A few years ago a 1839 English style barn was being renovated outside of Bloomsburg Pa. when a freak windstorm blew down the construction and most of what was left of the barn. That turned out to be a windfall for the folks around this area in North Eastern Pa, because the restaurant next door bought it and rebuilt it to suit – to suit a brewery.
Donny Abraczinskas had his first real cask ale when he was at a wedding in England in 1988, and it changed his life. He wanted more of that beer experience – but realized when he got back to Pennsylvania he’d have to brew it himself. That began a 25 year expression of the passion of home brewing – and he got pretty good at it. One day they were serving his home brew at a party, and the owner of the Turkey Hill Inn restaurant “Fine Dining” tried it – and Donny was asked to be the brewmaster at the new brewery they were building The Turkey Hill Brewery.
Donny has a Christmas tree farm business as a day job, which he hasn’t abandoned yet, but as a brewer he is focused on creating high quality diverse beers. True to his home brewer roots he had 10 different drafts on at any given time – from a Vienna Bock (a slow mover he admits with chagrin) to expresso stout and a wheat beer using local cherries.
“I want to be sure my beer is still really drinkable, no matter what the style. I even brewed an ESB but people didn’t really get it. But they love the our Pale Ale, and I have watched their taste evolve, I love to educate people about beer, and I can see the changes”.
Very meticulous and clearly over burdened, Donny invited Jim Coulter to join him a couple of years ago, and trained him on how to maintain the brewery so he could cut down on his 90 hour work weeks at the brewery and tree farm. I asked Donny “When are you going to do this full time?”… he replied “that’s a very good question”. He told me he’d like to open a separate tasting room nearby.
The night I was at the brewery, I chose the downstairs pub room to sample some of Donny’s efforts including a killer “Winter Solstice Saison” featuring local orange blossom honey, dry hopping and a dry finish thanks to the Belgian Chimay yeast. Seeing no really hoppy beers on tap, I switched gears and enjoyed the “Donny’s Dubbel” with it’s sweet and spicy body and a respectable 7.5 ABV.
After spending his time home brewing, Donny apprenticed for a while at Iron Hill (where he became acquainted with Tired Hands own Jean Broillet IV) and then also with acclaimed and current Pizza Boy brewer Terry Hawbaker who was at the “Bullfrog” in Williamsport. “They told me, you don’t need to take any more classes, you need to brew”… and the results I sampled tell the tale. “I try to stay in between the extreme beers and the session beers – I want to be in the range that people will like but will also find interesting.”
Donny and Jim are adding more fermenting tanks soon, and that’s good for the area – more good beer for the quaffing. So BeerAppreciators – head to Bloomsburg, stay overnight at the Inn at Turkey Hill (next door – barely a stumble to bed), and enjoy as much of Donny’s great fresh beer as you can. It’s that easy!