It’s not exactly “Drunk History,” that long-running Comedy Central program that melds, well, drinking and history.
Nonetheless, that show kept running through my mind as several friends and I ventured forth with Eugene Showers, the amiable, knowledgeable owner of The Lost Pint.
Through his tours, Showers offers a unique, fun type of interactive education, as he puts brewing in context with local history, agriculture, geology, transportation—even the migratory patterns of animals. With a few tasting stops woven in.
The tour’s surplus of obscure trivia hints at a Harrisburg that once was, while the behind-the-scenes stops infuse a mix of modern and museum.
Showers is uniquely qualified for this job, as he has worked both as a teacher and at various distilleries and breweries. He also brews beer at home.
“I’m not looking for people who just want to drink and not learn anything,” Showers said. “I appreciate smart and cultured people on my tours. This tour is an interactive conversation, and we all learn from each other.”
Showers started The Lost Pint after sharing the region’s history with a group of visiting Europeans.
“I felt certain that others would appreciate the Susquehanna River and Harrisburg if they could see it the way I do, from a different perspective,” he said. “Visitors always enjoy stopping to grab a pint. So, conversations always include beer styles, beer tastings and beer-making education.”
The Lost Pint offers a step-on tour. You bring the vehicle. The tour guide rides shotgun, navigating and narrating.
You have your choice of tours lasting from two to six hours, whether you want to learn about the Underground Railroad, local historic ruins or historic and modern brewing venues.
I arranged a tour for a random Saturday, bringing along five readers of TheBurg who are interested in local history and have toured breweries and distilleries. The guest list included Harrisburg residents Lora Ball, Greg Follett, Sara Sitz and Robyn Sitz and Mechanicsburg resident Marcia Peterman.
Showers recommended to us his popular, four-hour “Susquehanna River Valley Tour” and “Harrisburg Tour.”
Although the website offers standard tour packages, Showers can customize an itinerary, adding a vineyard here and a brewery there. And he can easily change it on the fly. Even before our group assembled, he showcased his flexibility. Our tour date overlapped with a downtown parade, closing off several streets on our original itinerary.
The first stop on our improvised agenda turned out to be a crowd favorite.
Because Showers is tapped in (pun intended) with local brewers and historians, he offers a glimpse behind the barrels. At The Millworks, master brewer Jeff Musselman took us into the brewery he designed from scratch. The tour’s brewing process explanation threw us back to chemistry class, but in a much better way.
Unlike my chemistry teachers, Musselman provided samples. First, we tasted one of the raw ingredients, barley malt that smacked of crackers from a hippie bakery. Then he tapped a new barrel to allow us a rare sample of his black raspberry imperial stout.
“That never, ever happens,” said Robyn Sitz, who has toured numerous breweries and distilleries worldwide.
“For a brewer to tap his barrel is a rare happening,” he said. “But where do you go to get a beer like this? Just imagine 150 pounds of black raspberries being incorporated in that barrel. It tastes amazing.”
En route to our next stop, Showers pointed out historic landmarks that we all drive past daily, but never before stopped to truly consider.
Highlights included the ruins of a speakeasy entrance, the chronicles of Charles Dickens’ visit through Harrisburg, and the pillars at the Market Street Bridge entrance, complete with fascinating stories behind them.
Another trivia opportunity awaited us at our next tour stop.
Pre-prohibition, Highspire was home to Highspire Distillery, manufacturer of Highspire Rye Whiskey. The unassuming, 7-foot, brick warehouse, with “H. A. Hartman & Son” painted on the side, sits tucked on a back road along the main drag. You have to squint in the sunlight to see “Highspire Distillery” blacked out and painted over.
The young owner, Rich Lawson, runs a storage facility in one section of the warehouse and showcases relics from the distillery’s heyday in another part. He proudly claims to “resurrect legacies.” The distillery’s most remarkable legacy, Highspire Rye Whiskey, is now produced out of state (this forgotten rye goes down smooth, by the way).
“That kid was cool, and the warehouse was amazing,” Follett said.
Ball enjoyed this part of the tour most.
“I must have driven past this building a thousand times,” she said. “But I didn’t realize what it was.”
The next stop took us along the Susquehanna River, past TMI, to canal ruins at Collins Lock. Showers made history come alive, putting the canal ruins in context with historic trade and topography.
Looking at locks and history about the canal proved to be a favorite for Follett.
“I’m still unclear about how it all fits together, but it will give me something to Google later,” he said.
Our last stop, Tattered Flag Brewery & Still Works in Middletown, provided a self-guided tour, appetizers and unusual brews—plus edifying conversation about the local, hidden gems uncovered throughout the tour.
“I’ve lived here for 20 years, and I didn’t know most of the stuff I learned on this tour,” Peterman said.
Follett may have summarized our Lost Pint tour best.
“The owner gave us a personal tour,” he said. “And he treated us like friends.”
For more information about The Lost Pint, visit www.thelostpint.com or the Facebook page.