When you think about Central Pennsylvania a couple of things might come to mind. Most likely would be the Amish, as Lancaster County has one of the largest communities of the plain folk, not to mention being the conceptual location of such movies as Witness (Harrison Ford) and For Richer Or Poorer (Tim Allen). Another thought that might arise would be the tragic Amish school shooting that made headlines around the globe.
What doesn't come to mind is beer. Not only is the area rather conservative, but the Pennsylvania liquor laws are ridiculously archaic. Take, for example, the case law. You have to buy beer in cases. The state beer distributors can't sell six-packs. No one quite knows why this is, but somehow it twists around to the thought that perhaps six-packs lead to drunken driving and underage drinking. The logic is silly and forces honest but poor citizens like myself to shell out big bucks for a case. Thankfully there is a loophole in the case law that allows restaurants to sell six-packs, although it tends to be a limited selection. Yet it is in this atmosphere that brewpubs are thriving. Brewpubs are microbreweries that distribute their beer in their own pub. Some of the breweries also bottle, but it isn't uncommon for the beers to be only available in the pub. In either case, the result is a beer that feels crafted and not mass produced like the major beers.
Union Barrel Works, which is headed by former Stoudt's brewer Tom Rupp, just opened several months ago in Reamstown. I had been keeping tabs on the place, always curious about a new brewpub. I was disappointed, however, to find out that Rupp doesn't like hops and has a fondness for lagers. My favorite style of beer tends to be the IPA, a style known for lots of hops. I also try to avoid lagers, perhaps thanks to the local worship of Yuengling's mediocre lager (there is no other beer that you will find on tap at every regular bar in central/eastern Pennsylvania).
Last night I made the trip to Union Barrel Works with several hopes. I wanted to see if a brewer with a passion for lagers could make a lager interesting. I also wanted to see if there was going to be anything hoppy to make me happy. It was also going to be my first trip to a brewpub that was so new. Union Barrel Works has seven beers, all on tap. There is the Pale Ale, Kolsch, Wobbly Bob Dopplebock, Hefeweizen, Lager, Mai-Bock, and Round Boy Stout. The menu has standard bar food, like burgers and fries, as well as more expensive offerings. They also have Pennsylvania wines available.