Lavery Brewing Company By: Rick Perrotta
In 2009 Jason and Nicole Lavery, founders of Lavery Brewing Company in Erie, Pennsylvania, were about to move to Ireland. Mrs. Lavery had applied for a job as an occupational therapist there and the couple, along with their three children, being of the adventurous sort, were ready to pack up move across the Atlantic. However, the process was taking longer than expected and finally Mrs. Lavery was told she would not be offered the position.
It turned out to be a serendipitous turn of events. “The same day she didn’t get the job was the day I won an award for my smoked porter,” recalls Mr. Lavery. “We figured if we could move our whole family to Ireland, we could start our own brewery.” Thus, Lavery Brewing Company was formed. In 2010, the Laverys received their brewing license and began brewing “innovative beer in small batches.”
It seems the family made the right choice. Lavery Brewing Company’s business has doubled, or come close, every year since its inauguration and they enjoy a reputation for creativity and attention to detail uncommon for a brewery so relatively young. Says Mr. Lavery, “I didn’t want to be the kind of brewery that made only brown and pale ales..” We make those too, but they’re not our focus.” Looking at their current roster of beers, it is easy to see what he means. Their Belfast Black Ale is the aforementioned smoked porter that got them started, and it is made from four kinds of malts and their own version of a “noble” hop, Northern Brewer. In the summer they make an Imperial French Ale dedicated to Napolean, made from “wheat, rye, pale, and specialty malts,” which is “hopped and dry hopped to double IPA levels.” Their flagship beer is the Imperial Red Ale, a red, hoppy masterpiece with a robust ABV of 8.2%. And earlier in 2013, their Liopard Oir farmhouse ale, described on their website as a beer “for the ladies, the crazies and the connoisseurs,” received in a huge compliment in the form of a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival in Colorado.
“We felt like we had arrived,” Mr. Lavery says of the gold medal. “It’s pretty cool being told you have the best saison in the country, and there were only three gold medals won by all of Pennsylvania.”
Success has not gone to the Laverys’ heads. Mr. Lavery has a personable, friendly way of speaking, laughs in starts during our conversation, and is as happy to discuss putting his children to bed as he is the brewing process. His affinity for brewing and his excitement concerning the creative aspect of his endeavors comes through in his enthusiastic tone. He also likes to interact with his customers, and tells me about a contest Lavery Brewing is holding, which they have dubbed the Wort Transformation Challenge. People who wanted to participate were able to purchase a five gallon wort, which is the liquid extracted from the mashing process that also contains the sugar to be fermented into alcohol, and will transform it into their own home brew. Awards will be given in February for the categories of Continental, Belgian, American, and Experimental. Then they’re going to start all over again with another contest! The Wort Transformation Challenge is just one example of the great things going on in the world of American craft brewing right now as home brewers, young and old alike, have found an audience for their fresh ideas and intrepid spirit. We are all reaping the rewards.
The Laverys also opened their own pub in September of 2013, so if you’re in the Erie area make sure to stop by and see what all the excitement is about.
THE DEVIL BIRD
“Leave it to us to name a Christmas beer after the Devil,” says Mr. Lavery with a laugh.
The Devil Bird Holiday Ale is Lavery Brewing Company’s Seasonal winter beer. It is a handcrafted Imperial Porter, weighing in at a hefty 8.5% ABV, it is aged in Makers Mark barrels. Hopped with northern brewer hops and fermented with their house ale yeast. It’s thick, boozy, pitch-black testament to oak aging. The wood compliments the beer and the bourbon adds extra layers of complexity. It is made from five kinds of malts and Columbus and Northern Brewer hops. This ale pours deep brown, almost black, with hints of red. The body is creamy and smooth and the subtle flavors compliment one another superbly. Expect plenty of dark fruit, coffee, bitter chocolate, vanilla and bourbon flavors with the aroma of chocolate and spices, almost reminiscent of eggnog and the taste is just as delicious!
The Devil Bird is named after the Irish tradition of carrying a dead wren through the streets on the day after Christmas (they celebrate a bit differently on that side of the pond) and comes with a great story. During Viking raids on Ireland in the 700s, Irish soldiers attempted to sneak up on their enemies early one wintery morning. Unfortunately, the soldiers were betrayed a wren who, munching on breadcrumbs while perched atop the head of a drum, woke the Vikings before the attack could take place. The Irish were slaughtered. The carrying of the dead wren through the streets is Ireland’s bitter form of retribution.
Mr. Lavery says the Devil Bird can be found at the Carson Street Deli and Giant Eagle six pack shops amongst other places, but Lavery Brewing makes a very limited production just one 310 gallon batch a year, bottled in 750ml bottles with a wax top. Their wax tops change with vintage their 2013 wax seal is red, so if you see this ale make sure to buy it up. It may be your only chance to bring the Devil home for Christmas.
Proudly distributed locally by Wilson McGinley Distributing.