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Beer and Bube’s in Central PA
October 23, 2006
By Kurt Epps—The PubScout

Lancaster Brewing slakes Homecoming thirsts at Elizabethtown College

Elizabethtown College, an outstanding private college ranked in the top three of comprehensive colleges in the Northeast by no less an authority than US News and World Report, was begun as a service school by the Church of the Brethren. As such, it was a bit surprising to discover that the school was incorporating a full-blown Oktoberfest celebration, complete with brats and beer, for its alumni.
With a son attending E-Town and my available funds for real liquid refreshment having since been diminished to help pay for the experience, I made my way over to the site to speak with the Alumni Director, a gregarious guy named Barry Freidly extended an immediate invitation to me to attend.

Seems Barry, a 1969 E-town grad, also knows good beer, and with a “cold call” to one of Central PA’s best known brewpubs (Lancaster Brewing Co.), he locked up the brewpubs sponsorship for the event.
Barry Freidly’s caterers had a wonderful array of Fallfest foods on hand: Beer Brats, Warm German Potato Salad, German Red Cabbage, Beer Chili, Cajun Beer Pasta, Lager Dogs and Beans, Wings in Spicy Amber Sauce and even Beef Carbonnade.

Those foods went remarkably well with the two Lancaster brews being poured by LBC’s reps Justin and Kevin. The Strawberry Wheat was light, crisp and refreshing,  the strawberry extract balanced perfectly with Cascade and Hallertau hops and the 2 Row Barley, Wheat and Carapils malts. Not too sweet or too tart, the beer was a huge crowd pleaser, judging by the lines in front of the tap.

My favorite was the FranklinFest, brought to LBC by brewer Bill Mohr from his stint at Independence Brewing. Seven malts and Tettnang, Hersbrucker and Cluster hops made this copper colored beauty a perfect match, not only for the aforementioned foods, but also for the Yuengling Lager Chocolate Cake and Yuengling Lager Chocolate Sauce and Pumpkin Bread that produced deep lines at the Dessert table. October (at least here in the Northeast) is the time for the malty, sweeter Marzen styles, and this one was a winner.

Considering that at one time, females interested in Elizabethtown were told, “Women who smoke need not apply,” many of the alumnae with whom I spoke said the school had come a long way. Needless to say, my first E-town Oktoberfest/Homecoming/Parents’ Weekend will surely not be my last—and since I have two other sons that will need colleges someday, I may need to find a place where good beer is free.

Huge Bube’s (pronounced ‘boobies’) in Mount Joy

Just down the road from Etown (most of PA’s towns are just down the road) is another town called Mount Joy. Though I did not research the origins of the town’s name (I’m still working on Intercourse, Bird-in-Hand and Blue Ball), part of why it’s called Joy is probably due to Bube’s Brewery.

This massive 1880’s structure was actually built over a limestone cave system, hearkening to a time when the only refrigeration was either underground or burrowed in the side of a hill. Originally commissioned by an entrepreneur named Philip Frank, it was eventually bought by a Bavarian brewer’s apprentice named Alois Bube. In German, his name would have probably been pronounced boobeh, but Sam Allen, part owner of this most amazing building, referred to him all night as Mr. booby. I’m down with that, and so are most American guys.

Allen is passionate about the building and its history. He has attempted to preserve the look and feel of the place and the hotel within it, a system which dates back not only to 1880’s America, but probably to 1580’s Europe.

The building itself rises three stories above the street—and plunges four stories below it, into the limestone cave system. Diners can feast and drink in any of the many areas allotted for the purpose. There’s the Bottling Works, a pub-style environment; Alois, a fine-dining throwback to a gilded age and the Catacombs with the matching décor one would expect. The floors are brick, original and a bit uneven, so ladies in very high heels need to cling to their escorts.

The Catacombs’ subterranean ambience is fascinating—even sans Poe and his Amontillado, and the menu has many delicious offerings. Bring your wallet or a valid credit card, however, because cheap, it ain’t. And, if you have a mold allergy, like Allen’s perky wife Jan who works as a waitress in the Catacombs, bring your allergy pills. Don’t let that sway you, though. The Catacombs are a decidedly neat place to dine and drink. Just remember that you have to walk back up four stories to the street level when you’re done. Consider yourself lucky you don’t work there, though the free cardio workout surely pays employees’ long-term dividends.

Unfortunately, the night of my visit caught the brewery part of the business in a state of transition. While the plans are for an assortment of house-made beers—especially a Kolsch, Allen’s favorite since he spent a few years in Křln—there were none available on this night. Even the transitional blonde had run out, so we’ll just have to make another trip to sample Bube’s Beer.

Fortunately, the place did offer a wide array of commercial beers both on tap and in bottles. Dogfish Head’s 60 Minute IPA went superbly with my curry-flavored Scallop Dish called the Brewmaster’s Special, and Bube’s bar even had the 90 Minute IPA available in bottles. And the brewery should be fully stocked by Thanksgiving.

Anyone who visits the area after December might also have the experience of staying in one of the many “theme” rooms currently being fashioned by Allen and Co., from a Medieval Princess’s Room to a “Jungle Room” complete with circular bed and rock waterfall.

Bube’s also presents regular Dinner Theater mysteries and ghost tours. Some employees swear to the presence of ghosts in Bube’s. After touring this huge architectural wonder on a chilly autumn night, I wouldn’t discount the possibility.

Those hex signs on all the Lancaster-area barns may not just be for decoration.

©2006 Kurt Epps All rights reserved

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