During our time in Pittsburgh, we received multiple recommendations to visit Roundabout Brewery while in town, so we made our way over there on April 23rd, 2014. Husband and wife, Steve & Dyana Sloan, are running the operation on their own in the Lawrencville area of Pittsburgh utilizing a 6 barrel brewhouse. Steve has been working at breweries for years – one in Florida, one in Hawaii, three in California, one in Colorado, two in Missouri, three in Pennsylvania, plus a winery in New Zealand – and the time came to finally open up his own. Roundabout recently celebrated their one year anniversary in July with an event at the taproom where they had live music, BBQ, and Ice Cream. Their brews can only be found on tap in the taproom, as they made the decision to not distribute off-site in order to have full control over how their beer is served. You won’t want to miss out on the deliciously unique New Zealand & American themed beers that Roundabout is brewing, so definitely make time for a visit to the brewery when you’re in Pittsburgh.
While we were in Pittsburgh, we heard many great things about a new brewery in town called Hop Farm Brewing Company, so we called them up and made a visit. The owner and only brewer, Matt Gouwens, took time out of a brewing day to speak with us and we were lucky enough to try a beer that had not been released yet called ‘Margot’ along with four other beers of his. He has many unique things going on, including growing some hops on his property and working with local farmers to grow hops locally (with plans to use them in Hop Farm beers in the future), nifty manual addition of labels to cans, plans to add a pub-like space with locally sourced food, and a goal to can condition some beers. Matt went through the American Brewer’s Guild program which shows through in the beer, so make sure to stop in and check out his brewery next time you’re in Pittsburgh!
Happy Valley Brewing Company is a new addition to an exploding craft brewing industry in Pennsylvania. The brewery came on our radar as we passed through the state on our way to Pittsburgh and we are truly glad that it did. Despite not getting much warning of our arrival, head brewer Josh Davies graciously agreed to meet with us and spent much of the afternoon sharing his background and the story of the 6 month old brewery. They had an impressive list of 13 beers on tap which spread across the spectrum of styles; Josh explained that a lot of his focus falls onto yeast health. The restaurant and brewery is housed in a renovated 200 year-old barn and maintains much of that charm despite a modern touch. The bottom level contains a long 360 degree bar with a completely different mood than the upstairs. Josh feels that one of his favorite features in the brewery itself is the Fast Top S flooring – polyurethane layer over sand – which is virtually indestructible. With the beautiful scenery outside added into the equation, Happy Valley is definitely a full package that you can’t miss!
After spending the night camping at the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon on Easter Sunday, we made our way over to the original brewpub location of Bullfrog Brewery in Williamsport, PA. While there, we were able to sample 11 different Bullfrog beers of varying styles and chow down on some great & affordable lunch specials. The owner, Steve Koch, was kind enough to spend some time chatting with us about the past, present, and future state of the business, including details about their recently opened production facility, expansion plans, sour program, and upcoming beers. With the world’s largest outdoor portraiture mural on the outside of the building, it shouldn’t be hard for you to find this one-of-a-kind brewery when you make some time to go visit them!
Our visit to Breaker Brewing Company in central Pennsylvania was on a beautiful sunny afternoon. We were thankful that day to get some time to speak with founders, Chris Miller and Mark Lehman, who were busy behind the scenes brewing their seasonal coconut saison, Quiet Canary. The two are longtime homebrewers who have built the business with a passionate, hands on approach and share most of the brewery duties. They began brewing and distributing out of a garage but have steadily increased production and capacity with new equipment. The new facility is in the old St. Joseph’s Monastery and School buildings and the public space is aptly decorated with artifacts reminiscent of the mining town’s roots. The brewery’s name and many of their beers reference the deep history in anthracite coal mining. The tasting room has been open since April of 2013, however, they only recently received a brew pub licence which allows them to offer full pours, rather than strictly samples, with the addition of food options.
Following our arrival, patrons filed in the tasting room to sample beers with lunch as well as to fill up growlers of their favorite suds to enjoy the afternoon in the sun. Breaker Brewing Co. is regularly crafting creative new beers. On top of quaff-able staples, they experiment frequently with different additions of fruits and even peppers as displayed in their well balanced Minefire Blackberry Jalapeno Ale. There is even a list on the wall detailing ideas that are being explored that may end up as future brews. Be sure to stop by the taproom to enjoy some food, beer, and new friends on the coming patio which will certainly take advantage of their hilltop placement for an excellent view of the city.
