The folks at Moo-Duck Brewery are sincere about their beer – and their community.
Although the infamous traffic-stopping waterfowl in Elizabethtown can cause a stir while crossing the road, the buzz among craft beer lovers in town is Moo-Duck Brewery, which opened in November.
It may have a silly name, but when I recently stopped in, I learned the friend-and-family team of owner and operators take their beer and community quite seriously.
How did that oddball name come about, anyway?
Brewer Mike Brubaker met his wife, Kristen, while the two worked as educators at the Pocono Environmental Education Center. Mike and his fellow avian enthusiasts from the center formed a bird-watching team (yes, there is such a thing) and decided to enter the World Series of Birding (again, there is such a thing – it takes place in New Jersey). When pressed for a name, a team member blurted out, “Moo duck!” The goofy name fit the team’s nature, and it stuck.
When looking for a name for his beer, Mike went back to Moo-Duck. It’s actually appropriate – Moo for the cows in the Lancaster County pastures, and Duck for the fowl that wander the streets of E-Town.
Mike still works full-time at the center and wasn’t able to be at his second job when I arrived at the brewery, but it turned out I was in good hands. I pulled up a seat at the custom-built bar, and Kristen filled me in with all I needed to know.
While I jumped right into a flight of beers, she marked my choices onto a wooden, four-holed paddle. First was Honey! Basil Blonde, a blonde ale brewed with honey and basil. This brew is mildly hoppy with a great mouthfeel and a hint of herbs beyond the basil.
Next up was Hoppy Toad IPA. The Moo-Duck flagship brew for hop heads, Hoppy Toad is crisp and dry with a great nose and an undeniable minerality.
The Dark & Stormy Ginger Beer was my favorite. The specialty release has a nicely complex flavor. The deep amber color will fool anyone – it’s not at all heavy, and I could easily drink several. Rounding out the flight was Purple Carp Irish Red, a true-to-form example of its style.
While sipping, I started talking with Kristen and she offered to show me the brewing area. In the back is a small, hand-constructed 1.5-barrel system in which Mike brews all of the Moo-Duck beers. When I visited, there were seven beers on tap (including a small-batch gluten-free beer). In addition to the regular lineup, Moo-Duck also presents a new release once a month in honor of Elizabethtown’s Second Friday events.
Kristen and I then headed back out into the bar area – a deconstructed space with cinderblock walls, red accents and hand-customized tables and chairs. I bellied back up to the bar, and she told me it was made (along with many of the behind-the-bar stations) by her father-in-law. The space reminded me of a converted garage, but I was wrong. Originally, Kristen explained, the building housed a wig seller; most recently, it was home to a communications company.
“Everything is craft here; not just the beer,” says Kristen, as I stare at all the hand-crafted accoutrements at Moo-Duck. From the boiling kettles to the seat cushions, friends and family really helped in the process of creating this brewery. At this point, she can’t help but see me eyeing up an industrial-looking chili warmer and goes into detail about the food at Moo-Duck.
There is no kitchen. Everything served is ready-to-eat. The smell of Hippey’s Hot Dogs on a roller permeates the bar. (The jumbo dogs are made just across the county, in Denver.) All of the food is locally sourced. The sausage sandwich is handmade at Rooster Street Provisions. There’s a cheese and fruit tray, with cheese produced by Jubilee Heritage Cheese in Middletown. And the spent grains from Moo-Duck actually help to feed the herd.
“They’re pretty hoppy cows,” says Kristen, who next mentions the brewery’s plans to begin using locally grown hops sometime in the future.
It’s clear the folks at Moo-Duck are community-minded and proud of it. Every month, a nonprofit is chosen to receive proceeds from a Moo-Duck draft. During my visit, 50¢ of every $4.50 pint of Hoppy Toad went to the Tri-County Conewago Creek Association – a volunteer organization dedicated to “monitoring, preserving, enhancing and promoting the Conewago Creek Watershed.” Moo-Duck is open to any organization and is looking for future recipients.
Being a good steward of the community is not the typical backbone of a brewery. But the Brubakers are looking to create something as unusual as their brewery name – good beer for a good cause. And that’s a good start to Moo-Duck Brewery.
• 79 South Wilson Avenue, Elizabethtown; firstname.lastname@example.org
• Thursday, 5-9 p.m.; Friday, 4-9 p.m.; and Saturday, 12-9 p.m.