Mexitaly has long been a favorite restaurant of mine since I moved to York a few years ago. Their brick-oven pizzas and enormous burritos have made the restaurant a must-stop location for visiting friends and family members.
In 2011, PennDOT announced that Mexitaly and other businesses were being forced to leave their Camp Betty Washington Road locations to make way for improvements to the always-crowded Mount Rose Avenue exit on I-83. While it meant that owner Greg Skirboll would have to find a new location, it also meant that the restaurant could expand. And that’s exactly what happened.
Mexitaly reopened in February at its new location on East Market Street in York. And then in May, Skirboll unveiled a brewhouse.
I stopped in on a Saturday afternoon to see what kind of beers Mexitaly had developed. I took a seat at the white bar in front of a wall festooned with Mexican pottery, art and knick-knacks. I was greeted by a bartender, who was able to answer all my beer-related questions and make suggestions on what I should try.
There were five big-batch beers available during my visit. They were a hefeweizen, honey cream ale, extra pale ale, extra special bitter and oatmeal stout. The brewhouse also had three one-off small-batch beers. Those were the oaked extra special bitter, blackberry stout and blood orange hefeweizen.
The ABV for all the big-batch beers hovers around 5.4 to 6 percent. The reason, Skirboll says, is that he didn’t want to brew beers that knock people out after one pint.
“People are really pleased that we’re offering balanced beers that are drinkable. People are refreshed by that,” Skirboll says. “In my opinion, the whole beer movement has swung so far that the pendulum has to swing back a bit and bring some balance back to beer. It’s cool to have a peanut butter, chocolate and jelly beer. But you only want to have one.”
Rick Kunkel, the restaurant’s brewmaster, has more than 20 years of homebrewing experience and previously worked as the head brewer for Bube’s Brewery in Mount Joy. He’s been given free rein to change the large- and small-batch beer menu and create new beers.
Skirboll says Kunkel plans to unveil a juniper pale ale, saison and another oatmeal stout in the near future. Kunkel has more than 30 styles in his repertoire to choose from.
Mexitaly also offers wine by the bottle from Allegro Winery, Karamoor Estates and Waltz Vineyards, and ciders from Wyndridge and Jack’s. But I was here for the beer.
During my visit, I ordered a flight of beers, which included five 4-ounce samples of the big-batch beers. A flight costs $7, which is possibly the best-priced beer sampling in the region. I like trying a lot of different kinds of beer and don’t typically have a favorite style. Reasonably priced flights provide a great opportunity to sample several different types of beers without spending $25 to try all five and get drunk in the process.
First up was the hefeweizen – Skirboll’s favorite and a beer numerous people were ordering at the bar. While hefeweizens typically have a banana aroma, Mexitaly’s beer smashes your taste buds with banana and soothes them with delicious German yeast. The hefeweizen was a great reinvention of a traditional beer.
Next was the golden-hued honey cream ale. The beer is incredibly creamy thanks to it being poured through the brewhouse’s nitrogen tap. It felt as though I was drinking whipped cream. The ale offered hints of honey without being gimmicky or sweet.
The third sample was the extra pale ale – a very hoppy beer. The brewhouse used three different kinds of hops then filtered the brew through a hopback to give it a very bold, strong flavor. It was delicious and a good competitor to other locally created hoppy beers.
In between my samples I took in the scenery at Mexitaly. One of the first things you notice is that everything is visible. You can see people making the food, you can feel the heat and see the fire from the brick pizza oven and the brewing equipment is a few feet away from the bar in a separate but open room. It takes confidence to show everyone what you’re doing.
I was particularly interested in the fourth beer – an extra special bitter. I don’t sample English-style bitter beers too often and was hoping Mexitaly’s was going to be unique and memorable. As it turned out, it was a damn good beer. The smooth maltiness is balanced by a firm bitterness without being over the top.
The last beer in the flight was the oatmeal stout. I love stouts. Mexitaly’s dark, smooth oatmeal stout is incredible and was my favorite of the bunch. They have infused the heavy beer with chocolate and coffee, without either flavor overpowering the other. The beer is further enhanced with the addition of flaked oats. It’s not a “coffee beer” or a “chocolate beer.” It’s an oatmeal stout that has incredible flavor. I would put Mexitaly’s oatmeal stout against any of the heavyweights I’ve tasted.
I was very surprised to find a new brewhouse developing so many great beers on its first try. Usually, it takes a few cycles before a brewery finds its stride and makes great beer. But somehow, Mexitaly nailed it on the first try.
As excited as I am about the beers I sampled, I’m even more excited to see what Skirboll and Kunkel come up with next. All I know is, I will be making a lot more trips back to Mexitaly.
• 2440 East Market Street, York; 600-8226
• Daily, 11 a.m-10 p.m.