On Tap: The State College Brew Expo marks its 20th year by featuring beers from Pennsylvania
To celebrate the State College Brew Expo’s 20th year, Michael Martin, who runs the expo with his wife, Malissa, didn’t look too far when it came to deciding which breweries would be showcasing their beers at this year’s expo.
Martin made the decision to make the State College Brew Expo an event that featured only Pennsylvania brewers. In the past, the expo featured beers from different parts of the country. But with more people having a desire to support local products, Martin says that having a Pennsylvania-only event was worth exploring. The state has a rich farming tradition and two cities in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia that have seen major growth in their craft-beer industries.
“I believe Pennsylvania has the most craft brewers of any state in the USA,” says Martin, who is in his 10th year of running the event. “It just made sense.”
This year’s State College Brew Expo is Saturday, August 11, at Tussey Mountain. The event, which runs from 5 to 9 p.m., will once again benefit Coaches vs. Cancer of Penn State. Live music will feature The Commonheart, a soul-funk band from the Pittsburgh area, and Miss Melanie and the Valley Rats.
Martin worked with Chadd Balbi and Matt Kozar, who founded the site BreweriesInPA.com in 2016. Based near Philadelphia, the site covers the beer scene across Pennsylvania. As of late June, nearly 60 brewers and breweries from the state were signed up to participate in the expo.
“[Martin] approached us with a specific vision in mind,” Balbi says. “The idea was to make it all Pennsylvania beer and work directly with the breweries themselves. Having a very strong network of brewery relationships throughout the state, they saw us as a perfect partner to make this vision a reality. Separately, Matt and I also had a vision for an all-PA beer fest event like this. It is something we have been discussing for the past year. So, it was the perfect partnership.
“We pushed the limits a bit and brought the idea of making this the largest PA-only beer festival held in 2018 – and quite possibly ever – which is what we intend it to be.”
Some of the breweries that will be attending, such as Troegs, Yards, and Appalachian Brewing, are familiar to craft-beer enthusiasts. Local breweries Elk Creek, Happy Valley Brewing, Otto’s, and Robin Hood also will be there.
“They have done a great job,” Martin says of the Central PA breweries making their mark on the beer landscape in Pennsylvania. “We’re happy to have so many close to us!”
Then there are some of the lesser known ones from all corners of the state that beer lovers will have a chance to try. Breweries such as Nimble Hill Brewing Company from Tunkhannock (the hometown of your humble beer columnist), C and C Brewing Factory from Shrewsbury, Tuned Up Brewing Company from Spring City, and Sterling Pig Brewery from Media.
When it comes to Pennsylvania beer, it is the sheer number of breweries that strikes Balbi.
“No one seems to understand how big we are,” he says. “According to the Brewers Association, we have been the top producer of craft beer for the past two years. California, Oregon, and New England all get the hype, but Pennsylvania is number one!”
And besides the quantity, Balbi adds that the state doesn’t receive the respect nationally that it deserves for the quality of beer that is being produced in Pennsylvania.
“As far as craft beer is concerned, we are known nationally for Victory and Troegs,” he says. “But there is so much more than that. We tag Visit PA in everything we do on social media because we want PA to be known as the number one travel destination for beer.”
As for trends in Pennsylvania beer, Balbi says that more microbreweries are opening at a feverish rate.
“Coming from the business world myself, it is common for business owners to start a business with the intention of dominating the market,” he says. “But that is not the case with the breweries opening in PA. They seem to be happy serving their neighborhood and not going the Victory or Troegs route – and we fully support that.”
Another trend continues to be the popularity of the New England IPA that many breweries are making. Martin says the industry is IPA driven, and the New England version, which isn’t as “hoppy” as, say, a West Coast IPA, remains a popular choice for consumers.
Whatever type of beer people enjoy at the State College Brew Expo this year, they’ll know it’s one that was made in Pennsylvania and they’ll be supporting a growing industry in the state.
While he’d prefer not to say which his favorite Pennsylvania beers are, Martin does say that “everyone has their niche that makes them special. … The response has been great from the brewers, and I would love to see an uptick in attendance.”
For tickets and more information about State College Brew Expo, visit statecollegebrewexpo.com.
David Pencek is a freelance writer in State College.