Thanks to Spring House Brewing Company, Oktoberfest now has to compete with Halloween as a prime time for beer this month.
Spring House Brewing Company, which opened at its new location at 209 Hazel Street in Lancaster, may seem familiar, as their old brewery used to be in Conestoga, and The Taproom is also under the Spring House umbrella. But the brewery tripled its capacity in its new location, and separate from the downtown Taproom operation.
"Our menu and specials are totally different than what they have at The Taproom," said Spring House Brewing Company general manager Joshua Parson. "People who come in here that have been down there will look around and see that it's different. We don't do the two pints and a pizza. We aren't set up for that right now. We do have daily specials, though."
Those daily specials include .75 cent wings on Sundays and Mondays, half off burgers on Tuesdays, live music on Fridays, $2.00 off growlers on Thursdays and late-night happy hour on Fridays and Saturdays.
While the specials are there for the customers, it's the interesting beer flavors and names that help Spring House stand out.
"Originally what happened is that our flagship beer was the Seven Gates Pale Ale. That's what everyone got to know us from," Parson said. "The seven gates of hell is the local urban legend ghost tale that the kids tell everyone."
The urban legend refers to a wooded area off Trout Run Road in northwestern Hellam Township. According to the legend, there was an insane asylum there, and a fire to the asylum allowed the inmates to escape. However, the seven gates trapped the inmates and either killed them or they lived on to stalk and murder.
Another story of the seven gates legend, according to hellamtownship.com, is that there was an eccentric doctor built a gate at the entrance to his property. The legend says that there were more gates after the first one that lead deep into the woods with something mysterious waiting at the end of the road. It's said that no one who has passed the fifth gate has ever returned.
According to Parson, the owner of Spring House Brewing Company is a big Halloween fan, so the themed names for the beers continued as the company created new flavors.
"We have the double IPA, which is the Beyond the Gates. There is the Big Gruesome, Satan's Bake Sale and it just keeps going from there," Parson said. "It's a challenge to see how crazy the names can be."
Spring House also has Spinal Remains, Braaaiins!, Lexicon Devil, Martians Kidnapped Santa and its newest creation, a coffee coconut porter called Blood Turning Black.
"You don't want to go too far with the names," Parson said. "You have to pay attention to that. It's all in good fun. There's obviously not a Lexicon Devil in the brewery. It's just a fun little thing. Like the egg nog stout, which is called Martians Kidnapped Santa, you don't want kids to think that he's going to get kidnapped. But we aren't marketing to kids. It's an adult product, and I think everyone has fun with it."
The beers have the interesting names, but the flavors are up there on the creativity scale as well, such as the aforementioned egg nog stout and coffee coconut porter. While those sell well, not all of the creations are a success.
"A lot of it is based on what we like, but it's also what we think other people will like," Parson said. "But we've tried some in the past that didn't go over too well. We had Robot Surf Factory, which was a pineapple pale ale. It sounds great, but it didn't work. The chocolate peanut butter stout works and is loved, but the peanut butter and jelly stout didn't work. You give it a shot and see what works."
It's the first Halloween that Spring House Brewing Company will be open in Lancaster. Will the theme of Spring House make them the spot to be?
"I think that it's two-fold. One, you have people coming in here because it's October and it's Halloween for us. I don't think that's as big of a factor as it is that Spring House is new," Parson said. "We're starting to see business pick up, but I don't really think it has to do with Halloween. I think it's more end of summer, school back in session and it's getting cooler out. We're starting to see more and more people."
For Halloween, which falls on a Saturday this year, to Parson's delight, Spring House will be having an Oktoberfest-themed pig roast.
Parson doesn't think that having a location that's less than one mile from its sister company The Taproom in downtown Lancaster will hurt much, because they are separate in everything from the menu to the investors.
"I don't think so. I don't think we are going to hurt ourselves," Parson said. "The Taproom has their fans. They have the people downtown that are going there. We aren't really taking away from them or they aren't taking away from us. I think people go there for a pub-type feel, while people come here for more of a restaurant-type feel.
"Down at The Taproom, they have six taps while we have 12 with two on nitro and more to offer. Plus, it's much bigger. One of the things that really helps is that we have our own parking lot where people don't have to pay for parking."
Parson wants to build his Lancaster location up before expanding, but ideas have been thrown around as possible locations, including nearby in York.
So, you're saying there's a chance?
"There was some talk about it, but it was more of throwing it out there for eventually. It was more along the lines of maybe someday. There's nothing concrete or anything like that," Parson said. "We didn't look at places or anything. We were thinking if we want to expand, where would be places that would make sense. Is it east of Philadelphia, Harrisburg or maybe York? There's nothing concrete or anything. I think York would be a great place down the road. We're more concerned about making sure this place is successful first.