Another Saturday, Another Brewery

Brewery #9: The Gamble Mill, Bellefonte, PA – Feb. 22

I don’t really sit still well. I’ve been a very social person for most of my life, and staying in on the weekends is something that I rarely do, mostly by design. So late Saturday afternoon, I got home from helping my sister judge a competition for most of the day. With no plans for the last part of the day, Ben and I quickly decided to mark another brewery off the list.

Photo credit - The Gamble Mill
Photo credit – The Gamble Mill

The Gamble Mill is a pretty cool brewpub we had been to a few times before, and it’s just about an hour away from us, near State College. The building was an old mill that was condemned and then restored, and is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Gamble Mill has two parts. There’s the Microbrewery, which is essentially just the brewpub, as the brewpub is on the second floor, and the brewery is on the first, and isn’t accessible to the public. The second part is what they call the Restaurant and Tavern. We’ve always sat in the Microbrewery section.

The decor is very rustic and warm, which makes for a great getaway on a winter evening in Pennsylvania. The bar utilizes a big chalkboard to call out their draft list and specials, which is something I always like in a brewpub, tasting room, or any bar for that matter. There’s also a stage area where they host live music on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Their beer selection hasn’t varied much in the few times I’ve been there, but they list a good many beers on their website that probably rotate occasionally. I chose the Woolly Bugger Belgian IPA and was impressed! There was a great blend of German, Czech and American hops, and the fruit notes really came out in the aftertaste. Well done! I really love that they list the key ingredients used in each beer on their website, too! (As I work on honing in my tasting skills, it’s always great to get validation!)

Ben and I always want good beer. But the real determining factor in our trip that evening was the great food. There are tons of farms and local food sources in Pennsylvania, and I wish more restaurants and brewpubs utilized local, fresh food sources like Gamble Mill does.

I had the Amish burger, which comes with sharp cheddar cheese, bacon, lettuce and tomato. And I got some BBQ sauce for it, too. I paired this with the Duncan’s Oatmeal Stout, which complemented the cheddar really well. I love a good, medium-done burger, and I rarely get just that! It’s almost stressful ordering a burger, because I know it won’t come out the way I want it most of the time. But Gamble Mill got it right on, and it was cooked to perfection. I’m pretty sure I inhaled it! The next time I go, I want to try their veggie burger made with spent grains!

It wouldn’t have been very “Ben and Janée” of us to just be done and return home immediately, so we left Gamble Mill for nearby State College.

Photo credit - The Deli & Z Bar
Photo credit – The Deli & Z Bar

The Deli & Z Bar is an awesome stop for great beer and great food, and we went there next. The restaurant seating at the smaller tables is the best there is, with super-comfortable, oversized, plush, almost living room furniture-like chairs. Their draft selection is ever-changing, and they occasionally get in some limited production release beers that are difficult to find.

People sometimes ask me what my “favorite beer” is or what the best beer I’ve ever had is. That’s not an easy question to answer! But one of what I consider to be in my top 5 was on draft at The Deli & Z Bar – it was a barrel room collection release from Voodoo Brewery. The Gran Met aged in Laird’s Apple Brandy Barrels. I loved it so much that I asked Ben to age his Old Ale in apple brandy soaked oak chips. (It’s currently aging, and I can’t wait to try it!)

I can always trust that The Deli & Z Bar will have some great choices for me! Last night, I had a Lagunitas Brown Shugga’. I hadn’t tried it before, and it was deceitfully flavored to mask the 9.9% ABV. There were about 5 other beers I had wanted to try, but my liver can only take so much!

The Deli & Z Bar host a “Meet the Brewery” series on Wednesdays in February, March and April. I’ve never made it to one, but I’m hoping to check out one of the nights soon.

After our pit stop at The Deli & Z Bar, we went to another favorite, Zeno’s Pub. Zeno’s boasts a “world-class” score of 98 on Beer Advocate. It’s kind of a hole in the wall basement, almost dungeon-like setting, but one look at the beer selection tells you they mean business. They have over 30 beers on tap and an astonishing bottle list, often boasting some more hard to come by bottles for the area, like Lost Abbey, The Bruery, and Port Brewing.

I had a terrific Redneck Riviera Red on Cask by Voodoo. The bartender (who may have been a manager or the owner), noticed that the cask beer was actually a little too warm. I told him it was still great, and without hesitation, he asked me if I liked English Bitter Ales, to which I said, “Definitely!” And he poured me another beer he told me he thought I’d like – Shepherd Neame’s Spitfire Premium Kentish Ale, which was another great choice.

We ended the night with a quick trip to The Hopshop, which is right next door to The Deli & Z Bar. The Hopshop is a good local bottle shop. These are few and far between in Pennsylvania, as our beer laws are among the most archaic of all 50 states. (More on that in another blog posting, I’m sure!) We grabbed a few bottles we had never tried before, and threw in a few tried and true winners.

It was a good night for beer!

Beer consumed while writing this post: The Bruery 6 Geese-A-Laying, a Belgian Dark Strong Ale. It’s part of the 12 Beers of Christmas series they produce. They brew a new one from the series every year. The 12th and final beer will be released for Christmas 2019. I only discovered The Bruery in their 5th year of existence, just in time to get some bottles of 5 Golden Rings. Every beer in this series is age-able through 2019 so that every beer can be sampled together on the last year. Very fortunately, we’ve been able to come across at least one bottle from each year. It took a lot of work (and yes, a lot of cash) to find the Partridge in a Pear Tree! I look forward to that day in 2019!

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