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On Tap: State College Brew Expo 2017

by on July 31, 2017 12:17 PM

Visit your local beer distributor — or, these days, any grocery store or convenience store that sells beer — and the shelves are stocked with more different beers from more different breweries than one could ever have imagined.

The craft-beer industry continues to grow, which has surprised Michael Martin.

“I’ve been saying this for a few years that there’s going to be that tipping point. There’s going to be a breaking point,” says Martin, who along with his wife, Malissa, has run the State College Brew Expo for nine years. “It hasn’t necessarily happened yet. I don’t know when it will happen. I kind of expected it to happen by now.”

Do a Google search of craft-beer stories and you’ll come across headlines such as “Local hops growers help Virginia brew a booming craft-beer industry,” and “Craft beer company in Michigan to spend $7 million on projects.”

Even some universities are getting in on the act. In June, Penn State announced how its research in malting barley aims to support the craft-beer industry.

The industry continues to grow, and to go with all the beers and breweries, there has been an obvious increase in beer events and festivals.

“There are so many festivals now. Tyrone has a festival now,” Martin says. “It used to be that [the State College Brew Expo] was a destination. People would come from Philadelphia, New York, DC, all over and make a weekend out of it. We’re not seeing that as much because all those cities have their own event.”

Still, held at Tussey Mountain, the State College Brew Expo, now in its 19th year, continues to be one of the more popular summer events in Happy Valley and offers one of the best settings for a beer festival. It also helps a great cause, raising money for Coaches vs. Cancer of Penn State — hence the slogan, “Good Beer, Good Music, Great Cause!”

This year’s expo is 5 to 9 p.m. August 12. As usual, there will be 40 to 50 breweries represented. Holy Ghost Tent Revival, the North Carolina-based rock band, headlines the music with Mama Corn opening.

“We have a nice mix between local and Pennsylvania brewers and some national ones,” Martin says. “Pennsylvania has become a hotbed for craft beer.”

According to the Brewers Association, there are 136 craft breweries in Pennsylvania that produce more than 4 million barrels of beer each year. It is estimated that the economic impact on the state is $4.48 billion, the second largest in the country.

Centre County of course has Elk Creek, Happy Valley Brewing Company, Otto’s, and Robin Hood Brewing Company, all of which are participating in the expo. New to the area and the expo is Blue Stripe, made by Rod Stahl of Boalsburg.

Other Pennsylvania breweries that will be at the expo include Troegs, Yards, Neshaminy Creek, Rusty Rail, Marzoni’s, and Levity. Some non-Pennsylvania breweries scheduled to participate include Great Lakes (Cleveland), Avery Brewing (Boulder, Colorado), Flying Dog (Frederick, Maryland), and North Coast (Fort Bragg, California).

When it comes to types of beers, sours are what’s hot, according to Martin.

“IPAs are still crazy, but sours are huge right now,” he says. “Sours are the new IPA. … And the ABVs on sours is really low, so you can drink something all day long and it’s not a 10-percent IPA.”

Within the IPA community, Vermont styles are becoming more popular, according to Martin.

Another trend he’s noticed is how the traditional beers breweries make aren’t selling as much because people want to continue to try new brews. He says a main reason for that can be linked to the Untappd app, which, among other things, rewards users with badges for the number of different beers they try.

“It’s not about, ‘I really enjoy this beer. I want more of these.’ It’s, ‘Oh, I haven’t had this yet and I need to check it off,’ ” he says. “You’re missing the point [if you do that]. This is a world-class beer, whatever it is. It doesn’t matter if you’ve already had it. You should have it more than once. It’s a great beer. … I think it’s hurting the industry, not helping it.

“What brewers call their core products aren’t selling. They usually have a traditional lineup of a brown ale, a wheat beer, an IPA, and a pilsner. The only one selling is their IPA and maybe their wheat beer in the summer.”

Despite some of the increasing challenges with putting on the State College Brew Expo, Martin looks forward to it each August, and he hopes the event can continue to raise more money for Coaches vs. Cancer of Penn State.

“I want to keep this going and we continue to think of how we can make it better,” he says. “It’s a fun way to drink and try beers. … It’s good exposure for the breweries, especially the little guys. It’s good for everybody. People come up to me every year and say it’s the one festival they always want to try and come to.”

For more information about State College Brew Expo, visit

David Pencek is editor of Town&Gown magazine, Town&Gown's Penn State Football Annual, and Town&Gown's Penn State Winter Sports Annual.
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