I’d never been to York, Pennsylvania, until a recent newspaper assignment sent me there. I’d been assigned a story on the Mason Dixon Wine Trail so I joined a group of Philadelphia writers who were touring this small city just over the Mason Dixon Line.
We toured Central Market, learned a little about the sculptures and murals around town and visited Wyndridge Farm, an ambitious new enterprise that’s a winery-brewery-cider-wedding venue-restaurant all in one bucolic setting.
In the middle of our visit, we had the opportunity to taste the brews and eats at Mudhook Brewing, a brewery that has set up shop in a corner of Central Market, and then the hot salty wares of York City Pretzel Company right around the corner.
I knew I’d like Mudhook right away. In a place of honor over the bar is a shirt bearing the number of Orioles legend Brooks Robinson. I didn’t know this but Brooks (we’re on a first name basis…) is part owner of the local minor league team. I’m liking York more and more. And Mudhook’s owner is a big Os and York Revolution fan.
The owners — Jeff Lau, a former insurance agent and his son-in-law, Tim Wheeler, the brewmaster— have created a gem. With six beers on tap and a decidedly beer-friendly menu, and a rustic exposed-brick and wood-trimmed setting, you’ve just got to sit back and enjoy the moment. I really enjoyed my turkey chili and Red Eye Irish Red: hearty and soothing on a wintry day. Now if I had just ordered those meaty hog wings (who said pigs couldn’t fly?!) and that reuben on a hot dog looked pretty good, too.
Stay late and join in the nightly singing of “Piano Man.” But remember you’ll be graded. The bell above the dining space is rung after each “performance.” “I expect you to sing along,” Jeff said.
As if all that isn’t enough fun, live music is scheduled regularly and special events are added to the roster when the weather is nice. If you want to make a day of breweries, Mudhook is part of the Susquehanna Ale Trail.
The York City Pretzel Company makes thick chewy soft pretzels and the mustard and beer cheese to go with them. These were a revelation to me. Never one to wax poetic about a knot of salty dough, I became a convert. These have just a touch of brown sugar and butter to soften and sweeten them. And oh my! dipped in mustard or warm cheese sauce they are worthy of an ode. YCPC mixes local Liquid Hero beer into the cheese and Specher beer or root beer (!) into the mustard to create something special. I was a huge fan of the root beer mustard; I like a little sweet with my savory.
The shop offers twisting classes by appointment and so I got a chance to roll a lump of dough into a thing of beauty. And a thing of great deliciousness.
Oh and I’ll be back. I’ve got to check out the Tour de Tanks wine tour going on through March. After this long cold winter, it will be wonderful to hurry spring along a little at some of these great wineries.
© Text and photos Mary K. Tilghman