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.
A Long Way from the Copper Kettle
Somewhere above the hollow, ghostly veins of Tamaqua’s hard coal country, along the Southern Reach section of the DiscoverNEPA Brewer’s Loop, we came upon Revere Brewery.
Before we knew it, we had found ourselves somewhere in the middle of September. NEPA summers, often a furious volley of activity crammed and densely packed into a few short months, tend to involve a crash (and whatever requisite, residual sadness ensues). Nonetheless, the sun was out. The early afternoon temp was clocking in at around 75. And the sky hadn’t been clearer or bluer in maybe a week. We could have pretended it was still summer. Calendar-wise, I guess it still was. But our minds quickly checked us (as they do), thankfully, before our hearts (also as they so often do) decided to wreck us.
What’s September good for anyhow – one last tease, a long, sad goodbye? Nah, we rip our band-aids off clean and quick here (and salve our wounds with tears). If shorter, grayer days lie ahead, best we get to accepting it and harvesting every ounce of bright, celestial nutrient that dimming sun is willing to shed. There’s little use grieving ourselves into a darkness over it. We know for a fact that the high summer sun, soft, warm breezes perfumed with Mountain Laurel, a hot dog and a cold beer at the ballpark and all that makes a warm Saturday afternoon so carefree, so special will indeed return.
Dry those eyes, little one. And remember, when all else fails, when hope seems miles from your grasp, we’ve still got pints and pints of delicious, local craft beer to discover.
In our minds, there’s no better way to kick off the looming change of seasons than with a road trip along the DiscoverNEPA Brewer’s Loop. We had all the ingredients — fall beers on the brain, perfect weather, light Wednesday traffic. More importantly, we had a self-proclaimed bootlegger-turned-brewer with a now-legit operation, quite a few barrels of beer and an overwhelming urge to share. Need we say more?
We set out southward – rolling over the western edge of the Pocono Mountains and Hazleton. On the other side, we cut into bright green, rocky ridges and valleys on PA-309 and sidled up to the Little Schuylkill. We found ourselves of like-mind with native hunters and traders, pioneers and railroad surveyors. If we were to carve our way through a mountain, this little river would lead us. Before we knew it, Tamaqua stretched out into the belly of the valley. The river drained into a tightly packed street grid and a delightful scattering of Victorian architecture. A handful of chimneys smoked off what was one of the season’s first chilly mornings. Our road split the town at five points. We continued east through the residential hillside and began to climb yet again when suddenly, it rolled up before us as if we had no choice in the matter. As if this place alone was pulling us along a track.
A small, unassuming sign. The simple, recognizable shape of a bottle cap in the center. They call it Revere Brewery.
Let’s see if we can’t get ourselves a tour and maybe convince em’ to part with a pint or two.
Commoditizing the chaos of creation.
From busy East Broad Street, the rather stout brewery sits shoulders hunched in the dip between the Nesquehoning and Pisgah ridges. From any angle, the looming mountain folds peer over, minimizing any man, machine or dwelling in their view. The brewery’s simplistic design — natural fieldstone, rust-tinted plank siding and a brown steel roof – inspire a dose of singularity against a horizon line of vibrant green treetops and electric blue sky.
This purposeful juxtaposition continues as you breach the brewery door. There’s a definitive split between the respective worlds of work and play at Revere Brewery. To the left, the grit and grime of the brewhouse is displayed in clear distinction – the funk of boiling wort, puddles shrinking to a central floor drain, bubbling, clanking, cursing… To the right, the taproom in its inclination toward conviviality expresses itself in color, art, laughter and conversation. Above, in between, underneath and through, in a sort of superposition to it all is the beer.
And at that blurry gradation where the frayed, mutual edges of these ideas meet stands a brewmaster wielding the mash paddle of creation. His brewhouse is a palace of both mind and muscle – the former dreaming up the soup and the latter chopping the onions, so to speak. Burly, steel brew kettles stand at attention. Hoses draped over their wide shoulders mingle with strikes of fluorescent light reflecting from their shiny bellies to the boot-scuffed floor. Brooms, squeegees and hand tools hold position on the back wall. Economy of movement seems the philosophy of design here. With everything in its rightful place, the mind conducts freely a blissfully grungy concerto echoing in the guise of clinking pints and laughter in the taproom next door. Speaking of…
A proper place to have a cold pint and wait for the zombie apocalypse to blow over.
The cozy, square taproom at Revere Brewery leaves little to the imagination. You’ve come to this place to drink beer. You’ve come to have a conversation, to make a connection with the people behind the beer, to connect with Tamaqua itself.
