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Brewer Q&A: Discussing the Coming-Soon Barren Hill with Head Brewer Scott Morrison

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As of late summer, craft beer-centric proprietor Erin Wallace (of Philadelphia’s Devil’s Den and Manayunk’s Old Eagle Tavern) will revive the former home of General Lafayette Inn & Brewery with Barren Hill Tavern. Joining Wallace for the the most hyped brewpub to debut in the last year will be Scott Morrison, a seven-time Great American Beer Festival winner.

In anticipation for what the acclaimed Morrison will be soon tapping in Lafayette Hill, we chatted with the skilled brewer, picking his brain on specific beers to come, how the Barren Hill relationship began, and much more.

AS: It’s exciting that there will finally be fresh life inside the former General Lafayette Inn & Brewery. What made you decide to join Erin Wallace on this new beer project?
SM: I was talking to a friend who owns a brewery here in Philly back in the early spring, and we got to talking about upcoming startups. He asked if I’d be interested in a particular one. Although Erin and I knew each other a little, it was a great match after our first meeting.

AS: Define the beer program coming to Barren Hill. What sort of styles will you focus on, if any (we know you’re notorious for your Belgians!)? What is your underlying goal for the beer at Barren Hill?
SM: Going into it, Erin and I had discussed the normal route of most breweries (having six to eight standard beers), and we both agreed that we wanted to do something more on a rotating basis, as you’d find at the Devil’s Den and the Old Eagle Tavern. It forces us to constantly come up with new beers, and to keep things fresh. It’s really a brewer’s dream, as you’re always innovating, rather than brewing the same standards and seasonals. I’ve actually stayed away from the Belgian styles a bit, as I’ll be focusing on  a balanced lineup from all over the world. If we find something is overwhelmingly popular, you’ll see it on draft a little more often.

AS: You’ve been promising “new and interesting styles that aren’t readily available in the Philly market.” Can you tease to our readers an example or two of beers that fit this proclamation?
SM: As for the first few brews, the idea will be a blending of styles, or a different take. Out of the first 12 or so, we’ll be doing a double Berliner Weisse (which is really only 6 percent ABV!), a German Style Pils that will be hopped like an IPA, an Imperial Milk Stout, a Baltic Porter with Madagascar vanilla beans, and some American Pale Ales, aged on different woods—cherry, maple, birch, instead of just oak. We won’t be doing different beers just to be different, the beers will still be interesting, but accessible.

AS: There will be 30 draft lines with six dedicated to your beer, correct? Will you always have six house-crafted beers or will this number fluctuate depending on brewing operations?
SM: When doing a new start up, it’s always wise to start on the conservative side, understand the system, and all the other little things like the water. The bare minimum will be six, but the goal will be to have at least eight and up to 12, depending on how much beer we sell. My personal goal will be to have a minimum of eight. Ten would be perfect, as how many brewpubs only have six beers on draft today?

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