PRE-SCRIPT: I, B. Kline (of The Beer Thrillers) was given the chance by head of marketing for the new Rubber Soul Brewing(2.0) to get to do a walk-through of their new brewery / brewpub in Hummelstown, Pennsylvania. I wrote this article up originally for my blog, but I feel like this is such big news for both Rubber Soul Brewing and Hummelstown, and actually in fact for craft beer in general, and to help all those involved, I’m re-posting here on Let Us Drink Beer. You can read my full-length article at my blog here: A Sneak Peak of the new Rubber Soul Brewery. Thank you, and stay safe and isolated during these tough times! – B. Kline
First, let me thank Jamie for inviting me out to tour the upcoming future home of Rubber Soul Brewing. Since hearing about the old police station being bought and turned into a brewery, especially with the name of Rubber Soul attached to it, I’ve been very interested and keeping a close tab on things. With this being practically right in my backyard and being Hummelstown’s first brewery, I’ve been super hyped and excited for it. I would often walk my dog (or my parent’s dog) by the brewery and take a look, occasionally snapping a few pictures as they make changes or on the drive back from dropping my oldest daughter off at the middle school, I take a cut through the alley next to it to take a gander at the building and the modifications being made to it. Rubber Soul is starting up their marketing and ramping up for their soon-to-be-opening, you can find them on the various social medias now (after a bit of a hiatus due in part of the switch-over in ownerships). Their website is: Rubber Soul Brewing Online. They are also on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
The current building, as best as I’m able to research, is roughly a hundred years old. It is located right across from the old clothing factory that is now the Olde Antique Shop and the Rita’s. Behind both of those (when looking from the brewery) is the town’s oldest park – Herbert A. Schaffner Memorial Park (or as anyone from the town will know it and call it – Boro Park). Heading from the square, following South Hanover Street, passing the brewery you will come up to the Lower Dauphin High School and out to 322. The brewery is really centralized and pretty much right in the hub of the town, but also, just a bit outside that hub. It’s about three blocks down on Hanover Street from the square of Main Street (and pretty much the center) of the town. Main street of Hummelstown links Hummelstown directly to HersheyPark Drive (though technically at the Boro Restaurant Main Street becomes Waltonville Road) as well as 322 at the opposite end (passing by Hoss’s). South Hanover street directly becomes Middletown Road and Vine Street leading towards Middletown and in the opposite way becomes Grandview which will lead out to Rt. 39 near the end of South Hanover Township.
The building was previously used as the main office space and police station for the town. Having grown up in the town, as well as my father, who for many years was a softball and baseball coach for Hummelstown, we both remember many baseball and softball signups in the building; as well as several council meetings to discuss important town events like in recent history the idea of M&H Railroad continuing again and the Revitalization Program several years back.
They are working strongly on keeping the building the same, but also renovating it and making it look brand new. To give it both a new and an old vibe is not an easy task, but in the long haul, will be an appreciative decision by many Hummelstown faithful as well as brewery visitors. A theme for many breweries and brewpubs is to create a rustic feel, sometimes having to do it from a modern warehouse or pre-existing building. Here, the building already has a built in rustic and old time charm to it. Lots of additions are being made to the interior of the building (obviously needed for a brewery and a restaurant); while outside the only major addition will be the front deck at the entrance. The front will look primarily the same, just a few changes. Obviously, as mentioned there will be a deck, now on the front around the entrance area, but besides that – they’ve removed the tree that used to be out front as well as the small brownstone wall that was used as the signage for the borough building. The other notable changes to the exterior of the building are large garage doors on both of its sides, as well as, a new roof, new paint job, and a ventilation system for the restaurant and brewery.
The parking lot itself will be getting an upgrade and a few additional spaces will be made once the building is complete itself. Also, the borough has stated that the alley that runs connecting South Hanover Street to Railroad Street (and to the alley that runs from High Street to the end of the building behind the brewery) will now become one way – from the direction of South Hanover Street. This is something that should have been done a long time ago, and one of the few problems the town has – with its massive series of alleyways; most of which are two-way, often causing problems and near collisions. It is far too hard of a pull-out onto South Hanover Street from that alleyway as it is, let alone once the brewery is built.
