My last Pennsylvania Breweries book tour of the season is set! I'm calling it the "Just In Time For Christmas" tour, and it's going to take me up the Susquehanna into the heart of central Pennsylvania, the hottest spot in Pennsylvania brewing right now. Here's some holiday shopping advice you'll appreciate: if you want to get a copy of the latest Pennsylvania Breweries for your favorite beer drinkers, put it off to the last minute, along with some of your other shopping, and take this opportunity to get a signed copy, a good beer, and some very cool local shopping.
We start on December 18th at noon to 2:15 at Elk Creek Cafe and Ale Works in Millheim. If you haven't been to Elk Creek yet, you're missing a great experience in local food and drink, in a sweet little town in the middle of the beautiful Penns Valley. Stop in for a beer, a book, and a bite to eat, check out the brewpub merch (glasses, shirts, the usual, only cooler) AND the other stuff they sell, like Tait Farms fruit shrubs (a deliciously tart fruit addition to sparkling water) and Ken Hull's book going LOCAL! Shopping? Check out Penns Valley Jewelry and Cottage Rose Interiors (both at 110 E. St.). A bit unorthodox for Christmas shopping, but...a favorite stop of mine in Millheim is Penns Valley Meat Market (112 East Main Street); not much to look at, but their house-cured meats -- jerky, smoked and fresh sausage, hams -- are delicious and reasonable (fresh-roasted peanuts, too). A little farther (and I do mean a little) is Aaronsburg Pottery where you can get some of Scot Paterson's beautiful and functional stoneware.
Next stop: Old Forge Brewing in Danville, where I'll be signing books from 3:30 to 5:30. Old Forge really takes you back to the good old days of the first brewpubs: small brewery shoehorned into the front of the bar, little kitchen cranking out great locally-sourced foods (don't miss the soft pretzels; to groan for), funky decor (check out the hand-done mugs; you'll want to move to Danville so you can join the club!), and delish beer: Damien's alt is exquisitely accurate.
And yes, there's great local shopping here, too. You'll want to get to City Girl Bakery Market (252 Mill St.) before the signing; they close at 3, and it would be a shame to miss their fresh-baked sourdough breads (they bake for Old Forge, too), croissants, and pastries; you can pick up a pound of Counter Culture fair trade coffee for your favorite java-lover's stocking, too (I stop here every time I'm in town; real nice people).
Got kids? Get them happy before stopping at the brewpub: Santa Claus and his reindeer will be downtown, next to the Boro Hall/Municipal Building, from noon to 3 pm. Right beside Old Forge is T and J Train Junction (290 Mill Street), where they have a great selection of model railroad equipment, including a small operating layout; a fun place to browse with your kids. They're part of Collectibles Unlimited, right next door, fun stuff there, too. There is a really nice gift/retail shop called Lemon A'peel (298 Mill St), and Beiter's Department Store (255 Mill St.), which is like an old five and dime but nicer. Want some clothes for your spouse or the kids? Try D's Clothier (226 Mill St) and the Kiddie Korner (335 Mill St.).
Long day, but it's not over yet: I'll be hanging out at Bavarian Barbarian in Williamsport with owner/brewer Mike Hiller from 7 to 9 Saturday night. Come on over, join us for a couple beers, get your book signed, and relax: either after a long day of shopping or before you go out for the night.
Sunday is only one stop, but it's a doozey: I'll be at the Jazz Brunch at the Bullfrog Brewery from noon to 4, a swinging good time with live jazz, great brunch chow for a lazy Sunday, and Terry Hawbaker's wild selection of beers. The shopping's a bit sparse on Sunday, but it's hardly non-existent: again, Bullfrog's got some great merch, and there's the Otto Bookstore (107 W. 4th), a family-owned independent bookstore since 1841, one of the five oldest booksellers in the country. When you're done browsing, if you still have room, check out one of my faves in town, Franco's Lounge (12 W. 4th), for an excellent dinner -- and if you don't have room, stop in for a beer and pick up some jars of their excellent house-made red sauce (I think they have other stuff as well, and their beer selection is a great excuse to find out if I'm right).
Monday, I'll be doing some reconnaissance in Bloomsburg and Lewisburg during the day; new brewpubs open and opening there! Monday evening though, I'm heading downriver to Appalachian Brewing in Harrisburg, where I'll be signing from 5 to 8 in their big, solid, beautiful brewpub (and probably sipping a glass of Broad Street Barleywine).
Tuesday means more recon, but it's also the winter solstice, and I hope you know what that means: the Selin's Grove 14th anniversary!I've been there before, and try to make it when I can; this is one of the days that should be on your Pennsylvania beer calendar every year, a real special night. I'll be there at 3 when they tap the firkin, and I'm staying till 9 PM...and that's the end of the tour. (Though I will be at Bethlehem Brew Works on December 23rd for lunch with the kids, andif you happen to catch me, I'm sure I'll have some books with me, if you really want to wait till the last minute!)