Hop for Teacher
September 08, 2004
I recently had the opportunity to share a candid conversation with brewmaster Carol Stoudt of Stoudt’s Brewing. Her past experience as a schoolteacher fuels her thoughts and demanded my utmost attention, rekindling long forgotten days of chalk squeaking on the blackboard. I’ve never met a schoolteacher turned brewer so for me this opportunity is a rare first.
History is Carol’s forte, or more specifically the history of beer. Listening to her delve into Pennsylvania’s brew with a professor’s swagger compelled me to take extra neat notes for both her and your benefit. The thought of faxing my completed transcription to her for a spelling and neatness check was more real to me than I dare admit.
Her experience is unrivaled by most, as witnessed by yours truly when she delved into antiques, European beer history 101, and even fine dining. I think I smell Tuesday’s meatloaf surprise wafting down the hallway from the school cafeteria.
Carol’s brews aren’t your run-of-the-mill grocery store aisle swill. Stoudt’s beers are considered by many to be some of the best in the country if not the world. Their menu reads like a geography book with representative styles from Ireland, Belgium, Germany and England. Ask Carol to elaborate on the origins of any of her beers and she will give you a revisionist look into the history of each and every one.
So how exactly does someone go from reading, writing and arithmetic to IPA’s, Abby’s and stout’s? The answer lies with Carol’s better half, her beer loving and guzzling husband Ed. Years ago as restaurateurs Carol and Ed discovered real beer and before long fell in love with many of the European breweries. Upon their return the realization that comparable brews were not available in their neck of the woods became all too real. Not wanting to see her beloved husband broken hearted, Carol took matters into her own hands and brewed her first batch of European influenced beer.
The Stoudt’s first served these brews at their restaurant 17 years ago, becoming the first micro brewery in Pennsylvania. In the subsequent years word of their beers spread regionally, nationally, and now globally, making Stoudt’s Brewery a major player in the world of craft brewers and amazing Stoudtburg Village a vacation spot for families around the world.
So now I ask you to sit up straight in your chairs, spit out your gum and join me for my history lesson with brewmaster Carol Stoudt.
TMR: Is it hard being a woman in a male dominated industry?
CS: I think it is very exciting being in the beer industry. It has evolved a lot over the years – more and more women are becoming involved in the industry.
TMR: That being said do you think we will start seeing beers marketed towards women?
CS: There are already a lot of great styles out there for women. I find women tend to like the Belgium beers because of their big character and spicy flavors, especially Wit beers. I also find women are more into the glassware it seems to romanticize the whole beer drinking experience.
TMR: So you are saying beer can be romantic?
CS: Definitely so. If you pair a beer like Fat Dog Stout with the right chocolate, cheese or oysters and use the correct glassware it can be very romantic.
TMR: So what can you tell us about Stoudt’s that most people don’t know?
CS: We have been in business for 43 years. We just started brewing beer 17 years ago. 8 years ago we started making bread with a 100 year old yeast strain.
TMR: You also have the antique mall. What can you tell us about it? Is it wall to wall old furniture?
CS: No it is not a flea market in any way. We have 500 fantastic quality antiques dealers selling everything from furniture to comic books.
TMR: Comic books! So are you telling me I might be able to find some classic sci-fi gear at the mall? If so that is pretty cool. What about vintage musical instruments? I have been looking for a 1960 cherry sunburst Les Paul for years now. Any chance I could find it at Stoudt’s?
CS: There is a very good chance you would find it there. If not I am sure one of our music dealers could find it for you.
TMR: We have to slow down and put this into perspective. On a beautiful fall afternoon I could find the guitar of my dreams then celebrate my find at the pub with a steak hand cut by Ed Stoudt and a perfectly brewed Belgium style beer?
CS: That quite possibly could happen but don’t forget the fresh baked bread.
TMR: Stoudtburg Village sounds like heaven on earth. I have to get down there.
CS: We are only 5 hours from Boston you are welcome any time. We would love to have you come down here. Maybe you can come down for one of our beer festivals. We have Oktoberfest right around the corner. We also have a Blues/Jazz Fest, a Blue Grass Festival and The Great Eastern Microbrewery Festival to name a few. You can easily spend a long weekend here.
TMR: I could spend a lifetime there. Back to the beers – what was the first style you brewed?
CS: Historically Pennsylvania is a Lager state so our first beer was a European Lager.
