Colonel Left Eye IPA
Grapefruit Dutchtown Smoothie DIPA
So, I said I was going to write about the New Jersey craft beer scene and my first dedicated piece is about a brewery in Pennsylvania. Life can be a lot like that, never quite what was promised. However, I write this unrepentantly because, well, Two Rivers Brewery is just that good.
My wife and I found ourselves in need of a little relaxing us time a few weeks back and decided that a trip across the border to Easton PA to check out a brewery she’d seen online might be just the ticket. I grabbed my trusty Cannon DSLR and we headed West.
The thing that had really attracted us was the extraordinary building which housed the brewery. Unique would definitely be understating this architectural oddity.
Originally built in 1810, the front portion of the building has an almost fairytale look about it with its oddly suspended corner tower and conical steeple (a Victorian era addition that, it is rumored, was the consequence of a misguided bet).
For most of its long history it was known as the Mt. Vernon hotel (running continuously, in fact, from 1855 to 1994 under that name). It was also a brothel for parts of that history and, during WWII, patriotically offered troops from New York a place for discreet liaisons with the ladies who plied their trade on nearby Pine Street.
Two Rivers Brewery has occupied the spot since 2011. *
We arrived in a one of those seasonal torrential downpours that had offered some spectacular skies on the drive over and made for some hairy moments on the highway. Making our way into the front bar, we were both struck by the look and feel of the place. I was reminded strongly of the pubs of my beloved home town of Melbourne. Two Rivers would not have seemed even slightly out of place in that city.
From its lovingly restored brickwork to the authentic pressed tin ceiling and the impressive full length bar, the entire front room dripped with just the right amount of ambiance for the consumption of fine beers.
We first sampled the brewery’s signature India Pale Ale, Colonel Left Eye (6.8% ABV) apparently named for a local Spanish-American War hero, Colonel Charles Wikoff, who died actually leading (as opposed to Teddy Rooservelt) the charge up San Juan Hill.
This IPA was a pure delight with strong shades of citrus and tangerine. The hops from which it was derived were the ever-popular Citra and Cascade and there was a distinctive, though not overwhelming, bitter note which I’m informed comes from the roasted malt. This was an unfiltered beer which I don’t always prefer but, in this case, it worked well, bringing the aroma forward.
I’d give this beer a solid 9 out of 10. Highly recommended.
My wife enjoyed the Left Eye so much that she ordered it again but I decided to sample one of the seasonal beverages on offer. My choice, somewhat perversely, was the Grapefruit Dutchtown Smoothie (8.1% ABV)
This was a hazy double IPA (DIPA) Double dry hopped with Citra and El Dorado and brewed with lactose to achieve the currently popular ‘hazy’ effect. There were strong notes of vanilla, and grapefruit that thankfully were not too overwhelming to the palate. The brewery’s helpful menu identifies, “Flavor of Orange Julius, marshmallows, and grapefruit gelato,” which is all pretty accurate. To my surprise, the whole concoction was quite spectacular. I’d ordered it, more or less, on a whim but I have to say I enjoyed its exotic, uncompromising assault on traditionalist beer culture. If you’re in the mood for something fun and summery, you could do a lot worse. If a beer that, texturally, reminds you of a smoothie is not on your must try list, you may want to give this one a swerve, as we say in the antipodes.
I enjoyed this little flavor adventure and I’m giving it an 8 out of 10 for pure originality.
I shouldn’t wind this up without mentioning that the food at Two Rivers is also very good and I can highly recommend their smoked bacon and cheddar burger.
We’ll be going back to sample more of the fine fare on offer at this most unique and inspiring brewpub and I suspect I’ll have more to say about it here.
542 Northampton St.
*Interesting story; the brewery was started by four close friends who have run it successfully for the past 8 years. However, prior to that, the original pub was featured in a movie called the Florentine (the fictional movie name of the bar). It was shot all over the Lehigh Valley using the old Bethlehem steelworks as an impressive backdrop.
The movie is about the nature of friendship and how hard it can be to make it in life when everyone is pulling in different directions. I think it’s interesting that the movie centers around this particular bar to tell its story and that the current owners are the antithesis of the characters in the movie.
You can currently find the Florentine on Amazon Prime’s streaming service.
Words and images are my own.