|WILKES-BARRE — The city’s rich brewing heritage is still evident
at the century-old Lion Brewery, the only brewery left in Luzerne County.
The brewhouse, built in 1905, is the only brewhouse of nearly 28 breweries from Scranton to Nanticoke that survived.
The Lion Brewery, which employs 150 local people, produces more than 20 kinds of beer in stainless steel tanks. Earlier this year, the brewery replaced its 52-year-old copper kettle with a new stainless steel version. It holds 375 barrels, or 11,625 gallons, of beer, said Nancy Turner, sales and promotions coordinator.
“This is where we boil the product,” Turner said, while showing the new kettle inside the historic brewery. “This is where we add the hops for beer. Hops add bitterness, flavor and aroma.”
The Lion Brewery produces lagers, ales and non-alcoholic beverages. Lagers and ales are brewed in small batches using hops and malts.
The Lion also brews the classic Stegmaier beer. After the Stegmaier Brewery closed in 1974, the Lion acquired the Stegmaier family of beers, marking a huge milestone in the Lion’s history.
Charles Stegmaier began his brewing career in Wilkes-Barre in 1857, where he personally delivered beer to local bars and taverns from a goat-drawn cart.
A brewery perseveres
Today, the Lion continues to brew a number of selections from Charles Stegmaier’s legacy, including Stegmaier Gold Medal, Stegmaier 1857 American Lager, Stegmaier Porter, Lionshead and Lionshead Malt Liquor.
Last month, the Lion Brewery began producing the popular Stegmaier Brewhouse Bock. The Stegmaier Summer Stock line will be released in April, Turner said.
Throughout its history, the Lion Brewery continued to offer more selection s. The Pocono line, which includes lagers and ales, was created in 2002 to celebrate the Pocono Mountain Region. The Lion also specializes in the soda market. Using recipes stored away after prohibition, Lion offers root beer and the “Old Philadelphia” soda line.
Lionshead remains the Lion Brewery’s most popular beer, said Leo Orlandini, master brewer and director of operations. It is especially popular among college students, he said.
“When we first started out, we only made a couple different kinds of beer,” Orlandini said. “Over the course of time, the beer business got more competitive when the bigger breweries starting coming out.”
Today, the Lion Brewery does not even try to compete with big name breweries like Coors or Miller, Orlandini said.
“They’re mega-breweries. We’re a regional brewery,” Orlandini said. “We’re so unique. We’re so diversified. If you look at other breweries, they just make beer. We do a lot of different things. We’re in our own little niche.”
The Lion Brewery will participate in Wilkes-Barre’s 200th anniversary celebration by offering historic displays during the city’s bicentennial blastoff on Friday, June 30 on Public Square. The Lion also will manufacture a special Stegmaier anniversary beer for the occasion.