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.
It’s Only a Matter of Time
At the dramatic turn on the Endless-Pocono Run Section of the DiscoverNEPA Brewer’s Loop where the route hooks sharply into the eastern hills, we came upon Last Minute Brewing.
There’s a point in every work week, typically on a Wednesday, where the passage of time, the physical rotation of the earth and the movement of all things within it slows to a crawl. Thought, motivation, communication seem suspended in cosmic gelatin. We’re stuck. The clock is stuck, or at the very least, the monotony of our labors has infected our collective perception of time. Minutes pull away like taffy. I swear it was just 1:07 ten minutes ago! Yet, though the mind is sound, the blood flows and the body pulses with electricity, it is somehow still 1:07.
Yeah, you know the feeling. Perhaps, you’re in it at this precise moment. And you’ve clicked on this very article searching out some place to hide your mind from that slick thief – a little forest perhaps, or an island. Would a winding country road flanked by fields of tall grass suffice? Buckle up, buckaroo! There’s craft beer in them there hills. And we’re off to go find it.
It was a Wednesday in late July. We peeled out of Wilkes-Barre, positioned ourselves toward the rural reaches of northern Lackawanna County and rolled on. It was basically a straight shot on 81 in mid-day traffic. Within thirty minutes, we were mounting the exit toward Scott Township. From there, our highway vision cleared. We took to the green hills like spirits renewed. The office crust cracked away from our brains. The colorful poetry of a NEPA landscape returned to our tongues – cornflower skies, daisy white, goose down clouds… etc.
These trips on the Brewer’s Loop never fail to re-animate the worked-over soul. Soon, the heart and the hypnotic thumps of the road synch into a hushed thunder. The prospect of discovery dismisses the unreliable GPS. We’re back to eyes and ears – collecting every sign, every cow parsnip, every door. Out in this country, an address is more of a formality. You either know where you’re going or you don’t. Regardless, if you’re the only guy brewing beer for miles, you won’t to be hard to find.
Wemberly Hill Road snaked into the oak shadows and over a few small hills. Our eyes were peeled for a large sign, a puff of steam, bearded, 40-year-old men milling about — any token of a brewery’s existence. And there it was. We spotted the unmistakable shape of a humble hop painted on a disproportionately small white sign. It hung over a single white garage door in the middle of an otherwise nondescript beige, metal barn. Across the bottom, beneath the figure of an hourglass, it read: Last Minute Brewing.
Let’s go crush a can or two, shall we?
Gettin’ some “if you build it, they will come” vibes here.
The combined brewhouse/taproom at Last Minute Brewing is a study in rural minimalism. It’s a metal barn. That’s what your eyes tell you. There are overhead lights, industrial heaters, enough space to park a tractor or two. But when you step inside, when you grab a seat and open a beer, it becomes more than that. There’s a story pulsing through the steel framework and polished concrete floor.
Time is a central figure here. It’s in the name. It’s a running joke about the brewer’s proclivity toward procrastination. And it shows up in some iteration on every can. Time, to a greater degree, is the chronicler of this tale. It’s one of an incorrigible teenager watching his old man toil away at his first home brews. The young man helps where he can. He learns along the way – something about passion, about the thankless effort we expend on the things we love. And in a few stolen sips, a seed is planted.
Along the way, the story has evolved from homebrew kits to brite tanks and fermenters. Only now, it’s less about the boy and more about the beer. Pipework traces each step along the back wall and in and through sturdy steel legs. Levers and dials, hoses and buckets reveal the notion that brewing is just as much work of the mind as it is of the hand. Tools at the ready, fresh puddles sneaking their way into a drain offer the sense that work here only exists in a dual state of almost done and never finished.
The brewhouse/work space parallels the “play” space. Simple picnic tables crowd the floor. In fair weather, the overhead door rolls up and draws in the day. The space overflows into a side yard – plenty more tables, cornhole boards, trees, green grass and endless blue skies. But that’s about it. There’s no fluff. It’s refreshingly honest in its simplicity. You come here for the beer and the story behind it. Nothing’s asked of you aside from a hard-earned buck or two and a willingness to play a small part in that story. And that’s what transforms this steel barn into Last Minute Brewing.
Of course, all stories aside, the beer also helps.
A little bit-a’ dis’ & A little bit-a dat’ – a NEPA beer recipe.
Like I said earlier, time — the healer, the truth-teller, the great revealer – that’s kind of the theme behind the whole operation here. For the brewer, and the whole lot of us, I guess, it’s both ally and adversary. His gorgeous Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout befriends it, grows with it, matures to perfection under its gaze.
Time, however, when it comes to beer (and life), is also fickle. Her loyalty, again and again, proves remarkably volatile. Too much time here and something’s spoiled. Not enough time there, and it’s not quite right. It’s the altar, the axis mundi, and all things – the brewer, the beer, the cat and dog, the me, the you – they supplicate. They worship time over all things though the toll and the reward remain woefully disproportionate.
So governed is the march of every minute millisecond. And if time’s the tax transcendent, and we pay regardless with blind obligation and muted expectation, then let us create joy from its thin margins. Watch a child grow. Plant a garden. Bake a pie. Build a table. Make beer and, more importantly, share it with friends. That’s the short and long of it. It’s what they’re working toward here at Last Minute (aren’t we all?).
Ok. So, while we pondered the inevitability of time and the great, slow march, we also drank a few beers. And we started with the easy stuff. Time for Some Action is a beautifully hazy, unfiltered Keller Pilsner. At 5.2%, this malty sweet and delicately hopped cruiser opened distinctly floral and turned slightly bready with a lingering note of lemon.
Next up was the IPA offering, a double dry hopped, hefty and hazy double called Chrono Chronic. Up front, it was definitely herbal and earthy. There was some tropical fruit and stone fruit in the background. Throughout, it carried a subdued “leafiness” (hence the Chronic, I guess). This one might go down a little too easy for an 8.5%-er. Be careful.
Finally, we dove into the dark side with Setting the Present Up for the Future, a Bourbon Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout. The bourbon stole the show here, and kept singing throughout. It delivered a pleasant warmth to the cheeks and finished with that delicate chocolate, coffee pairing. This is a dinner beer – a medium rare tomahawk steak and potato beer. Take it slow.
The tap list at is short and focused. You’ll typically find 3-5 straight-from-the-can offerings. They also sell 4-packs to go. And throughout the year, the brewery hosts local food trucks, whose presence also tends to coincide with new can releases. So, keep your eyes peeled.
We made it out to Last Minute Brewing back in late July. The hilltops baked in the mid-day sun under blue skies. The ever-present country breeze carried a tune or two from equally ever-present cicada. The good brewer shared his story, his beer and his undeniable love for the craft. He shared it freely and generously (a little too generously). And we welcomed every sip and every word. Head out to the rural plains of Scott Township just north of Scranton and check out Last Minute Brewing.
Setting the Present Up for the Future –Bourbon Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout — Gorgeously thick, thoroughly boozed up and chocolatey — 11% ABV
Chrono Chronic – DDH Hazy Double IPA – Notably herbal, backed up with stone fruit, meticulously balanced — 8.5% ABV
Time for Some Action – Keller Pilsner – Slightly cloudy, floral, sweet and bready malt backbone with a light hoppy punch — 5.2% ABV