Hope is a tattered flag, according to a verse by Carl Sandburg, a poem that celebrates the American spirit.
According to Pat Devlin, a U.S. Navy veteran, co-owner and CEO of Tattered Flag Brewery and Still Works, a flag—though tattered—still represents what it once stood for, but with character. And it’s that character that Devlin wants to capture within the brewery, which opened in July.
The business idea brewed inside the heads of owners Pat Devlin, Matt Fritz, Tony DeLellis and Ben Ramsay for many years. The guys have known each since high school and share a common interest in craft beer. Their goal is to provide something you can’t find elsewhere.
“The beers and the menu will always be unique,” Devlin said.
Sitting across from Devlin in the brewery’s tasting room, I asked why they decided to locate on South Union Street in the heart of Middletown.
“I traveled a lot and visited hundreds of breweries,” he said. “After my wife and I moved back home, we actually looked at six different locations. When I walked into this building, I just knew this was the place. It was unique.”
That unique find was the 105 year-old Elks building, which means the brewery is stocked with nostalgic charm. The Elks moved out years ago, and, since then, the building has housed a variety of businesses, including a sporting goods store, a florist shop, an upscale men’s clothing store and a shoe store. Its basement now hosts an open fermentation space, a brew house, canning line and grain mill. The first floor is a tasting room, while the third floor houses three private party rooms—including the “The Penn State Room” and a three-season room—along with an open kitchen, a stage, seating for more than 240 people and a standing bar.
The building’s renovation couldn’t come at a better time for Middletown, which is in the midst of its own mini-renaissance. Besides Tattered Flag, revitalization efforts include the long-anticipated Amtrak station rehab, the rebuilding of the town square, the restoration of the town clock and recently completed streetscape improvements.
“Preserving the space has been very important to the town’s people,” said Devlin.
What once were ceiling tiles have been repurposed as part of the bar backsplash and walls. The original Elks’ bar has been preserved and positioned upstairs as a freestanding bar. Interior walls show off the original brickwork, which has been exposed. And Matt Fritz built the seating tables out of the original wood.
Then There’s the Beer
Tattered Flag’s tasting room offers 12 beers on tap, including older-style light Belgians, IPAs, a cream ale and German style beers.
As a first-timer, I opted for a flight. Of the several beers I sampled, my favorite was the chocolate bock, a delicious Dunkelbock made with organic cocoa nibs, Madagascar vanilla beans and smooth, chocolate malts.
Assistant brewer David Morrow said they also brew seasonal beers, such as an Oktoberfest and a pumpkin beer. He added that he likes to experiment, noting their award-winning Manghost, a triple IPA with mangoes and ghost peppers. Morrow and head brewer Tony Schneider were both home brewers who pursued their passion and perfected their craft through lab and chemistry classes, apprenticeships and experience.
I found their “brew-your-own-beer” experience to be especially unique.
“Our one-barrel system (a miniature replica of their full 10-barrel system—basically the same hardware and software just in smaller batches) provides the public the opportunity to brew on a commercial system that they otherwise wouldn’t have access to,” explained DeLellis. “This will be appealing to home brewers and larger groups.”
Not in the mood for beer? Tattered Flag has you covered with wines and cider from the Vineyard at Hershey and several craft sodas. The distillery portion of the operation is expected to open soon, once all the licensing is complete, eventually offering an array of spirits like vodka, gin, rye whiskey and even absinthe and the Italian after-dinner drink, amaro.
Since opening, Tattered Flag has been ramping up its food production. When I visited, the tasting room offered a limited menu that included nachos, local smoked sausage and several sandwiches and salads. However, when the full brewpub opens, expected this month, chef Larry Nauman will dish out a seasonal American fare menu with fresh ingredients, such as burgers, salmon, steaks, fries, desserts and a kid’s menu.
Devlin’s goal is to make the brewery accessible to everyone, no matter their preference or age, and to make it easy to relax. The large windows tempt passersby to peer in. Once inside, you can either choose to sit in the tasting room or move upstairs to have dinner with family or friends. Take a tour. Purchase some tattered Flag swag. Brew your own beer. Book a party room, listen to a band perform onstage, or sit and enjoy the fresh air blowing in from the open three-season room. No matter what you decide, I’m sure they’ll ask you to “Come raise a flag with us!”
Tattered Flag Brewery & Still Works is located at 1 S. Union Street, Middletown. For more information, visit www.tatteredflagbsw.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 717-616-8799.
Author: Cathy Jordan