Carlisle Connections: Local Revolution

Beer on a bar

by Tony Moore

You might remember a time when you’d go out for a night and ask the bartender, “What kind of beer do you have on tap?” and she’d say, “Oh, pretty much everything: Bud, Bud Light, Miller, Miller Lite, Coors, Coors Light …” If you cringed reading that—either with a flood of bad-beer memories or a genuine lack of understanding as to how those beers at one point constituted “pretty much everything”—you must know about the craft beer revolution.

We’re No. 1!

Across the United States, more than 900 breweries have opened over the last 10 years, according to the Brewers Association. And in Pennsylvania the number of breweries in operation jumped from 88 to 205 from 2011 to 2016, helping make Dickinson’s home state the No. 1 producer of craft beer in the country (by volume: 3.9 million gallons/year).

But it’s more than splashing onto lists noting things like most gallons produced per adult (12.9, making PA No. 2 nationally) that makes craft beer a good thing. The Pennsylvania craft industry also has a huge impact on cash flow, adding nearly $4.5 billion dollars to the state’s economy per year, more than any state but California.

With all that in mind, any Pennsylvania town worth its weight in hops would be remiss without a respectable local brewing scene. So it’s a good thing Carlisle has one.

Independent craft beer logo


Wake up and dream

Mike Moll started brewing back in the early 1990s, and like most home-brewers, he dreamed of opening a brewery. And then one day back in 2013, he says he stopped dreaming: “I woke up and, without exaggeration, said to myself, ‘I’m opening a brewery.’ ” Thirteen months later, he was the owner of local beer mecca Molly Pitcher Brewing, which stands in the shadow of the grave of none other than Molly Pitcher, the Revolutionary War icon.

While Molly Pitcher Brewing might be the newest craft beer darling in Carlisle, Market Cross Pub could be thought of as the godfather of the Carlisle craft scene. And its brewmaster, Kevin Spicer, has made the Hanover Street institution a destination for beer snobs far and wide since 1994.

“It has that archetypal pub ambiance, and it reminds me of pubs I’ve visited in the U.K. over the years,” says Carl Socolow ’77, Dickinson’s photographer. Socolow has been going to Market Cross since his 20th Dickinson reunion, and he’s always found it to be a getaway of sorts. “With its cultivated atmosphere, you feel like you’re somewhere else.”

Next up

Nipping at the heels of Molly Pitcher and Market Cross is a slew of newcomers, the oldest of which, founded in just 2016, is Desperate Times Brewing. Although the brewery is still in its infancy, owner and brewer Matt Dunn, who runs the brewery with wife Susan, says, “We’ve exceed all of our expectations, anything we had in the business plan.” And with two stations at the Carlisle Fairgrounds during car shows and other events, Desperate Times has a strong foothold to get even more traction.

One thing all the local brewers mention is that the traction one gets doesn’t come at the expense of the others.

“The goal is to help make Carlisle a destination,” says Jeremy Rhone, owner and brewer at Rhone Brewing, who currently runs a home-brew shop while his adjacent 3,400 square-foot taproom and brewery undergoes the final stages of construction. “We want to bring everyone up, not just ourselves. You’ll find a real sense of community throughout the craft beer scene.”

Moll, who is currently overseeing the construction of a new High Street location for Molly Pitcher—which will feature a beer garden and a rooftop patio next year—is quick to agree.

“It’s a very fraternal industry,” he says. “I welcome other breweries and want other good places to come to town. There are other parts of the country where once the ball gets rolling it really takes off.”

Helping to keep that ball rolling is Dave Hamilton, whose Burd’s Nest Brewing opens in November just off the square on Hanover Street.

“It’s a really exciting time to be in Carlisle and be a part of an industry that is so passionate about making great products and revitalizing the community,” Hamilton says. “I’ve lived in Carlisle my entire life, and I’ve always heard Carlisle was an ‘up and coming’ town. The local craft scene is what will propel Carlisle past that.”

You know craft beer when you taste it, but what defines a craft brewery?

• Annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less.
• Less than 25 percent owned or controlled by an alcohol industry member that is not itself a craft brewer.
• A brewer that has a majority of its total beverage alcohol volume in beers whose flavor derives from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and their fermentation. (Brewers Association)

A business doesn’t have to be a brewery to be the home of great craft beer

Carlisle is full of places to grab some great craft brews, and the following spots will all have more than a few choices any time you swing in:

Café Bruges (all Belgian, all the time)
North Hanover Grille (killer craft, killer pub food)
Gingerbread Man (local legend and perennial favorite)
Alibis Eatery and Spirits (taps and burgers)
Midway Bowl’s Sparetime Lounge (yup, it’s true)
Seve-n-Dots Pizza (which recently started brewing its own)

Read more from the fall 2017 issue of Dickinson Magazine.


Published November 3, 2017