Appalachian Brewing Company has been in Harrisburg since 1997 (they now have other locations too). We were there about two weeks after it opened and have been going back ever since. It’s named for the Appalachian Trail that passes about 8 miles to the south of town. And no, I’ve never walked any part of it. The building is a reclaimed industrial brick building from Harrisburg’s history. They’ve done a lovely job with it. We were also to their very first Capital City Invitational Beer Fest, which now is insanely crowded. IMO, the thing should move to the PA Farm Show Building.Over those fifteen years, they’ve changed their menu a few times. Unfortunately, it *always* results in me losing some of my favorites, the ferociously spicy hummus, the cheesecake with the ale syrup, the sausages and apples. They’ve at least always had the ‘boli that my husband prefers. And they’ve added things I like, like what we’ve had the most recent time we were there.
Aggravated after a long day at work, we went out for a meal. That meal consisted of three of their appetizers: Buffalo Bleu Cheese Balls, Thai hot wings and the beloved….POUTINE! To go along with this, we got a sampler of their beers.
The cheese balls are a mix of cheese, essentially pulverized chicken and the requisite hot sauce, 4 to an order. They come from the kitchen a near-black from the spices being deep-fried, which I found quite disturbing the first time we ordered them. Tasty chipotle mayo comes with them, upping the heat content to something I enjoy.
ABC offers various types of wings, a set of sauces: root beer barbeque (they make their own root beer and ginger beer), smoked chipotle, buffalo and “hot”. Then there are three “deluxe” sauces: thai, tequila lime and garlic parmesan. We’ve ordered the thai wings (about 10 decent sized drums and flats in an order) since they’ve been on the menu, sticky sweet, spicy with red pepper and fragrant with ginger. Perhaps weirdly, we find that they go amazingly well with the standard bleu cheese dressing (which always comes with one gigantic lump of bleu cheese in it, it seems). Since we love these so much, I haven’t a clue what the others taste like…..
And last, the poutine. Yep, it’s the usual fries, gravy and cheese ambrosia from our neighbors to the north. ABC uses a beef gravy, fresh cut fries and real curds, which keep the stuff from being too wet (mozzarella cheese will generally soak your fries when the water to process it comes out). They layer the ingredients in a flat soup bowl, so it might look a little dry coming out of the kitchen but just dig in to find more gravy and cheese. Not too salty, so you can salt to your liking. Which, for me, is not that far from what the “salt monster” from Star Trek likes.
So you ask “vel, what about the BEER?” ABC has always had good beer for us. It doesn’t tend to the sweet as so many microbreweries do. As I’ve mentioned before, we like hefe weizens so we’ve always ordered that here, and it’s always been good, varying only a bit with the strength of the “banana” aroma. They don’t try as many odd brews as they once did, one notable beer only had heather in it, no hops at all. But they’ve hit a good raft of standards. The flight of samples came with the following: Water Gap Wheat, Mountain Lager, Purist Pale Ale, Trail Blaze Organic Brown Ale, Hoppy Trails Indian Pale Ale, Susquehanna Stout and their seasonal for this month, Hinterland Hefe Weizen (which might as well be another flagship since they brew it more than once a year).
My opinions of those not already mentioned before:
WGW is a classic wheat ale, sans the funky hefe yeasties. Mild, too mild for me to enjoy with food since the ale taste vanishes. Definitely a good “starter” ale for your friends who aren’t sure about the whole craft beer thing. This is what my dad gets when he visits, though I should try to get him to at least switch to the lager.
Mountain is a citrus/hoppy lager with a nice amber color. Stands up nicely to just about any food, even the spicy, strong foods that we had above. This is not the essentially flavorless pale yellow industrial lagers in the US.
PPA is a typical pale ale, fairly heavy on the bitter in the flavor. I don’t care for it, it strikes me dull. The IPA, Hoppy Trails, is much much more complexly floral in scent and taste, which I prefer. Both work with food, but again, I like the taste of the beer to be noticeable with the food, and the IPA wins in this every time.
I like brown ales in general so it’s no surprise that I like Trail Blaze. I honestly couldn’t care less that it’s organic. It’s pretty standard for the type, caramel and hops balanced nicely.
Susquehanna Stout is also a pretty standard dry stout, no sweetness here. Good but I don’t like stouts with food. Everything ends up tasting like it was made as a burnt toast sandwich.
My choices for beer/food combos? Hoppy Trails with the cheese balls, the hefe with the wings and the lager with the poutine.
The place was hopping this past evening. There was a band playing upstairs in the Abbey Bar, their annex for Belgian brews. Unfortunately, as always, live bands are too amped up for such spaces and never seem to *ever* realize that their equipment settings can be altered. Damned annoying to hear the noise from that while trying to relax with a meal. ABC does have quite a range of music they are willing to book, these folks being there last night: http://marchfourthmarchingband.com/ .
All in all, definitely a place to visit if you aren’t a resident and are maybe visiting HersheyPark (weird fact – MS Word will not consider this a word no matter what I do nor let me make it a hyperlink). Plenty of other breweries to visit in the area too: http://susquehannaaletrail.com/