With our headquarters in Washington DC and the bulk of our correspondents found near America’s top producing craft beer regions on the coasts, it only makes sense for us to start a new series giving all the states their due, featuring breweries large and small, plus the histories behind them.
In case you missed the last 37 states, we’re doing this thing alphabetically. And we’ve somehow sampled our way to the 38th state on our list, The Keystone State, Pennsylvania. The only details we found for the backstory on how Pennsylvania came to be known by this nickname was that the state was toasted as “the keystone in the federal union” during and October 1802 “Jefferson Republican victory rally.” It was also referred to as such in the Aurora newspaper in 1803 as “the keystone in the democratic arch.”
Pennsylvania ranks 5th in total population (roughly 12.8 million), is ranked 9th in population density and houses 178 craft breweries as of 2015 (an increase of 90 since 2011) who are represented by the Brewers of PA. The state ranks 8th in total breweries (including D.C.) and 23rd in breweries per capita as of 2015, according to the Brewers Association.
Officially coming into being in 1681 when King Charless II of England granted a land charter to William Penn, literally named Penn’s Woods, the state is actually in honor of his father, Admiral William Penn. And being that the first and second Continental Congresses gathered in Philadelphia to draw up the Declaration of Independence and it was the second state to ratify the constitution in 1787, there’s a lot of history here. That goes for their brewing history as well.
And who else but William Penn (the younger) introduced beer to the state when he built his own brewery near his home at Pennsburg in 1663. By 1879, Pennsylvania had the second largest number of breweries with 317, trailing only New York. During that span, many breweries opened and closed, all over the state. The notable breweries that defined PA brewing for decades, yet are no more, include John F. Betz & Sons (1775-1939), Point Brewery (1803-1860), Mount Carbon Brewery (1845-1976), Fuhrmann & Schmidt Brewing (1854-1966), Christian Schmidt Brewing (1859-1987), Reading Brewing (1886-1976), Latrobe Brewing (1893-2006) and Duquesne Brewing (1899-1972).
Not only is it astounding how many breweries lasted as long as they did through the 60’s and 70’s in Pennsylvania, but also how many still remain from those days including Iron City Brewing (formerly Pittsburg Brewing since 1899), Straub Beer (1872) and Lion Brewery (incl. Stegmaier 1905).
So while there were a number of breweries that opened before D. G. Yuengling & Sons (originally Eagle Brewery) in 1829, they are the oldest operating brewery in the United States and still family owned & operated. Not only that, but Yuengling, currently brews in Pottsville, Port Carbon and Tampa, FL. And they collectively produce ~2.8 million barrels annually, making them the largest craft brewer in America and 4th largest brewer overall.
Dock Street Brewery claims to be the first all-grain brewpub to open in the Philadelphia area since Prohibition (1985) and appear to be the state’s first “microbrewer” since the re-emergence of craft beer in the 1970’s. Dock Street was the first PA brewer to be awarded at GABF (the antiquated “Consumer Preference Poll”) in 1986 and since that time Pennsylvanian brewers have captured 235 GABF medals in total.
10 Pennsylvania Breweries We Like and You Should Check Out
Brew Gentlemen (Braddock) – Only open since May of 2014, co-founders Asa Foster and Matt Katase narrowly avoid being kicked off the Carnegie Mellon campus for homebrewing. Since opening three years ago, they’ve managed to concoct nearly 150 varieties, are known for their hop-forward flavor profiles and have quickly become one of the best rated brewers in the state.
Pizza Boy Brewing (Enola) – In operation since 2002 and based at Al’s of Hampden pizza restaurant, this beer and pizza juggernaut with 100 taps has become a central PA destination brewery. Pizza Boy is known for their unique creations, like their Milk Sugar Sour IPA or Imperial Veggie Brown Ale. So, it’s no surprise that they’ve created over 340 varieties in 15 years and are sought out for their unique and tasty sours.
Sly Fox Beer (Phoenixville & Pottstown) – One of Eastern PA’s most established craft brewers, Sly Fox Brewhouse & Eatery was founded by Pete Giannopoulos in December of 1995. Since then, they’ve opened a second location, created over 200 styles, and are known for their dialed in German styles and one off seasonals. With 9 GABF medals, they’re one of the most awarded brewers in the state.
Stoudt’s Brewing (Adamstown) – Founded by the country’s first female brewmaster since Prohibition, Carol Stoudt in 1987, this Lancaster county stalwart is not to be missed. Known for their big flavorful offerings such as their Imperial Stouts, Double IPAs and German classics, they’ve created over 100 styles since opening and are the state’s most awarded GABF brewer, with 29.
Tired Hands Brewing (Ardmore) – Founded in 2011 by Jean Broillet IV, Tired Hands has become one of the top rated and most awarded brewers in the state. Known for their hazy “Milkshake IPAs,” they have created the largest number of brands we’ve yet seen, with over 900 made in less than 7 years. Awarded 25+ medals over the last five years at Rate Beer Fest, Tired Hands is one to watch and to drink when accessible.
Tröegs Brewing (Hershey) – The brainchild of brothers Chris and John Trogner, Tröegs was founded in 1997, with the brewery name a fusion of their name and kroeg, the Flemish word for pub. They’ve created over 350 brands in their 20 years of existence and are known for their small batch Scratch Series, their award-winning Troegenator Bocks and most any other style you could imagine. Currently the 38th largest brewer in the country, they’ve won 18 GABF medals, including 9 gold.
Victory Brewing (Downington, Parkesburg, Kennett Square) – Opening their doors to the public in 1996, co-founders Bill Covaleski and Ron Barchet have built Victory into one of the East Coast’s most successful breweries. Recently joining forces with Southern Tier Brewing of NY to become Artisanal Brewing Ventures, they’re one half of the 13th largest craft brewery in America. Known for the flagships Hop Devil and Prima Pils, they’ve created over 300 brands and netted 4 GABF medals.
Voodoo Brewing (Meadville, Homestead, Erie) – In existence since 2006, Voodoo has quietly become one of the best-rated brewers in the state. They’re known for their big barrel aged imperial stouts, but also for their killer Kellerbier (KillaPilz). While they’ve created 140 brands in their 10+ years of existence, they’ve also netted one GABF medal for their aged Big Black Voodoo Daddy. Definitely worth a visit.
Weyerbacher Brewing (Easton) – Founded in 1995 by Dan Weirback, Weyerbacher is one the state’s most established craft brewers and definitely a fan favorite throughout the Northeast. Their 12.7% Sunday Morning Stout inhabits the top rated spot on Beer Advocate’s Best of PA and is indicative of their most popular offerings – strong and flavorful. Having created over 180 brands during their history and earning 2 GABF medals, Weyerbacher is always a good call.
Yards Brewing (Philadelphia) – Founded by two college buddies in 1994 and winners of 4 GABF medals, they’ve become “Philadelphia’s hometown brewery.” Since opening they’ve created nearly 120 brands and are known for their Poor Richard’s Tavern Spruce, Brawler Pugilist Style Ale (English Dark Mild) and a whole bevvy of dialed in English and German styles. They’re definite believers in the English Real Ale movement so check them out for English inspiration.
For more information on all the breweries in the state, plus maps, check out brewtrail.com.