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Kutztown’s Own

Kutztown’s Own

He experienced his first Oktoberfest before he could legally drive in the United States. He drank in New Zealand, Austria, and Belgium before he was even old enough to vote in his home country. He conquered the world of action sports in both in-line skating and snowboarding, earned medals in multiple competitions, and made history as the first man to pull off a double backflip on the vert ramp; a feat that became known as the Double Lindy.

He is Kutztown native Matt Lindenmuth and his is the face behind one of the newest breweries making its mark on Pennsylvania’s ever-expanding beer scene—the Saucony Creek Brewing Company. Jumping into the action sports world at a very young age (“I went pro in ’94, left home, started traveling, and started discovering good beer in Europe, Switzerland, and Belgium.”), Matt credits his parents for “pushing him out the door” in a world before cell phones made instantaneous communication possible.

“I was traveling with guys much older than myself…I was always like the little kid following the older guys. No one thought twice about handing me a beer when I was 14 at my first Oktoberfest.” They are the type of experiences Matt says he will likely never get to have again and he says he owes a great deal to the action sports world for making those possible. Matt jokes that it’s such a blur, not just because of the beer, but also because the events would nest down in a city for three days, he would travel between the hotel and the event, and that would be it, “There was no sight-seeing…it was an interesting scramble most of the time.”

So when that leg of his life journey was over and Matt returned to Pennsylvania, it was time to decide how to begin the next phase of his life, “When all the athlete life was said and done for me due to injuries and whatever, it was time to make a decision about what to do next,” said Matt, “I was spoiled. I only ever knew that jobs were supposed to be as fun as a leisurely Saturday.”

It was a re-read of Dogfish Head Founder Sam Calagione’s Brewing Up A Business, along with a globetrotting love for quality beer and an familial interest in homebrewing that motivated Lindenmuth to dive headfirst into the world of commercial brewing, “The original plan when I said I was going to take homebrewing to the commercial level, my crazy plan was to take my equipment, put it into a commercial garage and make enough beer for the immediate area here. The goal was to make some beer to bring together the community…to have a nice beer as a social centerpiece for good old fashioned conversation.”

The idea of bringing together the community has been a through-line for Saucony since day one when Lindenmuth made the decision to set-up the brewery in his hometown, barely a mile from Kutztown University, inside an old car dealership.
Matt’s original location for the brewery, right in the heart of Kutztown, ran into zoning issues that led them into the current property, one that Matt said was “way too big for what I thought but I realized my half barrel homebrew system wasn’t going to be enough.” It was that realization, along with a recommendation from a friend that brought Lindenmuth to Kickstarter in hopes of raising money to buy one-barrel fermenters.

Starting with a $10,000 goal on March 20th of 2012, the project took less than one month to reach its goal and ultimately ended up exceeding it at just over $16,000. Looking back on the whole experience, the Saucony Creek founder said, “I was very blown away, very impressed with the support, not just locally, but people were donating from outside the country! They were passionate about the community funding scene, the craft beer scene…”

Lindenmuth also credits the Kickstarter endeavor with being a huge marketing catalyst for the brewery because it enabled people to follow the development of Saucony Creek, to feel like they were a part of the growth of the brewery, and it “created a cool little following, a community that was a total accident.”

It was an experience Matt says was very reminiscent of the environment he grew up in as part of the action sports world. He said the camaraderie and the passion people had was very similar to that of those in the craft beer world, that people are very supportive of one another and are rooting for one another to succeed because they are all in it together, “In the nine months I have experienced with Saucony being open, most are willing to lend their wisdom and help, even if it’s in a collaborative mentoring pep talk or support in setting up with a new vendor. The community is very strong.”

Now while Matt says Saucony has been open for just nine months, the reality is that it is a project he has been enveloped in at least since January of 2012 when he first began getting all of his equipment in order.

Fifteen months later, in March of 2013, when Saucony Creek’s licensing was finally approved, it officially began with several spot batches, including the Cucumber Kölsch (inspired by a trip to a sushi restaurant) and the Lord of Misrule Belgian Dark. The pressure was on though, as Philly Beer Week 2013 loomed and Lindenmuth, frequently solo brewing at this point , threw together what would turn out to be a memorable coming out party in the streets outside P.O.P.E. “We threw all that together in like 5 days! We weren’t even sure if we would have beer ready for it! There’s no doubt that between the support of Shangy’s and Beer Week, the coverage we got from the BMX show alone, it just blew me away. We couldn’t pay for that, not at that time anyway. It was pretty cool that it caught so many people’s attention. That week alone is probably THE reason we started to get enough beer out the door to stay alive.”

Things have yet to slow down for Saucony Creek since PBW ’13 though. Captain Pumpkin’s Maple Mistress was released in the fall and ended up being their very first bottled beer (“We were given an August 1st deadline to get a pumpkin beer together so it was scramble, scramble, scramble.”), their distribution extended into NJ, Maryland, DC, and Virginia, and the small staff of five is also preparing for the long-coming opening of an in-house brew pub hopefully in February of 2014.

“The brew pub is priority number one.” Lindenmuth offered, “We are way behind schedule on that one from playing catch-up in the back.” That brew pub will include four annuals, offer each of the seasonals starting with spring’s Hop Suplex Double IPA, plus use additional taps for the fun, experimental stuff that Lindenmuth hasn’t had the opportunity to do since Saucony took off, “I miss the ability to just mess around and have a little bit of an inspiration from a dinner or a dessert, then just run home, throw ingredients together, and just do it.”

That homebrew ideal, emphasis on HOME, is at the heart of everything Saucony Brewing has done. Its signature Stonefly IPA is based on one of Matt’s homebrew recipes and a portion of the proceeds go back into the community with the Schuylkill Action Network water conservancy and the Schuylkill River Restoration efforts.

A great deal of the ingredients are local, some from Matt’s own family farm, and that will actually enable Saucony to produce a 100% Pennsylvania beer in the fall of 2014. The coffee for the North Ramp Coffee Stout comes from Benchwarmers out of Reading while the man responsible for the label art is a Kutztown University graduate who works for Crayola in Easton. The brewery even hosts “Bikes & Beer” events multiple times a year (even in the winter) to support the popularity of cycling in the area and aims to have a cycling event kick-off the opening of the brew pub.

For Matt, that cycling marks another dip into the life with which he grew up; cycling with his parents (something he says he continues to do to this day with his father) and racing in the Lehigh Valley Velodrome as a kid, “I got into the whole skate and snowboard thing, even surfing in the early 90s… it came a little bit from my parents who were active and always outside doing stuff. They were always supportive of it…”

Continuing to keep it close to the family, Matt is also having a friend, a former BMX rider who now builds ramps, design the bar using recycled equipment, including modifying an old pro bike frame into a bar seat that will enable a customer to pedal a conveyer belt of beer!

For this man who experienced his first Oktoberfest at 14 years old and compared his action sports life to “a bit of a traveling circus,” it seems the show continues to roll on, just in a different form. He may have exchanged boards for barley and half-pipes for hops, but Matt Lindenmuth embraces it all with the same spirit that saw him make history with the Double Lindy.

And even though Lindenmuth says that he can sit back and smile once the brew pub is open, he also knows the pressure is on (in the best way) for Saucony Creek to top itself with Philly Beer Week 2014, “I’m always anxious to do so much more but I remind myself to be patient, it’s all going to come together.”

About Mat Falco

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