On January 2nd, we got to go on a fantastic trip and visit to Mellow Mink and do a brewery tour, visit, review, an interview, and for lack of words just spend the evening hanging out with owner and head brewer Matt Miller. This was an amazing evening for myself and Josh and we had a complete and total blast hanging out with Matt, Cole, and just taking in the wisdom, passion, knowledge, love, and just in short the awesome vibes Matt was giving off. As soon we were both there, we could feel his genuineness, his eager to teach, his love and his passion for brewing, craft beer, blending, sours, and just having fun.
Matt contacted us through the blog about visiting him at Mellow Mink and spending some time seeing the behind the scenes, the blending program, and just generally hanging out. Myself (Ben) and Josh immediately jumped at this idea. And to show just how hard it can be at times for just three humans to be able to meet, we started discussing when to visit mid-November and only got to actually meet January 2nd. A host of reasons attest to that; the least of all being a brewer, business operator, pharmacist, and all around busy man for Matt, for myself having only having two weekday days off rather than a weekend (whereas Josh has the weekend off), and myself having three daughters as well as another side-hustle (the podcasts). But we got to make it work, and it was a beautiful, and wonderful kick off to the new year and the new decade. Hopefully we’ll get to do more fun visits like this at other breweries.
Here’s how this article is going to break down for everyone reading. I (B. Kline) am going to start off, giving my side of the events of the evening, and talk through what led up to us finally getting to meet, how the evening went, and then I’m going to pass the baton off to J. Doncevic who will give his side of everything.We’ll meet back up at the end giving reviews of the beers we had – specifically the absolutely fantastic bottle we all got to share; we’ll then go back and forth with a few closing comments, and I’ll wrap it up with post-brewery visit nonsense, general blog news and future events and things like that, last second plugs, etc, and that’ll be that. Hopefully this will do the visit, the tour, Matt, and the brewery – Mellow Mink – justice. I think this format will be the best and make the most sense for the readers, and give a more overall perspective of our time there and the visit and things we got to discuss with Matt. I know personally I can’t say enough wonderful things about Matt, about the beers, about the place, about everything, and just how appreciative we were that Matt reached out to us and invited us basically into his home away from home.
As head of the blog I’m the one ‘saddled’ with having to do the behind the scenes upkeep of the blog, checking comments, media things, feedback through our contact page, generally all of the administrative and boring details. And to be honest, at a blog of our size, that’s really not much work, and I don’t mind one bit of it. Especially when I come across a notice like the one I received from Matt Miller. I immediately contacted Josh, my (main) co-writer here at the blog (one of a few now with the addition of Default Brewing joining in) and he was completely ecstatic right out of the gate just like I was. So I contacted Matt back and we stayed in touch via e-mail and messenger until we could finally hammer down a date – January 2nd.
My day was a bit hectic. Morning consisted of getting girls to school (driving my oldest two to two different schools, then walking my youngest), running errands, enjoying a nice lunch, and ultimately being late to my buddy D. Scott’s place. We were doing our podcast for The Rise of Skywalker and The Mandalorian. The night before I was at his place to do the LOST Podcast (Seasons 1 and 2) with Esteban. So for the Star Wars podcast I got to Drew’s just shy of 3PM when I was supposed to be there at 2:30/2:45PM. We ended up finishing the podcast at about 5:35PM and I all but ran and flew driving to get from Grantville to Mechanicsburg to meet Matt and Josh. I was supposed to be there at 6PM, and my GPS said I’d arrive there at 5:58, but I ended up walking in the doors at 6:02PM. I hate being late and try not to make it a common occurrence. Josh is already there sipping on Super Fruit 6. He informs me Matt is taking a business call.
I order my first – the Janet Weisse – and hang out talking with Josh about the evening and what to expect and how we might do the blog article. As per usual with me, nothing set in stone and nothing definitive, I tend to do much of everything on a ‘let’s just wing it’ kind of approach and let the chips fall and land where they do. In no time at all Matt comes out, introduces himself to Josh and I begin thanking him for letting us come out.
We stood by the bar drinking our first beer, the three of us chatting about how its taken so long for us to get to meet up finally, how we were supposed to the last week of December, why I was a bit running behind (because of the podcast, traffic, etc.), and just general life things. We then transitioned into the brewery, how long its been opened, small details about Mellow Mink in general.
Immediately Josh and I can tell just the wealth of knowledge Matt has. Certainly no one could ever doubt that this man knows beer. In one night’s sleep he probably forgets more about beer and brewing and sours and blending then I’ll ever learn / know in my entire life. You can tell up front and right away that this is a passion for him. That he’s knowledgeable, smart, and loves the business, the making of beer, the blending of sours, the people, the atmosphere, the craftsmanship behind brewing a damn good beer.
