Sunday, September 16, 2007

Pink Boots at Stoudt's

"Dive into the sea of thought, and find there pearls beyond price." ~Moses Ibn Ezra

September 12-14: Basil T's Brewpub & Italian Grill had a very nice bathroom with a shower upstairs in their offices, so I was able to catch a shower there before I left.

My 12-Volt invterter had broken, so since my van and trailer were disconnected, I drove off in search of a new inverter. An inverter has a cigarrette-lighter plug that leads to a box, and on the box is a standard 3-prong household current outlet. I run DeLorme GPS Street Atlas on my laptop while I drive, and with a working inverter I can keep the computer battery charged. I found Automotive Electronics in Red Bank and bought a 400 Watt unit.

Rehooked my trailer to my Astro van and soon I was on the road to Pennsylvania. Thank you to Gretchen Schmidhausler for gifting me a Basil T's t-shirt.

Adamstown, Pennsylvania is in the middle of Pennsylvania Dutch territory. That means the folks there are mostly of German heritage. (Dutch is a misnomer for "Deutsch," which is German for "German.") Also there are lots of Amish folks of various sects in this area.

I arrived at Stoudt's midafternoon on a beautiful breezy and sunny day. Head Brewer John Matson got me hooked into electrical, and then Carol Stoudt arrived. Carol showed me around the expansive grounds.

Stoudt's quite a family enterprise. Carol and Ed started the brewery in 1987, and Carol was the boots-on Brewmaster for the first two years. Ed is an entrepreneur and has been Chef/Owner of Stoudt's restaurant since he was 22 years old. John Matson is their son-in-law, married to Carrie, Stoudt's Art Director. Son Eddie is Sales Manager and he's engaged to Jodi Andrews, a very experienced brewer who used to work at Boston Beer Works. Daughter Elizabeth is the Head Baker in the bread department, and she also administers the weekend Antique Shows. Even the grandkids get involved, helping where they can.

After the tour, Carol set me up with several beers to taste. Then we went up the street to "Stoudtville," where Eddie and Jodi live. Stoudtville is an actual town just up the street from Stoudt's large complex. It was Ed's vision to develop a European-styled village where the homeowners lived upstairs and had shops on the first floor. Ed's vision was a bit ahead of its time, and he needed cash for a brewery expansion, so now other developers are continuing the exapansion of Stoudtville. Most of the residents are second-career folks or semi-retired, and their shops may be open every day or just on weekends when most of the antique-hunters and tourists visit. There seems to be more antique shops per capita here than anywhere I've ever seen. Carol says its because the local folks are so thrifty they never throw anything away, and they fix the old stuff and keep it in good condition.

We visited Jodi at home, above her vintage clothing shop. Jodi (photo at left) began collecting gnomes when a friend of hers who owned a tavern in Boston gave her a LaChouf gnome. It's been gnomes ever since.

After tours of my trailer, we settled down with the whole family and a few grandkids outside on the new patio for dinner. Ed is famous for his steaks. He's so particular about his steaks, that he won't allow any one else to cut them. Carol laughs as she explains that they can only go away for ten days at a time, because Ed has to be back to cut the steaks.

The next morning I met up with Ed in the kitchen to watch him work his steak-cutting magic. Ed cuts the "chain" off the tenderloin, which many steak restaurants don't do. He also cuts the tendon sheath off the sirloins, so he's got the tenderest sirloins around. Photo at right is Ed cutting and weighing the steaks. When Ed and Carol do go away, like to the upcoming GABF in Denver, Ed vacu-packs the steaks and cryo-preserves them on ice in the cooler.

The first night I had the Filet Minon for dinner, and the second night I tried the Sirloin, and I have to agree: Ed knows his steaks. They were tender, juicy, and perfect at Medium-Rare.

After cutting steaks, Ed and I went to their house in downtown Adamstown where Carol whipped up a batch of her famous sourdough pancakes. Ed is a big believer in sourdough. He claims he lost 30 pounds on his beer and sourdough diet.

In the afternoon I hung out with the brewers. In the photo below, L to R, Top Row: Gary Gagliardi, Teri, John Matson and Matt Krasst. Bottom Row: Brett Kintzer and Joe McMonagle.
We tried plenty of beer my first night at Stoudt's. (I held off on starting "Happy Hour" too early on the second night.) In the photo at the top of this page, Ed is pouring their wood-aged Fat Dog. Their big bottles are rare and tasty treats. Photo at top of page, L to R: Ed, Jodi, Teri, Carol and Eddie.

On the second morning before my departure, I was able to spend some time in the bread bakery with Elizabeth. (Photo below.) Elizabeth is a self-trained bread baker, like myself. She has an instinct for it, and knows how much liquid to add be squeezing the flour and poking the dough. There is a very nifty bread mixmaster in the bakery. It's much slower than your standard huge Hobart restaurant kitchen mixmaster.

Elizabeth says she likes to start her day by mixing up some dough and she came in early that day and had some loaves proofing for when I worked with her. All of her breads use a sourdough culture that Ed procured from a restaurant friend in New York. I was told the culture is over 100 years old. It is the same sourdough culture that Carol used in her sourdough pancakes.

As soon as we got there, Elizabeth heated one of the three ovens to 450 degrees. She scored each loaf with distinctive cuts, and she put sunflour seeds on the Multigrain loaves and flour on her Rye loaves. The Beer Bread goes naked except for a wheat-patterned score cut into the top. With these distinctive cuts and toppings, the customers (and gift shop employees) can determine at a glance what type of loaf it is.

Elizabeth deftly popped each of the loaves into the oven and filled the oven right up. She shut the door, set the timer, and hit the steam button. Steam filled the hot oven and hissed out around the door's edges.

At this point the dough had been kneaded in the machine to the right texture. Elizabeth plopped a big wad in front of me on the wooden work table. It looked like about three gallons of dough! It was all Beer Bread dough, and she had put crushed Crystal malt and Scarlet Lady ESB beer into it. She handed me the table scraper and told me to cut off two pound hunks of dough. That's me in the photo below following directions. Elizabeth is in the background transferring finished loaves from the oven to the rack.
Elizabeth showed me how to roll the dough for the first rolling. It's all done by hand, and you roll the dough like you're rolling up a wet beach towel. She threw plastic over the loaves and we let them rest for 20 minutes, then we rerolled them longer and thinner. Elizabeth said I was a pretty decent roller. (My loaves were a bit too long at first, but we fixed them.) After the second rolling, we transferred the loaves to wooden boards covered with cornmeal, six to a board. Elizabeth put all the boards on a rack, and then they were rolled into a big proofing box to rise. Elizabeth favors a three-day proof at a cool temperature (36-38 degrees) so that the loaves can develop their sour flavor.

Believe it or not, we were so fast and Elizabeth is so organized, that I only spent just over an hour in the bakery!

After my bread baking experience, I rode with Carol back to their house for a shower and sourdough pancake and eggs breakfast with Ed. Whew! A full foodie experience at Stoudts' in Adamstown!

Then it was back to my trailer, pack up, and head back to New Jersey to visit relatives for the weekend. You probably already figured this out: I try to schedule breweries during the week when the brewers are working, and my relatives during the weekend when they are not working.

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