On top of the parking lot that is currently there, and with a few additional spaces being created; there is also plenty of public parking. The parking across the street is primarily Rita’s Parking, but next to the Boro Park Pavilion there is a long row of public parking spaces. There are also side streets of Division and Poplar.
Parking most likely won’t be an issue once the place is up and running. It might be cramped, and there may be a little bit of walking involved, but parking overall won’t be as big of an issue as residents are thinking. The owner has assured me that their website and Facebook pages will have diagrams of where to park, as well as, a poster inside the foyer of the brewpub. The big concerns are patrons parking in the lot designated for Rita’s or on South Hanover Street itself, or even back through the alley leading to Railroad Street where there is a church and cemetery parking lot.
At noon on the 26th, I met Jamie, head of marketing for the new Rubber Soul. I walked over and came in the backway through the alley (Acacin Alley) that connects to Railroad Street. She led me through one of the side garage doors and we entered the building. The construction and work on the building was in full swing as we entered, with the guys only finally taking a lunch break shortly before I left at 1:30PM.
We took a walk through the building, discussing and looking at various parts of the building, different aspects and features of the brewpub. I also took some pictures (often forgetting to get pictures of things, as a photographer I am not), and they will be uploaded here in the blog. (Jamie has also told me she’s constantly taking pictures and updates and will be sending them along to me.) We entered near the back of the building where the kitchen is going to be. On top of having a PA Brewing License, they also have a Restaurant License. Meaning in preparation for the build, they had to have a full kitchen meeting the requirements thereof. This, also allows them a lot of freedom with aspects to what they can serve.
With their full restaurant license, this allows the brewery to have a full kitchen, as well as serve what they like. Currently the plan isn’t to go super heavy restaurant (ie. no steaks, lobsters, etc.), but to have more of a small restaurant feel that is a little bit above and beyond a brewpub. Some things I was told will be on the menu will be brick oven pizzas, fries, and small plate meals.
We took a walk through the kitchen and emerged out in the open seating area, but first, from the kitchen area, I snapped a quick picture of the bar area from the bartender’s side of things. Once we were out in the main sitting area, we discussed the brewery’s layout for guests. Starting with the above mentioned bar, it will be rather large and and will be able to seat 16-18 guests. The top of it will be copper, giving it a very interesting look compared to most wooden bars in the area – and at most breweries in general. The seating area of the brewery sounds really exciting. There is going to be a fireplace along the right hand side wall (from entrance) with a couch on each side of it. There is going to be one long table running in the center from near the bar. After this there will be several movable tables, some at one height and others at another height. To the right of the entrance will be area that can be kind of roped or cordoned off for small gatherings or parties like birthdays, work events, etc. The capacity is 80 people.
While we were standing in the main central area of the brewpub she showed me around to the various walls, features, and ideas she has planned for the looks and aesthetics of the brewery. Facing the brewery from South Hanover Street, (visible in some of the outside pictures of the building) you’ll notice a deck attached to the front of the building. The deck is not huge by any standards, but will be able to seat a few around bistro tables. Once fully built and the planks are down, and the railing is up, it will probably look bigger than it does now. I would estimate seating on the deck will probably be about 12-15, with more able to stand along the railings. The old glass door is going to be taken off, and replaced with a large wooden door. Once inside the little foyer, there will be waist-height / chest-height boards for people to stand at and drink while waiting for a table, also against the wall will be the merchandise for sale.
