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Lancaster City is already getting national recognition as a City with a unique downtown culture growing at a rapid pace. Just check out Forbes.com naming it one of the Top Coolest U.S. Cities To Visit In 2018.
Over the course of the last few years, the rise of local handmade, locally-brewed beer, cider, and mead has begun to take the City by storm. The craft beer movement has been sweeping across the country for some time now—led by a desire for high quality flavors and the urge to support local economies & communities, and to experience a unique atmosphere many brewers provide.
You don’t have to look far to see this incredible network of local breweries right here in Lancaster City. Here’s our guide to some great spots around town to support local while experiencing an incredible (and delicious) product.
With a booming culture scene and an influx of newer generations and city transplants moving to the downtown blocks, Lancaster City has been on the rise over the last decade.
“Anywhere you go, the ‘Made In Lancaster’ brand really holds weight,” said Michael Spychalski, Operations Manager and Head Brewer of Wacker Brewing Co. “I think the fact that there is so much collaboration happening in this community between small businesses means the Lancaster scene will keep growing and building.”
“Lancaster is where it’s at,” said William Wrede, Owner of Medulseld Meadery. “Having markets with fresh produce is huge for us. It’s an amazing area. Lancaster is so welcoming—not just with people, but with people’s cultures.”
“Prior to prohibition, Lancaster was home to 14 independent breweries, producing 7% of America’s beer,” said Peter Keares, Founder of Lancaster Brewing Company. “With history like that, combined with its fiercely independent and entrepreneurial reputation, it’s certainly not surprising that the Lancaster food and drink scene is thriving.”
Locally Brewed Beer Is Best
The handcrafted beer movement has been gaining momentum all over the country over the past few years, with pubs and breweries redefining downtown scenes from Portland, Oregon to Cleveland, Ohio. Lancaster has joined the mix.
For many, not only is the taste better, but the mission behind the beer is better too. Supporting local and investing in the community is another huge reason local breweries are considered a cut above the rest.
“What’s unique about Wacker is it is a heritage brand,” said Michael Spychalski of Wacker Brewing Company. “We are small and try to remain as working class as possible.”
Starting in 2014, Wacker Brewing Co. has been a staple in the beer scene in Lancaster, but also echoes a legacy of a previous brewing company. Michael wanted to bring back the history of Joseph Wacker, who, after purchasing the Eagle Brewery company in Lancaster, became an integral part of Lancaster’s brewing scene in 1870. In 1956, the company couldn’t compete with massive mid-western beer companies anymore and had to close—that is, until 2014 when Michael brought it back.
“I always had a passion for brewing and I’m kind of a history nerd as well,” said Michael. “To bring back the heritage brand of Wacker was the best of both worlds for me.”
For Michael, brewing beer is a process that requires hard work and passion.
“I enjoy anything that takes hard work to produce results,” added Michael. “The thing that I love about brewing, is that you are not doing a repetitive task over and over again. With brewing, it involves a whole lot of physical labor, doing math on the fly in your head, using your senses—your eyes, taste, nose—you are using your whole self and that’s what I think I truly enjoy about it.”
Definitely try Wacker’s Little Dutch and Bohemian Pilsner (browse more about the beers and flavors here).
In 2006, Matt Keasey opened Spring House Brewery right outside the downtown Lancaster area. The business was booming, so the team opened the Taproom brewpub within the City in February of 2011. You can get the majority of the Spring House Company beers in pints, half pints, sampler trays, and to-go packs at the Taproom downtown.
Don’t miss the lineup of beer on tap at Spring House—follow on social media and on the website to find out more.
One of the other breweries in Lancaster, and one that helped build the local movement for handcrafted beer early on, is Lancaster Brewing Company.
With quality ingredients and an assortment of consistently superb beer, Lancaster Brewing Company proudly builds on the tradition it began in 1995 to provide great beer right in the heart of Lancaster County.
“Lancaster Brewing was the first brewery in Lancaster to open after 40 years, reviving a proud and honored history,” said Peter Keares, Founder of Lancaster Brewing Company. “Despite a 23 year history, and our being one of the founders of the craft beer movement, we continually innovate and create.”
Lancaster Brewing Company was the first craft brewery to brew Milk Stout—the Lancaster Milk Stout is the original and first Craft Milk Stout in America. People all over love Lancaster Brewing Company so much so that the team installed an automated canning line to allow for many of the products to be even easier to access.
“We love to build and create things from scratch, and realized, early on, the public’s demand for a well-run local brewery,” added Pete. “The industry, its many trends and crazy beer styles, has varied wildly over the past 25 years, but our quality combined with the drinkability of our beers is always in style.”
