Downtown York’s new hoppy hangout.
So, a guy walks into a bar … and discovers yet another amazing beer from Liquid Hero Brewery in downtown York.
Opened by friends Josh Hoke, Matt DePrato and Christian Quinlivan in 2011, Liquid Hero has produced some of the best beers I’ve ever tasted. And their brewpub on East North Street has been the starting and ending point on some of greatest nights I’ve had in York.
When I found out that Liquid Hero had brewed up a French saison – a fruity, spicy pale ale – I was excited to give it a go. I arrived at the brewpub 30 minutes after opening time on a Saturday in late February, and there were already 20 people at the bar. Like me, most of them were there to try the saison.
I placed my order at the small bar and was given a goblet of the very pungent ale, which is called Juste Le Bout French Saison. Juste Le Bout translated into English means “just the tip” – which some may find sophomoric, but I find hilarious.
My first sip proved that Liquid Hero had created a masterful saison. I could taste the individual notes of ginger, sage and rosemary. The beer has a lot of depth without feeling like it’s trying too hard. Quinlivan gives credit for the delicious concoction to Hoke. “Josh really nailed it,” he says.
Unlike many business owners, Quinlivan, Hoke and DePrato can often be found at their brewpub. They are always leading tours of the backroom brewery, explaining the brewing process and taking time to visit each of the tables and talk to customers. It’s not something the trio of born-and-raised York brewers have to do, but they do it anyway. They love talking about beer and telling people what they’re coming out with next.
Quinlivan, with his shaved head and permanent smile, came up to my table to talk about the saison. Juste Le Bout, he told me, was the brewery’s first attempt at the French ale, and they are very pleased with the result. As my friends and I ordered a second round of goblets, it became clear that the brew was already a favorite among the Liquid Hero faithful.
But, Quinlivan says, the brewery is not interested in resting on its laurels. Liquid Hero is poised to release many more new styles and batches of beer as it works to stay atop the microbrew mountain in York.
“The trend nowadays is having a variety,” Quinlivan says. “We want to branch out and make some stuff that we’ve never made before.”
In addition to the newly-released saison, the brewery’s plans for the near future include a Belgian beer and a Brown ale. Not wanting to reveal too much about the new brews, Quinlivan says they will only be released after they have passed through a rigorous period of experimentation and taste testing.
Quality is a huge component of the brewery’s success. “There is an extreme amount of thought and effort into making that first sip great,” Quinlivan says. “We’ll never sell anything that we don’t like to drink.”
Quinlivan, Hoke and DePrato began brewing together in 2008 after watching a TV show about making beer. They bought and borrowed some brewing supplies and used a turkey fryer to make their first batch. After that, they were hooked.
“We started brewing every weekend,” Quinlivan says. The trio went from using other people’s recipes to developing their own. After making about 20 different batches with countless recipe tweaks, the three men created American Hero, which later became their flagship American ale.
At first, Liquid Hero focused on three beers: the American ale, a strawberry wheat beer and an India pale ale. The flagship beers were well received, and it didn’t take long before the three friends began experimenting and adding more beers to the brewery’s taps.
In the last three years, Liquid Hero has added a hefeweizen, a stout, a porter, a double IPA and a red ale. And as if that weren’t enough, the brewery began making limited edition and seasonal beers like the Hop Hero IPA, Hoke Fest pumpkin beer, Pub Santa Christmas beer and the dark roasted Imperial Stout.
“People here are very passionate about beer,” Quinlivan says. “They want flavor. They want a full-bodied beer that tastes good and tastes different.”
Liquid Hero’s variety of beers is pulling away from the pack, but they’re also making significant strides in getting their homemade brews to the masses. At first, Liquid Hero was only available by the pint or in growlers at the brewpub. Then it became available at other bars in and around York, eventually reaching as far as Harrisburg, Gettysburg, Shippensburg and Chambersburg. The brewery expanded from only offering kegs to now selling bottles and cans of the most popular beers. Quinlivan says they have recently received their license to distribute in Maryland and have plans to link up with a distributor in Philadelphia.
“The growth of craft breweries in Pennsylvania is skyrocketing,” Quinlivan says. “The competition is there, so we have to stay current and keep making sure we’re making great quality beer.”
• 50 East North Street, York; 814-9250
• Wednesday-Friday, 4-10 p.m.; Saturday, 2-10 p.m.; and Sunday, 12-5 p.m.