As part of our DiscoverNEPA Brewer’s Loop Series, we’re hitting the road – yes, all 390-plus miles of it. We’ll be taking brewery tours, sampling stouts, lagers and IPAs, and tasting taproom grub all over Northeastern Pennsylvania. Follow along as we bring you a firsthand look inside the region’s exploding craft beer scene, and let you know how, when and where you can experience it for yourself.
Nimble, Efficient, Innovative Brewing
Just off Route 6 in Hawley, in the middle of the Endless-Pocono Run section of the DiscoverNEPA Brewer’s Loop, you’ll come across Hopping Eagle Brewing Company.
This eclectic, modern-meets-rustic nanobrewery and pub makes its home within the fortified bluestone walls of the historic Hawley Silk Mill. And there’s something about a plucky upstart making hay in this once venerable beacon of Pocono prosperity that tends to inspire a notion of kismet. For some reason, it all just comes together.
Long ago, somewhere in time, the tunes of industry rang out from the parapets of this Gothic Revival behemoth. Iron furnaces belched. Footsteps beat time across hard maple plank floors. Silk looms strummed ceaselessly to and fro. Nearly a century of economy two-stepped to the rhythm of this unsleeping giant. And soon, as quickly as it began, only echoes remained, like mournful spirits possessing every brick and timber.
Over time, faint chords of progress and innovation could be heard from the darkened halls. Light returned. A long dormant utility resurfaced in the form of coffee shops, hip salons and boutique fitness studios. Quiet whispers of forgotten industry found themselves usurped by a welcome hum of economic vitality. And, of course, right there in the center of it all, we find the Hopping Eagle Brewing Company.
Let’s go take a tour and drink some beer, shall we?
It’s not the size of the dog in the fight…
Taking in the space at Hopping Eagle, and noting the bar, the tables, the ample square footage, one’s first thought might linger on deception. There are no visible, massive steel tanks and no industrial catwalks or pallets of grain. Some, of course, wouldn’t notice. There are those of us, however, whose minds seek comfort in the sight of such accoutrements. Rest easy, brewery nerds, it’s all there. I can assure you, the beer is real, and it’s brewed in this very room.
You’ll find the brewhouse at the far end of the bar, ducking behind a pony wall. It has everything you need to make beer – just in miniature. The scaled down array of fermentation tanks and kettles is indeed purpose driven. The brewers find their portly, yet nimble system encourages creativity and experimentation. And these are both good things for those of us who love beer.
A brewery tour is hardly necessary. Make your way to the end of the bar and take a peek. The room is immaculately clean. Baker’s racks, weighted with tools, tubes and buckets wait like surgical carts. Chubby, little fermentation tanks hug a corner like boys at a middle school dance. Light ping pongs from white plaster walls to tanks to the polished concrete floor. And finally, it illuminates the gleam in your eye – one that, as you look over that familiar organization of chaos, communicates a nod of approval mixed with fascination. In a breathless tone, you ask, “How do they do it?”
“It’s magic,” you answer in quiet confidence. “They must be magicians.”
What was old is new again… and thirsty for beer.
Nature flows throughout this post-industrial space like an uninvited guest. Warm sunlight pushes through massive factory windows and into the harsh geometry of hard corners. Steel beams retire their industrial charm, instead sprouting treelike among a mixture of dark, earthy hues and greenery. Wood grain on the floor and polished bar rail pull the eye like a river current through the room. Suspended rough cut timbers carry a row of low lights trapped like fireflies in mason jars.
At every turn, however, and somewhat surreptitiously, these soothing natural elements meet the looming specter of industry. Beautifully symmetrical conduit bisects the ceiling, offering a welcome disruption. Exposed ceiling joists lay out an oddly enticing hive-like appearance. Straight sight lines and unblemished plaster walls draw inward the building’s magnificent exterior architecture.
In sum, Hopping Eagle’s taproom, the brewery itself, and the team behind it, for that matter (and perhaps unknowingly), are telling a transcendental tale of opposition. It’s a story that, in a way, honors the universal confrontations – young v. old, work v. play, stagnation v. progress… etc. This story, however, instead of plotting these elements against one another, unites them. It reveals in the beer, the people and the place a charming lesson in the kinship of ordinary things.
A little brewery with a big love for beer.
Hopping Eagle may be “nano,” but there’s certainly nothing small about their passion for brewing flavorful, drinkable beer. Yeah, I know, “passion” and “love” are requisite of any craft. Rarely, however, are they so effortlessly paired with such distinct singularity of effort. These guys just want to make great beer and share it.
The beer lineup at Hopping Eagle is a direct byproduct of experimentation, innovation and efficiency. These are just a few of the perks of operating on a smaller system. Another, more important advantage is consistently fresh beer. And that’s exactly what you get here.
The ale-centric tap list features a heft of strong punchers. Most of their beers lock in around 6% ABV. And while there is some aggressive hopping going on, many of the beers deliver a masterclass in restraint and subtlety. The Hoppin’ Jalapeno Ale and Cocoa Raven Porter serve as shining examples of the brewer’s delicate articulation of flavor. The Bald Eagle Blonde and Tawny Owl Brown Ales showcase an affinity for simplicity. And they even muck it up a bit with a couple New England IPAs. Both open boldly with a velvety, tropical brightness and tail it with a slight reminder of funk.
Altogether, Hopping Eagle features an ever-changing selection of 8 beers on tap. You can get them all in flights and pints at the brewery. And soon, you’ll be able to get your favorites to go in crowlers.
Note: Hopping Eagle does not currently offer food. They occasionally partner with local vendors and food trucks. They also encourage guests to order food direct to the brewery, or even bring their own.
Take a Look Behind the Scenes
Uncle Phil’s DIPA – A tasty ass kicker at 9.6%, exhibits a bit of citrus funk
Hoppin’ Jalapeno Ale – Delivers a crisp snap like a freshly picked pepper (without the heat)
Cocoa Raven Porter – Comforting and smooth like a warm sweater of dark chocolate and roasted coffee