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Shy Bear, Bold Flavors: New Brewery Is Making a Name for Itself in Lewistown

by on October 31, 2018 5:00 AM

Jason Ufema describes the beer scene in Lewistown as one that you’d likely find in most rural, blue-collar towns.

“The percentage of craft beer drinkers is quite a bit less than those who prefer the common, macro-made beer,” he says. “However, that is part of the journey and we would completely expect that we have to earn the locals’ trust in making beer that’s not just made locally, but also engage them on topics that make any craft brewery special.”

Since this past spring when he opened Shy Bear Brewing on what was historically known as Meadowbrook Farm, Ufema appears to be doing just that. The brewery has become a popular spot in Lewistown, not only for locals but also out-of-town visitors.

“Almost everything is coming together for my vision of it,” Ufema says.

While Ufema, who also own Rich Roast Coffee Roasters, which sits right next door to Shy Bear, is the brains and business of Shy Bear, he needed to bring someone in to create the beer his brewery would serve. Through several mutual acquaintances, he met Dennis Snider, a homebrewer in Spring Mills.

Snider started brewing his own beer after his son, Adam, had encouraged him to give it a try. At a fundraising auction for Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Snider bid on and won a homebrew kit, and eventually he was making 1- and 2-gallon batches of beer for people and himself.

“I enjoyed the challenge as well as the reward of producing good beer that others appreciated,” he says. “Jason and some of his friends were drinking my beer at a number of gatherings over a few years and liked it. … We spoke of dreams and a desire to start the brewery and my potential involvement.”

Snider became head brewer and has created a full lineup of beers for Shy Bear. The lineup includes a few IPAs, a cream ale, a brown ale, a saison, a porter, a hefeweizen, a witbier, and a Kölsch.

“We try to make a variety of styles that will excite the playful side of beers these days while at the same time manage to provide classic styles that are truly emblematic of how microbreweries became popular in the first place,” Snider says. “In our area, ales of a variety of flavors, lagers, porters, stouts, IPAs are asked for, and I dare say expected. While not wanting to make all styles available, it is important to keep listening and thinking about the possibilities. When I have an idea for a particular beer, I like to experiment with it and, if possible, I will share samples with others to help me refine what we might produce on a larger scale.”

One of the IPAs Snider created was a New England style, Jaybird’s Paramour. He also made an imperial/double New England IPA, Toucan Do It. Ufema told Snider that he loves the New England style, especially when crafting a food menu to pair with the beers, as the flavors are much brighter and more softly acidic.

Snider says he does see the English-style IPAs making a comeback at some point, “where the quality of the malt shines through a bit more and the dank/piney tones are subdued.”

The two came up with the name Shy Bear in a not-so-subdued way. A black bear was wondering around the property one morning and wandered onto the brewery’s patio. It scared Snider and Ufema at first, and they tapped on the windows to alert the bear. The bear became even more terrified than Snider and Ufema and it ran into the woods, but it slowly started to sneak back. Snider and Ufema popped their heads back out to send the bear retreating again, and it continued to play “this peek-a-boo kind of thing with us. So the name came pretty quickly after that incident,” Snider says.

Ufema says he hopes to be self-distributing Shy Bear’s beer to craft-centric spots in the surrounding areas. In addition to the beers, the brewery will continue to offer live music options and food-centric features “to keep people excited about everything else we do.”

For his part, Snider says he’s excited to have had this opportunity to go from homebrewer to a head brewer at a brewery.

“Brewing is an awesome experience on several levels,” he says. “Perhaps the best is when someone you do not know or, better yet, does not know me, drinks a beer I have made and speaks to others about how they enjoyed the beer. While enjoying the opportunity to brew classic styles for our lineup at Shy Bear, the opportunity to experiment with different beers, to add subtle changes, and perhaps to create a totally different flavor experience is just plain fun.” 

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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