Calling 2SP Brewing’s Andrew Rubenstein (Ruby, for short) an underdog at the 2016 Great American Beer Festival (GABF) would be stating the obvious. Not only was this the first recipe the Pittsburgh-native-turned-Delco-brewer ever has entered in the GABF (which is held in Denver each fall), but it also was a beer concept that was initially shot down by ownership at the brewery. To add yet another obstacle, there were 26 other breweries around the country vying for a medal in the category of French-style Ale (one being our region’s own Sly Fox Brewing of Phoenixville). But his aptly-named “Antonym” ale finished 3rd overall – and those of us who have tasted it were not really all that surprised.
Several months ago, Ruby came up with the idea for a French-style ale that was light in body and easy to drink in the Summer months. He had recently come across an interesting hybrid strain of hops at the Craft Brewers Conference and had the idea that this particular variety would be perfect for a unique French farmhouse ale style called grisette. But the palate of owner Michael “Stigz” Stiglitz – at least at the time – would prove to be less adventurous. “He told me to brew any beer he wanted using the new yeast strain – as long as it was not a grisette,” Ruby told me.
Now you may not believe it from his mild manner and youthful punim, but Ruby is a confident, experienced 30-year old brewer – and he’s got that cross-state grit. He wasn’t about to let this one go.
“When Stigz left town, I brewed the beer anyway,” Ruby said with a smirk. Ruby told me that, in a way, he was seeing how much he could get away with from the new owner. Not surprisingly, when Stiglitz returned and Ruby told him what he had done, the owner was upset. But any animosity seems to be long since forgotten.
Stiglitz admires Ruby’s passion, drive and all-out guts in the face of the decision to brew Antonym. He praises this grisette as “one of the finest beers we will ever make” – and makes it clear that he is behind his brewer one-hundred percent. “I look forward to his next defiant beer!” he told me.
To 2SP Director of Sales, Michael Contreras, Ruby’s “defiant” brew-venture brings to mind, oddly enough, the ultimate trickster lyricists of a rap group. “I think about Ruby and his attitude after being told not to brew a grisette, then brewing it, and then winning a bronze at the GABF for that beer. The only words that come to mind now are Wu-Tang.” Wu Tang Clan of course were known for pushing the limits of hip hop in the 90s, as Contreras implies Ruby is doing in the present.
To me, Antonym Ale embodies American craft beer. It is a daring brew that pushes the limits with respect to style. From the first sip, you experience something old and familiar in the overall effervescence and body, but with the way those few fistfuls of Huelle Melon hops play off the French yeast, Ruby lends this grisette a curious complexity that won’t be found in your Zayde's favorite Euro import. I look forward to future products of insubordination from this talented brewer we all can enjoy.
Other Southeastern PA breweries that medaled at the GABF are Love Stout (Yards Brewing, silver), Churchville Lager and Croydon is Burning (Neshaminy Creek Brewing Co., both bronze), Bridge Street Bock (Iron Hill – Phoenixville, bronze) and, literally saving the best for last, The Russian (2SP, gold).
When you go: 2SP Brewing Company is located at 120 Concord Road, Aston, PA. The phone number is 484-483-7860. The taproom is open seven days a week. Tours are available on Saturdays at 1PM and 2PM. Their brews also are available in pubs across the region and at grocery stores such as Whole Foods. Visit www.2SPbrewing.com for more details.