As much as I crap on this area (and I do crap on this area quite a bit), there really is a lot of culture to take in. One of the aspects of Northwestern Pennsylvania I’ve learned to appreciate more the older I’ve gotten is the food/beverage industry that pervades this area. Having lived down South, I learned to love all different kinds of food (pulled pork Eastern-style bar-b-que sandwiches come to mind). However, having experienced that, I also learned to appreciate more of the food culture I came from.
Now I’d like to highlight my favorite stop around the area: Sprague Farm & Brew Works.
Nestled in sleepy Venango, Pennsylvania, Sprague’s (as it’s affectionately known) serves the best brews on this side of French Creek. Owned and operated by Brian and Minnie Sprague, this microbrewery caters to its beer-loving customers. Most days when you walk in, you’ll be cordially greeted by either owner/operator, Brian or Minnie, who will actually take time out of their day to have real conversation with you, since you’re a real person. Even though they own a brewery, they have not yet forgotten this concept. Take note, shitty Edinboro bars.
I’ve heard more than one person talk about how they aren’t ‘beer people’. However, their minds quickly change once a frosty glass of Ale Mary touches their lips. Named after Minnie (Mary) Sprague, that sweet nectar of the gods is one of several finely brewed Sprague’s beers. I am personally a fan of their Blissberry, which is brewed with black raspberries. Cleverly named and even more cleverly brewed, their beer is second-to-none in Northwestern Pennsylvania, evidenced by their 2009 and 2010 Erie Brewfest victories.
So if the delicious beer and fantastic ownership isn’t enough to convince you stop by, then take into consideration the ambiance of the place. The atmosphere of the brewery is enhanced by a stage that boasts live (mostly) local music every weekend. Once the weather turns fair around these parts, if music isn’t your scene and you enjoy a quiet conversation, they have a deck at the back of the brewery. Construction has also started on an outdoor pavilion that will include a separate performing stage, bar, and, rumor has it, a fireplace as well. Inside they serve some light food and, recently, adding much more substantial entrees, with some sandwiches and pizzas.
This establishment is also benefited by the vast knowledge, beer-brewing ability, and dashing good looks of local folk-hero, Luke Steadman. Luke is one of the friendly faces who will almost assuredly greet you upon your arrival to Sprague’s. And as a Master Brewer, you can thank him for such delicious beers as M.L.B. and the newly anointed French and Indian Corn Ale.
Not what you had in mind when you heard 'Master Brewer'? Well get off your high horse because it turns out that Vikings loved to drink and were very good brewers.
It’s hard to describe everything that is awesome about Sprague’s without actually experiencing it for yourself, but it has already established itself as a can’t miss in its short tenure in the area. If you’re in Northwestern Pennsylvania and a fan of excellent beer, friendly service, and a great atmosphere, Sprague’s is the place for you.