There is a documentary by the name that I entitled this post. It stretches a bit to say that beer saved the world but it certainly is nice to have one or two at the end of a tough day. AND it is safe to drink without being treated or filtered.
Many hikers seem to have a thing for beer; it’s not just me. One revelation of the trail for me has been how awesome it can be to pack out a beer or two, stick them in a mountain spring to chill and then down said beers in the beauty of a camp high upon a ridge miles from civilization. Yeungling has been a favored beer of mine for several years. The company opened a brewery facility in Tampa (they only have two brewery facilities) which gave them a home team advantage with me in the selection process. My wife and friends seem to put up with my beer without notable objection so I tend to think they must like it as well. Yeungling is good beer. Right Shayne?
Our hike has brought us close to Pottsville, PA which is the home of Yeungling. They are the oldest operating brewery in the US, having been in business since 1829. They made low-alcohol nearbeer during Prohibition and opened a dairy and ice cream business (now closed) to keep the doors open during those tough times.
I toured the Buffalo Trace distillery in Frankfort, KY a couple of years ago and found it to be fascinating. (Oldest operating distillery in the US; they distilled “medicinal whisky” during Prohibition and apparently paid a lot under the table for THAT licensing).
I have a Mr. Beer brewing kit and have made both good and skunky beer with its ingredients and my efforts but have enjoyed the process almost as much as the results. Touring an industrial brewery is a great way to see how the pros get it done.
When we are done with our hike I have.very nebulous plans to take up beer brewing as a more serious hobby at some point.
But back to the present and Yeungling in Pottsville PA. A hiker from Germany (Runner Up) kept talking up the idea of doing the tour and I caught the bug from him. Must take beer tour. Must take beer tour. Must take beer tour…
So when we came to a road crossing near Pine Grove and I found that I was completely tuckered out despite having only hiked 10 miles I knew that some adjustments to our schedule were in order.
We needed resupply. And we needed to hike a lot of miles to get to Hamburg (closest trail town to Pottsville) by Sunday and I just didn’t believe that we could get it done. I was feeling really beat and a trip into town would eat up too much time and it all just felt overwhelming. I called for a hotel night and declared that we would zero on Sunday then get a rental car and drive to Pottsville for the tour.
We got a ride into town with awesome trail angels who were out dispensing food and encouragement every day at the junction of 645 and the AT. These folks were bringing sodas, Gatorade, water, fruit, chips, snack cakes and subs every day. Pretty awesome trail magic.
The Comfort Inn in Pine Grove was $40/day cheaper than anywhere in Hamburg anyway so that part of the decision felt pretty good.
Within a mile we found: beer (distributor),
resupply (Dollar General), food (Arby’s) and laundry (Pilot truck stop). At the Comfort Inn we rested for all of Sunday and early Monday I hiked a couple of miles to sit on the doorstep of the local used car dealer.
They had two rental cars and after a few details were sorted out drove off in a 2006 Altima. Driving was weird after 3 months of not being behind the wheel. We had trouble finding parking and arrived at the brewery just a few minutes late for the 10AM tour. I put one quarter in the meter while we went up to see what time the next tour would be – and we got added into the 10:00 group even though we were late. Awesome!
We got to see the whole operation including many historical tools and items kept in the working brewery just for show.
While we were tooling around the brewery (read: drinking post-tour samples) I got a parking ticket. Apparently one quarter really was good for 30 minutes and not an hour and a half…
The ticket cost $7. That’s right, $7.
I couldn’t have been happier with the cost of the ticket. I wasn’t even annoyed that I got busted since parking costs more than that in most places.
After the ticket was paid we met other hikers (Handstand, Apollo, Pacemaker, Runner Up) at a place named Westies for a quick meal. Apollo’s dad was their mode of transportation and he picked up the tab on lunch over general but mild protest. Sometimes you know the look a dad has about him when he grabs a check…
When we dropped off the car the folks at the lot were cool enough to drive us back to the trailhead. We were feeling a bit dazed and discombobulated from our travels but ready to hike again.