Lebanon County could have its first brewery by October.
"This whole thing started four years ago with a homebrewing kit from my mother-in-law," said Patrick Freer Jr., vice president of Lebanon-based Strickler Insurance Agency Inc., who is opening the brewpub with his brother-in-law, Adam Szajda.
After the first batch, he said, they realized they needed to do something bigger in Lebanon.
Snitz Creek Brewery, which is named after the Lebanon creek, is planning to have 10 taps with at least eight craft beers, as well as a non-alcoholic drink such as root beer. The beer menu will include several signature brews and at least two seasonal varieties, Freer said.
One of its beers is an apple wheat to fit the heritage of the Snitz Creek name.
"We're not ignoring our roots here, but we're not going to be a German brewhouse," Freer said, citing the other varieties.
The brewing equipment, which will be capable of producing about 2,800 barrels per year, is expected to arrive later this month or by early August, he said. A licensing application has been submitted to the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, he said.
On the food side, the menu will be basic, Freer said, citing grilled bologna sandwiches and other light fare. Snitz Creek is working on a signature sandwich called the Holy Snitzer that could include up to two pounds of bologna, jalapeño peppers, fried onions and cheese.
"It will be like a contest," he said of that item.
Central Pennsylvania is currently home to 26 brewery licenses, according to the PLCB. There are 132 active brewery licenses and counting across the state.
Why not one in Lebanon County?
"I think the city of Lebanon isn't a thriving, younger city like Harrisburg or Lancaster," Freer said. "It's definitely a chance we're taking that people will overlook some of the stigma that Lebanon has had over the years."
Snitz Creek is hoping to be part of an urban revival and make it more attractive for younger professionals, he said, similar to what has occurred across the country during the craft beer movement.
"We draw inspiration from other microbreweries. We're all in the same boat," Freer said. "We're fighting the battle against the larger breweries that control 90 percent of the distribution. There is some competition, but we're mainly trying to increase awareness of craft beer and continue to drive demand higher."
The Snitz Creek brand has a strong connection with its owners' way of life, which is tied to outdoor experiences. Freer is a fly-fishing enthusiast, so that is incorporated into the logo and the tap handles.
Plans call for about 75 seats inside and an outside patio on the square that can seat about 35 people, he said. The family-focused brewpub also will have a play area for kids.
"We're big-time outdoors people and family people," he said. "We have combined those two in a place where you feel like you're in Colorado or Maine."