|HiJinx Brewing Company
905 Harrison St. Ste. 111 | Allentown, PA 18103
The rapid growth of craft beer in Pennsylvania has been exciting, but admittedly overwhelming. It seems that every day another new brewery is in planning or one is getting ready to open. But no matter how many breweries pop up, I still get equally excited the first time I step through the doors of a new tasting room.
HiJinx Brewing Company is located in the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center at 905 Harrison Street in Allentown, PA right next door to The Colony Meadery. The HiJinx banner hanging from the railing and a glimpse of the bright orange door through the window assure that you’ve found the right place.
On Friday, November 21, 2014, HiJinx celebrated the grand opening of their tasting room. Local politicians including Congressman Charlie Dent, Representative Mike Schlossberg, Representative Pete Schweyer, and the Mayor of Allentown Ed Pawlowski were in attendance.
I visited HiJinx on the “morning after” the big event, offering a quieter, less busy time to experience the tasting room. Bob, who was prepping the bar for the day, allowed me to sneak in a few minutes early to snap some pictures. The brewing system is located in the center of the large, open space, proudly on display. The vibrant orange paint and sunlight pouring in from the industrial windows on the ceiling brighten the space.
Curt Keck, the CEO, brewmaster, and founder of HiJinx Brewing Company, has been homebrewing since 1995. He has worked professionally as assistant brewer at the Old Lehigh Brewing Company in Allentown then senior brewer at Weyerbacher Brewing Company until 1999, when he had children. He continues to work his full time job as IT director for the National Tattoo Association. Ironically Curt does not have any tattoos himself, but perhaps the HiJinx logo will be his first.
During his hiatus from professional brewing, Curt continued to homebrew in the garage perfecting recipes, and he began to enter competitions, winning numerous medals, ribbons, and awards, including a gold medal at the Masters Championship of Amateur Brewing. It was during an evening of homebrewing and tomfoolery with his brewing buddies when the name HiJinx was chosen.
Chris Becker, the COO, brewer, and co-founder, started homebrewing and became a member of the Lehigh Valley Homebrewers in 2004. It was at a homebrew meeting back in 2010 where Curt approached Chris about turning HiJinx into a production brewery. Not only was Chris a talented homebrewer, but he was also mechanically inclined, an important skill for opening a commercial brewery.
The team started by brewing on a 1 barrel system in a stand alone garage for two years, serving beers at local spots like Tavern on Liberty and at local craft beer festivals. Currently, Curt and Chris are brewing on a 10 barrel system along with assistant brewers Brian Stein and Scott Minnich. The 1 barrel system is still used for brewing one-off beers and an Irish red that is brewed year-round for a local Irish bar.
I enjoyed free samples of the 5 offerings, which included…
- Kung Fu Gnome – A refreshing Belgian style ale brewed with Jasmine flowers.
- Pitch Penny Ale – A well balance English style bitter with the perfect balance of malt, bitterness, and English hop character.
- Batch #1 AKA Learning Curve – An English style bitter with a higher alcohol content than Pitch Penny, served on cask.
- Barista’s Choice Coffee Porter – Porter brewed with generous amount of custom roasted coffee from Taylor Roasted Coffee House in Northampton, PA.
- Steal Your Face Stout – A rich, malty, and complex Russian Imperial Stout with flavors of dark chocolate, coffee, dried fruit, and sweet alcohol.
Ever beer I sampled was impressive and delicious. The Steal Your Face Stout is a beer Curt has been brewing for 17 years, and this 10% ABV Russian Imperial Stout will get you in trouble.
I filled my growler with Barista’s Choice Coffee Porter, which was brewed with organic Honduran coffee from Taylor Roasted Coffee House. Owner and roaster, John Weber, has been a friend of Curt’s for 39 years. The coffee porter will be a series made with other types of coffee in the future.
Some of Batch #1 AKA Learning Curve is currently being aged in Four Roses bourbon barrels and should be ready for consumption next fall.
Other beers to look for from HiJinx in the future include Dolle Streken (a Belgian ale with a sweet malt complexity and a pleasant alcohol), Hop Havoc IPA (a unique IPA with five different hops featuring Sorachi Ace hops), Earth, Wit & Fire (an imperial witbier with lemongrass, ginger and white pepper), Class III Pale Ale (a light refreshing session ale), and Prankster’s Porter (a brown porter with hints of chocolate and coffee).
Also look for a collaboration with The Colony Meadery. Mike Manning, co-founder and meadmaker for Colony, is an old friend of Curt’s and a fellow member of Lehigh Valley Homebrewers. Curt talked about a barrel aged braggot using barrels and honey from The Colony Meadery, a bottle-only offering that should be available in the spring. Curt is also talking about collaborating with Free Will Brewing Company and Funk Brewing Company.
A new distiller coming to the complex, County Seat Spirits, plans to manufacture aged and un-aged whiskeys, vodka, gin and rum. They expect to open a tasting room on weekends for distillery tours and cocktails beginning February 2015.
HiJinx offered some grand opening specials for the weekend including a T-shirt and a pint glass for $20, a T-shirt and a Belgian glass for $22, or a HiJinx growler filled with Steal Your Face Stout for $25. The HiJinx logo was designed by local artist and friend John Walsh.
The tasting room is currently open Fridays from 6PM to 8PM and Saturdays from 12PM to 4PM. Check HiJinx’s website or Facebook page for special hours and events. This Thanksgiving week HiJinx will be open Wednesday from 4pm-8pm and Friday from 12pm-8pm.
Some upcoming events include the Allentown Brew Works Craft Beer Fest on December 6 and a Cask/Randall night at Tavern on Liberty on December 19. HiJinx will also host a beer dinner on December 10 at The Trapp Door. The five course meal will feature the 4 beers currently on tap at the tasting room and a Specialty IPA.
Not only was I excited to enter the HiJinx Brewing Company tasting room, but I am anxiously awaiting my return visit. The guys at HiJinx are welcoming and super fun to hang out with, and the beers… oh the beers…. The beers are delicious.