St. Boniface continues to ‘convert the masses’

There’s a lot to be said for a duo of beer lovers who can build a successful craft brewery from the ground up in just five years.

Back in 2011, St. Boniface Brewing Co. was just two Ephrata guys who met at church and were big on home brewing. They debuted the American imperial Stout Hegemony (pronounced Huh-GEM-money) to the small downtown Ephrata community, yielding rave reviews.

Today we continue to countdown the reasons why you should get out to the brewery for this Saturday’s release of Bourbon Barrel Aged Hegemony Anniver5ary Reserve. We will be tapping a very limited amount of this beer starting at opening bell, so when it’s gone it’s gone. We wanted to put as much in bottles as possible, but felt the need to give you a chance to taste it by the glass too. There will be no growlers or Crowlers allowed so you have to come out in person and drink it along side your fellow St. Boniface supporters. Will we be seeing you on Saturday? Let us know here #convertthemasses #stbonifacebrew #stbonifacebrewing #pacraftbeer #craftbeer #pabeer #botterelease #barrelagedbeer

A photo posted by St. Boniface Craft Brewing Co. (@stbonifacebrew) on

Jon Northup and Mike Price have since grown their brewing company to include 30 beers, and have hired Dain Shirey to tackle the marketing and social media end of things. What was once an on-the-weekends hobby is now a full-time career for Northup and Price, and what used to be a volunteer position for Shirey is now a part-time job in addition to teaching in Reading. The trio runs St. Boniface from 1701 W. Main St. in Ephrata.

For those who may not know, St. Boniface was an English priest who, after cutting down a tree worshipped by many in a German village, was not struck down by God, thereby converting those Germans to Christianity. This coins the brewery’s slogan, “Convert the masses,” referring to St. Boniface Brewing’s mission to convert those with little beer knowledge to drink craft beer.

Business is booming, and the brewery only continues to grow, having celebrated its fifth anniversary in February, and introduced 15 more barrels to its production capacity in the past year.

“We’ve gotten so much support from the local community,” Shirey says. “We try to do festivals where it’s a charity event. We like to do food drives and Toys for Tots – just some things that give back to the community when we can. This is going to be our third year that we’re doing Bonifest in June (read more on page 6), and the last couple years we did a big food drive.”

Being partial to stouts, I was just a little excited to visit the local brewery whose first beer was a delicious, full-bodied American Imperial with a funky name.

And after some introductory conversation, Shirey and Price finally gave me a sampling, which included Wynfrid English Session Ale (3.2 percent ABV), Hegemony (8 percent ABV), the bourbon-barrel Hegemony (10 percent ABV) and the Black Currant Stout (10 percent ABV). “Just be careful,” both Shirey and Price told me in unison after introducing the three stouts. We were off.

Blayne Waterloo: Which of these [beers] is your favorite?
Mike Price: My favorite, I’d have to go with the bourbon [barrel Hegemony]. Now, that’s not an everyday beer-
BW: It’s the kind that’ll knock you on your ass-
MP: Well, not only that, but it’s so limited. Even as owners, we only took home three bottles of it. So, it’s one of those that, it would be my favorite out of those four, but if I had to pick an everyday one, it’d definitely be the Wynfrid. It’s easy to drink, it’s very smooth.

BW: Do you want to sip things with me? I feel so weird.
Dain Shirey: Yeah, I will then. [Turns to Price] Are you ready?
MP: I guess I’ll have something [laughs]. I’ll have the Session IPA. I just love our session beers, like our Session IPA or the Wynfrid. They’re easy to drink, and you can have a couple of them without falling asleep.

BW: I heard the story behind St. Boniface himself. That’s such an awesome idea. You guys met at church, so is that where you heard the story from?
MP: I read it in a book. There was a book that I’d gotten that had stories of saints through the ages, and this was one that I’d just read and thought it was really cool. When we were coming up with names, I threw that in early on. Back in the day, I was really into Belgian beers and stuff like that. And I always liked names like St. Bernardus or St. Fillan, so St. Boniface was right up there, and Jon really liked the story.

BW: Is it hard to believe you’re a craft brewery owner?
MP: Absolutely. Yeah, I mean, you get so wrapped up in everything that it’s hard to step back and go, “Wait, this is what’s actually happening.” It’s still work, it’s still headaches, it’s still trying to figure out how to make everything work. The [Craft Brewers Convention in Philadelphia] thing we did [in late April] – we went there to pour at the welcome reception – and the people who come there are obviously from all over the place. So it was like New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania brewers-
DS: At the welcome reception only. At the actual convention there were breweries from all over the world.
MP: So, it is kind of intimidating – especially when they’re coming here. I was a nervous wreck. But at the end of it I was like, “Wow. That was an amazing experience to be involved in.”

BW: Were there any moments when you were star-struck?
MP: The closest I got to star-struck was when this tall German guy walked up – because we were serving pilsner – and he started asking us, “What kind of malts do you use?” So I’m telling him what we’re using, and he goes, “We make some really good malts for pilsners.” And I’m like, “Oh, OK, who are you?” He said, “Thomas Weyermann from Weyermann Malts.”

BW: Is there anything new you’re hoping to do in the future?
DS: As of right now, our next big thing is trying to can 3 lb IPA. We actually just set up an IndieGoGo. We’re going to try to crowdfund through the end of the month, and eventually we’d like to do it. It’s just so much upfront cost. You have to buy over 200,000 cans in one shot. So, we figured we’d give it a try and see how it goes.

. . .

And the beers? All were equally smooth, and not overly hoppy (which may be a bad thing for some beer drinkers). Of course, I gravitated toward the three stouts, favoring the Hegemony (a more bitter taste) , however both Hegemonys were delicious. Those looking for a sweeter stout should look into the bourbon-barrel brew.

Bonifest begins at 11 a.m. June 4. Keep track of what’s on tap at St. Boniface on their website.

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Posted in Articles, Arts+Culture, Drink, Drink – Lancaster, Headlines, Lancaster, Lancaster Headlines, Sip Happens, The Bar Scene

Blayne Waterloo is a reporter for Fly. She loves food, books, her dogs, her husband... and food.

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