As part of our DiscoverNEPA Brewer’s Loop Series, we’re hitting the road – yes, all 390-plus miles of it. We’ll be taking brewery tours, sampling stouts, lagers and IPAs, and tasting taproom grub all over Northeastern Pennsylvania. Follow along as we bring you a firsthand look inside the region’s exploding craft beer scene, and let you know how, when and where you can experience it for yourself.
Not Your Grandma’s Jam Room
Somewhere near the southeastern end of the Endless Pocono Run section of the DiscoverNEPA Brewer’s Loop, you’ll happen upon Jam Room Brewing Company.
Just before Interstate 84 barrels away from civilization and into the lonely Pocono wilderness, it interchanges with route 191. This southern striking lightning bolt zigs and zags from barn to farm to village and on to the Lehigh Valley. Mountain lakes, clear streams and that ever green garden of dense scrub and pine occasionally flank the road.
It’s a fairly pleasant Pocono jaunt. One marked, it seems, by a rhythmic accounting of cracks, bumps, telephone poles, towns, meadows and trees. Soon, unaware and trancelike, a thumb taps out a base line on the steering wheel. One of those classic, road conversations – a balladic composition of prattle and gossip – carries the melody. And, before you know it, this simple beer-inspired journey has a soundtrack.
You’d miss this place if you weren’t looking for it.
The road dips into the south end of the lush Wallenpaupack Valley. Its namesake creek rolls parallel for a spell — in brief glimpses, between houses here, beyond a clearing there, reminding it once was a river. Grand, towering Hemlocks share their history in shadows. It’s here, away from quaint villages and bustling lake towns where the Pocono Mountains deliver their best rendition of quiet.
Soon, the peaceful mountain road drops us into Newfoundland. Sporadic traffic slips indifferently between the old-school, counter service café and adorable library bookending the town center. Progression through the village is linear, unhindered – almost, it seems, hurried along. The road, to a greater effect, traces the spectral scar of a magnificent river draining an ancient, forgotten northern plain. And this little town, without pronouncement, illustrates an admirable resistance to change.
Not long ago, inevitable and somewhat necessary progress swept over this entire valley. It radiated to nearby towns and villages. Suddenly, the value of things made easy triumphed. Rivers became roads. Forests turned to industrial fodder. But, here, they claimed a simpler way, and held onto it as best they could. Hell, the whole thing haunts like a Springsteen tune, and before you know it, it’s through.
The town takes but a minute to become a memory. There are no gift shops – no Christmas ornaments or coffee mugs for the collection. But there is beer. Good Lord almighty, there is tasty, cold, local beer, and we found it at Jam Room Brewing Company. And we’ll never forget this darling, little village because of it. Stay true, Newfoundland.
Let’s go take a little tour and drink some beers, shall we?
For those about to brew (We salute you)
A well-worn path strikes across the concrete brewhouse floor at Jam Room Brewing. The bright red sealant once trusted to protect it has long ago ceded its utility. A simple story emerges from the brownish blur of boot marks – one of repetitive motion and of tired hands and tired backs.
It’s a small space – cramped by the gleaming silver bellies of fermenters and serpentine tangles of brewer’s hoses. A bit of natural light from a nearby window and a single fluorescent bulb make quick work illuminating this shambolic laboratory. The air, thick with a familiar bready warmth, leads the mind somewhere soft in the memory. Clipboards and calendars relay what must be trade secrets in some unknown hieroglyph.
Brewing this beer is a shared burden. We were lucky enough to visit while the early shift was hard at work. Their famous Muddy Waters Brown Ale stewed away as we peeked and prodded through the brewhouse. A soundtrack of heavy, late 90s/early aughts rock pulverized the oft-lamented brewer’s monotony. Despite the inherent messiness of it all — the noise, the grunts and squeaks of the work, the sweat and the hot vegetal swirl of young beer, the whole process signals a ripe tinge of anticipation on the back of the tongue. Soon, tasting the beer registers paramount in the mind.
Off to the taproom post-haste.
The type of hangout you used to dream about.
An immediate sense of welcome permeates Jam Room Brewing Company. One side, a spillover space, is reserved for live music. It feels familiar. You’ve been here before – only the when and the how are now puzzling. String lights and a mish-mash of odd, hand-me-down couches send a memory bounding back. An old hangout, a basement – circa 1993, or so. You’d meet up here after class for those all too frequent “study” sessions. And you found yourself, upon leaving, always surprised that it was dark outside. According to some, you wasted the better years of your formative youth here. But what did they know about changing the world one solid jam session at a time?
The comfy taproom on the other side is, in some way, a mix of grunge industrial, esoterically hip and neighborly. Corrugated, galvanized steel walls wrap the room. A warm red glow drags from the painted concrete floor and blends with the beer list printed in tinted chalk along the wall. Random mandolins, cigar box guitars, hand drums and tap handles forged from band room remnants reveal a rock-n-roll aesthetic.
Throughout, there’s a playful graffiti scrawled across blackboard walls. It reads out in different voices. Like scribblings in an old yearbook – some you’ll recall with little effort. Others, perhaps pulled away by time and circumstance, tax the memory, but slowly make their way back. This is your best friend’s basement. It’s your college apartment; your poker den; the band room. Grown-up-you was born in a place like this. It’s where you cut your teeth on big ideas, shared dreams and Super Mario marathons. Sure, adulthood may have pulled you away too fast, but you can always come back.
It’s all right here. It’s waiting for you at the Jam Room (and they’ve got plenty of beer).
“Pouring the soundtrack to our lives.”
Jam Room prides itself on delivering that throwback to a simpler time – where the music was loud, the cares were few and the future was limitless. And they do it all with only one exception – the beer. Gone are the days of warm, whatever-we-could afford and 40s of beer-ish water.
Jam Room offers up a set list of fresh-brewed, occasionally locally-sourced craft classics. They don’t miss a single note on that wide-ranging scale of beer. From silky black stouts to light and easy wheats, there’s something tuned to every palate.
“We live it. We brew it.”
We made our way through the greatest hits by starting on the dark side. The Sabbath Black Stout opens on the tongue with a sweet chocolatey invitation. And it closes with notes of pleasant coffee bitterness. Straight and to the point, like a good stout should be. The Winterland Vanilla Porter left us adrift in a sea of deep, nutty richness broken occasionally by rogue waves of sweet vanilla. Then we lightened the mood a bit with the Muddy Waters Brown Ale. The enveloping tones of toasty caramel and mild hop profile proved a perfect transition to the IPAs.
Jam Room’s Long Play IPA steals the show. The beer’s balanced profile is a feat of artistry, restraint and boldness. The citrus seamlessly blends into the tropical and into the resinous and finishes clean and dry.
We closed the show with a couple of fresh and insanely crushable, all day type of beers. The Punch Bowl Pale Ale is crisp and slightly heavy on the hops (in a good way). And the Let it Linger Cranberry Wheat dances on the palate, delivering a tiny tart finish to each sip.
We stopped by the Jam Room on a bitter winter day. We shook off the cold. We tipped a few. And we found ourselves quickly warmed over by the story of five old friends finding a way to keep jammin’ after all these years. Take a look.
Sabbath Black Stout – deliciously black and aggressively silky – 7% ABV
Long Play IPA – A touch of tropical / a touch of citrus / hoppy and a bit dank – a true-to-style West Coast IPA – 6.6% ABV
Let it Linger Cranberry Wheat – An honest, easy wheat, slight citrus enhanced by subdued cranberry tartness – 5.5% ABV