Alan Miller asked me that question as I bellied up to the bar at Boneshire Brew Works, the Harrisburg area’s newest entry to the craft beer scene.
I told him that I like both dark beers and light beers. So, he poured a Russian imperial stout, brewed with honey and oats (the dark). Next came a Belgian white ale brewed with coriander and bitter orange peel (the light).
And, if you visit, Miller probably will ask you the same question. He told me that the answer helps him gauge what to pour, what you might enjoy sampling.
Two months ago, Miller and his partners opened Boneshire in an industrial space that once made parts for muscle and drag racing cars. Turning a former machine shop (and, later, a batting cage) into a brewery involved removing old floor tiles, running new sewer lines and making space for the brewing equipment.
Miller noted a few more reasons for bringing his establishment to Derry Street in Swatara Township. The location is halfway between Hershey and Harrisburg and can tap into the West Shore traffic. He also wanted a retail front and a place where he could easily and effectively get materials in and out. The space he designed is open and inviting, and people can see the brewing process in action.
Who We Are
Miller grew up in western PA, and his family still lives there.
“The first beer I ever had was Iron City,” he said, affirming his roots.
Later, a friend lured him away from weak macro-brews by introducing him to flavor-rich craft beer. He was hooked. He soon was attending beer festivals, noting how much people enjoyed tasting and sampling the creations.
Miller began brewing at home and later became part owner in a small craft brewery, Millbock Brewing Co. in Linglestown, which he described as a pilot project that closed after four years. He decided to bring in other investors, 10 in all—friends and family who now help cleaning, bartending, managing, accounting and catering—and opened Boneshire. It took eight months, and the partners did most of the work themselves. They built the bar and the walk-in freezer and grinded the concrete floors.
There were stumbles along the way. One surprise came when Miller placed his first order for glassware—the glasses didn’t arrive in time for opening night, and he made a dash to a local supplier.
“Four cases disappeared in the first week,” he said.
They have plenty of glassware now, and, if you order a beer, it’ll be served in Boneshire-branded mason jars.
So, where did the name Boneshire come from?
“It’s a combination of my son and my dog,” Miller said.
His son is nicknamed Hambone, and his dog is a Yorkshire terrier.
“I wanted to trademark something without any name infringements and tie it in to something meaningful and to develop our unique brand,” he said.
And then there’s the pig logo.
“My family were pig farmers in western PA,” he explained.
Miller plans to eventually open and operate a barbecue joint for all those pork junkies out there.
“Pit style,” he said. “The whole pig, cooked slow and served over the weekends.”
He paused for a moment.
“I also want to make sauerkraut because it’s something my dad likes to do and is good at, and it tastes good while being made in a traditional manner that reflects who we are.
Miller described a typical day in the brewery.
“The system is manual,” he explained. “It’s pretty labor intensive. I’m in at 5:30 a.m. by myself. It takes about eight to 10 hours to brew and clean. I shovel the grain, mash and bring the kettle up to boil. Add hops and other ingredients. Cool and transfer to fermenters. Pitch the yeast. Then it’s time for cleaning.”
The brew works is BYOF (bring your own food), and the plaza fortunately has two restaurants attached, specializing Italian and Chinese cuisine. I asked Miller why he wanted to bring a brewery to Derry Street.
“I’ve asked myself this question a million times,” he replied. Then, with a smile, he added, “Anytime you can do what you love, and see others enjoy it too, well, that’s something I love and appreciate.”
He also enjoys meeting a wide variety of patrons and hearing their stories.
“We have good crowds here,” he said. “I was surprised and pleased by the local support. I think the support comes because this brewery provides locals with a sense of ownership. This is their brewery in their town, brewed with the same water they drink at home.”
Miller said that he’s resisting putting in a TV and is doing everything possible to get folks, as they enjoy a beer, to converse or even break out one of the board games that are piled on a baker’s rack along a wall. He envisions his brewery as community oriented. He even plans to have movie nights, using an old-fashioned projector to show classic films.
“Ultimately, this is a gathering place,” he said.
Boneshire Brew Works is located at 7462 Derry St., Harrisburg (Swatara Township). For more information, call 717-469-5007 or visit www.boneshire.com or the Facebook page.
Author: Cathy Jordan