Brewing Up Business: Regional, State Craft Beer Industry Booming

JEFFERSON/CLARION CO., Pa. (EYT) – The craft brewing industry is booming both locally and throughout the state, but what does that mean for our local economy?

(Photo courtesy of Clarion River Brewing Company)

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, Pennsylvania was home to 354 craft breweries as of September of this year, a huge increase since 2011, when it had just 88.

Craft breweries in the state currently produce more than 3.7 million barrels of craft beer annually, making Pennsylvania the nation’s top producer.

However, Jefferson County is behind the curve on the brewery trend, with no breweries currently operating in the county.

That’s something that local entrepreneur Kelly Harriger is trying to change.

A hobbyist brewer for about 25 years, Harriger got serious about brewing in the last decade, and in 2016, he began to work on launching a brewery in Brookville. He has been working a business plan through Clarion County Small Business Development Center while trying to find another investor for the project, which is dubbed the North Fork Brewing.

He’s currently working on getting his PLCB brewing license, and is remodeling the old Wilson Print Shop on Hunt’s Alley to turn it into a taproom with the look and feel of an old speakeasy.

“Ever since reading an article about how small breweries are revitalizing small towns in rural Pennsylvania, I’ve been trying to get my own brewery open in Brookville,” Harriger told ExploreJeffersonPA.com.

“One of the reasons is that breweries draw a lot of weekend business to the smaller towns, and encourage other businesses to stay open. Although there’s not a lot of brand loyalty when it comes to things like clothing and groceries, locally-brewed beer seems to create a tremendous amount of local loyalty.”

Harriger noted that while there isn’t currently a brewery in Jefferson County, he hopes to be brewing commercially within the coming year, and there are also several other breweries within about a half hour drive of the area.

“Mechanistic Brewing Company in Clarion is a great choice. Although it’s only open two days a week, with some other open hours built around events such as yoga happy hour, it’s a great choice for the weekends. Nearly all the food is from outside vendors, so you always have an eclectic menu that changes from week to week. Mechanistic features a classic Belgian saison, as well as a very nice New England style IPA,” Harriger noted.

“Clarion River Brewing Company is just a few blocks away, and it brews several excellent craft beer standards, such as Iron Furnace Pale Ale and Leatherwood Brown Ale. CRBC also features a full kitchen with great dining hours, and lots of live music acts, including an open mic night once a month. CRCB and Mechanistic are about a block apart, so you can park and walk to both establishments.

“Moving eastward across Jefferson County, you’ll find Boxcar Brew Works at Doolittle Station in Dubois. Boxcar makes some of its own food, but food can also be ordered from the pizzeria and fine dining venues in the area. Boxcar makes many fine beers, but one stands out: its excellent Irish Stout, one of the better stouts I’ve ever tasted.”

According to Jeremy Borkowski, co-owner of Clarion River Brewing Company, the culture of craft brew drinkers is a major pull, as people who enjoy craft brews will seek them out whenever they travel.

“I know when I go out of town I always look for different brew pubs. If we can pull in customers it’s great for the community, then they see our beautiful Main Street and shop around. Now with the second brewery, Mechanistic, hopefully we are able to recruit more potential customers into the market! Why just stop at one when you have two great spots to check out?” Borkowski told ExploreClarion.com.

He also noted an increased focus on the use of local products is another big attraction for some people.

“We use local farms like Clarion Farms beef, local butchers like Hirsch’s meats in Knox, local wines like Foxburg, local meads from Porchvue. The idea of supporting local is a big draw. We strive to give a taste of Clarion,” Borkowski said.

Borkowski said that supporting other local and regional businesses is a big part of their business model at Clarion River Brewing Company, and it’s something that people really seem to appreciate.

“It’s a great plan to be a part of a community.”

The support of the local community has also been very important to Clarion River Brewing Company, and Borkowski noted they’ve put some of their effort into giving back to the community through programs like their “Dine and Donate” program and the annual Edward J. Flannigan Memorial Scholarship.

While the draw of the culture, the food, and the local focus all have their place, a lot of the draw also comes down to the beers.

Pennsylvania’s craft brewers are increasingly being recognized for creating quality beers that span styles including pilsners, India Pale Ales, lagers, stouts, hefeweizen, porters, bocks, and saisons.

According to the Department of Community and Economic Development, craft breweries currently inject more than $5.78 billion into the state’s economy, while supplying more than 10,000 jobs which generate $2.2 billion in wages and benefits annually.


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