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Brewery Showcase | Bonn Place Brewing Company

Bonn Place
Dan Bortz

Nestled in the southside of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania—a stone’s throw away from the Sands Casino, SteelStacks and Lehigh University’s Asa Packer Campus—is the little brewery that could. Going from a grand opening to two GABF medals in just over a year requires a lot of hard work, dedication and a metric shitload of positive thinking. The team at Bonn Place Brewing Company has all of these things, while still making the time to greet each and every patron as they enter (many of them by name).

How It All Started

Like so many people, Bonn Place’s co-owner, head brewer and self-proclaimed “Grand Chancellor”, Sam Masotto, began his brewing journey with a Mr. Beer homebrewing kit that he received as a gift in 2008. It wasn’t long before he entered the professional brewing world as an intern at Chelsea Brewing Company in 2009 and then taking an assistant brewer position at Newburgh Brewing Company in 2012.

When Sam’s wife and “Co-Chancellor”, Gina, wanted to move closer to her family, the two decided that this was the time to pull the trigger and open their own brewery. Sam and Gina LOVE the Bethlehem area and made a now-or-never decision, opening the doors to Bonn Place Brewing Company on July  31, 2016.

“Fuck Yeah… Keep Going!” Sam replied when I asked him if he had any brewing mantra or philosophy, “That more drives me, not so much my creativity… I don’t know that I’m a very ‘creative’ person… I just surround myself with creative people.”

Not One IPA in Sight

One thing that many craft beer enthusiasts may find odd is the glaring omission of the India Pale Ale from Bonn Place’s taplist. This is not because Sam dislikes hops or shies away from making hoppy beers. In a recent Philadelphia Inquirer article, he explained that anyone can heavily hop a beer and call it an IPA. That beer may even sell faster because of that classification, but, if Sam doesn’t think it’s a true-to-style IPA, he isn’t going to list it as one. When I raised this topic with him, he playfully responded, “Why don’t we brew IPA? What’s an IPA? Is that something I should know about?”

Fear not, hop heads. A quick glance down Bonn Place’s chalk board will reveal New England-style Pale Ales, English-style Bitters and other aromatic and bitter brews. Your lupulin addiction will be fed.

Despite a mild aversion to the IPA, the brewing team at Bonn Place doesn’t have a favorite style to brew. They are driven by an underlying need to challenge themselves. Sam says that brewing a German-style lager can be really fun, although he’s only brewed two of them at Bonn Place.

Ultimately, the team loves to brew beers that they can’t get anywhere else. This urge to experiment began when Sam was still a homebrewer, creating concoctions like a Curry Lager or a Rye Ale fermented with bread yeast.

The Present & Future of Bonn Place

Bonn Place Brewing Company isn’t just getting attention among the local Lehigh Valley beer drinkers, they are also getting recognized at the national level. At 2017’s Great American Beer Fest, Bonn Place won two medals. Mooey won silver in the Ordinary or Special Bitter category, while Nemo brought home a bronze medal from the English-style Mild Ale category.

“Winning two medals at GABF in 2017 is cool…but business as usual. We didn’t get a Gold, so there’s something to try for. I do think it must have been REALLY COOL for our brewers that I work with. There’s three of us in the brew house now which is GREAT! I like to think that no matter what I now have a place in this industry, which, yeah…that’s PRETTY
RAD.” – Sam Masotto, Bonn Place Brewing Company

If Sam and Gina have their way, the future of Bonn Place will look an awful lot like its present. They are pretty happy with the way things are. There are no plans for expansion. Sure, they want to spruce up their space a bit and continue improving their craft, but growth is not something that seems to interest them very much. “I certainly have no plans for growth,” said Sam. “Growth is a concept of what People THINK capitalism is, and it’s not. My wife Gina and I don’t want for much and are pretty happy with where the brewery has ended up… I do look forward to a day off here and there in the near future!”

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Visiting Bonn Place is both wonderful and ordinary all at the same time. Like many of my favorite places, the brewery’s taproom is a simple neighborhood gathering place. It might not be the kind of brewery that you make special plans to visit, though it is definitely very special.

Sam’s infectiously upbeat attitude in the brewhouse also carries over into Bonn Place’s taproom. He bounces from table to table greeting his patrons and creating a beautifully welcoming atmosphere in his small neighborhood establishment. Exposed brick and lots of wood gives Bonn Place Brewing Company a worn-in, warm feel that is unusual for such a young brewery. I felt instantly at home when I stepped inside, and it appeared as if many of the other customers felt exactly the same way.

It’s not about whalez, bro. Bonn Place is about beautiful beer crafted by some of the nicest people on Earth. When your shift ends and you need a friendly place to shed the burdens of everyday life, head to 310 Taylor Street in Bethlehem, PA. They have the cure for what ails you, everybody knows your name and they even have a guy named Sam.

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