If the popularity and the emergence of events such as Hibrewnation, the Susquehanna Ale Trail and Saturday's Unreasonably Large Beer Garden at the Taste of Pa. Wine and Music Festival indicates anything, it's that York County has a taste for craft beer. Now, three Spring Grove High School graduates think they have the recipe to adding another successful brewery to the scene.
"Consistency is key," Jesse James De Salvo said. "I feel like I've said that a lot - have I mentioned that? - but consistency is key."
And he has mentioned it several times when describing Crystal Ball Brewing Company. De Salvo, who handles sales and marketing for the brewery, said the crew at Crystal Ball plan to focus on the beer first when launching the microbrewery.
"We don't want to be a local craze," he said. "We want people to know they can get a good beer, and the taste will be what they like."
De Salvo, along with head brewer Ryan Johnstonbaugh and assistant brewer Ashley Garvick, will launch the brewery later this month after several successful appearances at local craft beer events. The three attended high school together, De Salvo said, and stayed in touch. They frequently enjoyed the fruits of Johnstonbaugh's labor together, after he began home brewing.
"I was always a fan of craft beer, but the price - it was so high," Johnstonbaugh said. "I remember holding a case [of beer] and thinking, 'I can make this.'"
Johnstonbaugh said he bought a book and began researching home brewing. The self-educated brewer has been assisted by Garvick for awhile, with Johnstonbaugh developing the recipes and formulations the brewery uses in the development of its beers.
"It's a selfish kind of thing. I think about, 'Well, what do I want to drink?'" Johnstonbaugh said. "If I'm not going to want to drink it, why would anyone else?"
De Salvo said he can remember smelling the beer brewing in Johnstonbaugh's home on a Saturday morning - the three knew they had something on their hands. Johnstonbaugh said he was going through a transition in his life, and figuring out what he wanted to do.
"I was thinking of going back to school," he said. "Then I thought - I'll open a brewery."
The three set out to launch the company, with the support of their family and friends. Still, Johnstonbaugh admits, no one really understood what they had on their hands until their first event at Brews, Brats and Bands.
"That really opened everyone's eyes," Johnstonbaugh said. "I knew we had something here."
De Salvo said the demand for their beer was high, with a line at every event they attended.
"People reached out to us all the time asking 'Where can we find your beer?'" he said.
The three got to work, contributing more than 40 hours per week - on top of their day-jobs - to opening a production facility to meet the demand. The entire process was hands-on, Johnstonbaugh said, with each putting the work in themselves to prepare the facility.
The microbrewery is located at 1612 W. King St., in West York. The building offers 2,600 square feet on the ground level, as well as an additional 900 square feet on the second floor. The brewery now has the capability to produce 960 barrels per year.
"Right off the bat, we can provide a consistent product that's readily available," Johnstonbaugh said.
Garvick said their products go back to the true style of the beer they produce. Their initial offerings will include a pale ale, an IPA, a lager and a flagship coconut porter.
"We're going back to the roots of beer," Garvick said. "These aren't off-the-wall-beers with a wild name - we keep it simple, with good flavor. It's beer people want to drink."
De Salvo said Crystal Ball's beers will be available by draft only, adding that canning and bottling take away their attention from the consumer and producing an exceptional beer. The brewery will offer to fill growlers in their West York location, as well as plans to be on-tap at local bars and eateries.
"Visit your local, friendly tavern," he said.
- Read a review of Crystal Ball Brewing Company's coconut porter in the new craft beer column, "She's Crafty," appearing twice a month in The York Dispatch food blog, "Food For Thought." Reach Amy Peiffer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Where to find Crystal Ball
Meet the brewers and taste the initial offerings at Crystal Ball Brewing Company's debut event at 6 p.m. Thursday, May 22, at White Rose Bar & Grill, 48 N. Beaver St., York.
The brewery will also be featured at the Taste of Pa. Wine and Music Festival Saturday at the York Fairgrounds, in West Manchester Township.