Beau Baden, a Scranton native, always knew that he wanted to brew beer as a profession. Although he had aspired to become a professional tennis player and went to college to study accounting, he knew that his true destiny was with the craft brew movement. In the 1990s, he had been disappointed that many California brews he bought on the East Coast were “kind of stale,” so he collected and read brewing books so that he could make his own fresh beer.
Although initially daunted by the technical aspects of the books, his desire for fresh beer drove him to jump headfirst into homebrewing. Beau describes it as taking “the extreme route”—he bought all the best brewing equipment from the start and began brewing five gallon batches of beer about three times a week. He eventually upgraded to a two barrel brewhouse, installed a bar with a hand pump for cask conditioned ales, and had a walk-in cooler. As Beau explained, “I was basically a nanobrewery back in the 1990s–but I didn’t charge anyone anything.”
In 1997, Beau decided to turn homebrewing into a career by studying with the American Brewers Guild. He put his brewing equipment in storage, said goodbye to the East Coast, and headed west—“never to return.” He apprenticed at Gordon Biersch in San Jose, California and then worked for Pyramid, which was focused mainly on production brewing. While visiting a friend and trying some of the traditional lagers at Ellicott Mills Brewing in Ellicott City, Maryland, Beau’s friend dared him to apply for a job there. Fifteen minutes later, he had an offer and he accepted the position.
After working in the brewpub environment there, a friend at Pyramid asked him to come back to help them develop a national brewpub business. Beau went back to California and built several Pyramid brewpubs, but Pyramid ultimately decided to focus on production, and in 2005, Beau came back to Scranton.
After a few months, he received a call from the Brew Works, which still only had its original location in Bethlehem. But the plan was already in motion to build the Allentown Brew Works and because of his brewpub experience with Pyramid, he was ready for the challenge. The most difficult part of that process was that it was “more hands-on” than his previous experience–he and owner, Jeff Fegley, personally installed the tanks and hooked them up. It was also stressful not knowing when they would open, and to get everything installed in a hurry. The most rewarding part? “When all the tanks were in place and we started making beer…just to mash grain in and brew beer.”
Because Beau’s impressive resume of brewing awards can be found on the Fegley’s Brew Works website, I asked Beau a few personal questions whose answers can’t be found on the internet. If he could sit back, relax and just enjoy a beer, where would he do it? If he was in California, you would find him in San Francisco, in the Haight at the Toronado, drinking an Aventinus Weizen-Eisbock from G. Schneider. In Pennsylvania, his preferred getaway would be in East Scranton, on the hill looking at the mountain in autumn; grilling a steak and drinking a smoked bock beer.
The Brew Works offers, and Beau brews, a variety of beer styles. But Beau’s personal favorite style, hands down, is pilsner. He explained, “When you get into brewing you go totally away from all these beers that have delicate flavors…It takes a lot of finesse to make pilsners and it takes one little mistake to not make it right. Every flaw shows–if you can do a pilsner well, you should be able to do anything else.” Some of Beau’s favorite pilsners are from Trumer, Stoudt’s, Victory and Tröegs. And of course, his favorite style of beer glass is a pilsner glass, because “if you’re going to drink a pilsner, you’ll need a pilsner glass.”
Of all the events the Brew Works holds each year, Beau recommends the not to be missed Brew Works Annual Cask Event. “What’s great about it is we get a cask in from Stone, some neat stuff from Oskar Blues, and as many different things from local guys as possible.” They usually have around fourteen casks total, as well as all of the Brew Works beers on draft. In addition, the ticket price, which includes plenty of food, has typically been less than $50.00.
In celebration of the Brew Works anniversary, a 15th Anniversary Ale was created. The concept behind the Anniversary Ale was a combination of brews from both locations–the Golden Ale and the Wit from the Bethlehem Brew Works, and a collaborative Double Wit the Allentown Brew Works made with Shangy’s. The result was an 8.4% ABV Double Wit, with “a lot more oats and chamomile. It’s silky and smooth.” They did a limited run of 750 ml bottles, of which half sold within the first week.
Beau told me that there are no limits to what the Brew Works may do. “We’ve reinvented ourselves a lot over the years. We started out as a brewpub, then we built [the Allentown] location, with a brewpub here. Then we had some room to grow and at some point decided we were going to bottle some beer–but not a lot. We bottled Hop’solutely in 750s and then things changed a ton–we opened the production brewery. We’ve been in a state of growth for a while–it’s evolving and it’s been a great experience.” So what does the future hold for Beau and the Brew Works? “You never know. We’ve always got something on the horizon.”