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Annual Beer Expo Brews Appreciation For Craft Beer

by on August 17, 2014 8:00 AM

Lagers. IPAs. Shandies. Something called a “hefeweizen.”

No matter your favorite style of beer, Tussey Mountain was the place to be on Saturday evening for the annual State College Brew Expo. With 40 craft brewers, mostly from around Pennsylvania, gathered in one place, Tussey was a beer lover’s Shangri-La.

Bellefonte resident Damian Moran says Centre County – and Pennsylvania in general – “has really started to come around” to craft beers and microbreweries.

Having lived for many years in Maine, where such breweries are more common, he says coming to this area six years ago took some getting used to. He says that there were few local breweries then – something he’s glad is changing.

“Drinking craft beer is a lot of fun,” Moran says. “You get something different each time.”

Brian O’Neil came out with his girlfriend Victoria Adams, both of State College, after Adams attended last year. The event was so much fun – and the beer was so good – that she “just had to come back again.”

O’Neil knows beer isn’t for everyone. The first time he drank an IPA – one his favorite kinds of beer – he “absolutely hated” its distinctly hoppy, bitter taste. But he says stepping outside his comfort zone helped him develop an appreciation for beer, which he continued at Saturday’s expo.

“When you go to a bottle shop they always have the generic stuff: your Buds and your Millers,” O’Neil says. “But it’s nice to get out and figure out what it is you really like.”

Matt Toniatti, a volunteer with the annual Beer Expo, says helping people “learn about what beer really is” is one of the most rewarding parts of the event. What’s more rewarding, he says, is helping raise money for Coaches vs. Cancer – a nonprofit collaboration between the American Cancer Society and the National Association of Basketball Coaches that focuses on advocacy and fundraising for the fight against cancer. 

The Bullfrog Brewery from Williamsport, Pennsylvania drew quite the line of people to its table on Saturday offering an array of unique brews. Their flagship beer – the Edgar (as in Allen Poe) IPA was a crowd pleaser, as was their unique German-style hefeweizen beer made with smoked wheat and sour cherries.

Bullfrog owner Steve Koch started the brewery after retuning home to Williamsport after several years on the west coast, where microbreweries commonplace. Rather than stay out west, Koch felt his “hometown really needed of these."

“This country is about 3,000 microbreweries strong right now, which is only about half of pre-prohibition numbers,” Koch says. “That was back when basically every town had at least one brewery. With some luck, I think we’ll get back up to that.”

Helping that process along is hometown favorite Otto’s Pub and Brewery, which served up a traditional Czech pilsner-lager and black nitrogen-infused IPA. Otto’s brewery assistant Collin Kunes says nitrogen beers are “a trending style” in craft brewing right now, and Otto’s is excited to debut new experiments to the public.

Just as exciting as the new beers are the new faces of brewing in State College that have cropped up in the past few years, like the Happy Valley Brewing Company.

“It’s important that we support each other in mutually-beneficial relationships,” Kunes says. “For us, brewing is really a community-based thing.”

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Michael Martin Garrett is StateCollege.com's general assignment reporter, an alumni of Penn State and the bassist for local indie rock band Sun Whales. Follow him on Twitter at @MichaelMGarrett.
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