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River Rat Brew Trail First of Its Kind in Pennsylvania

Mar 11, 2016 04:05PM ● Published by Ryan Frisch

Recently the River Rat Brew Trail opened, kicked off with a media event at Rusty Rail, Mifflinburg, one of nine participating breweries on the tour. 

The trail grew out of a chance encounter Otto Kurecian, executive director of the Columbia-Montour Visitors Bureau, had with a patron from Philadelphia who traveled to Old Forge Brewing Co. in Danville to sample the food and brew.  

“The question became, if they will come from Philadelphia, where else can we draw from,” said Andrew Miller, executive director of the Susquehanna River Valley Visitors Bureau. 

Drawing on Kurecian’s appreciation for brew trails in New England, the idea for the first brew trail in Central Pennsylvania was born. 

The two visitors’ bureaus partnered to galvanize microbreweries in the five counties they serve—Columbia, Montour, Snyder, Union and Northumberland. In addition to Rusty Rail and Old Forge, participating entities include Berwick Brewing, Turkey Hill Brewing Co., Marzoni’s, Bull Run Tap House, Marley’s, Covered Bridge Brewhaus and, when it opens, Three Beards Brewing.

The goal, say Kurecian and Miller, is to encourage beer trail participants to sample all of what the region has to offer, including outdoor recreation, culture and history—and stay for a day or a weekend. 

“Our goal is to create an experience and keep it fresh,” stressed Miller. “We want to focus on the regional aspect and the fact that Pennsylvania is first in the nation.”

In fact, Pennsylvania produces more barrels of craft beer each year than anywhere else in the country—4,074,883 barrels, in all—a trend that those in the industry expect to continue as well as impact other areas of economic development. Already, brewers like Erik of Covered Bridge Brewhaus, Catawissa, use local peaches and rhubarb in some products. 

Mike Purcell, of Bull Run Tap House, has meetings scheduled with Alan Ard, of Ard’s Farm, to explore opportunities to work with area farmers who may grow hops, barley, fruit and other ingredients to meet the needs of regional brewers.  

Helping to fuel interest in craft brews, say the microbreweries comprising the new River Rat Brew Trail, is taste and variety.

And the breweries on the trail will help with another component they all agree is important—education. “A pale ale at one brewery is different from a pale ale at another,” said Donny Abraczinskas, head brewer at Turkey Hill Brewing Co. “Education is key to anchor the experience.”

More information on River Rat Brew Trail is at RiverRatBrewTrail.com.

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