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‘Jawn Artistry’: Antifragile Brewing Company Expands Into Philly Cheesesteak Market

Whether it’s your first year in Happy Valley or your last, exploring the diverse slate of food and drink establishments in downtown State College is a must. However, as the trips to Champs and El Jefe’s become a little too routine, you may find yourself longing for fresh and unique offerings.

Antifragile Brewing Company, located at 324 E. Calder Way, has expanded its menu of craft beer and kombucha and is now broadening its offerings to include food. 

Uncle John’s Jawns, a brand created by the Antifragile team, has set up shop outside the brewery to offer a Philadelphia-inspired delicacy: the Philly Cheesesteak.

Antifragile, which opened in April 2022, was founded and is run by John Schaffer and Lisa Harpster, specializing in craft beverages, creative cocktails, and kombucha. From humble beginning brewing kombucha in a basement apartment to a borough brewery, adding food to Antifragile’s slate of offerings was an easily decided next step.

Along with various updates to the drink menu, customers can indulge in an authentic Philadelphia-style cheesesteak, with or without onions, every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, until 8 p.m. or when products are sold out daily.

Antifragile encourages folks to bring outside food into the brewery to enjoy while sipping on a craft beverage but needed to increase retention while acknowledging a hole in State College’s town-wide menu.

“We were finding that people would go to get food and not come back. So we thought it would be better to give people an option,” Schaffer said. “There was a gap in the market, with Bradley’s Cheesesteaks shutting down, and there was really no one making them, so we saw an opportunity there.”

Schaffer, a Philadelphia area native, had a good idea of how to best make and serve cheesesteaks, utilizing minimal, high-quality products with little waste.

Like any Antifragile product, Schaffer and Harpster worked diligently to ensure they were employing authentic, excellent ingredients. From carefully selecting the style of bread and meat, Antifragile spared no expense while rolling out Uncle John’s Jawns.

“We get our rolls right down the street from Gemelli Bakers, and we worked with them to get things exactly the way we wanted,” Schaffer said. “We worked closely with the butcher, too. He came up to my house before we even launched to go over different cuts of meat and different preparations of chip steak to figure out the right cut. So far, it’s been a hit with everyone who tried it.” 

One of the talented cooks behind the magic is Schaffer and Harpster’s close friend, Erica Hummer, a tattoo and stipple artist who spent her summer cooking up steaks outside the brewery.

“She is a fine stipple artist and a tattoo artist, but we are lucky enough to have her as our jawn artist, Harpster said.

Hummer’s been making steaks for the brewery since last spring and expressed how working at Antifragile allowed her to connect with the State College community at a new level.

“It’s a really cool environment. There’s people always walking by and we have people hang around here for hours,” Hummer said. “They will order a steak and just hang out. It’s a really cool place. I actually grew up around here in State College and I can say this is a really unique spot, there’s nowhere else like it.”

Aside from the recent addition of Uncle John’s Jawns, Antifragile recently started selling its new canned hard kombucha. After years of testing different methods within the kombucha craft, Schaffer and Harpster were thrilled to crack the code of naturally fermenting the kombucha without using a mix of hard seltzers. 

Now customers can enjoy the brewery’s hard kombucha from anywhere, just in time for tailgate season. 

“We tried a lot of different hard kombuchas before, and we weren’t liking any of them,” Harpster said. “We wanted to do hard kombucha the right way for years and really wanted to naturally ferment it. And the fact that it finally is happening truly feels like Christmas.” 

While cheesesteaks and increased craft beverage choices have boosted engagement with locals, Harpster believes this is just the start of continual growth within Antifragile.

“One of the main goals for the space is that we want it to be a gathering spot for new communities and new friendships to form, which we have been thrilled to see on a daily basis,” Harpster said. “But one of our main goals is for this to be a music venue and enhance our nightlife. We are hoping to bring in more acts, perhaps some international acts and some that are not as well-known as local performers.”

With these goals in mind, Schaffer and Harpster will continue to create a local, modern lounge feel through their food, specialty drinks, and entertainment. 

So on your next trip downtown, make sure to stop by Calder Way, and ask yourself one vital question: “Do I want a cheesesteak wit or witout?”

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About the Author

McKenna Murphy

McKenna is a second-year agricultural science major from Bucks County, Pennsylvania. She is a Disney enthusiast, a proud ginger, and an iced coffee addict. You can follow her on Instagram @mckenna.murph or email her at [email protected].

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