The Family That Brews Together...
Mandy Liechty was looking for a last-minute Christmas gift for her husband, Brady. He liked beer. The whole family, in fact, liked beer. So a home brew kit under the tree seemed like a more-than reasonable eleventh-hour save. Who could have predicted that what would really be unwrapped that holiday were the seeds of a new business? But that is exactly what happened, and Bluestone Brewing Company is the result.
Located at 18 Pitney Street in Sayre, Pennsylvania, Bluestone is a family affair. Mandy’s dad, Brian Kennedy, is a full-time hands-on partner along with his brother PJ Kennedy, who works with brewer Thad York to craft eighteen brews in a 3,200-square-foot facility. The other family partners—Mandy, Brady, Brian’s wife Linda, and PJ’s wife Dorinda—form the rest of the team that keeps Bluestone humming, all taking a shift when they aren’t working their full-time jobs.
“We bought the land initially as an investment during the growth of the gas industry,” PJ says. But the slowdown of the gas industry adjusted their vision. “We’ve had the idea to do a brewery for years,” he explains. “The two things came together.”
The building marries the styles of country farm and industrial loft with a warm balance of wood and metal. A couple of animal mounts give tribute to the family’s love of hunting; timber beams frame the ceiling; six different species of Pennsylvania hard wood were fashioned into the bar and tables. And, of course, there is bluestone.
“Builders from all over love the look of bluestone. We wanted to celebrate a local resource,” says PJ.
“The craft brew movement is a part of the organic, farm-to-table idea,” Thad says while doing a quality check on the product (which in this industry means he’s quaffing a brew). “True craft beer was absent from this region. We’ve spent time helping people adjust their taste buds back to beer’s beginning, which is a darker, more flavorful brew.”
PJ nods in agreement. “We lightened a lot of our brews in the beginning and then gradually transitioned folks to more amber beers. Now, our customers tell us they can’t drink anything else.”
The members of the Kennedy family do love beer and have visited dozens of breweries through the years, compiling a list of things they would like to have in their own place someday.
Which adds to the odd moment when PJ and Thad both admit to an allergy to—of all things—hops.
“Yep,” Thad smiles. “So, there’s that to work with.”
But that didn’t slow them down, as they happily produce crafted beers like 1537, an Imperial Blonde Ale and the most popular brew at Bluestone. This time of year also brings forth seasonal favorites like Thunder Chicken Maple Porter and Blackberry 1537. (If you ask real nice, you might even get to see Thunder Chicken—a wild turkey decoy stationed out in the back.)
Bluestone strives to provide for the non-beer drinker, too, serving local wines and hard ciders—and homemade soda that makes the commercial stuff seem at by comparison.
“We can’t make enough root beer,” PJ admits, handing over a glass.
That sense of fresh and local is at the heart of Bluestone. They have a rotational slate of beer, some seasonal, and the only beer they sell is the beer they make. Recently, the family added a bottling operation, and lovers of beer can now get Bluestone products at Applebee’s in Sayre and Blossburg Beverage on old Route 15 in Blossburg.
“Adding the bottling was a big deal for us,” PJ says. “That was a real goal, to increase our outreach.”
But what’s a great beer without a great meal? Food plays a huge role in the Bluestone experience, and head cook Chris Rossiter works with the drink menu to pair locally sourced food in more than just the usual bar-top meals. The grilled sweet Lebanon Bologna on a pretzel roll is a fan favorite. If they ask if you want the spicy cheese with the hot soft pretzels, the answer is always yes. Have you ever had a flight of whoopie pies? Well, it’s about time, don’t you think? Open every day except Sunday, Bluestone Brewing is the surprise ending to Pitney Street in Sayre, nestled into the end of a residential street, just before the business district begins. Go to www.bluestonebrewingcompany.com or call (570) 731-0222 for more information.
Out back, a family sits at a picnic table, basking in the late summer sun. Fragrant green hops grow nearby. Corn hole tournaments and live music add fun in the warm weather. A porch complete with vinyl curtains and heaters extends the outdoor dining season to nearly year-round.
“We frequently have kids playing out back while their parents chat with folks on the porch,” says PJ. “It’s by design that families feel comfortable here.”