We visited Desperate Times in December 2016 when they were so new that they had yet to brew a second batch of any of their beers. We were deeply impressed with the quality they had achieved out of the gate. Most of the beers were middle of the road and easy to drink. You wouldn’t drive from Philly just to get them, but if you were here, you’d be nuts to drive to Philly to try to find something better.
A very limited menu nonetheless offers some choices that you won’t easily find elsewhere. Sausages are from family recipes and include a currywurst, which we can’t remember seeing anywhere outside Germany. Pretzels aren’t cheap, but they are enormous. In short, there’s enough food, especially for carnivores, to keep the happy drinkers happy.
Smash #1, was a single malt—Gambrius—and single hop—Simcoe—gold pale ale. The malt was a new one for us and a good choice for a single malt beer. It showed husky grain, light caramel and a hint of wood on its way to making a very simple recipe taste rather complex. The Simcoe was less fruity than we expected, but enough to balance the malt well.
The Hefeweizen showed much more banana than most we’ve encountered in Germany, but we know Canadian brewers who spent years trying to achieve a beer that tasted exactly like this one. The spiced ale was pretty typical of today’s spiced ale; people looking for it will be glad to find it. Their best seller is the Kinky Thompson pale ale. It was sweet for the style, but not for Pennsylvania, and had enough hops to rein in the sugars fairly well. Their IPA, available only in 22 oz. bombers, is a masterpiece. It’s not hard to brew an acceptable IPA – the overload of hops covers a multitude of sins, but achieving a balance between big hops and big malt that invites a second pint isn’t easy. To hit that balance on the first commercial batch of the brew is truly remarkable.
The pub area is more upscale than the ubiquitous garage breweries, but with an industrial feel that made us pretty sure it had been an automobile show room. There’s nothing wrong with that – it’s spacious with plenty of room to grow as more people find their way outside the central area of Carlisle. ---Bob & Ellie Tupper, authors, “Drinking In the Culture, Tuppers’ Guide to Exploring Great Beers in Europe.”
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