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Beer buds to open Chambersburg brewery

April 26, 2008|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. -- Move over, Michelob. Make room, Miller.

There's a new beer in town. A couple of them actually, and the time to roll out the barrel is approaching.

In a matter of weeks, suds connoisseurs will be able to ask their favorite barkeep to pull the handle on a pair of new brews - Lovitz Watermelon Lager and White Horse Hefeweizen - produced by the Roy-Pitz Brewing Co.

"We actually condition it with fresh, locally grown watermelon," Jesse Rotz said of the Lovitz Watermelon Lager. The hefeweizen is accented with lemon, grapefruit and orange zest for citrusy summer sipping.

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"They've got a lot of German roots, but we also mix in some American-style brewing," said Rotz, who along with Ryan Richards are the budding brewmeisters behind Roy-Pitz.

"Our story is we met in second grade at Corpus Christi (Catholic School) and were friends through high school," Rotz said. Sometime during that long friendship, they realized they also had a mutual love of beer. Not just the drinking of it, which is as far as most people get, but the science and the art of turning malted barley, hops and other ingredients into something unique.

"We wondered what made other beers so different and flavorful," Rotz said.

They started with home brewing, cooking up 5-gallon batches, tweaking formulas, recruiting friends as willing guinea pigs for taste tests, and compiling the results.

"We have records since we've been in college" at West Chester (Pa.) University, Rotz said. "We have about 25 of what we feel are successful formulas and about four that are real crowd-pleasers."

The other two - Ludwig's Revenge Rauchbier and Daddy Fat Sacks IPA - will be the fall and winter offerings from Roy-Pitz, Rotz said. Those will be heavier, hoppier, smoky concoctions well suited to a cold night's quaffing.

In going from home brewers to craft brewers, Richards and Rotz took jobs at breweries near West Chester University and attended the Seibel Institute of Brewing Technology in Chicago. Richards went a continent further, attending the Doemen's Academy near one of the Valhallas of beerology - Munich, Germany.

"It's a pretty serious brewing school," Richards said. Language proved no barrier as "all our classes were lectured in English."

There was plenty of hands-on experience in brewing, and the two-month course also allowed him to network with suppliers, Richards said.

As a hedge against hops inflation - a bad season in Europe resulted in a 400 percent rise in the price of them - Richards and Rotz have planted 250 hop vines at the farm of Richards' parents. Three varieties have shown promise to grow well in Keystone State soil, but the vines will take three years to mature.

Richards and Rotz are past the kitchen stove stage. In the basement of a century-old warehouse are three 620-gallon fermenting tanks bought secondhand from a brewery in North Carolina and a mash tun and brewing kettle hauled in from Anchorage, Alaska.

They figure on producing 120 kegs of beer a month, but most of the infrastructure is in place to double that figure if the demand is there.

"Find something you love to do and you'll never work a day in your life," goes one old adage. These guys probably weren't thinking that as they spent months clearing out junk, stripping paint and installing equipment, but the place has the look and feel of a brewery.

Richards said taverns in Chambersburg, Shippensburg and Gettysburg, as well as Philadelphia and West Chester, have agreed to serve up their suds. A deal with a craft beer distributor is pending, Rotz said.

The big boys in the business want a piece of the craft beer market, rolling out small runs targeting those looking for something different from the usual lagers and pilsners "because the little guys are starting to gain some market share that is noticeable," Rotz said.

The grand opening of Roy-Pitz Brewing Co. at 140 N. Third St., is scheduled for Saturday, June 7. For those who wish to sample the company's wares before then, Richards said they are having a promotional event May 3 from 1 to 7 p.m. at the Black Horse Restaurant in Shippensburg, Pa.

More information about the Roy-Pitz Brewing Co. can be found at www.roypitz.com.

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