by Bryan Kolesar
Baseball and beer – two pastimes with a long, and often paired, history. I count myself amongst those that make “pilgrimages” for both baseball and beer. With springtime just around the corner, thoughts turn to the crack of the bat and sipping on beer in the sunshine.
In Pennsylvania our two professional baseball teams are separated by nearly 300 miles. Regardless the direction you travel to see the Philadelphia Phillies or the Pittsburgh Pirates (and Philly plays in the ‘Burgh in July, so keep this guide handy this summer), there’s a lot of beer in between to be discovered.
Indeed, why fly? It only saves you about an hour and a half. And, well, it’s air travel and we know how much fun that is. You could take the PA Turnpike, but that’s pretty boring and will run you around $60-$80 in round-trip tolls depending if you have EZ-Pass. Amtrak is interesting and something I’d like to try one time. Or why not take Route 30 – or, as it’s called for many stretches along the way, Lincoln Highway – and redistribute those toll monies to the discovery of great beer. Some you likely are familiar with and others, maybe not so much so.
Buckle up. Let’s start in Philly and head westward.
If I’m sticking to the theme of Route 30 and look to the closest breweries in Philly, then we need go no farther than a few blocks north to Love City and Yards.
Love City has two releases and two events of note in the next couple months. First, on April 4, look for the Smash It Up Saison, which was brewed with a mixed saison/brett culture and Pink Boots hop blend from Yakima Chief and has $1 from each draft sold going to the Pink Boots organization. The following day – April 5 – will see their new Attic NEIPA hit the draft tower. It’s their charity beer for the second quarter, with 10% of proceeds going to the Attic Youth Center, an organization that “promotes the acceptance of LGBTQ youth in society”. April 18 marks Love City’s first anniversary and they’ll be celebrating with beer releases, live music, and raffles throughout the day. Deep Cut Pilsner cans will be available for sale for the first time. The first release from their “funky barrel project” and 750-ml bottle releases of Bourbon Barrel-aged Collusion Russian Imperial Stout will also be highlights of the day. Finally, the Bold Women in Beer Festival will be held on May 4 in the parking lot next to the brewery. Details are still being finalized for this festival collaboration with Pink Boots Society.
Looking at Yards from three different angles, they’ve got a lot going on this Spring. The brewery now has a location in the Philly airport, specifically Concourse A-East, and it’s all about them – the beer and the merchandise. At Citizens Bank Park – home of the Phillies – Philadelphia Pale Ale will be available for the first time in 19.2-oz cans. And, back home at 5th & Spring Garden Ave., the Real Ale Festival returns on April 14 and shines the spotlight on cask-conditioned beer from dozens of local breweries. The Phillies aren’t in town that weekend, but you could watch them play against Miami at the bar inside Yards.
In South Philly, closest to the ballpark is Brewery ARS. They have their canning line up and running so you can expect to see more Wayne’s Pale Ale – their flagship – which, come to think of it, makes for perfect tailgating. In Sean Arsenault’s, co-owner and brewer, words, “Wayne’s is named after our father who has Parkinson’s disease. We always donate a portion of the sales of every pint to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Disease Research.” On April 7, they’ll be hosting the annual S’mac Down mac ‘n’ cheese contest that benefits the West Passyunk Neighborhood Association.
Now that you’ve had a taste of beer in Philly, let’s head west on Route 30 out through the storied Main Line. It could take an hour by the time you roll through each small town along the way, but it will be worth it. La Cabra, too, is looking to transition from a mobile canner to their own canning line in order to get more a more varied lineup of canned beer out there for summer drinking at the beach and the ballgame. The big news out of La Cabra is the summertime addition (fingers crossed) of their satellite Bodega in Bryn Mawr, which will feature brisket and the brewery’s beers. It will be conveniently located just off Route 30/Lancaster Avenue and just steps from the Norristown High-Speed Line.
Head another half hour west on Route 30 and you’ll be in Downingtown, which Victory first put on the beer map. They’re still there, but it’s East Branch catching the beer lover’s attention these days with both the beer and the food. Behind the scenes at the brewery, they have expanded into adjacent space for keg cooler/storage, which should lead to increased distribution. On the front side of the house, and way more exciting to report, is the plan to open a rooftop space. While they’d love to have it open when you stop by this summer, no official timeline exists at this point, though plans have been submitted so keep an ear open for this development. Beer-wise, the existing Kölsch and the upcoming Weiss (April) and Keller Pils (May) sound perfectly suitable to pack for warm weather tailgating.
After leaving Downingtown, you’ll finally get to see some of the Route 30’s rural landscape. Along the way, you’ll be smack in the middle of Lancaster County’s horse-and-buggy country. It’ll take you nearly an hour to get into Lancaster where you’ll find one of Iron Hill’s 16 locations. Not only are they just a bit over a mile from Route 30, they are a very short walk from the minor league ballpark of the Lancaster Barnstormers. Lots of upcoming releases in draft and cans; let’s take a quick spin through them – Clock Out American Lager (3/28); Philly Special IPA (4/18); Mahalo, Apollo! (4/25); Maibock (5/1, draft only); Crusher Session IPA (5/16); and Das Boot German Pilsner (6/13). All look like perfect tailgating beers. And the month of May is the restaurant’s annual Burger Month, which brings together the perfect combination of beers and burgers.
We pause from this Route 30 excursion to bring you news out of Harrisburg. From the press release: “The Brewers of Pennsylvania (BOP), the state’s official brewers guild, has hired Adam Harris, former Chair of Pennsylvania’s House Liquor Control Committee, as the organization’s new Deputy Director. The newly created position will further bolster the BOP’s advocacy efforts and its quest for a fairer playing field within Pennsylvania’s antiquated three-tier system (manufacturer, wholesaler, retailer).
