T he story of Stoudts Gold is more than simply the story of a beer. It is also the story of Carol Stoudt and the people and places, the hows and whys, that all contributed to the creation of a great glass of beer.
In May 1987, Gold made its first appearance in the rural countryside of eastern Pennsylvania courtesy of Stoudt, considered the first woman to hold the title of both owner and brewer since the repeal of Prohibition. She and her beer were at the forefront of a movement in the U.S. brewing landscape that was still in its early years.
Armed with a degree in elementary education, Carol met her future husband Ed in 1973, the latter owner and operator of the eleven-year-old Stoudt’s Country Kitchen, specializing in hand-cut Angus steaks. The pair honeymooned in Germany, where Carol, raised in a non-drinking family, experienced an awakening which gave her a taste for high-quality beer.
A decade later, in 1984, brewery planning began and construction followed two years later. During that period, Carol traveled west to learn from the pioneers of the time: Ken Grossman at Sierra Nevada; Charles Finkel at Merchant du Vin; Will Kemper at Thomas Kemper; and north of the border to the Granville Island Brewing Company in Vancouver.
Pivotal to Carol’s education and the brewery’s development was Karl Strauss, then still transitioning from a career with Pabst and not yet proprietor of his own, eponymous brewery. It was Strauss who helped arrange for Carol to brew at Louisiana’s Abita Brewing, where she could work on the same brewing kit she and Ed had ordered for their brewery. It was Strauss who suggested that, during a return trip to Germany, the couple visit the Weihenstephan brewery and obtain a slant of lager yeast, which they did and which lives on in the brewery today.
And it was Strauss who introduced Carol to the particular form of brewing known as decoction, which she still believes results in greater depth of body and a more stable shelf life.
Gold was the first release of Stoudts Brewing Company, but it was hardly an instant success, with locals more accustomed to Yuengling needing to be convinced. A silver medal at the 1988 Great American Beer Festival garnered some attention, however, and helped not only to sway local palates, but also opened up the nearby Philadelphia market. The brewery was on its way.
Where the Stoudts calls home in Adamstown today includes the restaurant, a brewery, an antiques mall, a furniture gallery, and the Wonderful Good Market where daughter Elizabeth’s cheeses and breads are sold. The brewery has held long-running, standard-bearing festivals such as an annual Oktoberfest that shines the spotlight on German culture and Microfests highlighting the flourishing craft beer landscape.
All of which makes the Stoudts’ little nook in northeastern Lancaster County a destination unto itself, something that was on my mind when it came time for my wife, Patty, and I to bid farewell to friends Mark and Susan, who were moving out-of-state. A decadent visit to Stoudts and an overnight stay at the neighboring Black Forest Inn, we decided, would be a perfect way to close their chapter of living in Philadelphia.
After a feast of steak and seafood, accompanied by abundant beverages, we retreated to the bar for the last beer of the evening. Carol was there, too, and as we chatted I happened to mention that our dogs, Logan and Zuko, were waiting for our return in the motel next door.
Carol would have none of that! “Ed, go get Max!” she hollered to her husband, “You guys go get your dogs. We’ll close up, have some more beer, and let the dogs run around in here.” Which we did, enjoying one last hour at the pub while the dogs had the run of the place. It remains to this day one of our favorite and most memorable ‘beer events.’
Carol was immediately enthusiastic when hearing of Flagship February, being a vocal proponent of growing a brewery through a bedrock of consistent, core beers that meet consumer expectations. Which is not to say that she’s stuck in the past, but rather that her vision for the future has those core beers at its heart. If all goes according to plans, she envisions that fifty years from now the Stoudts Gold, Scarlet Lady and Pils flagships will be found everywhere locally “from VFWs to fine restaurants.”
And maybe, if there’s still such a thing as beer writers, one will ask them how Stoudts Gold has continued to resonate as a great beer for more than 80 years.
Flagship beers were chosen by the individual writers with no input from the #FlagshipFebruary partners or sponsor breweries.