For better beer – Words and images by Mike V. Sardina
Casually strolling around the Tired Hands General Store in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, mid-day on a sunny Saturday, there is a lot to take in. Metal music is playing on the speakers, punchy, and a few other folks are poking around the store, mouth slightly open in wonder and awe, as if almost in a dream. There are tee-shirts, glassware, and stickers on display, among other curiosities, and also plenty of beers.
There is a cooler filled with cans—today’s selections include Tired Hand’s beloved Hop Hands and their Trendler Pilsner—and there is a shelf full of bottles. It’s a diverse line-up of an eclectic range of bottled beers, and most of them are projects coming out of Tired Hands’ newest facility, The Dispensary.
I’m there to meet-up with Brendon, the truly genuine dude who is more-or-less in charge of managing these beers that are coming out of the Oak Throne Room that is the Dispensary. We are going off-the-grid to see the place (the Dispensary isn’t open and public-facing), tucked away in an undisclosed location in an industrial park outside of Tired Hands’ Ardmore headquarters.
After a ride over to the new spot, we head into an expansive off-site warehouse. There are cages and cages of green (and clear!) bottles, corked and capped and resting on their side to condition. Walking into the next room, there are five 60 hectoliter foudres installed, a few hundred oak barrels and puncheons. Plenty of oak, sure, but some stainless as well. Dry storage, packaging materials, a rotary GAI bottling line.
It’s quickly clear to see why this operation was moved out of the space at the Ferm—removing the oak program from the hustle and bustle, and the open-aired and very public space of the brewpub at the Fermentaria has allowed them to totally drive the oak program forward in a progressive direction. A private and vast space to dream up beers.
We head back into their breakroom and lab space, and open a few bottles. Previews of beers that may or may not be coming down the line, but super fun beers to experience. We taste a beer from the Frequency Illusion series, packaged in a clear bottle, it’s brightly saturated in colors and flavors from fruit, and it’s juicy and funky and bizarre in just the nicest way.
We taste a Saison fermented with local honey, and it’s zippy and fresh with pineapple and white pepper shining through. Extremely dry. Dreamy and intriguing, calling you back to the glass for another sip.
It’s a space and a world removed from what Tired Hands is perhaps best known for, the coziness and familiarity of the Brew Café. The craziness of the Milkshake can releases, and the hungry people waiting for tacos at the Ferm. The precision and detail of the retail operation at Dudley’s General Store.
But visiting the Dispensary, walking around the space, noticing the little things that make it feel oh-so-Tired Hands, it is simply uplifting to see. These separate spaces—the Brew Café, the Fermentaria, the General Store, the Dispensary, and as I would assume, High Harvest (Tired Hands’ brand new Biergarten in Philly)—the separate experiences, the different beers, and the different, passionate people who run all these places, they collectively make Tired Hands the beery dream that it has become.
The day finds us back in Ardmore for a guilty pleasure of mine, a happy place for me, a glass of Hop Hands at the upstairs bar in the Brew Café. A departure from the beers being produced at The Dispensary, but an absolute part of the Tired Hands dream all the same.