Sample Happy Valley’s Best Brews, Wines and Spirits on the Central PA Tasting Trail
A lot has happened in Happy Valley in the past 15 years. For me, a transplant who relocated here in 2002, I’ve seen a blossoming of our local food movement—markets, food, beer, wine and more recently, spirits. Now that someone’s put it all on a map, there’s one more reason Happy Valley’s become a destination for more than weekend football.
The Central PA Tasting Trail is a self-guided tour or the area’s local wineries, breweries and distilleries and even offers two stops that specialize in cider. You can do the drive on your own, probably making 2-4 locations in a day, with lunch or dinner at one of the stops. For a great group outing, call Fullington Tours in State College for rates on a limo or bus, depending on the size of your party. It’s a great way to celebrate milestone birthdays, reunions, bridal showers, and more.
Find the full map below or online at www.centralpatastingtrail.com and make sure to check out some of our favorites:
Locals and visitors alike name Seven Mountains Wine Cellars in their top five favorite additions to Happy Valley in the past 10 years. For good reason. The winery offers a fine selection of reds, whites and fruit wines that simply can’t be topped. It’s tucked-away location off of 322, just a few feet up the mountain from Potters Mills, has become a destination for Friday night campfires, tasting visits, and quick stops for stocking up for weekends, holidays and special occasions. The winery is popular for booking events like showers, parties, reunions and small weddings, and includes an outdoor deck area for warm weather use. In some of the best news we’ve heard so far in 2015, Seven Mountains will open a retail and tasting location on the Diamond in Boalsburg.
A lot of locals consider Otto’s Pub and Brewery ‘where it all began.’ The house-brew and local-food restaurant opened its first location in 2002 and quickly became a favorite. Lack of parking, fueled by its popularity, spurred a move to its current larger location, just down North Atherton from its original spot. Otto’s has maintained its attractiveness thanks to great beer brewed onsite and a wide menu built around local food offerings. Otto’s is family-friendly, friend-friendly, date-friendly and budget-friendly.
Barrel 21 Distillery and Dining, Otto's sister establishment, opened in 2015 and has been making top quality liquors ever since. Their current lineup of spirits includes gin, vodka, light rum, spiced rum, white rye, the phenomenal Apple Eau de Vie fruit brandy, and a brand new Limoncello liquer. With a tasting room, bottle and gift shop, and bookings for tours and events, Barrel 21 is the total package.
Technically, this is where it all began for the Central PA Tasting Trail. Mount Nittany Vineyard & Winery is celebrating 25 years in 2015 and has long been a popular stop for visiting alumni and local wine lovers. From its location on the southern slopes of Mt. Nittany, the winery offers a gorgeous view of the Tussey Mountain Range. You can purchase several Mount Nittany varieties in local state stores and it’s well worth the visit for a tasting and to experience the scenery of the vineyard and winery’s 65-acre location. Special events throughout the year offer plenty of reason to check it out.
It seems like everyone is talking about Happy Valley Brewing Company. One visit to the 1814 barn that’s been transformed into an agri-chic restaurant and microbrewery, and you’ll know why. First, there’s the beer. They have an award-winning Brew Master, and a story that he has 500-year-old unfiltered brewing secrets from the monasteries. It produces such brews as Stratus Loftbier, Barnstormer India Pale Ale and Phyrst Phamily Stout Oatmeal Stout. Then there’s the food – apps like short-rib nachos smothered in local cheeses and banana peppers that pairs so nicely with stout or try the jumbo Gemelli pretzels in clarified butter with sea salt and stout whole grain mustard. Entrees cover the gamut from hearty bone-in, seared short rib to rib ravioli to wood-fired local trout. To sweeten an already great deal, there is live local roots music Wednesday through Saturday nights.
Robin Hood Brewing Company is the place for a porter, a stout, a lager, a wheat beer, and everything in between. Even those who aren't quite craft beer and hops lovers are sure to enjoy their Blueboary Wheat or an Alan-A-Dale Apple Ale.
If you’re thinking Happy Valley is lucky to have so many local spots on the tasting trail, you’re absolutely right. Right in the heart of Happy Valley is aptly named Happy Valley Vineyard & Winery, distinguished by its commitment to local grapes and sustainable practices for growing and winemaking. The care that goes into each bottle is evident in the delicious selection of whites, reds and seasonal wines. The vineyard and winery boasts a beautiful location with sprawling views of valley fields and Tussey Mountain, the perfect backdrop to the tasting room patio. Happy Valley Winery is available to reserve for small parties of up to 55 people for birthdays, reunions, bridal showers and more, and hosts its own live music events throughout the year. Two must-try products include Ice Wine, a 2015 Governor’s Cup winner, and new dry red Meritage.
When Big Spring Spirits opened in 2014, it officially launched the local spirits movement in Happy Valley. The distillery’s location in the Match Factory in Bellefonte sits right next to Talleyrand Park and the actual Big Spring. It opened with just vodka on the menu but has since added rum and white whiskey, for a diverse array of cocktails ranging from the perfectly spicy Milesburg (Moscow) Mule to dessert-esque martinis. Big Spring mixes local products like Tait Farm fruit shrubs with herbs for delicious combinations like raspberry and mint, pear and rosemary and pineapple and basil. The drink menu changes seasonally, but a few staples are always available. Charcuterie plates and other shareable appetizers are available to balance things out.
Gluten-free and not into beer or spirits? Check out Good Intent Cider at its cute little location in Bellefonte on S. Potter Street next to Spring Creek. Originally developed by Penn Staters living in Gettysburg, Good Intent products have been locally available at the Boalsburg market and can now be sampled and purchased at the retail location. The hours are limited to weekend evenings, so check the website before you plan your visit.
You can purchase your "Passport" to the Tasting Trail now for $35 at any participating venue:
- Barrel 21 Distillery
- Big Spring Spirits
- Elk Creek Cafe + Aleworks
- Good Intent Cider
- Happy Valley Brewing Co.
- Happy Valley Vineyard & Winery
- Keewaydin Cider Mill
- Mt. Nittany Vineyard & Winery
- Otto’s Pub & Brewery
- Robin Hood Brewing Co./Home D (Bellefonte or State College)
- Seven Mountains Wine Cellars
Or, you can purchase a Passport online at bigspringspirits.com.