Carlisle brewers and tourism officials agree there’s still room for growth in the borough’s blossoming microbrewery scene.
“There’s always going to be a threshold, a point at which it’s saturated, given the population and exposure. But I don’t think we’re there yet, and I think we certainly could accommodate more growth,” said Chad Kimmel of Grand Illusion Cider.
Kimmel, who has studied community development, said the demographics in Carlisle support these businesses with its mix of institutions like the Army War College, Dickinson College and Penn State Dickinson School of Law in town, and Shippensburg University a reasonable drive away. The local population’s variations in age, generational preferences and education also support growth.
Geography plays a dual role in the rise of the breweries. On one hand, Carlisle is a self-sustaining community with “not much around us for miles,” said Mike Moll of Molly Pitcher Brewing. That makes the borough a prime location for multiple breweries.
“There’s plenty of beer drinkers in this community alone to support multiple breweries, and everybody loves to get behind their local brewery. It’s a hometown pride kind of thing,” Moll said.
On the other hand, the intertwining highways around town make it easy for visitors to access Carlisle.
“You’re not just looking at local support from borough residents,” said Jeremy Rhone of Rhone Brewing Company. “Carlisle is, and for the foreseeable future will be, a major crossroads in Pennsylvania that has tons of visitors in and out for all kinds of different reasons. I believe the craft beer scene here will blossom enough that that will become yet another reason to come to Carlisle.”
Moll noted the diversity of the people who pass through the town throughout the year. People from all over the country come in during the shows at Carlisle Events. The U.S. Army War College brings in people from around the world, and corporations headquartered in the area bring in people from across their organizations for business meetings.
“It’s primed to become a destination. Adding as many places that are going to pop up in the next year in our industry is really going to drive that. All of a sudden people will be coming three or four hours to Carlisle because there are five or six places to go,” Moll said.
That’s the philosophy behind the creation of Cumberland Valley Visitors Bureau’s Cumberland Valley Beer Trail. The trail, unveiled in April, includes Carlisle breweries as well as locations in Chambersburg and through the West Shore into downtown Harrisburg.
“We definitely don’t believe that we are tapped out certainly because of all the trends we’ve been seeing and everything we see in the tourism world outside of this area,” said Kristen Rowe, communications manager of the Cumberland Valley Visitors Bureau. “People will travel for this kind of experience and they will go to multiple locations. That’s what led to us putting together this Cumberland Valley Beer Trail.”
More people are coming to the area for brewery tours and the brewing experience, and they are visiting multiple places, said Ashleigh Goss Corby of Market Cross Pub. Opening new breweries expands that experience.
“I looked at it more as a stepping stone to get more tourism here, and to get more of our locals to stay in our area rather than venture out into other areas to get the exposure to craft beer, wine or cider,” she said.
The visitors’ bureau has heard that people are discovering new places because of the beer trail, and Rowe said it was especially gratifying to hear that some of those people finding new places were local.
Demographics, geography and the potential to become a destination town aside, the reason behind the growth of microbrews in Carlisle may boil down to something more basic.
“Beer and food gets people. Don’t overthink it,” Rowe said.