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.
Upon our arrival in the Back East tasting room, we were pleasantly greeted by tasting room manager, Jamie Farrell, and offered some samples of the beers available that day. Shortly thereafter we met with co-founder, Tony Karlowicz, and head brewer, Mike Smith, to discuss the brewery as it neared two full years of business. Founders Tony and Edward are cousins who both developed a love and appreciation for good beer – Tony while in college in Vermont and Edward while in San Diego. Edward began homebrewing while in CA in the 90’s and, after moving ‘Back East’ to CT, he and Tony took up homebrewing together in 2006. As the brewery opened, they hired their first employee, Mike Smith, as head brewer. Mike has an extensive list of professional brewing experience, including time in Boston at Harpoon and Mayflower and is currently assisted in brewing duties by Matt Paonessa.
Back East offers four year round beers – Golden Ale, Back East Ale (amber), Misty Mountain IPA, and Porter – in six pack cans as well as on draught in accounts throughout CT. On top of those, there is a selection of four beers released seasonally – Oktoberfest, Winterfest with cinnamon and local honey, Spring Ale Biere de Mars, and Summer Ale hoppy blonde. The Summer Ale is the first seasonal to be canned, utilizing shrink wrap labels, and will be released into the market this Friday, June 13th. In addition, the Back East releases high gravity beers under their Hammer of the Gods series. The initial release was an Imperial Stout, followed by Palate Mallet Double IPA which is scheduled to hit shelves in 4-packs of cans in July. It is clear that Back East Brewing Co. is doing their part to draw consumers towards craft in this young CT movement. The brewery is located a short 15 minute drive north of Hartford so pay them a visit for some free samples and to make some new friends in the tasting room.