Saturday, March 26, 2016

Fegley's Brew Works boost old steel towns' revivals

     When the steel mills all closed in Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley, about sixty miles north of Philadelphia, the city of Bethlehem must have been looking like the buckle on the rust belt, downtowns looking like ghost towns. Rich Fegley took an old building in the center of Bethlehem and opened a seven-barrel brewery and pub in 1998.  Craft beer started to pick up in the new millennium and Fegley's beer, along with Victory and Sly Fox, began to thrive.  By 2007, Rich brought his parents, Peg and Dick, and his brother Jeff, into the beer business and the family took a five-story building in the heart of Allentown, next door, and turned it into a bigger brewery.
 Fegley's Allentown Brew Works, pictured on the left, has tall windows on Hamilton Street with a good view of the pub area.  Eleven beers have a flagship label, meaning here that they are usually on tap (other brewers use the term for their one best seller or signature style).  The five standards are a blond ale, a porter, a wit, an amber lager, and my choice with lunch, the Steelworkers Oatmeal Stout (5.8% abv, 45 ibu with the single hop East Kent Golding, a very satisfying caramel-y taste).  Four premiums included a couple of IPAs and the Space Monkey, a raspberry saison that was a bit too fruity for my taste buds. It did win gold in a flavored beer tasting, however.

    A long staircase leads up to a second floor where I chatted a second with a brewer busy cleaning one of the 15-bbl fermenters.  He said they have a 30-bbl fermenter down on the first level next to the pub.  They must need a lot of tanks, as the tap list showed six seasonals on the day I stopped by, and perhaps twenty at one time or another throughout the year.  The original brewery in Bethlehem, about ten miles away, continues to produce some of these styles as well, but the Allentown plant is turning out most of the production.

A downtown scene is reflected in the windows opening on the bigger fermenters and the bottling line.  12-oz. six-packs appear to be the primary focus of this line.  Some of the premium styles appear in corked bomber bottles and fetch a premium price.

(Visited 03/15/16)

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