In our second installment of getting to know the people who brew your beer, we talked to Ryan Delutis from The Vineyard and Brewery at Hershey, who is in his third year as brewmaster.
For Ryan, an Eagles loss on a Sunday meant that the rest of the day would have a somewhat bleak outlook. But one particular Eagles loss might have been one of the best things to happen his brewing career.
“It was Sunday, and the Eagles were getting crushed by the Lions,” Ryan said. “I remembered Tierney telling me about the opportunity for homebrewers to show their stuff to this new brewery that was opening and I thought, ‘what the hell,’ I have a few beers to show off.”
Quick local brewery history lesson before going further.
The Vineyard at Hershey always intended to incorporate a brewery alongside their winery to create “the best of both worlds” full experience on the farm. The Vineyard had been open for some time when the partners decided they were ready to expand. Because their winemaker, L. Paul Vezetti, also was a home winemaker, they looked to the homebrew community for their brewer. More than 40 homebrewers submitted their beers in to be tested; only five made it through to the final round.
“It was the last day to submit your beers,” said Ryan. “I called up Jason, and he said that they had a few left to judge, so I grabbed a few bottles I had recently brewed.”
Ryan delivered four beers including a rauchbier, amber ale with apple, watermelon wheat, along with the beer that eventually would become Flash Gourd’n.
“I thought there was no way they were going to pick me,” said Ryan.
But — they did, and he had to brew four more beers for the final judging. Three of those beers were so good that they became staples on the Brewery at Hershey’s tap list: Weizeguy Wheat, Naughty and Spiced, and Chocolate M.I.L.F.
Needless to say, the panel of judges that included Jason and Paul, the winemaker, plus three others loved what Ryan had brought to the table, and he was hired.
“There was one stipulation before they brought me on,” said Ryan. “I had to come on as one of the partners and help purchase the brewing equipment. I had a talk with my wife, and we decided to go for it.”
It’s a good thing that he did. It has been three years since the brewery opened their taps, and they haven’t looked back. In those three years, they have gone from two fermenters to five and have ramped up production from 180 barrels the first year to their current 400 barrels.
Ryan said that the next step for the brewery is to focus on packaging over the winter. He also said that he has a ridiculous amount of crazy recipes floating around his head that he can’t wait to challenge their visitors with. (Can’t wait to see what you come up with, Ryan.)
“The craziest thing for me is when I look back on my homebrewing hobby and the 600 barrels of beer I made in seven years,” said Ryan. “I actually eclipsed that mark in my first two professional batches.”
“I am pinching myself that this is real, and that I don’t have to back to a desk job,” said Ryan. “I am continually amazed by the amount of visitors we get who truly love the beer that I used to make as a hobby.”
Firkin Fridays begin next weekend and will run every third Friday of the month throughout winter. On Oct. 21, stop by and enjoy firkined beer prepared by Ryan, featuring:
- Flash Gourd’n – Their fall seasonal will be put into a 12-gallon firkin infused with vanilla bean and caramel. This is the perfect mix for a fall Friday night.
- Hippie Ki-Yay – Ryan added fresh hops and Niagra grapes grown on their property to a firkin full of their juicy new IPA.