We ordered our second beers, Josh got the Cloud Cove IPA, since his Peaches and Cream IPA was out, I got the Super 6, and Matt got the Mechanicsbock. Absolutely loved the Super 6, and Josh enjoyed his Cloud Cove. We then began to talk actual shop. Discussing the beers he likes, breweries he likes, some of his inspirations, aspirations, and all around influences and influencers. He discussed going to Monk’s Cafe and trying out Cantillion on Zwanze Day and falling in love with lambics and the Belgian brewing style. Talked about how he discovered the sours and lambics and the various blendings and how its so similar to creating a good wine. We started discussing the different brewing styles and methods of lambics and the Belgian and German and European ways of brewing. It was like storytime with a historian and a scholar. The information that came out of him was too much to even comprehend most times, phenols, blending styles, aeration, different barrels, temperatures, mashing temperatures, kettle styles, stainless steel, different yeast strains, different sour methods, different cultures, bact, lacto, etc. etc, etc, etc.
Even with a notebook, heck, even with a recorder, I wouldn’t be able to write everything down and get it correct. Like I said, he knows far more than I’ll ever even possibly learn. We then ordered our next – myself getting the Mechanicsbock, Josh ordering the Janet Weisse, and we then followed Matt into the back to take a look at the full facility.
I will be honest here, and Matt will back me up on this, the facility is a glorified home brew set up. But its a DAMN GOOD glorified home brew set up. Matt even called it a “enlarged home brewing environment” while we were there. But please, this takes nothing away from the meticulousness, the procedure, the quality, or the skill that Matt uses. If anything it shows you how much better of a brewer Matt is to produce the quality he produces on such a small size and scale.
One of the first things that caught Josh’s eye was the grates in the floor. All breweries have them, their for flushing and letting out the water, and spills, etc, just like the backhouse of most restaurants, and even warehouses. But this was the first that either of us have seen where the grates had the logo of the brewery in them acting as some of the holes. The Mellow Mink logo distinctive in the grates was a super cool touch.
He walked us around showing his kettles, the mash tun, his various fermenters and equipment, showed us the cooler with the kegs that run up into the brewery and to the bar, every last nook and cranny of the backstage facility. It was glorious to get to walk around and listen to an expert explain what this piece was for, why he had it set up this way, what the water was like in Mechanicsburg, what he added/detracted from the water, why his setup was this way, where he did his souring, all of this so educating and elucidating, was just a marvel to see it all. I don’t believe our pictures can do it all justice, but hopefully it gives you at least an idea.
While chatting behind scenes, Matt told us how he’s actually a Doctor and works at a pharmacy by day, highlighting his science knowledge and showing why he’s so knowledgeable about the technical aspects of the molecular side of things in brewing. He told us about his prior writing before opening Mellow Mink – his blog – called The Sour Blog or Sour Blog where he was known as Dr. Lambic. Now it’s all clicking into place. We then chatted about his blog, our blog, and the intricacies of writing and blogs.
We then came back out to the barrels and he pulled the pin from a barrel to give us a pour from one, replaced the pin, and then did the same with another. We then took a seat at the bar again, and sampled the untouched and un-added-to beers from the barrels. A white and a red. Both like fine wines, tasting absolutely phenomenal. Dry. Tasty. So fantastic. Dr. Lambic, err, Dr. Matt, err, Matt – never call him Doctor – then got one of their latest bottle offerings, the Scarlet Sunrise – Blackberry and Blueberry. Now, I know this is early in the year, but this is a clear cut front runner for best beer of the year. Absolutely fantastic.
I’ll go into the beers we had and do beer reviews later in this article. So make sure you check that out. Might also do an individual posting for a beer review on just the Scarlet Sunrise.
But to wrap up my portion of the night, after we sampled the Scarlet Sunrise, talked very in depth about barrels, aging, blending, sours, etc, we then began to wrap things up. Cole got a group selfie of the four of us (he is the artistic and creative one as far as that sort of thing goes after all), and we chatted a little bit more, and gave our farewells.