There’s a simplicity that spills in from the brewhouse, from the brewmaster’s intention, from the bartender’s delightful smile. Yes. It’s a craft brewery, but before anything else, this place is all about the people inside. Despite its on-the-outskirts locale, the taproom screams town tavern. From the 19th century black powder rifle on the wall (here for the Shaun of the Dead vibes) to the chunky central table emblazoned with beer labels, every corner of the room entices conversation and camaraderie.
A full day’s worth of natural light floods the room from south-facing windows and doors. It’s picked up in comfy, natural wood tones in the polished bar and tabletops. Finished wood plank wainscoting helps to radiate the warmth of the sunset-orange-tinted main wall across the space to the dark bar wall. Black stools and benches offer an opposing utility welcome to both coal miner and casual beer tourist alike. And a high black ceiling works to mute the room’s brighter disposition.
Revere’s taproom miraculously manages to be, simultaneously, sunny and dark, day and night, quiet and loud, rough around the edges and smooth to the touch. It may even occasionally transform into a full-blown, regulation quoits court. Simply, it’s a little bit of everything to everyone – a rare trick these days.
And it even carries outside the four walls. The brewery also opens to a small outdoor beer garden during the warmer months.
Honest, easy and occasionally a bit different.
Revere Brewery takes a rather rudimentary approach when it comes to their beer – No Messin’ Around (at least not too much). For the brewer, quality control is essentially a community effort. This is the type of place with staunch regulars, a very active mug club and, on any given Saturday night, a thousand and one opinions about beer. Regardless, any brewer worth his grain welcomes his customer’s opinions and understands that happy beer drinkers favor consistency.
Craft beer in a largely domestic beer market is a prime example of playing the long game. And the brewer at Revere could easily teach a master class. At any given time, the slate features 12 unique beers and the occasional cider or two. And it’s a mix of year-round staples, seasonal options, experimental one-offs, and slight variations on crowd favorites. Overall, the tap list reveals a brewing philosophy that relies on slow, easy introduction to change and light, masterful touches when it comes to recipe riffs.
We started on the dark end of the spectrum with the flagship Vanilla Porter. It revealed a masterful play between the chocolatey roasted malts and a touch of fruit on the nose. Pair that with a delicately balanced, sweet vanilla finish and you’ve got a damn-near perfect porter. Next up, Arctic Stout. It came in a little heavy at 7.4%, but this one also nailed that mark when it came to flavor with rich coffee and dark chocolate balanced ever so gently with a light hoppy intro.
From there, we jumped over to the lighter side with an easy drinker in their Belgium Wit. It poured with a beautiful haziness and brought out that floral fruitiness with a clove and banana bread backbone. Of course, we couldn’t resist the summer holdovers — Sunny Daze, a pale ale and the Session IPA. The pale ale rang in at 5.5% and revealed itself to be a truly crushable, perfectly balanced cruiser. Revere’s Session IPA added a little on the bitterness end with notes of grapefruit, but came in at about the same ABV. And I’m not afraid to admit that I’d happily drink both on a cold dreary day in late January.
We rounded out our trip with the Zombie IPA. This golden-hued, west coast styled beauty sits at the top of Revere’s IPA program. It kicks off with a slightly funky, earthy intro and fuses seamlessly into deep notes of citrus and a vigorous hop-forward warmth. It’s a truly classic, everyday IPA.
Finally, though we didn’t quite get through the entire list, we couldn’t leave without trying the crowd favorite, Key Lime. This sweet, citrus-forward wheat ale offered a super light, refreshing blast of lime right up front that faded slowly into the bready undertone. Overall, Key Lime proved a crisp, crushable example of the perfect boat beer (or summer beer, or fishing beer). We tossed ours back as a fitting and timely tribute to the late, great Jimmy Buffet.
Revere’s tap list also offers a variety of rotating, seasonal beers like a Coconut Porter and a Pumpkin Ale. They even offer the occasional lager and barrel aged beers. Outside of beer, you’ll find a selection of ciders on tap as well as local wines and cocktails crafted with PA distilled spirits. You can even bring in your own food, and, of course, there’s almost always a food truck parked at the brewery. Sister’s Cantina, Revere’s neighbor also offers delivery directly to your table in the taproom.
We popped into Revere Brewery on a balmy Wednesday in September. They kicked open the doors and greeted us like family they hadn’t seen in years. In no time, they were pouring generously their stories and their tasty beers. If you haven’t been, get there. Grab a stool and make an old friend of the good folks behind the bar.
And on your way out the door, don’t forget to grab a few cans or a crowler to go.
Vanilla Porter – Porter – Delicately balanced with delicious play between roasted malts and sweet vanilla — 6.8% ABV
Zombie – IPA – Mild hop heaviness playing nicely with delicate notes of stone fruit and citrus – 6.8% ABV
Belgium Wit – Wheat Ale – Super light, slightly hazy with bright notes of citrus and clove –5.3% ABV