Buying Beer in small town PA

Pennsylvania is an interesting state when it comes to buying beer. Some states sell any type of booze at the grocery stores, some states have special stores for hard liqueur and everything else can be bought at the grocery store. PA is not one of them. If you want to buy beer, wine and maybe hard stuff, then you have to go to special state operated stores. There are some advantages to it, state buys all booze whole sale, so they get some good discounts. Last year during our visit to Pittsburgh we were able to buy very good French wine for $15/bottle on sale from original $40 and this wine is not even available back in NC. I think this is the only advantage from the consumer point of view.

If you want to buy beer in PA, you have  a few options: go to the general booze store, go to the ‘beer drive by’ place or stop by the bar and buy it from them. On our recent trip to PA we visited relatives in North East. After hitting a few wineries we were on the way back to the house and decided to get some beer. First stop was at the local ‘beer drive by’. Since I never buy beer at place like this I didn’t even notice it at first. Non descriptive building on the side of the road with signs for beer distributor. We walked into the place and asked if we can get a 6 pack, preferably some IPA. It was a big room, full of beer cases. Everything appeared to be in 24 cans cases. The guy who worked there told us that they do not have IPA. I walked around the entire room trying to find something unique, maybe local microbrew, or at least some good PA beer. All they had there is Bud, Miller, Coors and some other brands of cheap beer. I asked him if they have any microbrew beer – No. I asked if they sell anything in 6 pack – No. So all they had is the stuff that I never touch and minimum in 24 cans per pack. What are we going to do with 24 Buds? We left the place empty handed.

Michael, my brother in law, commented on the irony of this experience: “First, they make it hard for you to buy beer in this state, but when you buy it they want to make sure you buy a lot of it and get really drunk.”

We still had to find some beer. Next stop was the local bar. In PA you can buy 6 packs from the bar at the grocery store price, at least that is what I believed before showing up there. This bar is on the side of the road, free standing house, popular with local guys. We walked in and asked if we can get a 6 pack of beer. The bartender pointed to the wall menu of beer choices that he sells at the grocery store price and the premium beers that he sells at the bar price ($3.50 bottle). There were totally probably about ten or so beer choices. About half of them were considered to be premium, which I think included Rolling Rock and some other non Bud/Miller/Coors selections. Rolling Rock is better on my scale than Bud/Miller/Coors, but to be considered as premium? Well, this place was our only choice now and I’m not about to pay $21 for 6 pack of Rolling Rock. We ended up buying 6 pack of Coors for about $6 total. Cash only.

Next time, while visiting PA small economically depressed towns, remember that it is not easy to find a place that sells beer and when you find it, the distributor probably won’t have any of your preferred choices.

Here is good tasting draft of Old Dominion Ale. Not found in North East PA.

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