Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Support Your Local Brewery

I remember being at a music festival in western Minnesota back in the mid-aughts (showing my age here) while wearing one of my favorite shirts from Otto’s Pub and Brewery, our only local brewery at the time.

While waiting in line to get a beverage (naturally), another beer lover noticed the back of my t-shirt, which read “Support your local brewery.”

We became fast beer-line friends as we bonded over microbrews, and even suggested that we would like to try the local brews from each other’s neck of the woods someday (I do not remember where he was from, so I don’t think I ever got there), so we could support each other’s local breweries (I wonder if he ever made it to Otto’s).

This was a novel idea at the time, as the microbrewery/craft beverage movement had just gotten started in the late 1990s. But it was beginning to explode during the early and mid-2000s. The idea of drinking a local product made by people who lived in your community was appealing, as opposed to the large industrial brews that dominated beer culture in the United States for most of the second half of the twentieth century.

Over the past couple of decades, the craft beverage scene has grown and grown, both in terms of numbers of craft beverage producers and with styles and flavors that I could never have imagined when I was a young beer drinker. These past two decades have been a great time to be alive and loving beer.

All of that growth is pretty evident here in Centre County. Even if the area was a little slow to bloom, the craft beverage boom did eventually take over the Centre County scene over the past decade.

To my unscientific count, there are eighteen craft beverage producers that call Centre County home (better check my math), and plenty more around the region that are easy to visit and support.

And, I try to do just that because, with all of this growth, there have been some changes over the past few years that suggest that the brewery boom time might be over.

Craft breweries experienced close to zero growth in 2022, while sales declined two percent in the first half of 2023, according to the Brewers Association. And, I have been reading many recent headlines that keep popping up about breweries across the state closing up shop.

But, while the boom time for craft beverages might be over, that doesn’t mean our local craft beverage producers are not still strong and going to be around for a long time. With a diversity of favors, products, and atmospheres, Centre County craft beverage producers produce something for everyone.

You don’t have to look far to see that. Just observe all the action at Centre County producers on a nice Saturday night. For example:

  • You will find people enjoying beverages in outdoor spaces, like the lawn at Boal City Brewing or in the orchards of 814 Cider Works.
  • Local spirits will be on display as the mixologists at Barrel 21 and Big Spring Spirits mix tasty concoctions for diverse crowds.
  • Unique flavors will be poured in the tasting rooms of our nano-breweries, both in the heart of State College at AntiFragile Brewing Company and in the mountain town of Philipsburg at Dead Canary Brewing.
  • Over at the old Cerro Metal plant, both Axemann Brewery and Titan Hollow are bringing in crowds to the revitalized location to enjoy the atmosphere and the bevs.
  • In the six-pack shops, state stores, and beverage distributors, you will find whole sections of local products made right here in Pennsylvania.
  • Taps at local restaurants are bound to feature local products, and many bars keep local spirits and wines available. All you have to do is ask, “What is local?”
  • All around, you can find craft beverage options for those who don’t drink alcohol, from craft soda to mocktails, kombucha, and more. There truly is something for everyone.
  • And a lovely drive out to the small town of Millheim is always worth the trip when you can enjoy a pint at Elk Creek Café and Aleworks or some wine from Pisano Winery.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to supporting your local brewery and craft beverage makers.

The brewing operation at Otto’s

This spring, that support was on full display at Beaver Stadium, as 75 breweries from around the state participated in the first ever Hoppy Valley Brewers Festival, sharing their locally made products on the field of college football’s best venue. I missed out (out of town), but I sure hope it becomes a tradition.

The Central Pennsylvania Tasting Trail is another way to support your local craft beverage producers. The trail’s Passport program provides a self-guided tour comprised of craft breweries, distilleries, wineries, and cideries, all of whom have worked to perfect the art of making palate-pleasing beverages. It is a fun way to explore all the area has to offer when it comes to craft beverages.

Or, you can be like me, and buy some merch. What better way to show your support than by wearing it on your sleeve (and you might just make a friend). I went digging through my wardrobe of beer and race t-shirts, but I could not find that old Otto’s shirt (it has to be there somewhere; I could not throw it out). Maybe it is time I reinvest in a new one. Until then, I’ll just say cheers to drinking local! I hope you will too. T&G

Vincent Corso enjoys drinking local and meeting new people at central Pennsylvania’s many interesting establishments.