In conjunction with Dan LaBert, BOP’s Executive Director, the BOP’s Legislative Committee, and Board of Directors, Harris will assist in outreach efforts to BOP members, potential members, elected officials, and other beer-interest entities to strengthen and expand Pennsylvania’s thriving craft beer industry.
Working with LaBert and Maverick Strategies, Harris will identify member breweries to visit to discuss the importance of the BOP’s advocacy efforts, member benefits, and the many beer issues facing Pennsylvania craft brewers. Harris will also attend BOP events, including the BOP’s signature gathering of craft beer elite, Meeting of the Malts, the BOP Annual Meeting, Caucus Meetings, PA Flavor, and the BOP Symposium & Tailgate in State College. Harris will also represent the BOP at Brewers Association events such as Federal Lobby Day and the nationwide Craft Brewers Conference.”
Back on Route 30, it’s only another 20 minutes to the banks of the mighty Susquehanna River where Columbia Kettle Works makes and pours it beers. Perfectly timed for St. Patrick’s Day, look for Cluricaun Irish Red Ale and Oyster Irish Dry Stout. IPAs will follow quickly with Sour Session IPA, West Coast IPA, and Double IPA. But don’t miss also the Bald Guy Ale with rye and the Squadron Leader ESB. The Triple B Bash with beers, bands, and BBQ will be held on Mar. 23 upstairs at Above Kettle Works and May 18 is the day of their 5th Anniversary Party.
Barely a half-mile off Route 30 in Chambersburg is where you’ll find GearHouse Brewing along your Lincoln Highway trek from Philly to Pittsburgh. The brewery, run by three married couples, just celebrated its second anniversary in December. Their two-acre property features a hop yard and garden that source ingredients to the kitchen, brewhouse, and pub-style bar/restaurant. Recently released is the Mad Machinist DIPA and upcoming over the next month are a Peanut/Chocolate Porter, Shifting Gears Blood Orange IPA, and Sticky Fingers Incident German Chocolate Cake Stout. The biggest news coming from GearHouse is the current project of decommissioning the 5-bbl brewhouse to make way for the 15-bbl system coming in May. The taproom, outdoor patio and grassy space, and restaurant (spread across three rooms, each with its own unique atmosphere) will remain open during the transition with new beers anticipated from collaborations at nearby breweries. Finally, if you’re in DC for SAVOR, look for the GearHouse table to get a fresh taste for yourself.
Along the way from Chambersburg to Latrobe on Route 30, you’ll pass the very well done Flight 93 National Memorial; I highly recommend taking an hour or two for a visit. Don’t worry, the beer will wait. Nearly 2 ½ hours from Chambersburg, you’ll find yourself at a brewery in Latrobe. No, not Rolling Rock, which was in another time and now it’s in another place. Today, it’s Four Seasons that gets justly-earned attention. In April they’ll be rolling out a barrel-aged saison aged on fruit (peach, plum, blackberry, and boysenberry) named Saison Des Fruits. If you’re passing through on a Saturday, expect to find live music, food trucks, and the Pirates game (if playing) on the TVs in the tasting room. You’re squarely in Buccos country now, with just an hour until you’re in the ‘Burgh, minus beer stops, of course.
Keep tooling along Route 30 for another 45 minutes until you get to Full Pint, just a few miles short of the Monongahela River. The canning production made the switch earlier this year from 12-oz to 16-oz volumes. First up in February was HOPism with upcoming can releases to include Mango White Lightning, Luxuria Coffee IPA, and Green Heaven NEIPA, all release dates TBD. The eagerly anticipated Rye Rebellion Imperial Stout is due out in mid-April.
In just under an hour on Route 30 from Latrobe, you’ll come to find that spring has sprung at Brew Gentlemen and they recently released three new beers. Miyabi American IPA features Simcoe, Amarillo, and Loral hops. Muchos Mahalos will deliver a flavor spectrum of passionfruit, orange, and guava. And, the Albatross DIPA made a necessary switch from Galaxy hops (severe supply shortage in New Zealand), Motueka hops for “bright flavors of fresh flowers, lemon, and lime zest”.
Route 30 takes drivers into Pittsburgh and eventually on to West Virginia and Ohio, but that’s another story. From Brew Gentlemen, it’s a mere 15-20 minutes to our last stop. In Pittsburgh, you can finally leave Route 30 behind and get into the eastern neighborhoods of the city where you’ll find East End Brewing. The brewery is a 15-year-old leader on the regional brewing scene. They’re preparing for the annual release of both the “regular” and the barrel-aged versions of Gratitude barleywine. Expect to see some stacked vertical specials as well. There’ll be some food from Prohibition Pastries and a pop-up art show from Gratitude Label Artist, Mary Tremonte. In April, Pedal Pale Ale returns with, as always, the first retail keg being delivered by bicycle “keg ride”, led by owner/brewer Scott Smith. Finally, in the April-May timeframe, the big news from East End is the opening of their very own kitchen. Some might say finally! It will be helmed by Justin Severino, a James Beard-nominated chef, and will lead to new, extended brewery hours of operation. The good people at East End would also like to remind you that their Strip District Taproom satellite location is a scenic 1.5 mile walk along the edge of downtown and across the Allegheny River to the home of the Pirates – PNC Park. Pre-game with some food from any number of vendors in The Strip, take it to the Taproom (BYOF), and then head over to the stadium. Play Ball!
If you want East End beers closer to Harrisburg, stay tuned for a 3-day pop-up taproom in mid-May in the SoMa neighborhood.
As always, my friends, keep drinking the good stuff, be smart, and stay safe along the way.