Join Winding Path's journey to craft
Saturday 02 July 2022
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Of all the places I visit during my travels around Pennsylvania, Wyndridge Farm, home to Winding Path Brewing Co, is by far the most spectacular. Dallastown is a wonderful locality, home to clean, smooth roads and well kept lawns; but Wyndridge pushes charming into the realms of idyllic, with it’s brewery, cidery, restaurant, guesthouse and wedding venue sitting atop a gentle hill that overlooks fields of corn, wheat, soybeans, and luscious trees. The only thing more spectacular than the scenery and facilities here, are the people.
After a tour, several beers, hours of conversation and photographing, I sit down to dinner, made after hours by the very gracious and talented kitchen team, and chat beer, history and politics into the night with Jason Reese and Shannon Smallwood, Wyndridge’s Chief Executive Officer and Contracts and Logistics Manager. The hospitality here is unlike any I’ve ever experienced, and is delivered with an honest authenticity that strikes me as characteristic of everything that happens on Wyndridge Farm.
The Wyndridge story begins with Dr Steve Groff, an orthopaedic surgeon, who, in 2012, was tragically involved in a road accident that prevented him from continuing medical practice. Faced with the necessity of changing careers, Steve and his wife, Julie, looked to the land their home sat on, as a resource and starting point that they could use to build their new life. Steve was a big fan of craft alcohol, craft beer and cider in particular, and with Pennsylvania being a massive producer of high quality juice apples for cider making, Steve and Julie first took the leap into the craft cider world in 2014, and hired Wyndridge Cider Co’s first employee, traditional cider maker, Scott Topel.
Scott remains Wyndridge’s Head Cider Maker today, and has driven production from their first cidery, located in the quaint old carriage house pictured, to their main brewing facility which was constructed over two years, and completed in 2015. The apples used in production are sourced from six partner farms located around York and neighbouring Adam County, making Wyndridge a PA Preferred Designation for the cider business, an allocation made by the PA Department of Agriculture and which requires 96% of ingredients used in the making of the product, to come from Pennsylvania. The apples are, of course, pressed on site for maximum freshness and flavour.
The success of the cider business allowed Wyndridge to expand its reach into the world of craft beer, but what really drove the quality and popularity of the beer produced there, was the arrival of Brewmaster, Irena Wise, in 2019. Irena had previously worked at Victory Brewing, and initially joined Wyndridge as a brewing assistant, but quickly displayed such astounding talent and intuition, that the reins of the brewery were handed over to her. Irena trained in Berlin, and with the site’s brew kit being best suited to producing pilsners, kolsch, German and Czech style beers, this match-made-in-heaven quickly began producing beers that demanded a brand of its own.
So instead of tagging on an additional, and very high quality product to a market that had been specifically cultivated for cider drinkers, Wyndridge decided to establish a separate brand for the beer being produced - Winding Path Brewing Company. Though beer and cider are now separate entities, Irena and Scott are interested in each other’s skill sets and always sharing knowledge, a collaboration that has been needed the last few months given Irena has been on maternity leave. “So I actually brewed the Beer52 order, but the recipe was designed by our Head Brewer Irena”, says Scott. “It was pretty nuts, we were doing triple brews, starting at 5am and finishing at midnight, and going on like that for a couple of months”.
Jason tells us that if Winding Path were to exclusively brew the styles of beer it wanted to “it would probably be the items that we did for the Beer52 box. We do double IPAs because it's fun, and because it's interesting, and it's a little bit different. And the marketplace demands it to some extent. But there was a lot that we got to do with this box, it was a lot of fun. We're super excited about the kolsch that we just did, because it's a little bit different from any of the previous that we've done. For the pilsner as well.”
To support the further separation of Winding Path from Wyndridge Cider, Scott says ideas are being tossed around right now regarding the establishment of a Brewpub in a neighbouring town- a plan that, though faint on the horizon, would give Winding Path a home base that I wouldn’t hesitate to organise my next trip to Pennsylvania around. If the restaurant, guesthouse, and refurbished barn turned wedding venue is anything to go by, further expansion of Winding Path Beer Co will be nothing short of spectacular.
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