I think “Allentown” is probably my favorite Pennsylvania-centric anthem. And by favorite, I mean I really love the song and am jealous that it’s not about Scranton or NEPA because I want a song about where I grew up and it just fits so well. All the factories closed down in NEPA years ago. The restlessness mentioned in the song is present and it’s hard, in some aspects, to stay and thrive in NEPA. We’re a little too far to spend every weekend at the Jersey Shore, but I get there a few times each summer and they (big business? robber barons? the unnamed entity who tells my grandmother everything? Who is they, is one of life’s eternal questions) have taken all the coal from the ground. Unfortunately, “we’re waiting here in Scranton, for the Pennsylvania we never found,” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
That being established, because of Billy Joel’s classic, I never thought there was any good reason to go to Allentown. Sure, I’ve been to Dorney Park several times like any other kid who’s grown up in Eastern PA, I’ve flown out of the Allentown airport a few times, it has (had) the best rest stop on the Turnpike for years (why would you get rid of both Rita’s and Pizza Hut Express? Why?) and one of my good buddies lives there, so I’ve picked him up for NYC or Philly roadtrips on several occasions. Technically, I’ve been to Allentown, but never thought to go there as a destination in itself. That will be changing sometime soon as I’ve discovered, that like many other PA locales, the Lehigh Valley has their very own Ale Trail.
Allentown itself is home to Fegley’s Allentown Brew Works, which makes one of my favorite pumpkin beers. This is a full scale brewery. It has an adjoining brewpub which can seat 200, as well as a “coffee works” and “burrito works.” They also have a Bethlehem location if you want to go out there and kill some time. Hijinx Brewing Company is the newest Lehigh Valley “nano-brewery” which you can find on local taps and which is reportedly opening up their own locations sometime soon. I automatically like them because they have a beer called “Earth, Wit & Fire” that I would insist I could only drink when listening to “September.” I’m super cool like that. Allentown is also home to the Colony Meadery, which I believe may be the only meadery in PA. They run tours every weekend, which I think would be cool to see. I’ve been on my share of brewery tours (and honestly, I’m usually most interested in the history and the free samples rather than the production) but have never been on a meadery tour. Actually, I’m not even 100% sure what mead is, just that I now have the urge to drink it, ostensibly so I could feel like a Viking.
Weyerbacher Brewing Company is located in nearby Easton and is open from noon till 7 Monday through Saturday, offering free samples and tours on the weekend. They also make a good pumpkin beer, and if I remember correctly, I’ve had a few of their brews that are extremely potent.
It’s a good time to be living in PA for beer lovers. These “ale trails” and new microbreweries seem to be popping up all over the place. You could spend a few good weekends checking out the various locales, if you work hard and you behave that is. I plan on heading to the Lehigh Valley sooner, rather than later, and could hopefully report back with some actual real life observations.