Beer Trips: Lancaster’s Best Beer Spots

You’d think I’d be beered-out following Harrisburg Beer Week. Instead, I took a little bit of downtime to day trip to Lancaster.

Of course, it wasn’t by any means my first visit to the City of Red Roses. We love visiting nearby Lancaster to explore restaurants, breweries and much more.

This visit was pretty beer bar-centric, and the first item on the docket was the thing that was on my “to do” list the longest:

Hunger + Thirst

I’ve been dying to check out Hunger + Thirst since it first opened two years ago. More than once I tried to swing by only to find it closed (They’re not open on Mondays), and my schedule has clashed with other friends’ trips there.

We pulled in just before 1 p.m. and entered in the rear of the building, passing by the bottle shop and through the deli to the bar, where we perched for a drink and a snack.

hunger n thirst beer flight

The beer list features two dozen drafts — not overwhelming but with ample options — and appears on digital screens in the middle of the bar, and physical menus also are distributed for easy reading. Wanting the biggest bang for our time, we all got flights, selecting four beers from the menu. Funny enough, all three of us chose St. Boniface Offering #20 Pilsner. We love our friends in Ephrata, and this beer did not disappoint.

hunger n thirst meat cheese

It was lunchtime, so we opted for a Chef’s Plate — three cheeses, two meats, olives and apple paste — as a snack to split between the three of us. Everything on the platter was delectable. Creamy cheeses, Serrano ham, pitted(!) olives — even the thin slices of bread to carry the fromage double créme was delicious.

After our snack, we headed to the deli where I picked up two kinds of dry aged chorizo for my husband, plus some lemony olives. Jimi hit up the bottle shop to snag some take-homes, and if I were shopping for my web designer, I would have done it here.

The Fridge

Next on our list was The Fridge: the now-classic pizza and beer combo, but The Fridge takes it up a notch. With the comfortable coziness of a coffeeshop (Jimi noted he’d love to post up there to work, and we spied others with the same idea), The Fridge offers an outstanding bottle selection (most cold and therefore available for in-house enjoyment), a well-curated draft list (we spied Pizza Boy Citra Pils on the board), plus handmade gourmet pizzas, housemade soups, freaking bacon fat popcorn and more.

the fridge lancaster

Since we were just popping in mostly to shop, we each grabbed a draft (Founders Nitro Oatmeal Stout for me) and actually split one small slice of ‘za while we oohed and aahed over the bottles, eventually taking a few for the road.

the fridge lancaster

We spied bottles of the Lancaster-based Fetish Brewing Company, a startup brewery that follows the community-supported agriculture model of shareholders, or members, who until late last year were the only lucky recipients of Fetish ales. Now, however, a few local bottle shops are stocking select Fetish brews — while supplies last.

I picked up a Spelt Fetish at Hunger + Thirst, but The Fridge offered five varieties (I’m now wishing I grabbed more), and all three of us in my party each selected a bottle of the Ghost Pepper Fetish to take home. See, I’m not the only one who likes spicy beers. Ghost Pepper Fetish is a chocolate pepper stout, described as “hot and smooth, just like you.” I can’t wait to try it.

Iron Hill Lancaster

Next, it was time for a late lunch and meet the new brewer at Iron Hill Lancaster.

May is Burger Month at all Iron Hill locations, and each day features a different gourmet burger. Aside from them being overcooked (bummer) and having somewhat less impressive looks than I expected, the Bahn Mi (yesterday’s special) was delicious and fresh, and the side salad I got with it was appropriately dressed and also quite good.

Naturally, we sampled a few of Iron Hill’s bajillion beers. Don’t tell my husband I drank (and enjoyed) a Phightin’ Phils Pils, available for you Phillies fans. Also notable was the Wolfgang’s Indulgence sweet chocolate stout.

iron hill lancaster

The featured Seasonal Belgian was the Fe 10 Anniversary Ale, “Fe” being the periodic abbreviation for the element, iron (this is why we keep Intern Jimi around). This Belgian Quad made with Belgian Abbey yeast and assortment of malts was terrific. It also rings in at 10.5% ABV, so be careful with that one, friends.

Lancaster’s newest brewer, Pim Harmsen, popped out for a meet and greet with guests during Happy Hour, so we chatted him up. Harmsen recently helped open the new Iron Hill Ardmore location and before that was assistant brewer at the Maple Shade, NJ, location.

Harmsen tapped a special double hefeweizen (say what) for King of the Hill members. Only one in my party is a KOTH member, but they kindly gave us all samples of the Honey Do Wit, a 7% Belgian-style double wheat beer made with 60 lbs of local orange blossom honey. This baby was perfect for this weekend’s weather — Enjoy it while it lasts!

Iron hill lancaster

At the end of the month Iron Hill Lancaster celebrated its Heroes vs. Villains event from 12-5 p.m. May 30 featuring eight different IPAs paired with eight culinary treats. Read about Tierney’s trip to this event last year.

Lancaster Brewing Company

It’s been about 12 years since I first met Carl, drinking a Lancaster Milk Stout at the Pep Grill. It may have been at that first meeting that he implored me to mimic his regular train trip to Lancaster, where he’d walk to his favorite beer spots, including the original Lancaster Brewing Company, and Lancaster Dispensing Co. “DipCo.” Eventually we did do this trip, evidenced by this gem from the archives:

lancaster brewing company

One of the first repurposed buildings in the city, LBC still has that same cool look it always has. A light Happy Hour crowd was gathering by this hour, but service was quick and attentive. With the Harrisburg location nearby, we were already acquainted with their offerings and each chose a different beer to wrap our trip. I love that LBC also will serve you half-pints of anything so moderation is made easier.

Besides great local brews, both locations offer great Happy Hour specials each day of the week (though they no longer do that “Vulture Buffet” on Fridays). Mondays are $5 Burger night, and Thursdays feature chorizo nachos for a steal.

Try their new Jet Rock Pre-Flight IPA, released during Harrisburg Beer Week, and made for the Philadelphia Airport.

Tips

Tierney offers some great tips for doing this trip (at least the first three stops) by train. Also, be sure to pack a soft cooler, newspaper and some ice packs for any deli treats or beers you pick up along the way (newspaper is an excellent insulator). We also equipped ourselves with growlers (Hydroflasks are ideal because they let in zero light and maintain the temperature of your beer for daysfind some here), though we ended up not using them.

Alternate Itineraries

We were slightly hindered by time since we chose a weekday. For instance, the Lancaster Arts Hotel doesn’t open until 4 p.m.

Other Lancaster options include The Taproom at Spring House, Wacker Brewing Company and Thistle Finch Distillery, and POUR, one of my favorite places to eat in Lancaster.

We also briefly considered other stops on our return home. Columbia Kettle Works is high on my list (but alas, they don’t open until 5 p.m.), and the commute via I-283 makes for an easy pop-off to Bube’s Brewery in Mount Joy or The Vineyard & Brewery at Hershey in Middletown.

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