Free beer!

By on December 13, 2017

Wait for it…

I had some free time before heading over to EPAC this weekend to catch their production of “The Wizard of Oz,” so I thought I’d stop into Union Barrel works in Adamstown for dinner.

I have to say I’ve never had a bad meal at this place. I first visited the malt-forward brewery 10 years ago just as they opened their doors and fell in love with their smoked trout chowder (that was back in the “Grapes & Grain” days for my longtime readers).

For some reason, I opted to pass on the soup and started with the Mozzarella Moons, an upscale and much tastier version of ordinary moz sticks. My entrée was awesome! UBW has an old school eatery feel; the menu is studded with new spins on traditional favorites like meatloaf and stroganoff. I opted for the Cajun-style chicken Oscar, a new addition to the menu, and I highly recommend it.

Speaking of new additions, UBW just tapped their latest beer creation: Hot Pepper Wit. Not a deep Wit full of wheat flavor as one might expect, this brew has an easier taste reminiscent of standard domestic lager. The added coriander gets lost a bit the heat, which comes from the addition of cayenne and tabasco peppers (not the sauce). The burn lingers for quite a while in the mouth allowing the orange to become a refreshing afterthought. Overall, it’s a noble effort at creating a winter warmer with a style traditionally popular in the summer. My server proclaimed it a “one beer” brew, as two might be pushing the palate’s level of acceptance. I agree.

I ran into UBW owner Tom Rupp. He’s always been a malt guy and the Hot Pepper Wit is not really his style, but he wanted to make something new for his customers looking for experimental flavors. Since it’s the holiday season I should also give a plug to his wife Amy, who makes spent grain soaps and sells them at the bar. They make fun stocking stuffers for beer fans.

Santa’s Butt, from Ridgeway Brewery in the U.K., is touted as “a splendid, satisfying Winter Porter at 6% — a souped-up version of the classic Entire Butt Porter that you’ve enjoyed in the past. Everyone wants a piece of Santa’s Butt.” (Photo by Michael Upton)

Black Forest Brewery

Heading back into Ephrata, we thought we’d punctuate our pre-show frivolity with a visit to Black Forest. The weekend marked the release of their Russian Imperial Stout, a beer popular with their dedicated followers. The brewery uses Belgian yeast and malt to impart notes of dark fruit and raisins, which provide a slight sweetness. To accentuate this sweetness, Black Forest was pairing this brew with peanut butter cookies. The brewery was pairing four drafts with cookies on Saturday night. What a fun way to get into the holiday spirit. The snickerdoodles were awesome, and it was nice to stumble onto a fun desert after dinner.

Do you want free beer? Here’s how to get it. Stop by Black Forest this Saturday, Dec. 16. from 3 to 7 p.m. and donate blood to the Central Pennsylvania Blood Bank. Give-a-pint, get-a-pint donors will get vouchers for a free beer and a cup of soup. Plus, each participant gets two free passes to the Pennsylvania Auto Show, Harrisburg’s Comedy Zone, and a t-shirt. That’s a deal!

Cheers and thanks for reading!

Michael C. Upton is a freelance writer specializing in arts and leisure. He welcomes comments at and

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