The Weyerbacher Brewing Company is one of many outstanding breweries from a state that has long been home to some of the nation’s finest brewers—both pre- and post-prohibition. Most of the great Pennsylvania brewers tend to keep their products fairly close to home and are perfectly happy serving just their local or regional market. As a result, you may not have had the benefit of enjoying many beers from PA, but trust us, brewers throughout the state produce some of the country’s finest.
For a few years after their founding in 1995, Weyerbacher B.C. flew a bit under the regional radar, opting at first to brew only traditional, true-to-style beers. Founder and homebrewer Dan Weirback (Weyerbacher—pronounced “why-er-bock-er”—is the original spelling of the Weirback family name used by the first immigrants from Germany about 200 years ago) and his wife Sue intentionally started out sticking to mainstream microbrews. Who could blame them; things were different in the mid-90s. But in 1997 they scaled up one of Dan’s favorite homebrew recipes, Raspberry Imperial Stout, and the locals really responded to their first taste of locally-brewed extreme beer. The following year they brewed Blithering Idiot Barleywine, a massive 11%+ beer, and began brewing Belgian beers as well, like their Merry Monks’ Ale (originally called “Belgian Style Tripel”). The experience of brewing these bigger beers, and the alacritous reception by better beer drinkers led Dan & Co. to set a new path, which he sums up as follows:
“Let’s make full-flavored high-quality brews for a discerning customer.”
They haven’t looked back.
That move ultimately allowed them to relocate from a 4,500 square foot livery stable in downtown Easton, PA, where they also ran a small brewpub, to a 20,000 square foot, brewery-only site at the end of 2001. While there, their creative endeavors have been unending. Weyerbacher beers were among early big beers to be barrel aged, and they’ve taken many of their existing beers, put them on wood, and re-titled the wood versions (rightfully so, as there’s a near total transformation). Their Merry Monks’ Ale on wood becomes Prophecy. Their massive 11.8% ABV QUAD turns into Blasphemy. Blithering Idiot Barleywine aged in oak bourbon casks transforms into Insanity, and their Old Heathen Imperial Stout put in oak barrels that were used for making Kentucky bourbon grows to be Heresy. Wood aging has become increasingly common these days, but the approach they used showcases the early intrigue and systematic rigor employed in their happy experimentation process back the early 2000s (not to mention the risk—barrels are expensive, bulky, take up tons of space, need time, and often yield unpredictable results). In Weyerbacher’s case, the results are worth it—their barrel-aged beers continue to be some of their most highly demanded.
Dan’s wife Sue also appears to be his muse (well, her and beer of course)—it was Sue’s suggestion that led them to take the plunge into professional brewing—and another of her proposals was to start growing their own hops. The Weyerbacher Hop Farm is now in its 3rd year, and the harvest this past fall was bountiful, making for another audacious experiment in beer, a fresh hop Harvest Ale brewed with homegrown wet hops.
Even before growing their own, Dan and fellow brewers Chris Wilson and Dan Hitchcock embraced the power of the hops. The brewery’s IPA, called Hops Infusion, is a session-style IPA brewed with seven hop varieties—which is our type of “extreme beer.” It is a study in hops and drinkability. Then came their interpretation of an Imperial (or Double) IPA, Double Simcoe IPA. This is a beer that we think really shows Weyerbacher’s brewing prowess—in it you have a massive IPA that is absolutely huge on flavor, but eminently smooth and balanced, with zero harshness. Recently, they started offering small batches of an unfiltered version, making it a good candidate for aging (though that’s a decision you must make yourself—as discussed in our tasting notes below). When we found out about this new version, we wanted it for our members. When we tasted it, we knew we had to make the deal. And what a deal it is—you’ll want to load up on this stuff, a beer that we happen to believe is among the best Double IPAs being brewed in the US today.