Should you find yourself passing through the southern edge of Easton, PA, about a mile from the Delaware river and New Jersey state line, you may pass a drab single-story commercial building. You would be wise to make a stop here. No, you’re not stopping to purchase industrial vacuum parts or rent a banquet facility; your true destination is the warehouse behind the street-side offices, home of Weyerbacher Brewing Company.
Among the plethora of craft breweries that I adore, Weyerbacher has a special place in my heart. It was at the on-premise brew-pub that I introduced my family, former Coors Light and Twisted Tea loyalists, to craft beer. With typically no fewer than 14 beers available, including two stouts, two IPA’s, Belgian styles and Barleywines, I would put money on just about anyone finding a beer to suit their tastes.
Offering an eclectic variety isn’t always easy, though, especially for brand marketing. The folks at Weyerbacher obviously realized that when they hired Brand Craft Beer, a subsidiary of marketing firm SSM Creative, for a two-year-long rebranding effort. The brewery and most of its product came out the other side with entirely new visual representations. (The Pour Curator has cataloged the artwork changes for anyone interested in seeing the before and after.)
If there is any sure way for a brewery to win me over, its by making good beer and appreciating a strong brand image. Weyerbacher is now highly recognizable by the use of its jester mascot. He is the focal point of the label for Blithering Idiot barleywine ale, and the bells of his hat are on the cap of every bottle that Weyerbacher fills.
The Forbidden Brews
The jester is a highly appropriate choice for the face of the company, fitting into a theme of irreverence and sacrilege. Several Weyerbacher beers carry names that convey a sinful sense of decadence.
This is perhaps a little on the nose with the Belgian-style pale ale, Verboten. As for the beer itself, Verboten is very enjoyable, but not an overpowering beverage that must be locked away from mere mortals.
Old Heathen, on the other hand, is perhaps one of the most aptly named beers in existence. A Russian Imperial Stout, it is dark and somewhat heavy as expected, and it has a great roasted flavor with a bit of coffee. If this beer told a story, it could certainly be of an aged, weathered apostate living in seclusion. Oh, and did I mention that it is simply a fantastic drink?
This motif of spurning dogmatic morality gets taken to another level with a trio of unique seasonal products, each the result of aging an already potent ale in bourbon barrels. On top of the usual change in flavor that a bit of aging brings, these beers have an extra whiskey accent that is almost inhaled, rather than tasted, when you take a sip.
First up is Insanity, the barrel-aged variant of Blithering Idiot. Because what an 11.1% ABV barleywine ale needs most is a little more kick, right? Obviously the title is earned. Insanity and Blithering Idiot’s claim to fame is the ability to be aged safely for up to five years or enjoyed immediately. Just this past weekend, I had the opportunity to try Insanity that had been aged for one year alongside a draft from the most recent batch. The change is astonishing, and this is coming from a guy who has never used the word ‘mouthfeel’ unironically. Insanity’s sharp bite becomes a mellowed, aromatic combination of alcohol and sweetness.
The previously discussed Old Heathen Imperial Stout is made into Heresy. This one doesn’t have the longevity of Insanity, but honestly, you won’t want to wait. Each year’s new batch is released starting in February, which is perfect timing. The whisky flavor from the aging added to the roasted awesome of Old Heathen makes Heresy a perfect beer for cold winter evenings.
Our third power-packed barrel-incubated beer is Blasphemy. (I believe the copyright mandates that you always pronounce the name with a comically dramatic grimace.) Blasphemy comes from Quad, which is simple in name but formidable in taste. Another heavy hitter, the 11.8% ABV in Quad quite clearly earns it the +1 over trippel. So naturally, the augmented Blasphemy can knock you back a step with the first sip. This is another product that Weyerbacher recommends cellaring for a while for a unique drinking experience. It may be a while before I can attest to the result, however. Even with its extra bite, this limited seasonal can be far too tempting to let sit for an extended length of time.
Drinking to Save the World
The brewers at Weyerbacher aren’t just a bunch of impious deviants. Turns out their also suckers for a good cause. So they found two ways to marry philanthropy and beer. Beer lovers get a win here too, having another reason to feel good about drinking craft beer.
Last Chance IPA is rather mild for its style. The upside is that it is incredibly drinkable, as opposed to most of the other brews we’ve looked at that are best for sipping. This could very well be a clever ploy by Weyerbacher to sell more Last Chance, since a portion of all sales go to animal rescue organizations. According to the Last Chance website, a total of over $75,000 has been donated to 26 organizations since 2012.
While Althea is a Belgian dubbel style ale, the use of plums gives it a highly unique flavor. The beer is an October seasonal, which is highly appropriate timing. The name is a probable derivation of the Greek word for ‘healing.’ $1 from every bottle of Althea goes to the Pink Ribbon Fund, helping women cover the various costs associated with breast cancer treatment. 2014’s sales resulted in a $16,851 donation. Overindulgence never looked so good.
The nine beers that I’ve mention are just a portion of what Weyerbacher Brewing Company makes. That’s really what sets them apart from many craft breweries; they’re never limted in style, and they enjoy pushing boundaries. It can take several visits over the course of a year to get a sense of what they have to offer. I’m fully willing to admit that I’m not crazy about every single one of their beers, but Weyerbacher offers a wide enough variety and a high enough quality to still be one of my absolute favorites. No questions about it, if you like beer, then Weyerbacher has something for you.