Owner Bill Herlika shows us how the homebrewer spirit can thrive in the brewing industry.
Since leaving a career in finance, Bill Herlika’s done things his own way. He debuted White Birch in 2009 with a favorite homebrew recipe, a Belgian-style amber ale called Eerst. Since then, the brewery’s churned out more than 20 different beers, mostly recipes he perfected as a homebrewer for 17 years.
“The end result to all of this is to make beer the way I homebrew,” says Herlika. “A lot of what I enjoyed back then was stuff like making a Belgian quad and over-hopping it, or pushing a certain malt too far. For years, I’d get a bug about a recipe style and go off on tangents. It taught me a lot about ingredients and my own tastes.”
And despite his success—within two months of opening, White Birch was already getting requests from stores in Philadelphia—Herlika still thinks like a homebrewer. Along with newly added brewer Dave Kilgour, Herlika brews on a seven barrel system to produce small-batch beer that either circumvents the norm or breathes new life into Old World styles. With American wild ales, cherry-spiked beers and barrel-aged Belgian tripels, everything at White Birch is an experiment in the unusual.
“Being this size, and the way I’ve designed the brewery, it pretty much gives us the ability to do anything,” notes Herlika, who loves seeing his recipes evolve with each new batch. “Beer, to me, is like artisanal bread: It has a different look every time.”
NYX Black IPA
“This release from our apprentice program is an exploration into a newer style, the black IPA. It’s black as night and bitter with a full-flavored Cascade hop profile and smooth finish.”
“This is our West Coast-hopped, malty red Belgian ale. Coming in around 8% to 9% ABV, it’s a great balance of malts, Belgian spice and esters, and wonderful Cascade and Columbus hops.”
Hop Session Ale
“I used a favorite English ale yeast and a blend of West Coast hops and malts to bring out a balanced smooth finish in this red ale. This beer is easy to have a couple of with friends or dinner.”
“Wrigian is our rye Belgian ale, and my go-to spicy food beer. Rye marries beautifully with our house Belgian yeasts, complementary hops and a nice malt base.”
“While we don’t recommend pouring this beer into a pewter mug, adding an egg and stirring with a hot
poker from the fire [like patrons did in the Colonial era], we do suggest this hearty smoked imperial
brown ale with rich stews, roasts or a rich, creamy cheese and cracker plate.”