silent Disco IPA, and Citrus IPA.  I also really liked, and ended up taking a 4 pack of their Streaker Imperial IPA home, and as of this writing have already enjoyed two of them.

Beckoning us to Yergey’s

The walk down to Yergey’s is short, and pleasant. I doubt the residents, whose back yards open to the alley, hang Christmas lights in order to provide a festive atmosphere for brewery hoppers, but it worked.  Yergey’s got really good reviews, and is very popular. I wish I could contribute to this popularity, but when we got there it was packed. There weren’t any tables, and no room at the bar, so we just grabbed a couple of pints and went to stand outside by some heatlamps, as flights aren’t really conducive to standing room only. I had a milk stout, and it was aggressively OK. Not good, not bad, but I liked the atmosphere, and I’m sure on nicer days, when the rain isn’t herding most people inside, it’s a great place to sit and sample. I’d enjoy returning. Yergey’s shares a building with Triple Sun Spirits, a new distillery we also didn’t check out for the same reason we only had one beer and left Yergey’s: it was too damn crowded. I’m sure both businesses are weeping at my lack of patronage.

The rain started up again when we were deciding our next move, which is how we ended u at Hijinx Brewing in Allentown, which was closest according to my GPS. A lot of Hijix reviewers made note of how industrial the area HiJinx was located in was; there was definitely an implication that it was in a shadier part of town. Now, I didn’t explore the area, so can’t confirm or deny, but I feel like these people don’t visit a ton of breweries. Aren’t they always in vaguely industrial area that could be misconstrued as shady? Hijinx suffered from the same issue Yergey’s did: it was popular, and thus crowded, and we were there right around dinner, ostensibly the busiest time for a brewery, even one with no menu, so I was only able to get a pint, and not sample all their wares, and for the life of me, I cannot remember what I got, and since I was far from over-served at this point, I could only surmise it was a lager, or pilsner, or whatever was easiest to yell over the couple who wouldn’t budge from the standing only bar when the bartender took my order. I essentially got something that tasted like beer. I enjoyed Hijinx though.  They had a good, dad-friendly cover band (my favorite kind), and a food truck that did basic, $2.50 cheeseburgers (also, my favorite kind), neither of which you can complain about. After a drink, we decided to stop into what ended up being my completely unexpected favorite part of the day: The Colony Meadery.

Flights of mead.

Like the Lehigh Valley Ale Trail, I’d been wanting to check out the Colony Meadery for some time. I  met someone who worked there once, at Troegs way back sometime around 2012? We ended up sharing a table, and chatting, and I got their card, and thus became aware of their existence. I went to a meadery when I was out in Colorado a few years back, and though I was far from enamored, I was intrigued. Mead, for the uninitiated, is an alcoholic drink consisting of fermented honey, and even though it’s served in wine glasses, and has a very wine-like quality, it seems to share the creative flavoring of the craft beer world. It’s sweet, and slightly syrupy, as the connotation of honey probably suggests, but also light and refreshing, despite the fact that it also conjures up connotations of Vikings drinking from horns after a solid pillage.

I enjoyed the hell out of my visit here, not only because our server was super informative and chatty, or because the meadery while not empty by any means, was not crowded, and in my elder years I enjoy being able to move my arms and having a choice of seats, but mostly because their mead is delicious. We ended up doing two flights, and I wish I did three, because there were still many flavors on the menu I left, wanting to try. Our first flight was their beginners, featuring the most popular meads. I enjoyed the lemon, the Arnold Palmer flavored one, and the surprise was the sarsaparilla. Our 2nd flight was one we picked and the standouts included a Moscow Mule flavored mead that I probably would’ve sworn was a Moscow Mule had you given it to me in a copper mug, and Moravian Spice Cake, which tasted of potpourri and Christmas, but in a good way.  The best though, and the one that’s going to keep me coming back, is the Mango Habenero, which was the perfect blend of sweet with a spicy kick. I’m now obsessed with that stuff, and regrettably, did not purchase a bottle to bring home.

The Colony Meadery’s Allentown location  could be a destination in itself. As I mentioned, Hijinx and Colony are both located in the same refurbished industrial building, but they’re also joined by the County Seat Spirits distillery to make the Bridgework Beverage Alliance, which also houses some restaurants and shops.  The Colony Meadery has a second location in Bethlehem, at The Moravian Bookstore in downtown Bethlehem.  Bethlehem also boasts Bonn Place Brewing Company, Hophill Brewing Company, as well as Hardball Cider on Main, so you could get sauced enough you’d sleep in a manger in that little town (see what I did there). I also want to check out Lost Tavern Brewing in nearby Hellertown, as we had a friendly bartender who sang its praises.

 

2 comments on “Finally Checking Out the Lehigh Valley Ale Trail”

  1. Hi Pat! The Colony Meadery’s Bethlehem location is actually within the Moravian Bookshop in Bethlehem, not the Bookstore Speakeasy. And while the Lehigh Valley Ale Trail site is no more, you can still find information about local breweries via DiscoverLehighValley.com.

    Cheer!

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