the abc’s of appalachian brewing company

Appalachian Brewing Company has been a proud sponsor of Carlisle Barracks Oktoberfest for four years. With Oktoberfest just around the corner, we sat down with Jack Sproch, one of Central PA’s leading beer men, to bring you the unique story of this fast growing local business.

How did Appalachian Brewing Company get its start?
Shawn Gallagher and I had long considered opening a microbrewery and brewpub and on one evening in the sizzling summer of 1994 we made the decision and never turned back. We did extensive research on the brewing industry and market before bringing in my skiing buddy, Artie Tafoya. Research continued and purchases were being made. The North Cameron Street location in Harrisburg was purchased for $1 but needed extensive renovations. After three years ABC Harrisburg was open and we brewed our first batch of beer. Over the years the beer selection and locations have expanded.

What role has ABC played in the community?
From the beginning, we’ve been an advocate for producing natural, fresh and local products using the finest ingredients and for serving excellent fare in a warm, inviting brewpub setting. We strive to support other local businesses. We’ve also worked quite hard at community revitalization. Our main brewery building on Cameron Street in Harrisburg originally sat vacant for decades prior to our renovation. We won an historic preservation award for our efforts. It serves as a craft brewery, restaurant, live entertainment venue and banquet space which has created jobs. More recently in Mechanicsburg, we revitalized another distressed property and gave it new life as a world class brewpub and craft soda manufacturing facility. And of course, we’ve helped people across Central PA learn what good beer really tastes like!

At the new Mechanicsburg location, what can guests expect to find?
Our Mechanicsburg location is like nothing we’ve ever done before. This one certainly has warm accents similar in feel to our other brewpubs, but as a former car dealership, it is notably more sleek and industrial in appearance. Guests will be amazed at the sheer size of the main dining area, featuring a mixture of stainless steel highlights, high ceilings and large glass windows and doors. The mahogany bar is the largest we’ve ever built, and features more than 20 ABC craft beers on tap every day. A large exposed staircase leads to a second floor mezzanine seating area. We’ve also kept the brewpub family-friendly by adding a booth area just off the main dining room. We can also accommodate fairly large groups in our Brewery Dining area, which is uniquely situated in full view of our small-batch beer brewing system. Like the other ABC brewpubs, ABC Mechanicsburg features our menu, plus weekly lunch and dinner specials exclusive to Mechanicsburg.

beer2Are there any new beers to look out for?
As a company, we brew about 80 different beers every year, so there’s always something to look forward to. Our September specialty beer, Rutty Buck Pumpkin Ale is always a favorite. The addition of real pumpkin and spices makes this beer a perfect transition into the fall season, and is available in draft at all of our brewpubs while supplies last! In October, we’ll release another very popular seasonal brew called Batch No. 666 Halloween Beer. It’s dark and malty, and packs a devilish punch, if you know what I mean. And in November, we’ll begin looking forward to the true holiday season, with the annual release of our Grinnin’ Grizzly Holiday Spiced Ale. This sweet and spicy beer features hints of cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg, and usually remains on tap in our brewpubs through early January. For fans of our bottled beers, look forward to an updated Variety Pack coming very soon, featuring Water Gap Wheat Ale, Mountain Lager, ‘Jolly Scot’ Scottish Style Ale, and Hoppy Trails IPA. Later this year, we’re also planning to release a brand new ‘big beer’ variety pack, in which we’ll be bottling several more beers in 12oz. bottles for the very first time. That pack is set to include Outta Focus 2X IPA, Aero-Head Bock, Chocolate Avenue Stout and an updated version of our popular Trail Blaze Brown Ale, which will now include maple flavor.

beer1What is ABC’s goal for the future?
Our goal has always been to continue to expand our brewpub operations, and evolve in the beverage industry. When it comes to the brewpubs, we’ve always kept a goal of opening 10 in the first 20 years. With 7 brewpubs in 17 years, we’re getting close. We’ve only want to grow in places that we feel are a great fit for our brand and will be successful, so we’re pretty selective about where our next brewpub will be located. When it comes to beer, we’re always challenging our brewers to stay innovative. The other major part of our growth continues to be our line of Appalachian Craft Sodas. We use pure cane sugar typically and a touch of honey, no high fructose corn syrup, gluten free and caffeine free. We’ve expanded our retail partnerships to include large stores like Walmart and Wegman’s, and we’ve seen tremendous growth as a result. In fact, to keep our production in line with our sales, we’re opening our brand new craft soda facility in Mechanicsburg later this year. We’ll be able to produce thousands of cases of our soda each day, enabling us to distribute our soda products nationally.

beer3Where will ABC expand next?
We still believe there are opportunities in the Central Pennsylvania region, such as in Hershey, for instance. We’ve also eyed properties as far northern Maryland for many years.
Jack’s favorite beer?
To steal a movie line, “I could no sooner choose a favorite star in the heavens.” For me, it would be like picking a favorite child, I can’t because I truly love them all. There are several Appalachian beers I drink more often like our Mountain Lager, a German Dortmunder style beer and some seasonal beers that I especially look forward to when they come out.

Brewmaster’s favorite beer?
According to Artie Tafoya, ABC Brewmaster and Director of Operations:  “My favorite ABC flagship beer is Hoppy Trails IPA. It’s what I drink the most of year round, because it’s just so full of flavor. I’m really very proud of it, and our customers seem to agree, because it’s among our top sellers in both the brewpubs and in bottles. I’m also a huge fan of our monthly specialty beers, especially anything we brew in the classic European style, like our Kipona Fest lager and Peregrine Pilsner.              

Chef’s favorite dish?
According to ABC Executive Chef Kyle Mason:  If I had to choose one Entrée as a favorite, it would be the ABC Beer Battered Fish & Chips. Of course, we make a great beer batter for our fresh haddock filets, and fry it so it’s perfectly crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. We do it right.  Second on the list is the Turkey Panini, and it’s probably what I eat the most, out of convenience. It’s the perfect combination of smoked turkey breast, bacon and fresh veggies. But it’s also a great ‘to go’ option for someone as busy as me, because its grilled and pressed so it’s never messy, even if I have to eat it in the car!

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