Review: TimberCreek Tap & Table
11191 Highline Drive, Meadville, PA 16335
(This is Route 19, and right off Route 322. Route 322 is also route 6 at this point in PA)
Written by Ken Carman
I was headed north for yet another tour and Millie, my wife, decided to tag along. The ball and chain was so hard to drag all the way… hey, I’m talking about the truck we were towing behind us. That “ball and chain!” Not my loving wife, Millie. (Whew, that was a good save.)
No, goofing around aside, she want to check out a competition I judged at last year: AWOG, or “Amber Waves of Grain,” in Niagara Falls, NY. And she had some time she needed to take off from work, or lose it.
Anywhosie, I checked out breweries and brewpubs we’d be close to before we went, other than The Church or Sprague in Pennsylvania: both of which we’ve tried and enjoyed. Mr. Google did a beer burp and came up with Voodoo Brewing. I even know the brewer: Matt Allyn, from a previous brew job in Titusville, PA at Four Sons. (Now called “Blue Canoe.”) I did a column on him and Four Sons a few years ago. But the hours didn’t work out for Millie to go there too. Besides, there was a second Google beer burp and…”Look, Millie! There’s this new brewpub and the pictures of the inside even look a little like the old Buckhead brewpub that was in Tallahassee!”
Buckhead was huge: tall ceilings with antler chandeliers.
Though the interior is beautiful, TimberCreek is not as fancy, probably for the best because over investment may be part of what killed Buckhead. But a lot of “timber(s)” were probably heard as the logs to make the inside of TimberCreek fell. Yes, the outside is more wood plank-ish and stone, but the interior is log cabin-like. The building seems as functional as it is beautiful.
Millie and I stopped by while she was in town. We met the brewer at the dumpster. After helped him get rid of the body of Vinnie DaBadbrewer we…. nah, I’m kidding. After Timbercreek’s brewer tossed out some old cardboard he brought us down to the brewery, in the cellar essentially, and we talked for a while. But, to be honest, we had elsewhere to go after eating our lunch of Lobster Nachos. So I promised to stop by in a couple of days.
Meet Jake Vorisek. Jake started homebrewing 7 years ago when he was 22. He’s 29 now. He got this “gig” due to friends in the local homebrew club he was a member of. He was having so much fun homebrewing he felt that brewing professionally would be the kind of job where “every day would be a good day.” He also felt it would be a good fit because, “I’m a do it yourself find of guy.”
“This is my first professional gig. They opened May 23rd, 2012. (But Jake started brewing there March 2012.) Friends I knew had hooked up with the owner, giving advice: consulting, and they knew I was unhappy where I was. I was an auto mechanic …what I had been doing since I graduated from high school.”
His fortunes changed after he brought some of his homebrews for the owner to try when he was interviewed for the job.
Those “friends,” by the way, were part of the local homebrew club: Meadville Brewing Society. They had a meeting, upstairs, at Voodoo that week, that I almost went to, but had some issues with my truck. Maybe next year?
Nice brewery: the equipment all new and shiny: DME. House yeasts: Safale US-05 and for lager… W-34/70.
What’s fascinating, and I’ve only seen it at one other brewpub: Flying Goose in New London, New Hampshire, is the glass built into the floor so patrons can look down upon the brewery, and the brewer as he works.
I asked, “Can you walk on that?”
”Oh, yes. It gets dirty a lot and has to be cleaned.”
Jake said the brewhouse is 10 barrel with 4 fermenters, and that it would probably max out at 1,000 barrels a year. This year, their first year, he predicted 400 barrels,
“Which is not bad for the first full year we’re open.”
They do have plans to get TimberCreek beer into local pubs… and maybe even bottles, eventually.
As I walked in for the interview I noticed an oak keg. Jake told me that it used to have white port wine in it and next stop: a temporary home for their Biere De Garde.
Jake said he stops by breweries and brewpubs whenever he travels to check out their business, and of course to savor a pint or two of great craft beer. That’s how we started talking about Community Beer Works in Buffalo; a new, and incredibly small operation: about one barrel. Millie was wearing their shirt: we had stopped by when we judged beer in Niagara Falls the previous weekend. Jake mentioned stopping by places like Community also helps him keep tabs on what’s happening in the brew scene.
Jake’s brew philosophy: “Always improve.” As for recommendations for homebrewers, other than that, he said focusing more on fermentation was important: not just temps, but appropriate yeast, yeast selection and getting the pitching rate just right. He also thought focusing on on water chemistry is very important.
“If you don’t treat it you can tell.”
He said he believes he lucked out finding this job, and felt those who wish to become pro-brewers should definitely go the education route, like Siebel.
“You need to make sure they know when you go for an interview that you’re not just another homebrewer hoping to go pro.”
And he thought they need to realize that pro-brewing is “20% brewing” and a lot of the rest… cleaning.
Plans for the future are to bring back brews that did real well, like the Vienna Lager, or their Wit.
I asked about Sours…
“Sours would be nice, but for now we have to focus on what we know sells.”
That’s probably wise, for now.
Their full time brews: Timber Lager, Liberty Blond, Werkzug Stadt Dortmunder, Fresh Squeezed IPA (7 varieties of hops) and Black Bear Porter. Oh, I forgot to mention, and they have a rotating Belgian tap. Depends upon what Belgian style Jake just brewed.
When we sampled their beer I found nothing amiss: their IPA was great, the Porter I am coming back for so I can offer some to my fellow beer lovers at my summer tastings in the Adirondacks. I’m going to stop here, for now, but I usually avoid judging beer for the first year a brewery is open, but I don’t think you’ll be disappointed: very clean profiles. There wasn’t one quaff we were disappointed with
The restaurant… what we had, food-wise, was excellent. And the philosophy seems on the mark there too: Jake told me the owner takes spent grain from the brewery home and feeds it to his cows, and then the cows wind up on the Timbercreek menu.
Other interesting menu options we considered ordering next time: Wild Alaskan Salmon, BBQ Baby Back Ribs and House Prime Sirloin. For appetizers: Cajun Filet Tips, or maybe just TimberCreek’s sample platter with 7 appetizers on it. A salad person? How about Candied Pecan & Apple with Romaine and feta cheese for a base?
TimberCreek sits on the western side of Meadville, heading towards Ohio. It’s like Mrs. God took a huge pizza shell and decided to roll out huge, tall, multiple crusts as you drive up one hill, down another. This is what this part of Pennsylvania is like… until it flattens out a few miles from Ohio. Local kids must have a hell of a good time with sleds in the winter.
I have been passing through this part of Pennsylvania for many years, and TimberCreek looks like it’s been here since day one. It fits right in.
And here’s a toast to the dream that TimberCreek may continue to serve plenty of good beer, like Jake brews, and great food, for a long, long time.
Brew Biz: Werts and All, is a column dedicated to reviewing, discussing and commenting on all things beer including, but not limited to: marketing, homebrewing and homebrew/beer related events, how society perceives all things beer. Also: reviews of beer related businesses, opinions about trends in the beer business, and all the various homebrew, judging and organizations related to beer. Essentially, all things “beer.”
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