Friday afternoon I made a little field-trip to JAFB Wooster Brewery. Yes folks, there’s a one-man craft beer revolution going on in the heart of Wayne County‘s Amish country. That man is Paul Fryman.
I had a chance to sit down and sample their offerings with owner and brewer Paul Fryman. Eight years ago Paul was an Allegheny college student studying abroad. Over time his tastes shifted from the standard American fare of mass produced pilsners to the tasty brews he encountered in pub after pub. Paul returned from oversees and brought back his new cravings for craft beer. Fryman, an economics major, wrote his senior thesis on the “economics of beer” and realized that his real passion was beer and not economics. The fire was lit…
Fryman did stints at several breweries across the country including Great Divide Brewing Company in Denver, Snake River Brewery in Jackson Hole WY and most recently as assistant brewmaster at the Great Adirondack Brewing Co. in Lake Placid, N.Y. He earned two silvers and a bronze medal for a stout, kolsch and saison at the Great American Beer Festival while brewing at Great Adirondack.
The seven-barrel, steam production brewery and large tasting room are located in a large red brick building dating back to 1899. In 2006 Fryman’s father purchased the former buggie shop and most recently NAPA Auto Parts store. Since then, he estimated they have spent roughly $200,000 to build it back up to house the 120 Artists Co-Op, and brewery. The building screams small town Americana with it’s red brick and four American flags perched along the length of the structure.
The interior is cavernous at just over 3,100 square feet. The vibe is Outdoor Life Magazine meets MoMA. Seating consist of long communal bench seats similar to German beer-hall seating. Fryman’s father built the large communal tables and benches out of local ash and oak trees. The bar area has two seating areas separated by the entry into the brew house. One of the bar surfaces is wood similar to the elder Fryman’s handmade benches…the other is a rough and industrial looking aluminum surface. The bar stools are the star of the show; shiny black vinyl background licked by flames that look they came off a bad ass 50’s roadster.
Patrons are surrounded on all sides by various objets d’art and…well…just objects. The ceiling is dominated by an ultralight aircraft, a giant embedded razor blade and buggie. However the one object in the room that grabs you be the collar as screams “LOOK AT ME DAMNIT!!!” is the life size crucifix. The grotesque metal figure nailed to the cross is both creepy and breathtaking. You can’t ignore it. The first twisted thought that went through my mind as I gazed at it was, “He died for our beers?”
Well I hope I painted a picture for you. You have to experience it yourself.
On to the beers! Paul said he brews what he likes to drink. Selections are very tradition styles which in today’s market of crazy over the top hopped brews can seem boring to some. Nope. Paul’s brewing skills result in some of the most delicate and beautifully understated beers I’ve ever had. Most are nice sessionable ales ranging from 4.9 to 6.4 ABV. I’m not going to review each of the ten beers I had but let’s touch on a few. My favorite was the Session IPA. I hate to repeat myself but such a beautifully delicate offering. The HefeWeizen was full of crazy banana notes with just a tiny hint of clove. The mouthfeel on the Wooster Cream Ale was silky smooth and refreshing. Paul told me he generally judges a brewery on their lager which he feels is such a labor intensive and difficult style to get right. He seems almost hesitant to put one out at in the near future. Trust me, Paul strikes me as a guy who enjoys a challenge. He have one someday and odds are he’ll knock it out of the park.
It takes time for most breweries to get their beers “dialed in.” JAFB Wooster has been opened for five weeks. Paul’s lineup is scary good right now. If this guy isn’t dialed in I can’t wait for the future of JAFB.
JAFB is a cash only business. A pint is $4.50, growlers with a fill are $18…refills are $12. All four beer flight runs $7. Wooster Brewery ordered 500 glass growlers and have sold over 450 of them. The refill business is brisk to say the least. I was there on Friday afternoon for two hours and saw over a dozen refills poured. Amazing!!! Friday and Saturday nights are packed. They have a bring your own food policy.