All aboard! Newest beer fest will feature St. Boniface one-off

By on April 6, 2016

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Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania Director Jeff Bliemeister is a beer fan. So, when the staff of the museum suggested running a brew festival, he was all in.

Rails & Ales was born.

“We jumped at the chance to pair craft beer with the train museum, because the quality of the two goes hand in hand,” said Bliemeister from his office in Strasburg.

The non-profit museum fundraiser takes place on Saturday, April 16. VIP happy hour starts at 6 p.m. and general admission runs from 7 to 10 p.m. The event will not only feature beer, food, and entertainment, but also a special brew, which is quickly gathering a lot of momentum around Strasburg.

“St. Boniface is a favorite of a lot of our staff,” said Bliemeister. “I wanted to do a craft beer just for the event … and they agreed to make the beer for us.”

Brewmaster Jon Northup came up with the idea to brew a Hefeweizen with orange blossom honey, conditioned over orange peel, called Orange Blossom Special. The brew is homage to the song “Orange Blossom Special.” Written by Ervin T. Rouse in 1938, the “fiddle player’s national anthem” became a hit when recorded by bluegrass legend Bill Monroe in 1939. It is a hard-driving, fiddle-heavy tune telling the tale of a train called the Orange Blossom Special, which spirits passengers away to sunny, sand-soaked destinations on “the fastest train on the line.”

 

What better place to “chug” a few beers? The Rails & Ales craft beer fest will be held April 16 at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania.

What better place to “chug” a few beers? The Rails & Ales craft beer fest will be held April 16 at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania.

 

I tried to get an advance tasting of the beer, but it looks like I’ll have to wait like everyone else. The brew will debut at Rails & Ales, where St. Boniface will be joined by 19 other breweries. From Lancaster County will be: Mad Chef Craft Brewing, Moo-Duck Brewery, Cox Brewing Company, JoBoy’s Brew Pub, Lancaster Brewing Company, Lancaster Homebrew, and Stoudt’s Brewing Company. Organizers even found a few railroad-themed breweries from Pennsylvania to join the festivities: Boxcar Brewing Company from West Chester, Rusty Rail Brewing Company from Mifflinburg, and the Strasburg Rail Road, which will also be pouring an exclusive beer — Iron Beast, brewed Spring House.

Other breweries attending include: Founding Fathers Brewing Company, Howling Henry’s Brewery, Levante Brewing Company, Raven Beer, Robin Hood Brewing Company, Snitz Creek Brewery, The Brewery at Hershey, Twin Lakes Brewing Company, and Victory Brewing Company.

Mobile restaurants will provide eats to hungry beer fans, including American-style cuisine from Bountiful Feast, Classic Concessions featuring Good Humor ice cream, Italian fare from Mara-Leo’s, Rocky’s BBQ, and Strasburg’s own Speckled Hen. Regulars at St. Boniface will recognize several of these food trucks.

Pennsylvania bluegrass band Serene Green (who plays an awesome rendition of “Dark Hollow”) will provide live music along with the pickin’ and rockin’ Norfolk Southern Lawmen, a train-centric four-piece band originally founded by a group of railroad policemen.

“Our plan is to start out slow and simple, because we want this to be a successful event,” said Bliemeister, who hopes to make the event an annual tradition. Cheers!

Tickets for the Rails & Ales craft brew fest can be purchased for $50 VIP, $40 general admission, and $15 for designated drivers, at railsandales.org.

Michael C. Upton is a freelance writer specializing in arts and leisure. He welcomes comments at somepromcu@gmail.com and facebook.com/SomebodiesProductions.

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