Tourism taps into craft beer trend Lititz location part of new brewery tour

By on September 25, 2013

By:

MICHAEL C. UPTON Record Express Correspondent

, Staff Writer

Two local breweries (and one with a local franchise expansion) are featured in the newest “big thing” to hit the craft beer scene in Eastern Pennsylvania.

Organizers held a press conference in the original Appalachian Brewing Company site Sept. 12 announcing the launch of the Hershey Harrisburg Craft Beer Country (HHCBC) program, aimed at capitalizing on growing consumer interest in locally crafted beers by creating a region for craft beer enthusiasts.

“Our goal is not to be the biggest and this is not about creating a bar or pub crawl. It’s about the experiential and educational promotion of the local craft brewing scene as an economic engine for destination tourism in the Hershey-Harrisburg region,” said Jason Reimer, president of HHCBC.

The program includes select breweries within a 30-mile radius of Hershey’s tourism epicenter, Hersheypark. JoBoy’s Brew Pub, which is coming to Lititz in December, and Saint Boniface Craft Brewing Company in Ephrata fall just into the cutoff circumference. Heads of both breweries and representatives of the 10 other beer producers in the HHCBC were on hand for the event and provided samples paired with food from the Appalachian Brewing Company kitchen.

Appalachian Brewing Company, with original roots in Harrisburg, opened a location in Lititz last year. Since relocating to PA from Colorado, owner Artie Tafoya always wanted to open a location in Lititz and says the HHCBC program and all its benefits will be honored at any of the brewery’s locations.

“We only have space for one location on the map. We chose the Harrisburg location, but know that all of our locations will be included,” said Tafoya as he enjoyed the atmosphere of the Top Flight Media-run event.

HHCBC unveiled a promotional pamphlet, which includes a map of the region. Each brewery is highlighted on the map and given a short description. An updated map will feature JoBoy’s new location at the Rudy Building on East Main Street. Construction to the rear of the building started this week. The restaurant and brewery are expected to be open to the public by the end of the year.

“I think (HHCBC) is a contribution of all the brewers and what we can all do for craft beer. The biggest thing is just to get more people aware of how much craft beer (there) is in the area and continue the education. It’s amazing how many people we get in (to the brew pub) who haven’t even tried craft beers,” said JoBoy’s co-owner Jeff Harless.

Harless is excited to show off the skills of his brewmaster, Mike “Tug” McGall.

McGall joined JoBoy’s soon after the brew pub opened and eventually took over the production. After three years of brewing, McGall “tweaks” some of the original recipes or creates his own special batches. He even roasts his own grain for some beers, said Harless. At the new location in Lititz, McGall will have the opportunity to work with a state-of-the-art brewing system, which is a match to the one used in the popular Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats in Rehoboth Beach.

“He’s an amazing brewer and deserves a lot of credit,” said Harless.

The other local brewer in beer country has no immediate plans for moving. Saint Boniface recently opened a location on West Main Street in Ephrata. The young brewery already has a great reputation among craft beer aficionados, and owner Mike Price sees the HHCBC as a way of creating new fans.

“When (HHCBC) contacted us we said, ‘sure,’” said Price. During the Sept. 12 launch Price poured samples of their Hegemony stout paired with an apple desert. The brew was even popular with attendees who did not often drink dark beer.

HHCBC travelers will find St. Boniface is a unique destination, and not just for their beers. St. Boniface is not a brew pub. More of a taproom, visitors can enjoy draft beers on premises or pick up bottles or growlers to go. Hungry patrons are served by a rotating stock of visiting food trucks like NiCE SiZE FRiES (the deep fried Spam sandwich is insanely popular) and Bountiful Feast Roving Restaurant.

A total of 12 breweries have joined forces to create the HHCBC. As the oldest, intact lager-era brewery in the United States, it was necessary for Bube’s Brewery of Mount Joy to join the program. President and General Manger Sam Allen poured samples of a lager-era kolsch, a brew he said was the closest representation of the beers that would be made when the brewery operated in the mid-1800s.

Al’s of Hampden, a popular spot for beer enthusiasts and home of Pizza Boy Brewing Company, joins the mix, offering a massive selection of draft beers from around the country and specialty beers (many sours) brewed on premises at the blue collar pizza joint/craft beer bar.

The newbies in the program are Alter Ego Brewing Company of Harrisburg and Snitz Creek Brewery of Lebanon. Brandalynn Armstrong, the social muscle behind the Alter Ego endeavor hopes to open doors to a storefront in the capitol city in the summer of 2014. Snitz Creek hopes to open as soon as November, but things are fluid as the fledgling beer makers wrestle with regulations. During the event, Snitz Creek offered samples of their apple wheat beer, fitting for a brewery named for a creek that is named after a dried apple.

The behind-the-scenes brewery of the HHCBC is Millbock Brewing Company. This facility does not have tours, nor does it operate a tasting room. They’ve decided to function as a production brewery, servicing local bars and restaurants.

Following the traditional British brewing methods of Peter Austin – the “father of craft beer” in England – Market Cross Pub & Brewery in Carlisle offers select, all natural, unfiltered, small batch beers.

They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but can you teach a winery to be a craft brewery? The Brewery at Hershey, an offshoot of The Vineyard at Hershey, says yes. The brewery offers weekend tastings of four flagship beers and a seasonal variety.

When it comes to the better known names of craft brewing in eastern PA, most are familiar with Lancaster Brewing Company. The brewery has operated in the city since 1995 and eventually expanded to a Harrisburg location. All beers are brewed at the Lancaster location and transported to Harrisburg.

With three gold medals (for a total of 14 medals since 2007) at the 2012 Great American Beer Festival, Hershey-based Tröegs Brewing Company is on every beer aficionado’s radar. Tröegs rounds out the list of 12 breweries making up the HHCBC.

Beer Country’s first major event will be the Central Pennsylvania Oktoberfest on Saturday, Oct. 5 at Hollywood Casino. Glendel Coble, director of food and beverage for the casino and Penn National Race Course, wants to turn the event into the craft beer Kentucky Derby. The four-hour event will feature music from a Beatles tribute band, samples from all HHCBC breweries, and “authentic German-style Oktoberfest food.”

In March, HHCBC will take a page from college basketball and promote March Craftness. During the last two weekends of the month, visitors to the breweries will attend “craft class” and enjoy special tastings and educational events.

The HHCBC is designed to package the region, including Lititz, as a destination for craft beer enthusiasts and is supported by the Hershey Harrisburg Regional Visitors Bureau, the office of Dauphin County Community and Economic Development, the National Beer Institute, and is partnered with Premiere #1 Limousine to provide safe and responsible enjoyment. The Sept. 12 event also featured entertainment from Lancaster Leiderkranz. More information on the HHCBC can be found online at hersheyharrisburgbeer.com.

Local brewers falling outside of the HHCBC area include Stoudt’s Brewing Company in Adamstown, Union Barrel Works in Reamstown, and The Sturgis Haus in Lititz. All three businesses provide craft brews and serve food.

More BEER TREND, page A14

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