Beer in PA, Things You May Not Know

Beer in PA, Things You May Not Know

Ah the Keystone State. We love our beer here (or at least a lot of us do), and we are pretty unique from the rest of the nation in a few ways you may not realize. Now, if you are reading this article chances are you are interested enough in beer to know more than your average citizen of the Commonwealth, but there is A LOT to know about Pennsylvania Beer, so you might just be surprised and learn something new. If so, you are welcome:



  • The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has somewhere around 200 active breweries currently operating within its borders. The sources I checked put the low number at 170[1], and the high at 227[2]. The second source lists brewpubs that have multiple locations as separate breweries, so adjusting for that I would guess the number is right around the two-century mark. If you desperately want an exact number the most accurate source would be the PLCB.
  • In 2013 PA breweries produced just under 1.8 million barrels of beer, the second most in the entire United States behind only California, though that margin is not even close (California produced just under 3 million barrels of beer last year). Look for the newest statistics to be released by the Brewers Association early in the new year, but I think it is safe to say Pennsylvania’s spot at number two is secure. Colorado sits at third place, nearly 400,000 barrels behind.[3]
  • The Commonwealth is home (kinda-sorta) to two of the five largest breweries in the United States and, perhaps more importantly, the two largest American owned breweries in the nation. Of course we all know about D.G. Yuengling & Son headquartered in Pottsville, but there is also the Samuel Adams Brewery in Breinigsville. Neither facility is the sole production site for their company, and Boston Beer Company is, of course, headquartered in Boston. Still, according to the most recent definition set forward by the Brewers Association, the two largest craft breweries in the United States depend on the Keystone State for a large portion of their production. [4]



  • Pennsylvania actually ranks in the bottom half of the nation in terms of beer consumption per capita. We are nowhere close to the bottom, or the top, but snuggly in the middle of the pack. The average adult in PA consumes 28-30 gallons of beer every year.[5] 
  • Every time you drink a craft beer brewed in Pennsylvania an angel gets its wings![6] 



  • Pennsylvania is well known for its strong German heritage, and it is particularly important to the history of the state’s beer culture. But the Germans (we now call Pennsylvania Dutch) were not the first European immigrants to PA to make beer. It wasn’t the real Dutch who came before them either. It was actually the Swedish settlers who first set up shop in the area now known as the Keystone State who would have brewed the first batch of European beer on Pennsylvanian soil.[7]
  • We are arguably living in the Golden Age of brewing in the state of Pennsylvania, but until recently the undeniable heyday of this state’s beer production were the 18th and 19th centuries. In that time period the Commonwealth was the pinnacle of beer production in the American Colonies and then the United States. No other state was even close. Philadelphia was the beer capitol of America for over a century after it stopped being the political capitol. As the lager revolution and the industrial revolution changed the world of beer making in the late 19th century, Milwaukee and St. Louis stepped on to the stage in a very real way, but Philly and the state as a whole remained hugely productive. Pennsylvania emerged from Prohibition with the most active breweries of any state, but the writing was on the wall. Production declined and breweries fell off the map, the arrow was pointing exclusively downward until…[8]
  • The first craft brewery to open in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania was Stoudts Brewing Company in Adamstown in 1987. So the next time you see a Stoudts beer on tap at your local bar, grab a pint in appreciation for what they started. (I swear Stoudts does not reward me in any way for promoting their brand, I just think its important to remember what they started)



  • It is illegal to bring any amount of alcohol into the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania that was not purchased in this state. That means if you make a pilgrimage to your favorite out-of-state brewery (say, Dogfish Head in Rehoboth Beach, DE) and drop $30 for a super-rare bottle of beer or $100 for an equally rare case, you are technically a bootlegger if you bring it back home to PA. Your beloved purchase could be confiscated and you could face a hefty fine depending on how much beer you had in your possession.[9] 
  • Any business that sells gasoline is strictly prohibited from selling alcohol in any form. The underlying logic here being that if you can’t buy alcohol and gasoline at the exact same moment it is somehow going to prevent you from driving your car to a place that does sell alcohol, getting drunk, and then driving home…. seems reasonable right? This goes along with the prohibition on grocery and convenience stores of any type selling alcohol, because if someone is going to drive somewhere to buy a six-pack, you really want them to go to a bar where they can sit and have a few before they get back behind the wheel.[10] (Sarcasm doesn’t always come across in writing, so for the record I DO NOT promote drunk driving) 
  • Last but not least, a couple of laws that need no introduction, because if you have ever bought beer in this state you are already familiar with them. The two six-pack limit at bars and restaurants and its brother, the full case requirement at beer distributors are arguably Pennsylvania’s most notoriously strange laws on alcohol. They are made even stranger by the fact that people openly circumvent them, and it is considered perfectly normal to do so. People who gather a large group to buy 24 full cases of beer to make their own mixed cases, and people who buy two six-packs, walk to their car, and then return to legally buy more are a common occurrence in PA. Yet the laws, inexplicably, remain.[11] 
  • To be fair to this state that I call home, however, I should point out some ridiculous laws that we don’t have to deal with. There are no dry counties in Pennsylvania, though there are dry municipalities-those are easy enough to deal with. As far as I’m aware there are no limits on the ABV of beer that stores are allowed to sell, which is a fairly common thing in other states. There is no prohibition on facilities that serve alcohol being open on Sundays. Growlers do have some strange laws surrounding them but as long as you are smart you shouldn’t have any issues.

So there you go Pennsylvanians. Your state makes lots of beer, drinks its fair portion, has a long storied history in brewing, and has some wacky laws regarding the sale and purchase of libations. Truth be told, every state is unique and interesting in some way (except maybe North Dakota) but this is the one we call home, so we may as well know as much as we can about it.

Cool birthday gifts

[1] Gleiter, Sue. “Craft Beer Boom Has Pennsylvania Brewers Hopping.” The Washington Times, October 11, 2014. Accessed November 22, 2014.

[2] “Pennsylvania Breweries.” Brewers Association: Craft Beer Statistics. Accessed November 22, 2014.

[3] “Pennsylvania Craft Beer Statistics, 2013.” Brewers Association: Craft Beer Statistics. Accessed November 22, 2014.

[4] “Top 50 Breweries by Production in the USA.” Beer Info. January 1, 2013. Accessed November 22, 2014.

[5] “Beer Consumption by State per Capita.” Beer Info. Accessed November 22, 2014.

[6] This is totally true

[7] Miller, Randall M. Pennsylvania: A History of the Commonwealth. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press ;, 2002. 53.

[8] Wagner, Rich, and Lew Bryson. Philadelphia Beer: A Heady History of Brewing in the Cradle of Liberty. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2012.

[9] Thompson, Charles. “Pennsylvania’s Crazy Liquor Laws? Here’s a Six-pack Sampler.” PennLive. August 28, 2014. Accessed November 22, 2014.

[10] Thompson, Charles. “Pennsylvania’s Crazy Liquor Laws? Here’s a Six-pack Sampler.” PennLive. August 28, 2014. Accessed November 22, 2014.

[11] Thompson, Charles. “Pennsylvania’s Crazy Liquor Laws? Here’s a Six-pack Sampler.” PennLive. August 28, 2014. Accessed November 22, 2014.

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