Happy Anniver5ary, St. Boniface!

By on February 3, 2016

Five years can make a big difference. When I first wrote about St. Boniface Craft Brewing Company, the publication running the story didn’t even post all their stories online.

That story is almost lost to time, but what started in a small space in the old Doneckers building in Ephrata has flourished-the Ephrata brewery has blossomed into what most fans call one of the best breweries in the entire country. Their popularity was evident in the line formed around the brewery’s entrance at 1701 W. Main St. on Saturday, Jan. 30 at 11 a.m. as beer fans waited for the doors to open… to celebrate a fifth anniversary.

The Anniver5ary Hegemony stout harkens back to St. Boniface’s beginnings. (Photos by Michael Upton)

The Anniver5ary Hegemony stout harkens back to St. Boniface’s beginnings. The commemorative glasses sold out quickly, too.  (Photos by Michael Upton)

From the outset, the full staff of St. Boniface was swamped as people queued to get a taste of what Mike Price, Jonathan Northup, and Dain Shirey brewed up for their fifth anniversary celebration.

For the occasion, they went back to their roots. St. Boniface’s Hegemony is touted as one of the best stouts in the land  — not just by me, but by some rather knowledgeable beer drinkers. The Hegemony Anniver5ary Reserve — see what they did there? — uses old school ingredients from the original recipe, like pure honey. The rich brew pours with a thick head, and its dark color barely lets the sunlight pass through the glass — the special souvenir glass, which patrons could have filled and taken home for $10. The tulip-shaped glasses were gone before 3 p.m.

As usual, Rocky’s BBQ sold out of ribs as customers enjoyed a beautiful January day.

As usual, Rocky’s BBQ sold out of ribs as customers enjoyed a beautiful January day.

A steady throng of patrons made their way to the bar; some grabbed a beer a hung around, while others just picked up one, two, or six, of the limited edition bottles of the Hegemony Anniver5ary Reserve. Boniface only bottled 1,196 of the 22-ounce “bombers,” and Shirey confirmed they went through half of those on Saturday. Grab a bottle to age now if you can. I can confirm bottle #538 (my second bottle) will not be opened until January 2017. My first bottle was downed during the Liz Fulmer show at the Eicher Arts Center — see corresponding story in this week’s edition.

There are no plans to fill growlers or Crowlers until the stock of bottles are depleted. The brewery is holding on to several barrels of the commemorative beer, which will be made available on draft for upcoming, special events.

Shirey did say the brewery has withheld some of the Hegemony Anniver5ary Reserve to age in bourbon barrels, which will be bottled and released sometime around April 2016. I’m signed up for that! In the meantime, Northup has been busy creating an India Pale Lager. Look for it soon!

Timothy Shirk pours a special edition of the Anniver5ary Hegemony stout infused with coffee beans.

Timothy Shirk pours a special edition of the Anniver5ary Hegemony stout infused with coffee beans.

It looks like St. Boniface knew its crowd, and they have made enough of their celebratory beer to go around. I love a good stout; and if you do, too, grab a bottle of this limited release. You won’t be disappointed. As I wrote in 2011, “our easy favorite according to the general consciousness … is the Hegemony. The smooth stout is tasty, luscious, and does not provide me with anything bad to say at all.”

Remembering that story now I have to wonder … where did Atlas, “a conventional strong ale,” go? Can I get a call for its revival in 2021? I’ll keep you posted. Cheers!

Michael C. Upton works as a freelance writer specializing in arts and leisure, covering subjects ranging from funk punk to fine wine. He invites your comments and suggestions at facebook.com/SomebodiesProductions.

The early crowd at St. Boniface’s Anniver5ary party got a jump on the special brew

The early crowd at St. Boniface’s Anniver5ary party got a jump on the special brew

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