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On Tap: Professor’s book is an appreciation of Pennsylvania breweries and the people behind them

by on December 02, 2019 1:02 PM

When Dr. Alison Feeney decided to write a book about the craft beer movement in Pennsylvania, she knew there was little point in writing a directory of all the breweries in the state. Instead, she wanted to delve deeper and go more into the people and places behind some of the breweries.

“The industry is evolving so quickly. I knew I could not do an inventory of every brewery,” she says. “I wanted to provide a sense of place and belonging, and let some of the wonderful stories be told. I also wanted to have a range of breweries represented.”

Feeney does just that in her book, For the Love of Beer: Pennsylvania’s Breweries. The book was published in 2018 by Atlantic Publishing Group. A professor in the Geography and Earth Science Department at Shippensburg University, Feeney has lived and traveled to many places, and that’s how her love for craft beers developed.

“I have lived in England several times in my life and loved the pubs there and how they are family destinations in every small village,” she says. “I then did my master’s at Portland State University in the mid-1990s when craft beer was really taking off, and I loved the atmosphere. But it’s been really since moving to Pennsylvania that I have truly fallen in love with the craft artisan movement and all the breweries we have in the state.”

When Feeney started on the book project, Pennsylvania had 159 breweries. The state now has more than 350. Feeney estimates that she’s been to nearly 300 of them.

“There are so many [breweries], and I love them for many different reasons,” she says. “The book is designed like a passport, with a coaster near each brewery so you can fill it out when you visit and write down any beers that were sampled.”

The book is divided into chapters that include “History of Beer,” “Pennsylvania Dominates the Beer Industry,” and “Craft Breweries and Their Great Buildings.” Each chapter has a small introduction into the topic followed by several featured breweries that highlight that chapter’s theme.

Some Centre County breweries featured include Happy Valley Brewing Company in State College and Elk Creek Café & Aleworks in Millheim. One of her favorite places that didn’t make the book because it opened after she had finished writing it is Shy Bear in Lewistown.

Feeney says that while many states in the country have seen an increase in craft brewers, Pennsylvania is special.

“I think what makes Pennsylvania unique is its authenticity,” she says. “Prior to prohibition, Pennsylvania led the nation in beer production. The cultural heritage still exists, and many breweries have tapped into old buildings, recipes, and family traditions that date to the heyday of brewing.”

Besides writing about the industry, Feeney also is helping to build onto it; she has helped develop brewing courses at Shippensburg University. The school has brew-science courses that are offered as part of its Professional, Continuing, and Distance Education program. The courses are for those working in the industry and with some brewing knowledge. The school also offers courses to the general public for those who want to learn how to homebrew.

When it comes to her beer of preference, Feeney says it changes from season to season and also on what she is eating. With the cooler weather now here, she says she prefers stouts and porters.

She also says she enjoys trying new styles.

“I’ve been forcing myself to sample beers outside of my usual preferred style, and I have found some I did not expect to like but have really gained a new appreciation for,” she says.

She hopes beer lovers will gain a new appreciation for the beer that is being made in Pennsylvania after reading her book, and not just an appreciation for the quality of the beer, but also the people and history behind it.

“When I selected breweries for each chapter, I wanted to recognize the range of size and location of places around the state, and try to encourage people to recognize the importance of all of these local businesses,” she says. “As great as some of the beer is in the state, it’s the people, places, and experiences that make it so memorable. I have met some incredible people on my journey and consider many of the hard-working brewers in the state dear friends.”


For the Love of Beer: Pennsylvania’s Breweries is available on Amazon.

David Pencek is a freelance writer in State College.


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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