Let’s all take a quick moment and raise a toast — to beer. But not to the mass-marketed, run-of-the-mill variety (although we don’t judge). To the hand-crafted, passion-driven, labor of love craft brews that have moved beer from a mere beverage to an art. Not only has the craft beer movement created diversity in the marketplace, introduced the drink to millions of now-fans, and become to livelihood of thousands, but it has invigorated travel around the country and right here in the Brandywine Valley.
Beer tourism is a real thing — a real beautiful thing — and it’s on the rise. According to the Brewers Association, 10 million people visit craft breweries each year, and more than half of them are traveling to breweries outside their local area. 18% of people visit three or more out-of-town breweries per year. And per a survey by Travelocity, 75% of individuals have interest in traveling to visit craft breweries and taste local beer.
Chester County is lucky to have been at the forefront of the craft brew buzz thanks to local start-up-done-good Victory Brewing Company. When they opened their brewery in Downingtown in 1996 “craft beer” was a new term, and certainly not a mainstream one. But their success has spurred more and more locals to not only appreciate the varieties and creative profiles craft beer offers, but to try their hand at it themselves.
Today the Brandywine Valley is home to 20+ breweries, and more are on the horizon. Here’s a look at four new offerings to keep on your radar.
East Branch Brewing Co., Downingtown
A former fire station in downtown Downingtown (say that five times fast) is now a destination for craft brew fans with the opening of the East Branch Brewing Co. The pet project of two local friends, their first line-up of beers includes everything from a light and bright Kolsch to a twist on the classic Oat IPA. Check the site for food trucks parking outside to pair with what’s on tap; the owners hope eventually the adjacent space, once Molly Maguires’s restaurant, will soon again have an open kitchen and make for a perfect partner.
Rebel Hill Brewing, Phoenixville
Opening in early 2018, Rebel Hill will be the latest contribution to the ever-growing Phoenixville craft beer community. Owned by a husband-and-wife team, the menu will be made up of seven offerings, some of which we can assume will be a little bit “rebellious”. The space won’t have a kitchen, but in addition to plans for partnerships with food trucks and local restaurants, the taproom will have an “open door food policy”, so you’ll be able to bring a pizza, sushi platter, or last night’s leftovers with you while you enjoy a pint.
Braeloch Brewing, Kennett Square
One of 2018’s next openings will be the new Braeloch Brewing. Construction began in the circa-1903 brick beauty that will be the breweries home in December, and co-owner Ken Steves has shared that the space will consist of the brewery, a taproom, and an outdoor beer garden once complete. Offerings will include low-ABV session ales, IPAs, ales, lagers, and a rotating list of seasonal suds, and what’s on the menu will be heavily influenced by the feedback of customers. The team behind Braeloch also hopes to have a kitchen offering light fare and a calendar of live music.