Fred Maier is a happy man. You can see it on his face and hear it in his voice when he talks about his new brewery Susquehanna – started with his and father Fred and Mark Nobile in 2012.
And it’s a happiness rooted in seeing a vision of a new big time production brewery come to life – fulfilling the dreams of a real old time beer family. Ed Maier is the the great-great-grandson of Charles Stegmaier – who brewed a lot of beer in Wilkes-Barre from 1857 till the 1950’s. Ed and Mark worked together starting in 2004 forming a large regional beer distribution company – “United Beverage” which delivered Miller Beer in the region until SAB Miller decided to change things.
The brewery is located in the old United Beverage warehouse on the outskirts of Piston (just south of Scranton)- “The building was empty real estate, it wasn’t an asset” explains Fred “and the location is great for distribution all over Eastern PA. Plus, we couldn’t believe how soft and good the local water was – we just filter it right from the tap”.
And what a fabulous state-of-the-art brewery it is – impressive and fitted out well – some news articles suggest a $10 million investment in resources. It felt and looked like it was ready to compete with not just Yards and Flying Fish, but Sierra Nevada.
Fred is like a kid in his own candy store — as he showed me around the place – pointing out his special grist mill that removes the husk from the barley before mashing, and the state of the art thermal tunnel pasteurizer – he was grinning ear to ear.
From the start the SBC team decided that they needed a top flight brewer/engineer to put together the new brewery so they brought in masterbrewer Jaime Jurado to design the place and develop their initial brews. Jaime left in July on to new challenges, and handed over the reigns to Guy Hanger who has a long successful history in the business, and was more than ready to take over. “I tell everyone, this is the greatest brewery I’ve ever been lucky enough to be in – much less run” beams Guy.
So, Susquehanna brews lower alcohol, milder ales and lagers – but with an unusually high quality and refined flavor profile. Not a real “beer appreciation” location? I think not. I tried the Stock Ale, and found it flavorful and refreshing. The Oktoberfest beer was malty but not overly sweet. Their flagship Helles “Gold” lager was soft and smooth – but real and tasty.
Ed says they are working on 22oz Double Bock in bottles for the bottle shops – but is also happy with just where they are. “We are contracting out our excess capacity to South Hampton – we make the Double White – all their great beers. It keeps our employees busy full time, which is important. We are good with our growth, happy with what we’ve done so far. We understand the business, having been distributors, we know how or make it easy to work with us — so that’s part of what makes us successful”.
It’s hard not to notice a fine brewery in our area like Susquehanna – I’d suggest you seek out their beers and enjoy the results of good beer people making good beer.