Local beer-lovers, for instance, are now downing IPAs, saisons and stouts inside a former plasma center, an old machine shop and a long-defunct lumber mill (Zeroday Brewing Co., Boneshire Brew Works and the Millworks brewery, respectively).
Since late September, you can add to that list a repair garage, as Ever Grain Brewing Co. opened in what used to be the service bay of the former Sun Motor Cars dealership along the Carlisle Pike, a stretch long identified with all-things auto.
Proprietors Norm Fromm and Larry Dolan are locals who’ve known each other for more than 30 years. Both come from the restaurant industry, are avid craft beer fans and former home brewers. They saw an opportunity for a brewery along the Carlisle Pike “right from the beginning,” they told me.
“I’d been thinking about it for six to seven years,” Fromm said.
Once they made the commitment and found their spot, they had to transform the empty service bay into a functioning brewery. That involved, well, everything: new plumbing, brewing equipment, painting, ceiling and an interior build-out that included a counter bar and a spacious seating area.
Today, if you belly up to the bar, you’ll get a front-row seat to the brewing action. The open corner space to the bar’s right displays the brew house, where the malt is mashed. Brite tanks, which carbonate and finish the beer, are located in the back. The garage doors are still there, and, when they’re open, a nice cross breeze fills the room.
As one might expect, opening a brewery is no easy task, so I asked about some of the more notable challenges.
First they had to find a master brewer, since neither owner had the expert skills needed to head up the beer-making operation. So, they hired Bruce Tanner, who had worked at breweries in Arizona and North Carolina, then at Troegs in Hershey. The three got along well and felt they could work together as a team.
They also needed a good name that wasn’t already claimed.
“We picked the name from the process of elimination from a host of others on a list that we had,” Dolan said. “We had other great names which were denied due to trademark reasons.”
Fromm added that they had no idea that choosing a name would be such a daunting task, adding that naming their individual beers also is a process.
“We can call them anything we want in-house, but we can’t put those names on labels or bottles without a trademark,” he said.
Getting the recipes correct was another challenge, one met by a collaboration between Dolan, Fromm and Tanner.
“Bruce has a lot of experience,” said Fromm. “He sits down and figures out how to make the beers different and better.”
I asked who was lucky enough to be the taste-tester. Both men laughed and raised their hands.
As of last month, Ever Grain had 13 beers on draft, two stouts aging in bourbon barrels and one porter aging in a rum barrel. The brewery offers flights, samples, half pours, full pours, growlers and crowlers. What’s a crowler? It’s an oversized can filled on a tap line, then sealed on demand by a machine.
I asked Dolan and Fromm what they thought about the online comparisons to Troegs. Dolan’s eyes widen.
“I had no idea we were being compared to them,” he said.
“I take that as a huge compliment,” Fromm added. “They make great beer. We know the owners personally, and they’ve been very helpful to us.”
Where We’re Going
At first, Dolan and Fromm wanted to focus completely on beer, so had no intention of offering food. But then landlord Mike Kennedy approached them about a restaurant inside the brewery. They liked the idea, and, thus, Red Sky Café (owned by Chef Wes Stepp) was born. Though a separate entity, the restaurant has an ordering window at the former Sun Motors customer service window, which connects the restaurant to the brewery.
“We want to encourage families to visit and bring the kids,” said Fromm.
To that end, you may notice the Monkey Pod games at the front, giant-sized floor games of Connect Four, a ping pong table and corn hole. In an effort to give back to the community, beer tender Nina Hamilton (who is also a yoga instructor) offers free community classes, referred to as Ever Flow Yoga, inside the brewery’s open floor space every Sunday and Tuesday morning. Right now, about 25 people attend on a regular basis, but Fromm says there’s plenty of room for more.
Looking down the road, there are a host of things the owners would like to do.
“I’d like to have outdoor seating,” Fromm said.
In addition, beers change with the season, meaning there’s always something to look forward to.
“New beers are coming in the spring: a new IPA, pale ale, Belgian wit and a Gose,” Dolan said.
Fromm added that they might consider bottling or canning their beer.
“But, for right now, I want to grow into what we’re doing and where we’re going,” he said. “I’m letting the people decide where we will go.”
Ever Grain Brewing Co. is located at 4444 Carlisle Pike, Camp Hill. For more information, call 717-525-8222 or visit www.evergrainbrewing.com.
Author: Cathy Jordan