When we arrived that afternoon, we made our way to the basement brewery and taproom where John was hard at work, so we sampled a few beers and spoke with the knowledgeable bartender, Heather. John soon came out to meet us and graciously took the time to tell us all about Free Will Brewing Company. You can tell John has an extensive homebrewing background by the impressive list of projects he is undertaking. On top of the established line-up that makes its way into bottles for distribution, he frequently creates small batch beers for limited release under the title of the Sputnik series and also has several beers in the works for their growing sour program.
As if that wasn’t enough to keep them busy, the 2 1/2 year old brewery is also undergoing a massive expansion. John showed us the facilities up on ground level that are currently under construction. The new space will offer tons of room to grow and feature an open view from the taproom so that patrons can enjoy a drink and see what is going on in the brewery. Currently, Free Will offers up to six free samples during their taproom hours and, after you figure out your favorite, bottles, growlers, or kegs can be purchased to go. We definitely encourage stopping by this brewery, located less than an hour north of downtown Philadelphia, to enjoy a diverse offering of Sputnik brews and keep an eye on the expansion progress.
After traveling across multiple states for a few months, we found ourselves driving out to Bucks County Brewery in Pipersville, PA for our milestone 100th brewery visit on Saturday, 4/5/14. The brewery first opened on Super Bowl Sunday weekend this year after spending two years in planning, ran out of almost everything immediately, lost power for eight days, then got snowed out for two days. They did not let that slow them down, though, as they brewed all seven days the following week to get back on their toes. Normally Bucks County brews two to three times a month in order for them to continue “Making the World a Better Place, One Beer at a Time.”
On the morning of 4/5/14 we ate breakfast at a café across from the Pennsylvania state capitol then proceeded to travel east to the city of Easton, bordering the Delaware River and New Jersey. Our draw to Easton was, of course, the local brewery, one that has made quite a name for itself over the last nineteen years of operation in PA. Weyerbacher Brewing Company was established in August 1995 by Dan and Sue Weirback in an Easton livery stable. The brewery’s name comes from the original spelling of the couple’s last name, which had been morphed over the years following immigration from Germany. Dan had been passionate about homebrewing and, after visiting another brewery in Vermont, Sue suggested that they look into starting their own business. Originally the concept was to make some standard styles however the couple soon thought, what are we doing that is different? By 1997 they had begun adopting the philosophy “Set Yourself Apart” (now the company slogan), doing so by making big, full-flavored beers. The following year they added a kitchen to feed the growing volume of visitors but, when the lease ran up in 2001, they chose to move to a larger location and focus solely on brewing.
After spending a few days in Lancaster, PA with the guys behind The Blind Tiger Podcast, we made our way over to Tröegs Brewing Company on Friday 4/4/14. We learned a lot about the brewery during our visit by talking with Jeff Herb, their marketing coordinator, while sampling a flight of all the beers on tap, followed by taking a detailed tour of the facility with Andrea Bernardo, their brewery tour coordinator. Tröegs is always blending the organic and mechanical aspects of brewing. John Trogner (one of the owners and the brewmaster) is big into the brewing and tech side and is always looking for new equipment, while the other owner and John’s brother, Chris Trogner, does more of the business side.
On the morning of 4/2/14 we said goodbye to Philadelphia and, accompanied by plenty more rain, made our way into central Pennsylvania to tour Sly Fox Brewing Company’s new production facility in Pottstown. We got there as the taproom opened at 11 am and were thankful to meet with Director of Sales, Patrick Mullin. The name, Sly Fox, actually comes from a still existing tradition of fox hunting in the surrounding Chester County area and in that vein of locality, many of the beer names are based on local landmarks. The original brewpub location, Sly Fox Brewhouse & Eatery, was opened by Peter Giannopoulos in nearby Phoenixville in late 1995 and the Giannopoulos family still owns the brewery to date. In 2004, they opened up a 20 bbl production facility in Royersford in order to keep up with increased demand, however, growth was steady and by 2011 the restaurant was sold to former employees to make way for a larger operation in Pottstown which came online in 2012.