Cumberland County’s Mellow Mink Brewing has a lot more going on than you might expect from the exterior. Located in a strip mall in Mechanicsburg, the facade is unassuming, with its light gray stone kicking back sunshine into an expansive parking lot. There are two doors allowing entry to the darker interior.
From the inside looking out you can see a Karn’s supermarket and a Dollar Store, as well as a constant flux of traffic moving from one place to another, but there is a happy disconnect here, a sheltered feeling, an oasis from that outside chaos.
A large rectangular bar takes up the majority of the space, with some high-top tables on one side and a long, plush bench and low tables along the opposite wall. The color is predominantly charcoal-black, a refreshing cave after the gleaming white of the outside world. An accent color of creamy caramel can be found on the bar top, chairs and bench. Framed paintings feature pheasant, deer and two Colonial dudes fishing, straight out of the “Outlander” cast when they make their way to the New World.
A large American flag is on the back wall, and looking out to the front doors, you’ll find a rack system with numerous barrels on your left and large mirrors along the wall on your right, which make the room feel bigger than what it is.
In the women’s bathroom, a shelf allows for a safe spot for a glass of beer, something much appreciated by females.
The music was a strange amalgam of countrylike Americana in all its fingerpickin’ glory, Pink Floyd, Grateful Dead and some 1990s radio-friendly tunes. It turns out that patrons can choose the music from their phones via Rockbot, and that’s why it was all over the place.
There are a few snack items to eat at Mellow Mink, but nothing to really satisfy a gnawing hunger. Luckily, there are numerous options that deliver through Grubhub and Uber Eats.
Or you can do what we did (which I couldn’t recommend highly enough) and walk right up the sidewalk to Zahra, a Pakistani restaurant in the strip. Do try the lamb shawarma and garlic naan, large enough to share.
Our bartender, Katie, was friendly and extremely knowledgeable about the beer she was serving, down to advising which bottled beer could be cellared for up to three years and which one could handle longer cellaring. She also supplied us with plates and plasticware for our food when it was delivered from Zahra.
All of this to say that first impressions from outside didn’t in the least influence what was going on inside. Serving a range of house beer, beer cocktails, traditional cocktails, wine and hard cider, there are plenty of options here.
And the beer? Exceptional.
Rare Pedestrian was a 6.1% alcohol by volume American pale ale brewed with Citra and Ekuanot hops. It poured caramel-amber, was slightly hazy and topped with a cheerful, white-bubbled head. It smelled of pine, green pepper, pineapple and grapefruit and the flavor offered herbs, green bell pepper, lemon, pine, resin and plenty of toasty malt. It’s a drinkable and balanced beer.
Double Strawberry Creamshake
The Double Strawberry Creamshake took the house Fortress double India pale ale and put it through a happy mutation with wild strawberry, vanilla bean, lactose and a double dry hop session with Mosaic. It was a hefty 9.4% ABV and I appreciated my option of pours when choosing this one: 4 ounce, 8 ounce or 16 ounce.
Creamshake glowed golden orange and was full of haze; it was topped with a fluffy white head and generous lacing lasted throughout the sips. It smelled of strawberry, lemon, passion fruit, guava and vanilla and each of those translated into the flavor in a tart way, despite the lactose. There’s everything in there you’d expect from the name — strawberry and vanilla with just a touch of sweetness. This beer tasted big and mature.
Peach Mango Saison de Mink
Peach Mango Saison de Mink was brewed with the house saison yeast, which our bartender said is constantly being tinkered with to get it just right. It was a 7.7% ABV saison that poured bright yellow and hazy with a thin, white head. It smelled tart and somewhat barnyardlike with lemons, peach and hidden, juicy mango. The flavor offered loads of lemon, black pepper, subtle peach and mango and all of it was covered with a once-wet horse blanket that was now dusty and dry. It reminded me of experiences with Brettanomyces bruxellensis. Soft wheat flavor blossomed at the dry end, finishing this truly wonderful beer.
Of course I had to try a beer cocktail, that kind of concoction I once disliked so much and now thoroughly enjoy as an exciting way to use a beer’s natural character to make liquor and other flavors shine. The Papillon had my name written all over it, what with its Revivalist Botanical Gin and citrus juices. This beer cocktail was clean, crisp and refined with loads of lemon, grapefruit, pine and juniper. It was bitter and refreshing, a wonderful way to end our first visit to Mellow Mink Brewing.
Don’t forget to grab a sour cooler to take with you and enjoy poolside. It’s a prepackaged frozen sour beer that quickly becomes a slushie.
Contact Amber DeGrace with comments and questions at firstname.lastname@example.org and find her on Twitter at @amberdegrace.