Eleven Local, Craft Breweries Bridge the Gap From NEPA’s Rural Southwest to its Busy Southern Pocono Mountains
Here, cold beers have a history of being hard-earned and heartily enjoyed.
Our previous virtual tour along the DiscoverNEPA Brewer’s Loop left us in rural Columbia County. And, that’s precisely where our next journey begins. From here, The Southern Reach unfurls eastward like the tattered bottom edge of a weary stage curtain. It rolls out across the Susquehanna River and through scenic stretches of Northeastern Pennsylvania’s storied hard coal region. Finally, it curls away stage left into the dense, green Pocono wilderness.
Along the way, centuries of change play out in scenes both enticingly subtle and then almost artlessly honest. The road brings us beer – plenty of it. And for those singularly dedicated to the often-straight line connecting simplicity and pleasure, there it is. But, there’s certainly more along this path if you want it.
Places to go, people to see and beers to drink.
Rolling green hillsides connect one family farm to the next – some nearly as old as the Commonwealth itself. America’s lager was born here (and I don’t even have to say the name, do I?). There are patch towns, country towns, quarry towns. NEPA’s story, in large part, was forged along this old road. It’s one told in idyllic, countryside scenes and in the slow, though no less heroic, return of once vibrant downtowns. It’s also a tale best told over a fresh pint of cold, independently crafted beer.
Let’s go tip a few along The Southern Reach, shall we?
The best stories always begin on an old, somewhat forgotten highway.
This section of the Brewer’s Loop stretches over 110 miles – none of it on boring interstates or turnpikes. We’re heading west to east through Columbia, Schuylkill, Carbon and Monroe Counties, and we’re taking the scenic route. There’s tons of history in just about every little corner of this trip. Peeling off and discovering what makes NEPA tick is highly encouraged. The road brings us to 11 brewery stops in 8 unique towns, but, as we plod along, you’ll likely find dozens of delightful detours.
There’s so much to see and do along the way. Go ahead and make a day of it. Plan on lunch at a local eatery. Combine your beer-inspired journey with a long, peaceful hike. Or, earn those cold beers with a classic NEPA adventure.
This is why long, lazy weekends were invented.
It all begins with an odd mixture of rural and hip in a bustling Bloomsburg beer stop. Then, the route dips southward for a stretch to Pottsville. Here we find America’s oldest brewery alongside a couple of NEPA’s youngest. After a quick zig, we zag north for a double stop at a pair of popular Tamaqua beer shops and pop in for a pint in Lehighton. Of course, we can’t pass up iconic Jim Thorpe. And, finally, we’re Poconos bound. Here, we hook up with a cluster of three local favorites in three distinct towns.
That’s a long road, and a lot of beer. Luckily, each stop also offers several to go options. With growlers, crowlers, cans and bottles, you can easily grab your favorite and move on down the road.
Cruise along the entire spectrum of craft beer on The Southern Reach.
Many of the towns along this stretch of the Brewer’s Loop claim rich, blue-collar histories. In fact, many likely wouldn’t even exist if it weren’t for coal, rock quarries, or railroads. That so many of these small cities, villages and boroughs do remain is a testament to the good people who’ve stayed. Each “Welcome to ____” sign you see along the way stands only by the grace and strength of the community behind it.
There’s a rampant honesty here borne of hard luck and nurtured into maturity by a slow hand of progress. And that is reflected, nearly to perfection, in the beer. Every stop on the Southern Reach features a stable of straightforward workhorse beers. The ales are ales and the pilsners are pilsners and so on… Sure, a little seasonal experimentation is par for the course, but, for the most part, true-to-style beer is what you get here.
Good beer comes from good people.
Brewers in the Southern Reach tend to favor an old school approach to making beer. And the good people around these parts mimic such proclivities in their consumption. For each, a pint should be cold, crisp and welcoming after a long day under the sun, in the cold, on the road, or at the office. And the room where you drink it should be adorned with little distraction, alive with the music of conversation and lighted by a dozen smiles or so. If that’s what you’re looking for, it’s what you’ll find here on the DiscoverNEPA Brewer’s Loop.
Get out there and enjoy some local beer.
DiscoverNEPA Brewer’s Loop – The Southern Reach
Marley’s Brewery & Grille
There are always 13 fresh beers on tap at this popular Bloomsburg hotspot. But don’t worry, there’s more than enough delicious food on the menu to pair with tasty IPAs and Porters and an awesome, rotating seasonal selection.
Pilger Ruh Brewing
Sample your way through an impressive 12-beer tap list at this artistic, industrial nanobrewery on Centre Street in Downtown Pottsville. Guests are also encouraged to BYOF (Bring Your Own Food).
If you’ve been around for nearly 200 years, you must be doing something right. This brewery has remained the beating heart of Pottsville since 1829. They were then and still are considered the king of American lager. There’s no better place to lose yourself in the brewing history of NEPA.
Black Rock Brewing Company
This brewpub inspired by Schuylkill County’s hard coal heritage makes its home in a restored historic, 19th Century Pottsville landmark. They offer up an eclectic mix of staple ales and lagers, and the brewery even partners with an iconic Harrisburg winery to offer a wide selection of local wines.
Stoker’s Brewing Company
This neighborhood nano-brewery in Tamaqua’s Historic District celebrates the region’s hard coal heritage one beer at a time. The brewpub features an authentic Oktoberfest vibe, including real tables imported from the famous German festival. It’s just simple, blue-collar beer at its best.
At this blue-collar brewery and tasting room, every beer is pulled directly from the serving tank. And every sip embodies the rough and tumble spirit of Tamaqua. You’ll always find innovative, fresh cold beers on tap at their comfy tasting room.
Half Barrel Brewing Company
This veteran-owned craft brewery in Lehighton operates a popular taproom out of Carbon County neighbor, Insurrection Distillery. They also distribute to many local restaurants and bottle shops. Keep an eye out for their distinct stubby bottles.
Bright Path Brewing
The focus is on hand-crafted, high-quality, low ABV lagers and ales at this family-run brewhouse in historic Jim Thorpe. Stop by the comfortably rustic taproom for a liter after an afternoon on the town, or just pop in for a 4-pack to go.
Mountain View Vineyard, Winery, Brewery & Distillery
The stunning mountaintop setting and the incredible views are enough to warrant a trip to this Stroudsburg winery and brewery. It just happens to be a bonus that they also make delicious beer and wine. The brewery also offers bottled 6-packs to go.
Barley Creek Brewing Company
A Pocono favorite since the mid-90s, this brewery and restaurant has almost too much fun making great beer and food. There is also a spacious Beer Garden and mini wiffle ball stadium. Note to true beer enthusiasts: the brewhouse features an authentic Peter Austin set up.
Pocono Brewery Company
There’s just as much emphasis on the delicious food as there is on craft beer at this family run southern Pocono brewery and restaurant. Pair any one of their incredible beers with an oak-wood fired pizza. PBC also features an extensive selection of 6-packs to go.