Sunday, July 06, 2008

The General Lafayette Inn & Brewery

About 10 years ago or so, I surprised my wife on our wedding anniversary with a weekend trip to a romantic Bed and Breakfast. Prior to our trip, I sold the idea to her by giving an historical account of the Inn's participation in the Revolutionary War. I mentioned to her how a wise General named Lafayette outsmarted the British with a brilliant maneuver that is still being studied in history books today. I told her that the Inn was originally constructed in 1732 and was also rumored to play a part in the Underground Railroad that helped to free the slaves. I even spoke of the possibility of the two of us running into three of the Inn's of ghosts that have been playing pranks there for generations.

There was one thing that I didn't mention.

When we pulled our car into the General Lafayette Inn, my wife turned to me and said, "Leave it to you to find a Bed and Breakfast that is also a brewery!" My wife and I had a fabulous time. We had afternoon beers, retired to our room for a little anniversary celebration and then took a much needed post beer snooze. A few hours later we headed back into the Inn for a gourmet dinner and more handcrafted beer. It was a great anniversary.

10 years later, enter Stuart Katzen. Dr. Stu, a chiropractor, "former" rugby player, "fishing" partner and drinking buddy is a very good friend of mine. Dr. Stu lives in PA and frequents the General quite often. Rumor has it, he goes there so much, he must own part of the place (or maybe just a barstool). Stu has been after me to come back to the General, so I took the short ride from Philadelphia via the Jersey Shore to meet Stu and his buddy Joe for some more of that good beer and fine food.

This time I was given the VIP treatment. I was introduced to the owner and brewmaster Chris Leonard. Chris gave me the run down of the whole operation and introduced me to his assistant brewer Russ Czajka. Russ took us down to the basement and gave Stu and I the brewery tour. We saw the debut of the General's new bottling machine. Russ mentioned that the General would soon be bottling their own brew for local sale. The operation was very impressive and I was quite surprised how they managed to fit so much equipment in the historic basement. In the old days, people were not as tall, so you can imagine the dimensions of a 300 year old basement.

Once the tour was over, we walked through a crowded dart room filled with rugby players. Not a good combination, rugby players, beer and darts. We made it through unscathed and Russ said to me that the Blackthorn Rugby Club frequents the General for it's fine ales and well-hung dart board. It turns out Russ is a charter member of the Blackthorn Club. I didn't want to tell Russ that I used to beat up on Blackthorn on a regular basis, as I had not had my beer or food yet. Only Kidding Russ!

When we made it back to the table there were three pints of cask conditioned, unfiltered Sunset Red Ale, served on the English style hand pump waiting for us. Red ale is a tasty treat, when it is in a cask, it is even better. This Sunset Red was just what the doctor ordered. Medium body, malty and very smooth. While we were drinking our Reds, I noticed on the beer menu that Chris brewed a light beer. The beer wasn't just light, it was extremely light as it clocked in at 1.9%. Chris told me he wanted to do something that other brewers were not doing. Every micro-brewery on the planet tries their hand at making an extreme beer style or imperial beer style, but no one has ever really gone in the low alcohol direction. Chris said he wanted to make a beer that people could thoroughly enjoy, yet have 3 or 4 with no ill side effects. His quest was the ultimate session beer and thus was born Lafayette's Escape, an extremely tasty, full bodied ale. This was without a doubt the best low alcohol beer I have ever tasted. I whole heartedly recommend this beer to everyone.

Now, on the other side of the coin, Chris brews an incredible 12% Rasberry / Mead /Ale. I think this beer has a 1/4 tun of Rasberries brewed in it. Nowhere's near a fruit lambic, this beer is extreme in it's own right. My friend Stu brought a growler to my house over the weekend and needless to say we were enjoying this very refreshing beer in the summer sun with all of the ill effects intact. Loved it.

If you are interested in a gourmet dining experience (Chris regularly hosts beer dinners) or some simple, yet signature bar food with very fine handcrafted ales, the General Lafayette Inn and Brewery is the place to be. Did I mention you can sleep there too? They have five spacious rooms to choose from, one of which I can personally vouch for its comfortableness!

To learn more about the General Lafayette Inn and Brewery visit or call 610-941-0600

The Beers In Review:

Back Burner Barley Wine:
This selection from Southern Tier Brewing was tasted way back in March 2008. Barleywine time. This was a cold weather, warm in the belly beer. I was actually able to serve this 220z bomber to my wife and I at the exact serving temperature. I had this baby in the garage where the temp was 42 degrees. The first taste of this ale gave a very strong hop bite followed by a strong citrus rind after taste. The 2nd taste mellowed on the tongue a lot in a very good and surprising way ( My wife noticed this too). As we finished the bottle, we both commented that this was a very good barley wine. Clocks in at 10% alcohol.

Innis & Gunn Oak Aged Beer: The Innis & Gunn Brewery from Edinburg, Scotland produces fine Scottish Ales. They made this beer as a one time experiment that has become so popular it is brewed on a regular basis. The beer, a light colored Scottish Ale, is aged for thirty days in oak barrels. This ale has a honey tint to it's light color, a thin head and a strong wet hay aroma. The beer tastes light even though it is 6.6% alcohol. Very well balanced with a citrus taste, malty mouth feel and light oak on the tongue. There is a hint of vanilla in there as well. This ale tastes like it was brewed by artists who paid attention to every detail. A fine beer, a treat to be had.

Baltic Thunder: This porter was originally brewed under the name Perkuno's Hammer by the now defunct NJ Brewery, Heavyweight Brewing. It was always one of my favorites. The recipe and brewing rights, now owned by Victory Brewing, has lost nothing in the transition. At 8.5% alcohol, this Baltic Porter has a mix of toffee and subtle fruit tastes (prunes?), billed as a dark lager ( which doesn't make sense to me, isn't porter an ale?), it is still one of the best porters you can find and enjoy on the planet.

Shock Top Belgian White: Anheuser Busch did it to me again. I saw a new white beer ( I love them) and bought a six pack. After I got it home, I read that Shock Top Brewing was a Budweiser Company. It turns out they are a little jealous of Coor's Blue Moon and decided they want to get in on the white ale market. It poured incredibly well. A beautiful, dense cloudy beer. Unfiltered, hazy, yellow color. Made my mouth water. I grabbed it for my first taste. Nothing there. No taste. By the time I was half way through my glass the taste started to come through and I started to enjoy it. The second bottle proved better (Does the alcohol help?). Coriander, banana and cloves were noted in my tastings. Overall, it ended up being an enjoyable beer. Not in a Hoegarden or Allagash White way, but definitely in a Blue Moon way.