There’s nothing like a mid-week beer adventure to perk up a wintry lull. I didn’t realize that I haven’t checked out a single new brewery this year until I found myself standing inside the brand new Rusty Rail Brewing Company on a rainy Wednesday – and boy am I glad that I went! Mifflinburg’s first brewery, Rusty Rail Brewing Company is perfectly nestled in the heart of a small town and quickly making a big name for themselves. They’ve been brewing on-site for just a year and only opened their doors this past September and they’re already exceeding their own expectations.
The building itself has been completely re-purposed from a Mifflinburg Body works, a buggy factory that once employed 1500 people. Now it is a 50,000 sq ft full scale brewery and brewpub. Reminders of its past can be seen all around you in the brewpub from the hand-painted murals to repurposed assembly line chains turned to ballisters to the actual buggys inside the building.
Before the production began in February of 2015, the building stood empty and unused for nearly 10 years. The owners really wanted to transform the space into something that would provide jobs for the community and revitlize the town, and so Rusty Rail was born. Between front of the house, back of the house, and operational staff, Rusty Rail currently employs nearly 110 people.
One thing you need to know about this brewpub is that it is absolutely gorgeous. It has a rustic cabin feel which is perfect for the rural small town it’s placed in. The main level restaurant can accomodate approximately 200 people, so there’s plenty of space to go around. The dining area also includes a small stage for local music. Their Rail Live team strives to get great larger acts as well as local acts bringing an exciting cultural experience to the pub.
On the second floor you are greeted with a living room landing area with soft leather couches and tables that I actually sat and wrote this piece on. It was so cozy and inviting, you really feel like home. Ajoining the living room as I’m going to call it, is the Game Room. This bar area is home to a large number of animals, stuffed and mounted. There are also pool tables, video game tables, and tvs in the Game room making it an interesting hang out. Also on the second floor are two large ballrooms for entertaining 300+ people. Weddings are held and welcomed here with a full event staff.
The brewpub is licensed fully to serve their own beer, wine, and liquor so everyone can drink as they please.
Currently, Rusty Rail is operating on a reverse osmosis water filtration system and 15 BBL system with a capacity of 8,000 BBL/year. In 2015 they produced 1100 BBL and are already outgrowing and outpacing their anticipated output. Rusty Rail plans to expand by adding seven 30 BBL fermenters and four 30 BBL bright tanks this spring. A full brewery upgrade is in their 3-5 year plan.The building is seeing nearly 2000 people a week, and they are beginning their distribution in bottles, so ramping up production is a necessity.
They also have a 6 head bottle filler filling one case per minute, which is hand-packed. In the spring, they plan to add an upgraded bottle filler as well as a state-of-the-art lab. Currently, they are working with larger breweries like Troegs and Yards to truly hone in on their yeast productions and quality control.
So, I tried a few beers when I visited, but they pride themselves in their four core brands. Guy, my host for the day, says that they’re “constantly working towards making the core beers better. [They] won’t settle just because it’s local and sells. It needs to be great beyond being the local brew in town. The four core beers are meant to become someone’s go-to brew.” So, here’s what I thought of each:
Rail Spike IPA: 7.1% ABV/72 IBU. Rail Spike uses Cascade, Centennial, Chinook, Simcoe, and Columbus hops creating the classic quintessential IPA. It has an earthy, slightly bitter flavor and aroma but has a clean finish that doesn’t linger.
Trail’s End Pale Ale: 5.4% ABV/48 IBU. They use Citra heavily in this brew, yet I didn’t find much of it in the flavor. The aroma certainly has grapefruit elements, but I found the hop flavor to be short and a heavy malt finish.
Blue Collar Blonde: 4.6% ABV/24 IBU. Funny enough, I don’t love lighter beer styles like blondes, but I did enjoy this one. They use Cascade, Centennial, and Citra hops but they’re completely undetectable. I got a huge wheat bread flavor, and found that it had a food friendly finish. I’d drink this on a sunny spring day for sure.
Wolf King Imperial Stout (with oatmeal and coffee): 8.2% ABV/20 IBU. Is anyone surprised that this was my favorite? They use cold-brwed Warrior One Coffee which is brewed in conjunction with Lycoming College’s poli sci department. I got a lot of toffee/caramel flavors next to the coffee flavor and aroma. This would be great on nitro.
BONUS: Belgian Strong Ale w Plum & Cacao: 9.2% ABV/20 IBU. So I did try some of their other offerings beyond the core four and found myself falling for this brew. It’s way too easy to drink and has a lovely stone fruit sweetness from the plum. Sneaky indeed! This is one of their small-batch experimental brews which will not be launching in the Harrisburg market, but will be available at their brewpub for a limited time.
Rusty Rail Brewing Co
5 N 8th St
Mifflinburg, PA 17844 (Google Maps)
Hours: Tues/Wed,Thurs 11-11, Fri/Sat 11-midnight, Sun 11-8, closed Monday & Tuesday