Morning Comes Too Soon

In the early hours of the day I am a shapeshifter.

If you wake up in time to catch a brewer coming out of hibernation, you will bear witness to those few rare minutes of beastly, gimping, animal behavior.

The journey from my bed to my espresso machine is treacherous and full of dark obstacles. I am guided solely through my living room by the pulsing light of the after-market temperature controller on my Rancillio Silvia; a feature installed by the previous owner, that I have not yet acquired enough espresso geek points to fully appreciate.

Apparently, there is no end to the amount of furniture my wife and I must posess to survive. The decorative foot stool claims my pinky toe. My hand smacks against a golden lantern with no candle in it, the kind they stopped hanging in the streets about 100 years ago. Almost there. Shin bash one of the many chairs at our dinner table, even though we rarely seat more than two.

Salvation. Coffee is how I wake up every morning, although, before you tell me i’m addicted to a legal “drug” and crippled by dependency, let me just say it’s not because of the caffeine. It’s the grueling 10 minute arm workout that is my hand powered coffee grinder.

Morning routine aside… Laura, myself, and J. Wolensky we’re absolutely exhausted from the late night of shooting that concluded, technically, just hours before. But somehow we managed to pick ourselves up and travel north to shoot the film where we will be brewing all of our beer.

 

The Castle

Located in the heart of coal country, Susquehanna Brewing is a bastion for Pennsylvania’s “Olde Guard” of brewer’s; The last hold-out for the ancestral brewing lineage that began even before America’s oldest brewery, Yeungling, was built.

Within the confines of a modest pole building warehouse in Pittston, PA lies one of the most state of the art brewing facilities in the nation, and a tremendous amount of both brewing and industry knowledge.

The Maier family, owners of the brewery, are the decedents of Charles Stegmaier, a German tradesman who started his brewing career in Wurtenburg Germany before coming to America to seek an opportunity to craft his own brewing dream, opening his first brewing business in Northeast PA in 1857. The Stegmaier brand grew from personal goat-powered beer deliveries to railcars that transported beer as far as Florida. Charles won gold medals in Brussels and Paris for his hand crafted Lagers and returned to Pennsylvania with global recognition for his hard work and dedication.

Today, Susquehanna Brewing Company operates out of an incredible facility and brews 100-150bbl batches on a 50bbl German Braukon System… with all the geeky bells and whistles. Their Brewmaster Guy Hagner has spent more years brewing beer than I have spent being a human being.

When I first met the crew at SBC a year ago, and stepped inside the brewery, it was love at first sight. I knew then and there that there was no other place I would rather craft Sole Ales.

When we arrived at the brewery, strung out, tired, and still digesting the bratwurst and liters of Schwarzbier enjoyed the night before, we were greeted by the SBC crew with a pot of fresh coffee. After the pick-me-up, we got right to work setting up shots, lighting, and filming B-roll.

Again… this was all the Genius of J. Wolensky. Man… this guy goes right to work. He is an animal. Once he breaks out the camera, he embarks on this incessant and obsessive quest to make the imagined sequences in his head a reality, rarely stopping to eat or drink, or… hmm I don’t even remember him using the loo…

 

The Wrap

We spent about 8 hours at the brewery filming. Mostly geeky film production stuff that I don’t have the technical chops to recount. During the filming, Guy, who was very accommodating to us moving all of his equipment around, pulled a few label-less bottles of Goldencold Lager (a phenomenal and highly underrated beer in my opinion) fresh off the bottling line and hand each of us one. We cracked them open, and with a quick prost and clinks of bottle necks, took that first sip of refreshing cold beer; the kind that makes you forget where you are in that moment… the one everyone looks forward to all day.

In typical fashion, I was overly concerned about being SBC’s way during a busy brew day while we played around with silly camera equipment. Kind of like walking into a new friends house with pristine white carpets and feeling paranoid about touching anything.

However, at the end of the day, Mark (one of the owners) called over to me from across the brewhouse, and I will never forget what he said…

“Joe! Loosen up a bit and stop being so polite… this is you’re home too now!”