Restauranting With an Iron Will

img_20190412_212929.jpgI’m proud to announce the beginning of a new quasi-regular series of Facebook posts.  Iron Hill Brewery is a chain of combination “scratch breweries and craft kitchens,” as distinguished from a scratch kitchen (which it is) and a craft brewery (which it is).  They don’t carry any beer that’s not made in-house, which puts the pricepoint in an interesting place.  A pint of craft beer for six bucks seems fair to me, and Iron Hill’s easy drinking lager is about that much for a 22 oz. pilsner glass.  Not only are the beers on tap well signed, there’s a chalkboard hanging in the bar area with upcoming offerings and how long they’ve been brewing.  That’s the info I’ll be making known regularly on Facebook, as well as my thoughts on the offerings that have just found their way into glasses recently.

Between the two of us, Morgan and I tried three beers on our visit: the Ore House IPA, the Vienna Red Lager, and the Witberry.  Morgan, Vermont native that she is, has a strong predisposition toward the flavor profile an IPA brings forth.  The Ore House IPA is a fine example of its variety, though my tongue has trouble sorting through this particular set of flavors.  It’s definitely boldly hoppy and full of flavors which compliment those hops.

The Witberry was far more my speed.  Wheat beers are my favorite variety—I find them to be a lovely compromise between flavor and body.  Taste is, of course, completely subjective, but I think we can all agree that small batch craft beers have more flavor than the big American macrobrews of our time.  Those lite beers are easy to put away, though, and that’s exactly my point.  Wheat beers, for me, are the perfect intersection of flavor and drinkability.  The Witberry is a slight exception to that, as I’m not very fond of the flavor of yeast in my beer, but the berry conditioning (as well as Iron Hill’s normal procedure) makes for a truly delicious beer.

img_20190412_222025.jpgBut beer is only about half (to a third) of the battle.  Iron Hill boasts about its “craft kitchen,” but what does that even mean?  That means they use house brewed beer in the cheese that comes in the pretzel appetizer, and the pretzels themselves are made in-house with malted barley everything spice (like a bagel).  I don’t think they ground the mustard themselves, but I know for a fact that what the trucks deliver are only ingredients.  The menu calls it “Ore House IPA Mustard,” and the beer comes through absolutely splendidly.

It was Vienna Red Lager in the cheese, but that’s not the only place I ordered it.  After the pretzels, I had Iron Hill’s “Grilled Brewben.”  It’s a well made Reuben sandwich; what’s exciting is the sauerkraut.  The menu describes it as “Vienna Red Lager Bacon Sauerkraut,” and (assuming you like sauerkraut) it’s amazing.  Beer and bacon being two of the substances in this world which make days a little brighter, I can’t recommend this sandwich enough; if you’ve never liked sauerkraut before, you really must try a bite of your neighbor’s Brewben.  It just might shock you.

When I discovered I could recognize the flavors of the Vienna Red in my sandwich after eating the pretzel appetizer, I couldn’t help but order a glass.  I needed to taste it on its own.  Folks, it did not disappoint.  Rich without overpowering, almost creamy in experience without being thick in your mouth, I was deeply disappointed to find I should have ordered this beer to begin with.  Thank God for the 10 oz. pours all their beers (except the Light Lager) can come in, because I couldn’t have justified another whole pint.  The Witberry was a delicious, interesting, well made beer.  The Vienna Red Lager is a brew I’m not sure I’d ever get tired of drinking.  If you take no other advice from this article, take this: TRY THIS BEER!

img_20190412_214421.jpgMorgan got a chickpea flatbread, always along to help me explore vegan options.  I knew from the ingredients that she’d like it, but she was surprised to find it absolutely, incredibly delicious.  “It’s like hummus pizza!” she told me.  “It’s just really good.”

Iron Hill is from Delaware, but no longer confined within its borders.  There are locations throughout southeastern Pennsylvania, a couple in southwestern New Jersey, and one in Greenville, South Carolina.  It warms my heart to see such an industrious and well executed restaurant get that kind of attention and reach; Heaven knows they’ve worked for it.  Don’t take my word there, either: go see for yourself.

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