Pim Harmsen and the makers at Iron Hill Brewery begin their day at the brewery in Lancaster by milling carefully-selected grains before mixing, extracting, boiling, and fermenting what becomes their award-winning beer selection.
Pim started with Iron Hill in 2007 as a Manager and moved into the brewery in 2013, furthering the blend of classic and modern in this beer perfect to sample, sip, and toast with others.
Iron Hill is regional, with locations spread around PA and beyond, but each batch of this beer is brewed locally—ensuring the flavor and ingredients provide a genuine Lancaster authenticity.
More Than Beer
While craft beer is certainly a key player in this movement, there are other important products as well. Thistle Finch distillery makes small batch whiskey, vodka, and gin right here in Lancaster City.
The main product offered at Thistle Finch is the Small Batch White Rye Whiskey, an award winning aged whiskey sure to impress. The whiskey is made with quality ingredients, and crafted in small batches in a custom, hand-constructed copper pot still.
Thistle Finch blends a storied history and unique atmosphere for the perfect spot to go with friends, learn more about the process of distilling, or just wanting a place to relax and enjoy one of the many specialty made cocktails at the bar.
Stop by the distillery on 417 W Grant Street (where Wacker Brewing Co. is as well) to sample before taking a tour of the distillery featuring the fascinating process behind the beverage.
Opening Memorial Day 2017, Meduseld Meadery has continued to grow and establish itself as a delicious destination for authentic mead and a menu pulled from the pages of history.
“I think that we have started to create a reputation for offering people a unique expereince from the moment you walk through the door to the moment you are ordering,” said William Wrede, Owner of Meduseld Meadery. “We are kind of ‘all of the above’ in the unique category. Our meads are very unique. We use an authentic barrel aging process for each batch.”
William also noted some up-and-coming flavors, launching in August.
“Our beverages are cosntantly changing as different seasonal ingredients become available. We have two bottles releasing in August—Headmaster’s Gift and Valorus. Both of these are bourbon barrel aged.”
Headmaster’s Gift is over a year old now, and consists of cherries from Cherry Hill Orchard, along with chocolate and vanilla beans. Valorus is a caramelized honey mead that was aged in a bourbon barrel since last August during the eclipse.
They recently added axe-throwing as an activity, which matches the brilliant medieval decor adorning the pub.
Shot & Bottle opened early 2018 and looks to continue the intentional trend of shopping local by offering unique beverage selections from across the state. The booming new bar and restaurant offers products from eight local PA distilleries, including Lancaster-made Thistle Finch, and a delicious menu to match.
“We love that the food and drink scene in Lancaster is such a tight knit community,” said Kate Martin, Co-Owner of Shot & Bottle. “Everyone knows everyone! It’s amazing the amount of support we received from other small businesses and restaurants around us. That support was, and still is, one of the most priceless things about Lancaster.”
Also, another newer destination downtown Lancaster—Levengoods—opened in 2017 and has since grown as a destination for delicious cider. Choose from a variety of flavors like Cherry Cider, Dry Cider, Hopped Cider, and many seasonal flavors, and enjoy the atmosphere right near the corner of King and Prince. You can try a large variety of ciders listed with their cider flight option, and also choose from fresh bottles to take home.
Stoll & Wolfe is on a mission to honor the past while protecting the future legacy of Pennsylvania whiskey. Dick Stoll and Erik and Avianna Wolfe are now producing a distillation of liquor once again right outside of Lancaster City, in Lititz, PA. They want to encourage the community to shop local.
“Dollars are votes to preserve our local history and traditions,” said Avianna. “Buying local is investing in regional diversity. We love the history, traditions, sense of community, robust farmland, and family values of this area.”
Lititz is only a few miles away, and boasts a great food and culture scene to check out in addition to downtown Lancaster.
Cheers To This Checklist
Here is our checklist guide to the different spots you have to try. Explore the websites, follow on social media, and get ready to tour the town for all the fantastic craft beer, local spirits, meads, and ciders in Lancaster City.
Wacker Brewing Company
Where: 417 West Grant Street – Lancaster, PA
Lancaster Brewing Company
Where: 302 N Plum Street – Lancaster, PA
Spring House Brewing Company and Taproom
Where: Brewery – 209 Hazel Street Lancaster, PA. Taproom – 25 West King Street Lancaster, PA
Iron Hill Brewery Lancaster
Where: 781 Harrisburg Pike – Lancaster, PA
Where: 252 Harrisburg Pike – Lancaster, PA
*Don’t miss their one-year mead celebration on Saturday, August 4!
Thistle Finch Distillery
Where: 417 West Grant Street – Lancaster, PA
Where: 104 West King Street – Lancaster, PA
*Don’t miss their one-year cider celebration on Saturday, August 4!
Stoll & Wolfe
Where: 35 North Cedar Street – Lititz PA