If you’re into beer (which, I am) then Pennsylvania is as good a place to be right now Not only is our lovely state home to the oldest operating brewing company in the United States (Yuengling has been churning out beer since 1829), but now that craft beer and localized breweries are officially a thing, Pennsylvania is now home to a growing number of Ale Trails. I wrote about the Lehigh Valley Ale Trail a couple of weeks ago and recently participated in the Susquehanna County Ale Trail passport event. While they might be the only “official” ale trails operating in Pennsylvania, you could very easily make your own in both Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. In fact, VisitPA (the official tourism website of Pennsylvania) has an ale trail section for you beer aficionados (and just general consumers, such as myself).
You know where doesn’t have a beer trail? My beloved NEPA. This is in no way surprising. While Lancaster and Philly and the Lehigh Valley may embrace trends NEPA is a little behind on the learning curve. Mostly this is fine. I like my NEPA a little rough around the edges. I like that I could still find plenty of places to buy a good old Coors Light for under two bucks and I like that a “lager” is still considered a fancy beer in some circles. On the other hand, I want NEPA to succeed. I want her to be able to have nice things which is why I’ve taken it upon myself to construct the first inaugural NEPA Ale Trail.
I’m happy to report that coming up with a solid batch of breweries was much easier than I anticipated. I haven’t lived in NEPA for five years now and when I do return I don’t do as much exploring as it warrants. I generally stick to visiting my favorite haunts and catching up with friends and family but after writing this have made a personal goal to try all the new (and well established) NEPA brews and you should consider doing so as well; in fact, it could just be your next weekend getaway.
Let’s start with the breweries that do not have in house tasting rooms (meaning, you’re going to need to do a little barhopping). Lion’s Head is easily the beer most synonymous with Northeastern PA. Brewed at the Lion Brewery in Wilkes Barre, this beer was an extremely popular option while I was in college because you could get a case of bottles for ten bucks, and while it’s admittingly nothing special, it’s far from awful. You could buy this beer at a bar or grab a six-pack at a bottle shop but I’d suggest stopping at a distributor and picking up a case (a very affordable case) and amuse yourself trying to solve the riddles that come under each cap (answers are here!). Lion Brewery also produces Stegmaier, another old NEPA brand (Est. 1857) which in my opinion is a step-up from Lion’s Head (they have a really good Pumpkin Ale & High Dive Wheat Ale). You could find that at most bottle shops as well.
Unfortunately, the Lion Brewery no longer hosts tours or a tasting room. They used to have a great Oktoberfest back when I was at the University of Scranton that we’d trek down to for a day, but I checked and that event is no longer happening (which is a shame).
3 Guys in a Beer’d is the newest NEPA brew, brewed and bottled in Carbondale. 3 Guys and a Beer’d does not yet have a tasting room (it’ll be sweet if they do end up doing this as I grew up fifteen minutes from Carbondale) but is an exceedingly popular beer on taps up and down the Lackawanna Valley. I’d suggest going to Franks in Simpson, PA to try some 3 guys as it’s close to their epicenter and has some of the best food you’ll ever eat. If you want some real local flavor, go over to the CFM Beer Express (still in Simpson, less than a mile from Franks) where you could sample 3 Guys, Lion’s Head and Stegmaier all in one sitting. If you don’t feel like traveling that far north than I’d suggest Cooper’s in Scranton, who is one of the two only sellers of their Oyster Stout when it’s in stock. Here’s a list of where you can find 3 guys.
If you are venturing this far up the valley, you might as well swing over to Scott Township, PA and stop at Maioletesi’s Winery Tasting Room. I know this is an Ale Trail post, but I’m trying to give some verbal love to all NEPA boozemakers in my neck of the woods. That, and the tasting room here is legitimately a gorgeous place to have a few drinks (in fact, if Wine is more of your thing, check out the Endless Mountain Wine Trail). This is also on your way to the Nimble Hill Brewing Company and Winery in Mehoopany (never thought I’d be writing anything about Mehoopany) just outside Tunkhannock, which was one of the first winery/brewery combinations in the state.
Next, we’re going to head out to the Poconos, specifically the area around East Stroudsburg which houses two breweries. Shawnee Craft Brewing is located at the Shawnee Inn and Barley Creek Brewing Company is in Tannersville, close to Camelback Mountain.
Breaker Brewing and Susquehanna Brewing are both located in/around Wilkes Barre. Both are new breweries (semi-new) I hadn’t heard of before but both get excellent reviews and both have tasting rooms where you can try the beer and get a growler to go.
As a region, NEPA is extremely spread out, and this Ale Trail is no exception. Due to the amount of driving one might have to do, I’d break it up into two days (unless you have a very solid DD). Base yourself in Scranton. There’s plenty to do there once the beer tasting is accomplished. My recommendation would be to hit the Pocono Wilkes-Barre and Pocono brews one day and head towards Three Guys and Nimble Hill the next, but really, it’s up to you. I just hope the beer scene in NEPA continues to grow and look forward to visiting all of these places myself in the future, hopefully sooner rather than later