Taking two steps in, past the foyer, if you look to your left will be a mural. (Not yet drawn; though I was shown the preliminary sketch on Jamie’s phone.) The mural looked very cool and will be a wonderful addition to this blank space. And it will be very representative of Hummelstown, showing iconic parts of the town. The mural sketch depicted the Duke Street bridge, the iconic arch at the center of the town with a hop riding a bike through it, leading into the writing “REFUEL YOUR sOul”. The mural was also going to be notable for the bike basket sticking off the wall and there being a tire swing that people can take a picture on. But probably the coolest thing about the mural is that its going to be drawn by kids from the Lower Dauphin Middle School. Lower Dauphin is the school district that covers Hummelstown, East Hanover, South Hanover, Londonderry, and Conewago Townships. The high school is right down the road from the brewery, with the Middle School over on Quarry Road where the new police station is.
The corner where the mural is going to be is planned to be more of a ‘family seating’ area. With possibly games and smaller tables, and coloring areas for children. This is going to be a family-friendly brewery and restaurant, serving all kinds of people, from singles at the bar, to business workers, to families large and small. Perfect for the type of town that Hummelstown is.
Once you turn around and look up at the entrance, you’ll notice a new built-in indoor roof over the entrance. Providing a bit of a rustic look and a neat aesthetic. The roof / awning looks nice over the foyer and will provide a nice look to the room. We discussed then appearances of the brewery. With the running poles in the roof, the plan is to hang half-cut tires with plants growing out of them to provide some greenery to the mostly browns and rustic colors of the brewpub. Over by the bar, there will be one or two televisions. The plan is to not overload the place with TVs making it like a sports bar, but allowing one or two for some to watch the game while the remainder enjoy their social time together. Over at the bar, instead of doing a chalkboard with the tap listings, the plan is to use Untappd and have a digital screen board. This is becoming more and more popular with bars and restaurants and especially breweries as it allows them to update things instantly, and correctly, and helps guide people to the proper check-ins so people aren’t accidentally checking in the wrong beers. Untappd is a very powerful social media tool for breweries. Instead of a normal monitor though, here the plan is a tall vertical screen.
From here, we then walked back to the back of the house.
Walking back to where the cold box is located, behind the bar and near the kitchen. This will be the storage area for the kegs, cans, bottles, whatever all they will have. Currently they are planning on having 12 taps. Also, with the restaurant license, they’ll be able to serve a full bar listing, cocktails, wines, as well as out of state beers (if they so choose). Jamie did mention doing a few cocktail style drinks, rum and cokes and things like that, along with some local wines, but the emphasis will still obviously be on Rubber Soul brewed and made beers.
We then made our way to where the tanks, fermenters, mash tun, etc, will all go in. The brewhouse. It is going to be a 7 barrel system which will be the perfect size for them starting out here in Hummelstown. Currently no plans to do distribution on the level of what the old Rubber Soul did, but enough to keep the brewpub hopping, and possibly sell some out to local bars in the surrounding area. The equipment is going to be setup behind the bar with a plexiglass or glass between guests and bars, like a large window, so guests can see the equipment and see when workers are working on the newest batch of their favorite Rubber Soul beer. A lot of breweries have the equipment in view of patrons, and it seems very popular, people love watching the brewing process, and seeing the big tanks, and seeing where there beer is coming from. All of the equipment is straight from the brewery in Salisbury, Maryland, from when they bought the old Rubber Soul. With the equipment comes the recipes, and other smaller minutia. They are hoping to get the tanks moved in sometime during the first week of March. They were working on the ducting and sheet metal to get the area ready while I was there.
We then walked up into the office that they are working on for Jamie. This gave us a full view of the brewery from the top floor. This had to be built completely from scratch because there was no upstairs or second floor to the building. Currently the window is open, but there will be a two-way glass window put in. The view overlooks the entire brewery though much of it is obstructed by the coldbox. The kitchen and the brewhouse will be fully visible, as well as some of the bar and the sitting area. This is strictly personnel only though. But it did provide a great view of the whole brewery.
We came back down and discussed the future of the new Rubber Soul. There is a definitive distinction here to make; this is a NEW Rubber Soul. They have the same name. The same equipment. The same recipes. But it is a NEW Rubber Soul. This isn’t disparaging the old Rubber Soul. There’s no point to that, and its not the intention of anyone involved. But there is a clear distinction to make that the two are separate and that this is a new brewery for most intents and purposes. They will do a few of the old staple recipes, but, the brewer also has a lot of plans for new beers as well.
