In the Happy Valley, a true hotbed of activities and athletics, it’s easy to work up a thirst. Following are some of the best places to indulge in the area’s liquid lures.
One flavorsome option is the recently introduced Central PA Tasting Trail. Conceived by Roger Garthwaite, owner of the convivial Otto's Pub & Brewery in State College, the trail uniquely combines some 13 area breweries, wineries and distilleries, Otto’s included, into an inviting exploration of locally created craft beer, wine, spirits and cider.
“This kind of gives you something for everybody,” stated Betsey Howell, executive director for the Central Pennsylvania CVB, which promotes the program via a map (downloadable from its website, and available at the CVB) and other information. “Everybody's palate will be satisfied.”
With locations in State College and charming Victorian-era Bellefonte, the seat of Centre County about ten miles northeast of campus, Robin Hood Brewery Co. produces a line of charismatic beers including King Richard Red Ale, Maiden Milk Stout and the hoppy Robin Rocket
Also in Bellefonte, Big Spring Spirits is a ready draw for groups. Housed in a revitalized section of the former Pennsylvania Match Factory Building, which is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places and is also home to the event-ready American Philatelic Center, Big Spring has distinctive claim as the first LEED-certified distillery in the country.
Made from local spring water, products include Big Spring Vodka; Big Spring Silver Lion White Whiskey, made from 100 percent locally sourced corn; and Big Spring Premium White Rum. The distillery is open Thursday to Sunday for tastings and tours. Reservations are recommended.
Located in the scenic region of the same name, some 30 minutes east of State College, Seven Mountains Wine Cellars is an award-winning option for day trips. Groups of 10 or more can book private tastings that include a guided tour of the 4,000-square-foot winery, production area and wine cave, plus food pairings and a souvenir wine glass (same for smaller groups, without the food). For private functions, the winery offers its 2,000-square-foot lounge area.
Opened in 1999 on farmland from the 1850s, Happy Valley Vineyard & Winery sits on nine acres in State College. Also committed to sustainability, the vineyard features live entertainment, tours and tastings by appointment, and indoor and outdoor space for events both during and after business hours.