In early January of 2016 I traveled from Buffalo, NY to Dogfish Head Brewery in Milton, DE. Along the way, I stopped at five breweries in Pennsylvania and two in Delaware. In this installment, I chronicle my experience at the five Pennsylvania breweries. Here are some of the highlights and pictures that my friend John (my travel companion) and I recorded.
I spent approximately 60-90 minutes at each brewery; some more, some less. Time was of the essence, as our final destination of Dogfish Head was quite far away. Please keep in mind that my recollection of each brewery is at most a single snapshot. Indeed, treat this review as more of a “here’s one path of breweries you can take on the way to Philly” guide.
Also, this was a fairly direct route. There were a couple other travel routes to select, but they would have taken more time. If you are interested in an alternate path, keep in mind what day you are traveling and check to see which breweries are open for lunch. Because we were traveling on a Wednesday, we didn’t have the full advantage of breweries open for lunch than if we had traveled on a Friday, for example.
Stop #1: Bullfrog Brewery, Williamsport PA
Day/Time: Wednesday 12 p.m.
Distance from Buffalo: 198 miles, 3 hours and 15 minutes
Most Impressive Aspect: The sours.
Favorite Beer: Old Gold Kriek Vieux Foudre (8%) Sour Ale
Observations: This brewery had the strongest selection of sour and wild fermented beers of any brewery on this trip. It was a bit difficult to park in Williamsport, even at noon on a Wednesday. A very advanced beer selection was complemented by a facemelter burger. The facemelter sauce was on the side, so you could apportion your own level of face-meltingness. A clever bar-top wooden tray was secured on top of the bar to level out your plate so you didn’t have to lean over the bar.
Stop #2: Selin’s Grove Brewing Company, Selinsgrove PA
Day/Time: Wednesday 2 p.m.
Distance from Stop #1: 36.9 miles, 53 minutes
Most Impressive Aspect: The building.
Favorite Beer: Shade Mountain Oatmeal Stout (5%)
Observations: We parked on the small town street and followed signs down a set of outside stairs to the brewery entrance. Located in the back of an old governor’s mansion, our eyes had to adjust to the lighting difference between the sunny outside and dark inside. The musky tavern atmosphere was complemented by relaxed regular patrons and a solid fare of beers, including two cask selections. The smell of homemade soups permeated into the taproom area.
Stop #3: Pizza Boy Brewing Company, Enola PA
Day/Time: Wednesday 4 p.m.
Distance from Stop #2: 36.9 miles, 53 minutes
Most Impressive Aspect: The beer selection.
Favorite Beer: Sunny Side Up – Little Amps Double Coffee Stout (9.5%)
Observations: Up and around the hills we traveled. I’m not quite sure if we took the most direct route there, but we sure took the hilliest route to Pizza Boy from our previous stop. Pizza Boy is an oddly satisfying pizzeria and craft beer hybrid. There were 100 beers on tap as shown on glowing electronic menus that flickered every so often confusingly. Pizza Boy presents with a very unassuming ambiance but once you taste the beers you realize you are somewhere special. Step up to the counter and order what you want– no waitress or bartender service. There are plenty of Pennsylvania favorites on tap, from Tired Hands to Troeg’s. And the namesake Pizza Boy beers are exceptional, from smoked ales, to grasslands saison to a top-notch coffee stout. Crowlers are available, but awkward Pennsylvania laws dictate that you can only buy 192 ounces of beer in a single transaction (which equates to a total of six 32-ounce crowlers). You can, of course, walk out, and back in, and buy more. Pizza. Beer. Happy.
Stop #4: Troegs Independent Brewing, Hershey, PA
Day/Time: Friday 12 p.m.
Distance from Stop #3: 23.8 miles, 30 minutes
Most Impressive Aspect: The food and building.
Favorite Beer: Scratch #215- India Pale Ale (6.7%) brewed with Vic Secret hops
Observations: Even at 12 pm on a Friday, Troegs was packed with customers. The building is a warehouse-style establishment with plenty of room to move. Long continuous “community-style” tables are prominent in the taproom, but there are also plenty of other tables and booths in another room farther from the bar.
Troegs Independent Brewing encourages an independent customer. Bartenders visit the tables to take your drink order (and they are quite attentive), but if you want food you need to get up and visit the cafeteria-based snack bar counter. The food bill gets added right to your beer tab, which is a nice feature. And the food is exceptional. A hand-held restaurant “buzzer” notifies you when your food is ready for pick-up. Self-guided tours through the brewery facility can be started any time you are ready. Simply walk through the brewery doors and read signs on your way through the tour. (Side note: With the other breweries on this list we stopped on the way to our destination, but we visited Troegs on the way back to Buffalo. We were hungover and tired of driving and yet I was still very impressed. I want to visit Troegs again, properly.)
Stop #5: Tired Hands, Ardmore PA
Day/Time: Wednesday 7 p.m.
Distance from Stop #4: 84.9 miles, 1 hour 34 minutes
Most Impressive Aspect: Unique beers.
Favorite Beer: StonerWitch (11.2%) Black Solstice Barleywine
Observations: Just a few miles northwest of downtown Philly lies two Tired Hands locations; the Fermentaria and Brew Cafe. We accidentally ended up at the Brew Cafe when we wanted to go to the Fermentaria. No worries- the two are within walking distance of each other. Tired Hands features adventurous and well-crafted beer. The taproom was spacious. The food selection, biased toward tacos and snacks, was designed for speed, but was classy and tasty. Impressive beers included: StonerWitch, a black solstice barleywine, and Virgins and Diamonds, a crushable Mosaic IPA made with oats, spelt, and rye. The only drawback is that we missed the inaugural canning event by one damn day.
There are a few other breweries I would have liked to visit. I am sure there are more to be added. An alternate pathway including Harrisburg PA would open up another set of breweries. Here are some other breweries I wanted to visit but simply ran out of time.
Other Recommended Breweries: