Of The Patriot-News

The hottest ticket in town yesterday was Harrisburg Brewers Fest 4.

“This is a great Harrisburg crowd,” said Scott Sheridan, who was pouring Arrogant Bastard Ale for a line of guys with tasting mugs.

Organized by Troegs Brewing Co., the festival lured 3,000 beer lovers to Third and Locust streets in downtown Harrisburg yesterday afternoon. They tasted samples from 35 brewers in Pennsylvania and surrounding states. Beer lovers trying for evening session tickets were turned away early in the week, and the afternoon session sold out too.

Pennsylvania microbreweries see the chance for customers to sample their craft beers as crucial to their success. They are hoping for changes in state law that would allow beer distributors to sell six-packs, instead of limiting them to selling by the case.

This month, a state Senate committee approved a bill that would permit beer distributors to sell ales, malts and lagers by the six-pack for the first time in decades. The bill moves to the full Senate, where it might not see a vote until fall.

Smaller breweries are especially anxious for a change in the law.

“In Pennsylvania now, they make it difficult for people to experiment and try new beers,” said John Frantz of the Lancaster Brewing Co.

A case from a smaller brewer can range from $25 to $40 because local craft brewers typically use better ingredients than mass-market brewers and buy them in smaller quantities.

“People don’t want to pay that kind of money for a beer they’ve never tried before,” Frantz said. “So if they can buy a six-pack and find out if they like it, it’s a lot cheaper than buying a whole case and finding out you don’t.”

Under current law, consumers can only buy six-packs at premium prices at taverns and restaurants. Brew pubs, such as the Appalachian Brewing Company, with restaurants in Harrisburg, Hampden Twp. and Gettysburg, also can sell six-packs.

The festival made it easy for beer lovers to try specialty ales and lagers. Ben Seiber of Harrisburg was happily tasting the beers from Southampton Brewery, a New York brewer that offered samples such as porter and Pumpkin Ale.

“I’m actually going through the whole line of Southampton,” he said. “Only on the second of four at the moment.”

But Seiber normally has to go to greater lengths to sample microbrews.

“I go out of state to get beer. When I want to try something, I just want one or two. I don’t want to have to buy a case,” he said. “I go down to Delaware, get some Dogfish Head, which you can’t get here.”

Angie McClurgan of Harrisburg was drinking Hennepin — a Farmhouse Saison style beer from Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown.

“I’m pretty open-minded with beer,” she said.

How about diet beers?

“I’m not that open-minded.”

Mark Rowland of Skippack, Montgomery County, spent the afternoon trying new beers and found a favorite in Union Barrel Works from Reamstown, Lancaster County. “Their Kolsch is good. Maibock is good. Their Hefe is fantastic,” he said.

Steve Weddele of Lebanon wasn’t feeling adventurous.

“I’m old school,” he said. “I’m going back to Troegs. The Troegenator is still one of my favorites.”

Volunteer Gretchen Brummel, selling fest T-shirts, said everyone was encouraged to bring designated drivers, who received reduced entrance fees and free soda and water.


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In culinary school and getting ready to trade the writing life for the cooking life. Or not. Might do both. At the moment I'm a feature writer for The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa. My name is Pat Carroll.

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