St. Boniface raises the bar

By on January 23, 2013

By: MIKE REVO Review Correspondent, Staff Writer

Saint Boniface co-owners Jon Northrup and Mark Price at what will become their new bar on West Main Street in Ephrata. (Photo by Preston Whitcraft)

In less than two weeks, the popular micro-brewery Saint Boniface, currently located in the former "Artworks" complex on 100 N. State street, Ephrata, will move to a new location, complete with a bar.

By that time, Feb. 2, tastings and growler fills can be had at their new place, situated between the Elite Coach and Fulton Bank buildings at 1701 West Main in Ephrata. Pints, however, will not be served until about June, due to zoning and licensing processes. Even though the new brewery is less than two weeks away from opening, owner and brewmaster Jonathon Northup made time to talk about the venture.

Saint Boniface Craft Brewing began two years ago founded by Jonathan and his friend Mike Price. Tucked into the east side of the old Donecker’s Artworks complex, the current location is not the easiest place to find. If one follows a few tasteful signs that point down indistinct alleys, however, they will find the white double French doors and unassuming brick facade. It is a testament to the quality of the beer, then, that enough people have found the brewery, to make expanding its production feasible. Fans of the local microbrew have faithfully made the pilgrimage Thursday nights and Saturdays –the only two days where samples can be tasted and growlers can be topped. The idea of relocating the brewery, as well as adding a bar, was not considered when they opened only two years ago.

"The idea was to "grow into it," brewmaster Jonathan says.

The guys at the brewery saw potential in the possibility of serving patrons pints, rather than simply offering growlers. Being able to sit down to a glass seemed like the natural next step, and in addition to that expansion, owners Jonathan and Mike have a creative idea in terms of meals for the bar — food trucks.

They hope to have food offered by a different truck every week. This can be a symbiotic relationship between small, local establishments that can mean very competitive prices, as well as a menu that few bars could hope to match. It is an innovative response to the ubiquitous "bar food" a person expects when they go out for a beer.

It is this creativity that Jonathan felt was lacking in his earlier occupations. He has now been brewing full-time for the past two years, but this came after leaving a line of work he was immersed in growing up. He spent his youth working in garages, and with that background, worked as an automotive technician for Stadel Volvo in Lancaster. Being a technician, however, was not as varied as he preferred, and considered other avenues that appealed to both his interests and aptitude. Brewing, he says, combined the aspects of science and chemistry, as well as an artistic facet. It goes beyond simply brewing beer, but crafting something that can complement a meal, or even a season.

"It takes about two weeks from grinding grain to filling a glass," he said before later pouring a small glass of a rich, dark black currant beer with a head that lingers like a caramel cloud. There’s a sense of reserved pride when he pulls the tap and sees the product of his labor fall into a waiting glass, and as the small pockets of foam slowly break they release an aroma that signals to the sense of taste that something special lies below.

When asked if he has any strong feelings when he sees people spending money on beer brewed in factories by multinational corporations, he nonchalantly replies, "drink what you like to drink." It’s a simple mantra, but it belies his passion on converting such drinkers. Rather than expend the energy in thinking about that query, he would rather use the time crafting beer that makes drinking anything mass-produced seem like a bad investment. This idea to "convert" people to good beer is tied into the name of the brewery itself; Saint Boniface is the patron saint of Brewers. However, the significance of the name is actually a bit more sophisticated, as Jonathan explains. Legend dictates Saint Boniface cut a small notch at the base of "Donar’s Oak," which was a tree sacred to Germanic pagans in the eighth century. The tree then inexplicably came crashing down, as if forced by the heavens. The pagans took this as a sign and converted, and Saint Boniface built a chapel from the wood.

This seems like a lofty, unusually specific concept for a small business to base an identity upon, but when a large oak tree fell in co-owner Mike Price’s yard, it seemed appropriate. The bar in the new brewery is currently being made from that fallen oak.

Updates on the brewery, as well as what’s currently on tap can be found on their Facebook page at St. Boniface Craft Brewing Company. More ST. BONIFACE, page A6

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