After leaving, me and Josh stood outside chatting for a bit and then made our ways home. So I’ll hand this article off to Josh and let him talk about his evening at Mellow Mink:
Imagine my surprise when Ben messages me over Facebook that there was a brewery that had invited the two of us to come in and chat. The first thought that crossed my mind was “which one?” and immediately afterwards, the second thought was “you’re pulling my leg, aren’t you?” Ben cleared out the doubt when he told me it was Mellow Mink. Located just off the Carlisle Pike, in the Hampden Centre shopping plaza, right next to Pho 7 Spice, you’ll find an unassuming storefront. Step inside and you’re welcomed by friendly staff and a pleasant, upscale atmosphere that just feels right. If you’re looking for sours or farmhouse ales, you’ve stepped into the right place.
When Ben mentioned the sheer amount of time it took to set what would eventually become a January 2nd meeting, he wasn’t kidding. The offer for us to spend some time with Matt, drink his beer, chat, and view the inner workings of his passion took just under two months. Two months! Yes, various factors are to be taken into consideration, and on one occasion Ben & I were both available, but Matt had just received new brewery equipment that was coming in right around the time frame we’d have been there. Plus, like any brewer, Matt said he’d have new beer on tap that we would most likely be interested in. You don’t have to tell me twice. In retrospect, the day we were actually able to make our schedules work was probably the best as it was the start of a new year. Best time to hang out with a brewer and pick his brain, see what makes his brewery tick and try new things? YES! Before this sounds like some emphatic lovefest and a little too much fanboy fawning, allow me to place a little personal disclaimer: things like this usually do not happen to me. At least not on a regular basis. At any rate, I arrived a little early and checked my messages. Ben said he was running late, so I headed in and decided to, at the very least, let Matt know his 6 o’clock had arrived and was enjoying Super Fruit 6. Just a few minutes later Mr. Miller swings the backdoor open and greets me with a warm smile and hearty handshake. You can always tell when someone is about to talk about their passion. Their eyes are bright, their face is glowing, their smile is inhumanly wide and expressive. There’s this easy happiness that exudes from Matt as we share a brief moment conversing about what now occupies our glasses before my colleague crashes the party. Just kidding! It was fully my intent to kill some time while Ben was en route to Mellow Mink. To be fair to Ben, he wasn’t that late, and once things got started, time was never the issue.
So where do you start when you’ve got the night and (mostly) the run of his establishment? The beginning of course! Not wanting to waste time, we asked Matt a slew of questions ranging from his favorite style to where he got the idea of opening a brewery in the first place. Then the second beer hit, well, it was ordered and while entertaining their respective contents, the information Ben and I were being given was something that we quickly realized we might have wanted a recorder of some sort. Let’s touch on the highlights though.
Would you believe that Mellow Mink is not Matt’s only job? Hard to believe since the liquid luxury that pours from the taps is quite good. No, Matt has another job that pays the bills outside of being a brewer. He’s a pharmacist. Aha! At this point Ben and I realized the parallel that had been drawn between his profession and his passion project. Mr. Miller had moved us from the bar area to where he makes the magic happen. Sure there’s a lot of shiny metal tanks, fermenters, and even a HUGE refrigerator. None of this caught my immediate attention. No, what really got me excited was the fact that the drain grates incorporated the Mink from the logo. Matt was quick to add the company that made the grates offered to add the Mink for free so he jumped at the chance. I mean, wouldn’t you? Like a kid in a candy store, Ben and I are shown around and given a glimpse into what it means to be Matt Miller and what a typical month’s worth of brewing amounts to. In showing us what Mellow Mink really is, Matt also let’s us see that he’s not afraid to be resourceful and inventive. He shows us a bottle filling station with six separate spouts. Apparently when it was purchased it didn’t allow the proper amount of air to escape, so Matt set to work making it function the way he needed it. Way to go! Ben and I are having a great time, but now we’ve got an issue; our glasses are empty. Fortunately this is an easy problem to fix. However, we don’t want to fill our glasses just yet as Matt has something special for us. He gleefully shows us the barrels on sliding racks that occupy the back right corner and explains that the beer contained within is aged separately for at least 6 months and then blended together. Okay, brewers and distillers do this, but Matt uses beer aged in white wine and red wine barrels and marries them into one seamless, sultry mixture. He could have stopped there by telling us this process, but Matt believes in showing us this process. We are first given a sour that was aging in the red wine barrel. Although not finished aging, it comes across as mellow, smooth, and deep. We are then handed a sample of the sour from the white wine barrel. It is a stark contrast, in nose and experience. Where the red was mellow, the white is peaky, vibrant, upfront, and contains a lot more acidic bite. As the finale, Matt brings out a bottle of Scarlet Sunrise. This then is the end result of Matt’s incredible attention to detail as he deftly blends white and red into a sour with a luscious bouquet and more drinkability than anything this side of wine has a right to. This. This is what Matt does. Scarlet Sunrise represents what happens when someone has a passion for the craft and with every sip, that fact becomes more and more apparent. For me, Scarlet Sunrise puts the “Mellow” in “Mellow Mink” as it never feels the need to be the center of attention, nor does it completely fade into the background. Between the three of us we polish off the bottle, pay our tabs, grab a selfie with Matt and his partner Cole (the artistic side of the brewery), say our goodbyes then exit into the cold January evening. It was an incredible evening that Ben and I will not soon forget and one we might just need to have again.
