Since being founded last year, Gift Horse Brewing Company has been invited to several craft brew events, won the highest-rated Untappd check-in at Yorktoberfest and won the Brew Kids on the Block trophy last month.
And while this fledgling brewery still hasn’t sold a dime’s worth of booze, they have all their eggs in the right basket.
Brewmaster Jason Snyder invited me out to last month’s Brew Kids on the Block at the York Fairgrounds to sample his elusive product.
Snyder received his first homebrew kit as a gift from his sister-in-law six years ago. To this day, he’s still brewing in the basement of his in-laws’ horse farm, High Hopes Ridge Farm in York. The name Gift Horse Brewery is only fitting, and Jason seems pretty thrilled about the horse he’s been gifted.
“To be competitive, I have to try new things,” Snyder says when I ask what kind of brewer he considers himself. “I consider myself a traditional brewer, but sometimes you want to put stuff in your beer.” Snyder’s advice for new brewers is to focus on making good beer first and expand from there.
“I haven’t made a batch of beer I couldn’t drink,” he says.
Gift Horse Brewing Co. has a brewpub in the works. Snyder and his business partner, Casey Brenner, just settled on a location – 117 North George Street, York – and are now developing a plan of attack so they can open in the early fall.
“The goal is to make York a beer destination,” says Snyder. Other local breweries, including Liquid Hero, have been offering advice to the newbies. The craft beer community is like a brotherhood of brewers. “We’re more like colleagues,” Snyder says, “not competition.”
At Brew Kids on the Block, Gift Horse had a four-tap cooler set up. My first sample was the Hop-Bee Cider – a combination of Brown’s Orchards pressed apple cider from Loganville and wildflower honey from Seven Valleys, dry-hopped with Cascade hops. This event was the first time the cider was released to the public, and it’s already drawing a lot of interest. This craft cider is kind of sour but also bitter, and it retains a residual sweetness. It’s a lot like a bitter champagne, and the hoppy finish has just enough bite to keep you coming back.
The Citrawheat is an American pale wheat ale finished with Citra hops. (This is the beer that won the most check-ins at Yorktoberfest last year.) The Citrawheat is crisp and clean with a nice touch of citrus. There are underlying grapefruit and passion fruit flavors at the end. At 6 percent ABV, this would make a great warm-weather beer to drink at a barbecue.
The High Hops Ridge IPA is a balanced dark IPA. It won’t destroy your palate, but you will feel that IPA burn on the back of your tongue after a few sips. It’s sweet for an IPA; smooth and kind of creamy. This IPA is brewed with Cascade and Centennial hops the whole way through.
Finally, the Roasted Irish Red is an ale that drinks like a lager. It’s roasty up front, but finishes smooth and dry. The recipe started out very traditional but the addition of roasted barley makes it unusual.
“Beer is about making people happy,” Snyder says. “We want to please everyone with our initial offerings – bringing people in who don’t normally drink craft beer, but still making craft beer drinkers happy.”
Gift Horse Brewery plans to start with six taps at the tap house. The goal is to have the “four horsemen” on tap all the time – that’s the Citrawheat, Roasted Irish Red, High Hops Ridge IPA and the American Blonde. The other two taps offer room to add a cider, a seasonal beer like a gingerbread stout or vanilla pumpkin porter, or collaboration beers.
Gift Horse Brewery took part in History Untapped on June 13 at the Agricultural & Industrial Museum in York, partnering with Peppers Grille who used Citrawheat and the Roasted Irish Red in some of their dishes.
History Untapped is an intimate beer and food event that benefits the York County Heritage Trust. The event offers a personal look into craft breweries – it’s not a giant brew fest with a sea of taps to drown in.
It is, however, just one in a sea of craft beer events that continues to grow increasingly larger. In fact, York County is fast becoming a destination for craft beer drinkers, with its new restaurants, events and breweries complementing each other.
“York is a blue-collar town,” Snyder says, “(but) the demographic doesn’t matter – people like beer.”
Local craft breweries keep the money in the community and, like the farm-to-table movement, knowing the brewer is like knowing the farmer.
The argument between macro- and microbreweries is silly, Snyder says. Each beer has its place, and we shouldn’t alienate anyone.
“We like what we like,” Snyder says. “Try my beer. If you like it, try more.”
• 117 North George Street, York
• Brewpub not open yet