Mid-Atlantic Brewing News June/July 2009

Beer Vacations in South-Central PA

By Rich Wagner

It’s been nearly three decades since I scheduled a week of vacation around camping and visiting breweries in the state of Pennsylvania. There were only nine breweries—no brewpubs back then—and I only visited six, but that vacation inspired me to begin researching Pennsylvania’s rich brewing heritage, a different kind of a voyage all together. Sadly three of the original nine no longer exist, one seems to constantly teeter on the brink of extinction and two operate as entirely different companies now. But on a positive note, craft brewing has reversed the trend of breweries closing, and at last count, there were 56 breweries and brewpubs in the Commonwealth! There has never been a better time for beer touring, not only because of the number of breweries but because of the quality and diversity of beers to enjoy.

Having said that, I realize that not everyone wishes to be so single-minded in their pursuits, so here are some suggestions for balancing beer tasting with vacationing in South-Central Pennsylvania, a region known for its many tourist attractions that now include about a dozen craft brew destinations.

As with most endeavors planning is critical, but with the trusty internet the beer tourist is well-equipped to map out a logical and efficient course that will include just the right components to satisfy the interests of every member of the family. This website is useful. Of course, brewery websites list tour times and upcoming events as well as dinner and drink specials.

For the breweriana collector, the Eastern Coast Breweriana Association is holding a convention July 15-18 at the Crown Plaza Reading Hotel in Wyomissing. Their conventions are always a lot of fun, and you can join the club through their website or attend the public breweriana show on Saturday July 18 from 10 AM to 2 PM. Spring House Brewing will be hosting a fund raiser for the Conestoga Township Historical Society where I will be conducting a colonial brewing demonstration. Visit their website for details.

Lancaster County, long known for its many tourist attractions, is home to Stoudt’s Brewing Company, Pennsylvania’s first craft brewery, with a weekly flea market on Sundays and two summer festivals, June 13 and August 22. Down the road is the Union Barrel Works which does a brisk trade with those traveling to the Green Dragon Market on Fridays. Of course the popular Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire at the Mount Hope Estate and Winery is home to Swashbuckler brewpub. Lancaster Brewing Company’s website lists details about homebrew events held there on June 24 and July 29. And if you’re scouting out college campuses, be sure to take in Iron Hill Brewery and Restaurant at Franklin & Marshall College! To the west, historic Bube’s Brewery in Mount Joy includes a museum containing a display of coopering tools as well as a brewpub.

The State Museum of Pennsylvania and National Civil War Museum are both in Harrisburg, and Troëgs Brewing Company will be sponsoring the Sixth Annual Harrisburg Brewers Fest on June 20. Check out the Agricultural and Industrial Museum of York County and see (among other things) a giant York refrigerating machine like those used to cool the lagering cellars of the State’s nineteenth-century breweries. Gettysburg is another popular tourist destination and home to Appalachian brewpub.

There are probably many backpackers who already take advantage of brewpubs along the route of the Appalachian Trail. My friends at the Market Cross Pub in Carlisle say the trail goes through Boiling Springs, a short hop from their taps. Check out the website of the Carlisle Fairgrounds for information on the many car shows held during the summer as well as and for more fun things to do in the area.

I’ve only scratched the surface of possibilities, but with a little imagination and planning it’s possible to make the best use of precious leisure time by tailoring a sojourn to match your own interests and enjoy great beer!

* These links did not appear in the published version of this article.

South-Central PA Breweries/Brewpubs

Appalachian Brewing Co. (Camp Hill, Gettysburg, Harrisburg)

Bube’s Brewery

Iron Hill, Lancaster

Lancaster Brewing Co. (Harrisburg, Lancaster)

Legacy Brewing Co.

Market Cross Pub

Spring House Brewing

Stoudt’s Brewing Co.


Troegs Brewing Co.

Union Barrel Works