TMR: A lager state… you lost me there.
CS: The history of Pennsylvania and lagers goes all the way back to George Washington and Ben Franklin. Ed is an historian and has researched the history of beers, especially Pennsylvania, to their very beginnings.
TMR: Well it was Ben Franklin that said “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” Does Ed also research the recipes?
CS: He studies it all. Ed loves history.
TMR: Speaking of Ed, does he have a ManRoom or do you have a WomanRoom in the house?
CS: You got it right the first time. Ed does have a ManRoom in the house.
TMR: So what is in Ed’s ManRoom?
CS: Ed loves to collect antique pipes. He has over 100 pipes in his ManRoom along with his books and an easy boy in front of the fireplace.
TMR: So is there any beer in the ManRoom?
CS: We have a beermeister that holds two kegs right now we have American Pale Ale and Pilsner in there. The Hefeweizen just kicked.
TMR: So if you were in the ManRoom what movie would you like to be watching?
CS: Casablanca with a Pilsner in the right glass.
TMR: We talked a bit about history so let’s shift gears to the future. What does it hold for Stoudt’s Brewing?
CS: We are releasing new beers this fall that we are very excited about. A Double IPA and Fatdog Imperial Oatmeal Stout.
TMR: Those sound fantastic. I can’t wait to try both but right now can you pick 4 beers for my readers to introduce themselves to Stoudt’s Brewing?
CS: I would say The Pils, Scarlet Lady Ale, The Double and Fat Dog Stout with a nice cheese.
TMR: Carol, thanks for your time and your beer picks. I think those are great beers for the column this week.
This beer is perfect to cap off the last hot dog days of summer. It is light and refreshing with a straw color and a white head but any comparison to its American counterparts ends there. It’s a great European pilsner with great flowery hop flavors.
The driest and most delicate of our lagers. Stoudt’s Pils is characteristic of the traditional European Pilseners. Straw-yellow and assertively hopped with Saaz hops, this frequent medal winner has a refreshing bitterness and refined hop aroma. 4.8% abv.
Stoudt’s Scarlet Lady Ale ESB
This beer tastes like an English pub; if you sip it and close your eyes you can almost hear the darts hitting the dart board. It pours a perfect deep reddish copper color with a white head. The aroma is malty with notes of carmel and yeast and earthy hops. The initial flavor is sweet and malty as it coats your palate. As you swallow the hops start to brush away the malt coating on your tongue giving you a great finish.
This authentic English-style ale is brewed from the finest imported Marris Otter malt for arich, reddish-copper color and full, malty palate. the generous use of English hops balances the regal, sweet maltiness and imparts asoftly perfumed aroma. 5% abv.
Stoudt’s Fat Dog Stout
This is chocolate-coffee heaven. It pours a perfect opaque black body with a tan head. The aroma is of toasted grain and roasted coffee with chocolate notes. The mouthfeel is very full with a coffee chocolate taste and nice hop finish.
The darkest of the beers we make, this imperial-style stout has a full body, a rich hearty dark-chocolate taste and a coffee-like finish. It’s surprisingly smooth drinkability is enhanced by the careful blending of the finest English Kent Golding and Fuggle hops. Fat Dog Stoudt is named after the Stoudt late, great, family dog, Ferdinand. Ferdinand was a 150-pound Black Labrador Retriever who enjoyed spending nice, sunny days in the swimming pool. 6% abv.
My number one Stoudt’s pick is…
Stoudt’s Abbey Double
The Stoudt’s nailed this style – it makes me wonder if they have some monks hidden in the basement. This is one of the few American beers of this style that can stand up to its Belgium counterparts. The color of this beer is a murky dark brown with an off white head. The aroma is fruity with yeasty spicy tones and dark fruit. The mouth-feel is very full as the fruit and spices dance over your tongue. There are also some wonderful chocolate aromas. As you swallow the alcohol warms your mouth and throat and the essence of raisins and figs start to become very prevalent. The chocolate flavor intensifies making this beer even more complex. As this beer warms it gets better and as more aromas start to appear it smells like a fruit stand.
A moderately strong Belgian Abbey-style beer. The traditional yeast strain imparts a complex assortment of spicy phenolic and fruity flavors Hints of clove, plum and raisin permeate this rich, malty and full-bodied beer. And its lofty, tan head sits gracefully atop the seductive, deep mahogany nectar. 7% abv.