Butler Beer Circuit Boasts 14 Great Craft Breweries
Reasonably Priced Lodging, Attractions, History Add to Appeal for Beer Trail Travelers
Excuse the good people of Butler County, Pa. if they’re disgruntled. They feel slighted and a little disrespected. You probably won’t notice it because those that live in this slightly suburban and mostly rural county just 25 miles north of Pittsburgh are extremely friendly and welcoming people.
It’s the beer that has some folks in – and out of – the county upset. Not the brew quality. It’s excellent. But rather that it was snubbed by website HomeToGo.com and its ranking of the “Top17 U.S. Cities for Beer Lovers”.
While that may not surprise the overwhelming majority of Americans who have never heard of the county named after Revolutionary War hero Gen. Richard Butler, it leaves those who imbibe the beer of the county’s 14 craft breweries shaking their heads.
Give HomeToGo.com some credit. It developed a methodology that tries to “explore the affordability and availability of top-rated beer bars, breweries. and accommodations, providing all the info you need to raise the bar for a brew-filled celebration.” That sounds great, but how was Asheville, N.C. only ranked No.7 and Grand Rapids, Michigan, not ranked at all?
And if affordable accommodations were taken into consideration, how was Butler County - with its economically-priced hotels, B&Bs, and rental properties – snubbed? Heck, if you’re planning a Beercation, throw in Butler’s neighbor Pittsburgh and you’ll have a hoppy trip with cold beer, and sleeping accommodations at a reasonable price!
Butler County Beer Circuit
Fourteen craft breweries make up the Butler Beer Circuit, which cuts through the heart of the county.
In a former funeral home in the northern part of the county in the tiny town of Slippery Rock (yes, THAT Slippery Rock whose famous Division II college football team has it’s scores announced each Saturday at University of Michigan’s Big House) sits North Country Brewing.
Built in 1805, the elvish colonial pub serves fare sourced from local farms and North Country brews 12 hand-crafted beers free of sugars and additives at its on-site brew house. The brewery has become so popular that it has opened a taproom in a local farm market and owns and operates the Harmony Inn Restaurant.
To the south of North Country Brewing and its Taproom, north of Butler City you’ll find Recon Brewing, which doesn’t sit too far from where the Bantam Car Company conceptualized and built the world’s first Jeep in 1939. Established by three friends in 2016, Recon Brewing, which borrowed its name from that first “jeep” prototype, the Bantam Reconnaissance Car, serves its menu of craft brews in a relaxed atmosphere that invites all to come spend their time and share a pint or two. Or three.
Butler City, which gets invaded by about 1,000 Jeep enthusiasts for the Bantam Jeep Heritage Festival each July, is also home to Butler Brew Works and Reclamation Brewing which is housed in RB Cigar Bar and Speakeasy.
If you head slightly southwest from downtown Butler you’ll drive right into the Borough of Zelienople (zee-lee-in-o-pole or just simply “Zelie”) where you’ll find trendy shops and restaurants along with the handcrafted ales on the rooftop bar of ShuBrew. This is a great spot to watch 89-year-old majorette Betty Lambert leading The Resurrection Band in the town’s 4th of July Parade. And on Saturdays you can also catch Premier Soccer League matches on the rooftop as long as the weather permits.
Conny Creek Brewing
On the south-eastern corner of Butler County sits the town of Saxonburg, which was founded by John Roebling and his brother Carl. Roebling, a German immigrant, invented wire rope and designed the Brooklyn Bridge. The town is so proud it has a replica of the bridge right there. Of course what would a “German'' town be without beer? And you’ll find eight beers on draft at Conny Creek Brewing’s “Brew Cafe,” which sits inside a local grocery store.
German influence runs strong in Butler County with towns like Saxonburg, Zelienople, and Harmony, which was founded by German immigrants in search of religious freedom in 1804. So in addition to finding a headstone-less graveyard, surrounded by a rock wall and accessible only by a revolving 1-ton, concrete door, you’ll, of course, find a brewery. Union Brothers, located on Mercer Road, has a great bar inside and lots of fire pits, outdoor games and live music on weekends. At full peak, Union Brothers offers 12 rotating beer options plus cider and wine.
Those are just a few of the few great spots along the Butler Beer Circuit. Some others are really out of this world, like the Dented Keg and Stick City Brewing both located in Mars. Yeah, it's a real place and it really has a spaceship in the middle of town.
The people of Butler know what they have in their county of gentle rolling hills with lots of parks and recreation opportunities from sailing to top-notch golf courses. And some are not that unhappy with HomeToGo.com’s snub.
“Butler County belongs on the list, no doubt,” said a patron sitting at Burgher’s Brewery’s bar in Zelienople. “But some of us like our little secret. After all, if no one knows, that just means more beer for us!”