By the standards of the craft beer industry, Market Cross Pub may be the ancient man of Cumberland County.
The English-style pub opened in 1993 in downtown Carlisle, adding a brewery in 2002 that today produces 12 to 15 varieties annually.
But Market Cross now has teamed up with a bunch of young bucks to form the Cumberland Valley Beer Trail, which showcases 15 of the West Shore’s breweries, restaurants and pubs.
Conceptualized last summer and launched in April, the beer trail “received immediate, positive response” from both breweries and patrons, said Aaron Jumper, communications coordinator for the Cumberland Valley Visitors Bureau, which created the trail.
“We learned very quickly that the breweries love partnering with each other,” he said. “It’s a unique industry, and they’re very willing to collaborate.”
It works like this: Patrons pick up a beer passport at participating locations, collect stamps at each location, and mail the passport to the visitors bureau after five, 10 or 15 stamps for one, two or three chances at a monthly, $50 gift certificate redeemable at any trail establishment.
Jumper said that beer trails are popping up all over the country, following closely in the footsteps of wine trails. And he calls Market Cross Pub a “cornerstone” in the trail’s creation, as owner Ashleigh Corby provided invaluable advice. Market Cross is one of several beer trail locations with a brewery on site.
“We use the Peter Austin brewing system, an English system with open fermentation,” explained Corby. “It’s all very manual, with brick-lined kettles and mashing by hand—it’s fairly unique.”
In addition to Market Cross Pub, beer lovers can enjoy local creations from Carlisle’s Desperate Times Brewery, Carlisle’s Molly Pitcher Brewing Co., Mechanicsburg’s Harty Brewing Co., Appalachian Brewing Co. in Mechanicsburg, Chambersburg’s Roy Pitz Brewing Co. and Camp Hill’s Ever Grain Brewing Co., which occupies an industrial building that once housed Sun Motors.
“Having an open brewery, being able to see the tanks and our brewer working, is one of the appealing aspects,” said Angella Hodges, Ever Grain’s marketing director.
With styles ranging from a light-bodied, German-style helles lager to a coffee-infused, Russian-style imperial stout, the lineup at Ever Grain also includes playful creations like Fluffhead, a Bavarian-style hefeweizen. The former car dealership window opens to the neighboring Red Sky Café, where patrons can order a bite to eat.
Designated drivers on the beer trail can enjoy numerous handcrafted sodas, and the trail’s cuisine includes English, Belgian, German and even Italian food—transporting you to Europe via the Cumberland Valley. For example, you can nosh on bangers and mash at Market Cross Pub, pomme frites at Café Bruges and specialty pizzas at Al’s of Hampden.
Café Bruges is one of several CV Beer Trail stops that carefully curates a collection of imported and/or craft beer. Others include Grain + Verse, T. J. Rockwell’s, Brewhouse Grille and Al’s of Hampden, which also features selections from the onsite Pizza Boy Brewery.
“Belgium treats beer as the rest of the world treats wine—they’re very bold with lots of different, fun flavors,” said Café Bruges manager Chantal Schurr, who credits the creative use of wild yeast for Belgian beer’s layered flavor profiles.
Café Bruges carries more than 80 different Belgian beers.
“This is huge, because Belgians can be hard to get,” Schurr said. “Additionally, Belgium has six of the world’s Trappist (monastery) breweries, and we carry five right here.”
There are interesting twists and turns along the trail. Carlisle’s Castlerigg Wine Shop features a wine bar, and downtown Mechanicsburg’s Larsen Meadworks explores the fine art of producing mead—an alcoholic beverage created by fermenting honey with water and infusing flavor via fruit, spices, grains or hops. It’s one of about 10 meadworks in Pennsylvania.
“What I found is that mead has the ability to appeal to both beer and wine people,” said owner Nate Larsen, a former Lower Paxton Township police officer.
Larsen uses 500 to 600 pounds of Lancaster’s Dutch Gold Honey monthly. Captain Awesome, inspired by spiced rum, is his most popular creation. On the other end of the spectrum, Cello-Sol (a.k.a. “Liquid Happy”) is a light, refreshing mead that combines honey, lemon and mango.
Jumper predicts the trail’s expansion as additional breweries pop up throughout central PA.
“The beer industry seems to be flourishing in our region, providing great experiences for residents and visitors alike,” he said. “There is definitely growth potential on the horizon.”
To learn more about the Cumberland Valley Beer Trail, visit www.visitcumberlandvalley.com and click on “things to do.”