Brews & Basic Blues: New Trail Brewing To Distribute Penn State-Inspired Lager Statewide, In Beaver Stadium
Tucked away in an industrial park at the corner of the West Branch Susquehanna River and Lycoming Creek in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, sits New Trail Brewing Company.
It’s tough to stumble upon accidentally, but hard to miss after rounding a gravel bend to discover rows of picnic tables and colorful umbrellas, a food truck, and New Trail’s trademark boot-print logo sign on the brick exterior.
Named the fastest-growing brewery in 2021 and the sixth-fastest-growing brewery nationally in 2022, New Trail set up shop in Williamsport in April 2018 and never looked back. Pennsylvania natives may recognize the brewery’s “Broken Heels IPA,” “New Trail White,” or “Trail Ale” brews, all inspired by Central Pennsylvania’s great outdoors.
Mike LaRosa, a partner at New Trail and director of brewing operations, began home-brewing with his father at age 17 when he wasn’t participating in activities as an Eagle Scout, rock climbing, or kayaking. As a result of the marriage of two of his passions, brewing and being outside, LaRosa and his partners created New Trail to highlight nature within craft beer.
“We like to say that the things that we do in the evening and on the weekends, we come in on Monday and we brew beers inspired by those things,” Don Rieck, New Trail’s marketing director said.
Now, after dominating the outdoor-themed beer scene for over five years, New Trail is officially digging new roots in another Central Pennsylvania landscape: Penn State football.
“We talk about having a beer for every occasion, whether it be kayaking or hiking or skiing, and one of our favorite things to do is tailgate,” LaRosa said. “And what beer goes best with tailgating is light beer.”
State Light, New Trail’s brand-new American lager, is set to hit Pennsylvania shelves and the Beaver Stadium concourse right on time for Penn State football’s season-opener against West Virginia on Saturday, September 2.
It’s a light beer and weighs in at 105 calories and 4.6 grams of carbs. Inside Beaver Stadium, a 16-ounce can will run fans $10, which is the stadium’s cheapest option among the pre-existing slate of Yuengling, Miller Lite, Coors Light, Blue Moon, and Michelob Ultra.
LaRosa and the team at New Trail have been perfecting State Light’s brew for about a year and, within the last two months, found the perfect equilibrium to make the lager a flawless tailgate beer that Penn State football fans can enjoy all day.
“A lot about making beers is developing balance and finding the right ingredients to make balance,” LaRosa said. “I think I found the perfect blend of the four main ingredients of beer: malt, hops, water, and yeast. I think I found the perfect balance for this style of beer, which in its essence should really just be refreshing and ‘I want another one.'”
LaRosa and Rieck knew that it was a natural progression to expand into Penn State culture, as folks in Williamsport are just as committed and loyal to the blue-and-white way as State College residents are. Moreover, while State College is home to the university, it also encompasses natural fishing streams, hiking trails, mountain views, and more, which encouraged the alliance between New Trail’s mission and Penn State.
“We just wanted to connect a little bit more deeply and bring [Penn State] a beer that we can all enjoy while we’re watching the team,” Rieck said. “All the teams, not just football. You know, we have a lot of passion for the wrestling team, the basketball teams, and women’s soccer is really fantastic over there. So we just want to support everybody.”
The beer itself is brewed with Pilsner malt, water local to Williamsport, and American Noble Cascade hops. New Trail is currently the only brewery nationally to purchase the Cascade variety of American Noble Hops, further defining itself as a specialty craft beer.
LaRosa described State Light to have a “subtle, and not overly hoppy finish,” with just the right amount of bitterness. Meanwhile, it’s not bitter or hoppy, but both characteristics are necessary to find the perfect balance.
State Light was inspired by LaRosa’s mother, a “staunch Coors Light drinker,” and the style of beer that he grew up drinking. New Trail had hoped to experiment with the creation of a light beer for quite a while, and LaRosa jumped at the chance to add to his brewing lineup with a touch of nostalgia.
“Light beer or American lager, in general, there’s really no flaws to hide behind in anything,” LaRosa said. “It’s a very white canvas, if you will, and dropping ink in the wrong spot can be detrimental. So being given the opportunity to have a bunch of white canvases to drop the ink in the right spot is a lot of fun.”
As State Light expands into Beaver Stadium, it will serve as a “first” for the team at New Trail, which after five years of mass success, don’t come often anymore.
New Trail recently began selling beer within the Philadelphia Union’s Subaru Park, which has a capacity of about 26,000. Witnessing enthusiasm around their craft beer in a sports venue proved exciting and to be a “first,” but broadening New Trail’s reach into the home of the Nittany Lions hit new heights for LaRosa and Rieck.
“Beaver Stadium has to be 10 times the size of Subaru Park, so just the sheer access to the number of people that are going to be able to interact with something that I helped create is really, really cool,” LaRosa said.
The response from New Trail and Penn State supporters has brewed buzz and a large social media reaction in the three days since the Williamsport outpost announced the release of State Light.
“A lot of fire and thumbs-up emojis, which we love to see,” Rieck said. “A lot of cheers and beer emojis.”
State Light can be purchased across Pennsylvania in grocery stores, distributors, bottle shops, and on tap locally beginning Monday, August 21. A six-pack of 16-ounce State Lights will cost $8.99, while cases should ring in around $35-$40 depending on the location.
New Trail has an assortment of charity-based beers, too, including “Replenish,” a West Coast-inspired IPA that donates $1 of every case sale to the Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation. From there, the foundation plants native trees in areas that need them most. Currently, New Trail is working to expand the program into New Jersey and Maryland.
LaRosa and his team also collaborated with 16 other central Pennsylvanian breweries to create and distribute “The Wilds Are Calling,” a Hazy IPA that directly supports the “PA Wilds” region. The region spans 12.5 counties, nearly 25% of Pennsylvania’s acreage, and is the largest expanse of green between New York City and Chicago.
“I think that’s what brings people to our team,” Rieck said. “That’s the kind of thing, sometimes the first thing, that they see and they want to join a bunch of like-minded people and like-minded consumers.”
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