Note: Keystone Homebrew Supply does not condone drinking and driving. A designated driver would allow you to take full advantage of Aaron’s beer-centric itineraries.
For the last 7 years or so, all of my vacations have centered around beer. While I know I didn’t, I like to think I invented the beer vacation. Normally I would undergo these trips by hopping in a car and staying on the road for over a week hitting as many breweries and brewpubs as I could. A couple of times I threw the dough down and flew out to the west coast and Pacific Northwest, and then spent two weeks driving my not-so little fanny off. But you should never feel you need to drop some big coin and take off work to have some fast and furried beer fun. In this section of the Fermentation Proclamation, we’ll examine trips I’ve taken many times that can be done in around 24 hours. Sometimes it’ll be a little less, sometimes a couple of hours more. But the point is that you can leave that morning, and be home in time to go to work the next day. We won’t only cover great places to see, live, and drink beer, but also cool stuff to see and awesome places to eat. Besides all the awesome beer I would have on these trips, I had just as much fun stopping at interesting local landmarks and taking in the local cuisine. Because as my experience has told me, rarely does the local brewpub have the best food in town, regardless of the price.
All of these trips will have their origination point in Montgomeryville, PA, so your travel time might vary a bit. I also build extra time into the routes to account for things like potty breaks to make pee-pee and the occasional stop to just stretch the legs or snap a cool picture on the highway.
to Pittsburgh and Back
Just in case you didn’t know, Pennsylvania is a damn big state. On the map it only takes up about two fingers of space, but man o’ man can you spend days upon days driving all over it. This first blog post of the 24 Hour Beer-cation will take you on the trip I have done many, many times when I had a full day to burn. We’re gonna get a good night’s sleep only after getting plenty of fluids in us the previous day. Cause, you know, we’re gonna need it.
We’ll leave home bright and early (well, bright and early for me!) at 7am, and we’re going to drive straight through to Pittsburgh. Grab a decent snack along the PA turnpike at one of the rest stops (the best rest stops are BEFORE you start going through the mountain tunnels, so at or before the rest stop at mile post 147 (North Midway Service Plaza). And also it’s not a bad idea to go ahead and fill your tank here. Getting gas in Pittsburgh freaking sucks. Enough said on that.
Our first stop is going to be Church Brew Works at 3525 Liberty Ave Pittsburgh, PA 15201. It’s hopefully around 12:30pm at this point. This is, without a doubt, one of the most interesting brew pubs in the world. Located in what was once the St. John the Baptist church, it has been fully restored to its former glory including its pews and stain glass windows. And my favorite part, the brewing system is where the alter was. The Church Brew Works does flights of their beers, so you can try everything. Also, if you must get something to nibble on (even though our next stop is a Pittsburgh favorite for sandwiches), get the Pittsburgh pierogie pizza. It’s amazing.
After getting some beer into us, we’ll journey less than two miles away to a Pittsburgh landmark, Primanti Brothers at 46 18th Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. Because we’re right in the heart of the all the local fresh markets, parking can be tricky. I’ve always found metered parking on Smallman St., between 16th and 17th street (you’ll be driving down this road to get to Primanti anyway), and it’s a short two block walk to Primanti’s. As for what to order, get their “#2” best seller (which is actually their #1 best seller) the Pitts-Burgher Cheese Steak. Not a Philly-Style by any stretch, as it’s a flat slab of steak served sandwich style on thick cut white bread. But, like all Primanti sandwiches, it’s topped with their signature fresh cut fries and house made slaw. If that’s not your thing, the Pastrami is also killer. These sandwiches are big, even by fat guy standards, so come hungry.
Now that we’ve gotten our grub on, it’s time to hit the road. It should be around 2:30pm or so, so the day is still plenty young. Getting out of the city from this point is a tad tricky, but have patience and always stay in the right hand lane.
Our next stop is not a brewery, but a well hidden gem of a tavern. It’s also halfway between Pittsburgh and our next volley of breweries, so it’s a good place to stretch, have a beer, and pee. After about a two hour drive, we’ll reach the Jean Bonnet Tavern at 6048 Lincoln Highway, Bedford, Pennsylvania, 15522. A very scenic tavern in a nice sleepy, but not too sleepy setting. Many PA beers on tap, with some real gems tucked into the taps. If the porch is open, do yourself a favor and sit a spell soaking in the surroundings.
After we’ve composed ourselves, it’s probably around 5:30pm and we’ll be hitting the road again.
A hair under two hours away (which includes a potty break) we’ll pull into the Appalachian Brewing Company at 50 N Cameron St, Harrisburg, PA 17101. The bottle offerings from Appalachian are always solid, but you have to go to the source to get the really flavorful seasonals and one-offs. If you’re into good craft soda, they have a whole lineup. The root beer of course is good, but the Ginger Beer is awesome if you’re like me and like good spicy Ginger Beer.
After we’ve filled the belly-tank again, we’re off to a brewpub most people in PA don’t even know exists. A little under an hour away is the Union Barrel Works, or UBW at 6 N Reamstown Rd, Reamstown, PA 17578. Reamstown is a quintessential small Pennsylvania town, and a good break from our last stop in Harrisburg. The owner and brewer was formerly brewing for Stoudt’s Brewing in Adamstown, so expect a very German leaning tap list. He does, however, keep hoppy selections and other treats flowing as well. The Uncle Fester and Double Barrel beers are not to be missed. My favorite thing at UBW other than the beer is the unique food menu. Lots of wild game can be found, and all of it has been tasty and very unique. Be advised though, UBW is CLOSED on Mondays!
Should you undertake this trip on a Monday, Stoudt’s Brewing is a hop skip and a jump from UBW, but I’ll save that for a future trip. By this time you’re probably ready to call it a day. And well, you’re only a bit over an hour from home. Drink some water, retire early, and have fun at work the next day!