Brewed on the Edge: Downtown York’s growing craft beer scene connects history with hops

Craft beer from each of Downtown York’s six breweries.

Craft beer from each of Downtown York’s six breweries.

This blog was adapted from our Winter/Spring 2019 issue of the Downtown York Magazine.

Story by: Michael Vyskocil, Contributor, YRK Creative

Photography by: Contributor, YRK Creative* & Downtown Inc

Bold ingredients, nuanced flavors, unforgettable brews: This trifecta defines the Downtown York craft beer community. With six breweries operating all within 26 square blocks in the city, craft beer aficionados don’t lack for places to fill their glasses with the latest creations from York’s master brewers. To understand the appeal of Downtown York’s growing craft beer scene, you need only look at the city’s history with hops to understand that brewing was and remains a big deal for this community.

Brewing Legacy and Lore

In 1741, European settlers founded what would become the City of York and established the community’s foundation along the banks of the Codorus Creek. Like many communities founded during the mid-18th century, York supported many taverns. As the oldest structure in York today, the Golden Plough Tavern, built in 1741, served York residents and visitors well into the early 1800s.

During this era, alcoholic beverages were the drink of choice. The natural brewing and fermentation process produced a beverage that was free of contamination and could be stored long term.

As the Industrial Revolution impacted York County in the late 1800s and into the early 1900s, breweries, distilleries, inns, public houses and taverns all operated in York. Brewing and distilling helped support many industries including bottling, glass making, coopering and transportation.

Daniel Roe, vice president of interpretation for the York County History Center, believes the apex for the brewing industry occurred between the 1860s and 1920s. According to Roe, the most well-recognized breweries in York included Helb’s Keystone Brewing and Karl Katz’s York Brewing Company. The Charles D. Moul Distillery and liquor store was also a prominent business fixture.

“When I think of community and its development in the 1700s, taverns were truly community gathering places,” Roe said. “As new pubs and breweries reopen in town [today], often in close proximity to locations that were used historically, to me, there is a clear connection to the past, but also a nod to the future as new generations gather in a familiar way to discuss events of the times or to simply spend time with friends and family.”

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Creating a Craft Beer Destination

Given York’s affinity for and connection with brewing, today’s community of craft breweries are carrying on this legacy with some edgy twists.

By day, Corey Wolfe serves as a campaign manager for the United Way of York County. By night, he crafts up ways to bring more attention to Downtown York’s craft beer scene. Most recently, Wolfe helped launch a new collaboration, The York City Six, representing the six breweries now operating downtown. Under this brand name, he explained, York’s breweries can work together to attract visitors. In 2018, the breweries released their first collaborative beer, The York City Six Vol. 1 Pilsner. For every pint of beer sold, the breweries donated $1 to benefit the York City Police Department. Wolfe said that The York City Six collaboration will consider additional ways to give back to organizations in the York community all the while positioning Downtown York — and the York County region — as the place to explore diverse craft brews. When asked to characterize the brewing community that exists here, Wolfe wasn’t shy about his description. He said it matches Downtown York’s new Historically Edgy brand.

“Each one of the breweries has a different setup and brews in different styles,” he explained. “You can literally walk five minutes in any direction, hit every single brewery in the city and experience a different atmosphere at every place you go while being surrounded by the historic architecture and the small-town feel of the community.”

Adjacent to Central Market, Mudhook Brewing Company started the current downtown brewing boom when it opened in 2010. As one of the early craft brewing operations to open in 21st-century Downtown York, owner Jeff Lau and his son-in-law Tim Wheeler set out to create an inviting atmosphere with a focus on serving beer-inspired dishes and classic, traditional and unique brews.

“I always joke that beer is recession proof,” Lau said. “You can drink to drown your sorrows or celebrate your victories.”

Lau said the camaraderie that exists among Downtown York’s breweries allows events such as the Sweetest Pint Tour, presented twice a year by Downtown Inc, and others to bring people to York to experience the diversity of the community’s craft brews.

“We [the breweries] all bring something unique to the table,” Lau continued. “There are no two breweries in York that are identical. It’s been a very interesting growth for beer in York City, and it’s been an interesting experience for us to be part of that growth and the revitalization of Downtown York.”

Brews and Bites

Looking for the best brews and bites in Downtown York? Stop in, sip and savor at these six craft brewery destinations.

Collusion Tap Works

105 S. Howard St. | 717.848.8400

collusiontapworks.com

 

Crystal Ball Brewing Company

21 S. Beaver St. & 1612 W. King St.

717.555.1212

crystalballbrewing.com

 

Gift Horse Brewing Company

117 N. George St. 717.846.BREW (2739)

gifthorsebrewing.com

 

Liquid Hero Brewery

50 E. North St. | 717.814.9250

liquidhero.com

 

Mudhook Brewing Company

34 N. Cherry Lane | 717.747.3605

mudhookbrewing.com

 Old Forge Brewing Company

58 W. Market St. | 717.650.2526

oldforgebrewingcompany.com