We’ve talked bottle shops — now let’s talk breweries!
Lancaster City has a long and storied history when it comes to small businesses.
That goes double for the different breweries that you can find throughout the city.
Surprisingly, there aren’t many within the city limits.
But when you find one, you know it’s good.
#1. Lancaster Brewing Company
Address: 302 N. Plum St
Lancaster Brewing Company couldn’t have gotten a better name.
Founded in 1995, this brewery has been around since the days when almost no one sought to live inside the city limits of Lancaster.
Still, LBC managed to carve out a name and place for itself by offering the most unique, grassroots beers that Lancaster City has ever seen.
LBC is probably best known for its Strawberry Wheat lager, but they also have the Hop Hog IPA and Milk Stout — the latter of which was the craft stout to incorporate milk.
Also, you may have noticed a distinct farm theme running through LBC’s naming conventions when it comes to their beers.
That’s not by accident.
After all, Lancaster County is Amish country, even if it doesn’t look that way form 302 N. Plum St.
LBC incorporated these elements expertly into the naming conventions of their beer and (in many cases) the beers themselves.
I mean, they have a beer called Rumspringa, for God’s sake.
(It’s the period in an Amish teen’s life when they get to expand their horizons by developing new relationships, experiencing life outside of the Amish faith, and ultimately deciding whether to join the Amish church or to leave it.)
Altogether, LBC is the result of a locally-savvy brewer using inspiration from the surrounding area to create a sustainable staple in Lancaster City foodservice.
And to think they started in 1995.
#2. Wacker Brewing Company
Founded: 1853 (Technically)
Address: 417 W. Grant St.
Wacker Brewing Company is technically the oldest brewer on our list (and Lancaster City, we think), founded as Eagle Brewing in 1853.
15 years after Eagle Brewing was founded, Lancaster City earned the nickname “Munich of the United States” for the variety and quality of its native beers.
(We don’t necessarily believe history repeats itself, but this is pretty good evidence.)
In 1870, Eagle Brewing changed hands to Joseph Wacker, whose son (Joe Jr.) changed the company name.
By 1880, the Wacker name was a permanent fixture on the brewing company.
So why are we talking about Wacker 166 years later?
Well, partly because it’s 166 years old. Seriously, the president was Millard Fillmore, someone who was so far back in America’s political history that he was a registered Whig.
Also, because Wacker survived prohibition when Lancaster City adopted it in 1919.
Plus, after changing hands in 1938 and 1941, the company actually closed in 1956 with the advent of high-volume Midwestern brewing companies.
Wacker Brewing Company was refounded in 2014 after a near-60 year hiatus, and its resurgence into the Lancaster City brewing scene has been a welcome addition and revitalization to the city’s history.
Just like LBC, Wacker is heavily influenced by the surroundings of Lancaster County when it comes to brewing and naming its beers.
Little Dutch, Bohemian Pilsner, and German Pale Ale all harken (yes, harken) back to a time when Lancaster City was the Munich of America.
Plus, the beers are delicious.
Where else are you going to get all of that history and quality in the same place?
#3. Iron Hill
Founded: 2007 (in Lancaster)
Address: 781 Harrisburg Pike
Iron Hill is not native to Lancaster City, but it does brew its own beer within city limits.
It’s just across the street from one of Lancaster’s institutions of higher education, Franklin & Marshall College.
(Side note: Franklin & Marshall College was funded by Benjamin Franklin in 1787 because he loved Lancaster so much. Suck it, York!)
Iron Hill started as a franchise in Newark, Delaware and started to travel north. You can find a few locations in Southeastern Pennsylvania, all of which brew their own beer a few feet away from the table.
As a result, Iron Hill’s beers aren’t exactly heritage-level material, compared to LBC and Wacker.
Still, they’re a strong addition to the brewery landscape within Lancaster City limits.
Iron Hill makes a name for itself by being financially successful, as you can see from their multiple locations.
Each restaurant/brewery also works with ingredient availability in a local area.
So while Iron Hill may not have the historical value or grassroots foundation of some other breweries in the city, it’s at least one that’s situated within the heart of Lancaster City itself.
And yes, it’s a college bar.
But they also have nice Brussels sprouts.
The names of Iron Hills’s beers are much more based on being fun than they are on any kind of historical value.
Names like Squeeze Me Baby One More Lime and Redonkulous IPA are way more about appealing to someone’s sense of humor than their ancestral pride.
That’s not to say Iron Hill has bad beers — they’re still good, if a little pricier than you’d expect for something brewed right next to you.
But it is to say that Iron Hill is a brewery that has a much more corporate or following-the-crowd kind of mentality.
It’s easy to find microbrewers who name their beers funny things and outdo each other with silly label art.
And it’s a refreshing trend after the explosion of Midwestern breweries essentially wiped out earlier local brewers.
So if you don’t want to be hit over the head with heritage, Iron Hill is the place to go.
There’s not an Amish reference to be seen!
#4. Meduseld Meadery
Founded: 2018 (We think)
Address: 252 Harrisburg Pike
Meduseld Meadery isn’t technically a brewery — but mead is close enough to beer that we wanted to add it to this list.
Mead is basically fermented honey, water, and yeast, which is similar to fermenting beer.
Also like beer, mead has a storied history that runs all the way back through the annals of human civilization.
The Meduseld Meadery is a welcome sight to the Lancaster brewing scene because it also doubles as an ax-throwing bar — just one of two in the state of Pennsylvania.
(The other one is in southern Philadelphia.)
Combined, Meduseld Meadery creates its own take on an age-old recipe of mead that doesn’t really have a direct competitor in Lancaster City.
If you want mead, they’re the local game in town.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing — Meduseld makes an enormous variety of mead that they keep on tap, and it all has appropriately thematic names that act as throwbacks to mead’s history.
There are also some nerdy names that you’d only recognize if you played video games or watched Game of Thrones.
Wyld Peach, A Song of Hops & Mangoes, and Slainte are some of their most popular, but Meduseld also offers a “mead of the month” type club where you can get more options delivered to your doorstep.
So are they a brewer? Not in the traditional sense.
But hey — they “brew” mead.
We’re actually not sure what verb accompanies the creation of mead.
“Brew” it is.
What’s Your Brewery in Lancaster City?
What’s your favorite brewery in the city?
Did we miss one that you love?
(We’re pretty sure we didn’t, but nobody’s perfect.)
Let us know in the comments!