Just to wrap things back up here, this was certainly a blast. I know I can speak for myself and Josh and say that we had an absolutely fantastic time at Mellow Mink. For anyone familiar with their beers, you’ll understand how great this was, and anyone unfamiliar with their beers will definitely want to check them out.
Matt is a genius brilliant brewer who certainly knows his trade. Getting to pick his mind on everything from sours, to brewing, to Untappd, to creativity things like naming and making recipes, to running a business, to being married and having another job and running a business, and just talking about his craft, his enthusiasm for what he does, his down-to-earth nature, and his pleasantness and niceness as a human being all shone through.
We visited on January 2nd, and we’re now posting this 20 days later on January 22nd. We’ve been a bit quiet on the blog homefront mainly because we’ve been working on this. Our last beer blog post was the duo 2019 recap blog posts: End of the Year – 2019 and The Best of 2019. I’ve also been busy doing podcasts.
We would like to take this time to thank Matt Miller extensively for allowing us into his brewery (basically his home) and showing us around and drinking with us and chatting with us. It was a blast!
For those reading, I have decided to move the beer reviews of what we had that night to a new article. I think this article is long enough and the beer reviews wouldn’t be necessary at this point. I will say we had some fantastic brews and none of them were below a 4 star review on Untappd. I will be doing the Scarlet Sunrise as its own review, and the others as a multi-beer review. I think thats the fairest way to do all of them. I believe Josh might also be doing a beer review article on the Scarlet Sunrise.
We are also considering doing a Q&A / interview series here on the blog. I know Matt has told us he’d welcome the idea of it and would gladly do one with us. If you are a brewer or brewery worker reading this and would like to do one, you can reach out to us here on the blog either through the comments or the contact page, and we would gladly do one!
Also, if you are a brewery (owner or brewmaster) and would like to invite us out to your brewery, we are super more than willing! We love hanging out at breweries, drinking, chatting, and will gladly do a review / write-up of your brewery. So once again, contact us, and we’ll work something out. We have covered a few brewery opening articles which you can find here: MidWest Coast Brewery Opening and Rotunda Brew Pub Opening.
I will also take this time to point out our various social media accounts for those of you unfamiliar with us, we have Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (though sadly we don’t use Instagram as much, but looking to in the future), and Pinterest.
We have a ton of different articles here on the site for you to check out, from brewery reviews, like our review of Battlefield Brew Works and Cushwa Brewery, to beer reviews like Fuzzy Nudge, The Hog, Dillston, Should Have Put Him Into Custardy, etc.
You can also check out the podcasts I do with friends over at our Podcast page – So a Mexican and a Scot Walk Into a Bar…. (The podcast is popculture themed, we discuss movies, shows, and drink beers and discuss the beers we are drinking while discussing the other esoteric stuff.) (The podcasts typically run from 1 Hour and 20 Minutes to 1 Hour and 45 Minutes.)
For a few months now we’ve been listed on FeedSpot’s Top 100 Beer Blogs; we’ve recently moved up from #11 on the charts to #9. And thats thanks to all of you checking us out, reading our entries, and clicking Follow and Like and Subscribe. We appreciate it so much! (We originally debuted at #137, then after a week we moved to #11 where we stalled for about a month or so, but now we’ve finally moved up again, to #9. Interestingly #2 and #3 is the same blog, so I guess in a way…. technically…. we’re #8…. but I don’t know. Just happy to be in the Top 10. There is some great blogs on this list.)
Click on the name and it’ll take you to a list of that author’s articles.
I will now close out with some pictures we took of the brewery:
(This was my first time using the gallery feature on the blog, so hopefully it comes out ok).
Thank you all for taking the time to read this blog post, article, whatever you want to call it. Brewery review… beer review… brewery tour….. However you want to label it, it was a blast, and we want to thank Matt and Cole for having us and for you guys for reading this! Please be sure to follow us, subscribe to our Facebook and Twitter pages, and check out our past and future articles here on The Beer Thrillers!
Cheers from Josh and Ben!