The new headbrewer has an extensive resume that consists of Levante Brewing, Manayunk Brewing, and Neshaminy Creek Brewing. He is well experienced, comes with a great resume, and knows how to brew good beer. But he also knows, that no matter what he does, the beer won’t ever be the exact same as the old Rubber Soul. Firstly, its been quite a while since the originals were brewed, that people’s own time, perception, and memory of them won’t align. Plus the bias factor for those who loved the originals. And even on a technical level, the water supply of the Hummelstown / Hershey area is going to be different than that of the Salisbury Maryland area. So there is obviously going to be differences, but he is going to try his hardest on making the best beer, the most consistently great beer, and a beer that gets people wanting more, wanting to come back to the brewery, and enjoying a pint with friends and family.
Because ultimately thats the goal of the new Rubber Soul Brewery. To be “The Humelstown Brewery” (just with a recognizable name, and one that has more cache and interest and fame than that of restarting with a new name, which was an option). The gameplan is to be the hangout, the place to visit, the stop in for Hummelstown. For something for residents to be proud of, and say “This great beer was brewed here in town!”
The property is zoned Residential / Commercial. Which gives them some opportunities as well as a lot of restrictions. But ultimately, the biggest thing is, their commitment to being a good steward of the building and to their neighborhood. They plan on respecting the parking spaces of nearby residents and business owners, with signs and diagrams of where to park on their website, Facebook, and in the building as well. Another big concern for them is noise control, and respectability of people behaving in the area. This won’t be the place to get drunk and trashed with your ‘bros’. This will be a nice, respectful, and respectable brewpub and restaurant. They are planning on closing no later than midnight, with some nights a bit earlier. When, if, they do live music indoors, they are planning on low-key, one man acoustic elements, and earlier in the day, and with all doors closed. They are already planning on doing events with the Boro Park across the street, as well as the Hummelstown Winter Fling, Taste of Hummelstown, and the Arts and Crafts Festival in Hummelstown.
We also discussed upcoming events. They are already planning on having a pre-opening event for the upcoming Harrisburg Beer Week; their first time getting to participate. Other events their looking forward to are the Mount Hope Renaissance Faire brewfest, as well as Lancaster’s Brewfest, and Lititz Brewfest. Possibly also in the future the Little Big Beer Fest during the Harrisburg Beer Week.
Marketing is going to be a bit different for the new Rubber Soul versus the old Rubber Soul. They are going to keep the tires as a theme, but phase out the biking and bicycling. Feeling it inauthentic since nobody who works for the new Rubber Soul is a biker and with no real biking trails in the town, they are phasing to more of the tire looks and “refueling your sOul” as their motto.
There is lots of last bits of information to also shoot out here. Firstly, their hours are looking to be 6AM to Midnight most days, with some exceptions, and obviously this will be hammered out closer to their opening. Why opening so early? Well, this isn’t going to be just a restaurant and a brewpub, its also going to have a little coffee cafe to it. Elementary Coffee from Harrisburg is going to be bringing in some equipment and will be selling coffee, lattes, etc, starting around 6. This is becoming a popular trend with microbreweries not just in the area but as a whole. Other small bits of information; the alley adjacent to the brewery – Acacin Alley will become a one-way alley, leading from South Hanover Street to Railroad Street. Also – a sneak peak at a future beer name: sOul Patch. Thats all I was given, no idea on the style, or what it is, just given that as a future beer name, so little bit of spoilering and teasing there.
Lastly, a tentative timeframe for opening. Jamie and I talked about how setting a hard-fast opening date is a huge gamble, so we’re not going to be announcing a definitive opening date. But I can give a time-table. The game plan is May. Preferably early May, but most likely middle of May. With a series of soft openings leading up to the main unveiling. This comes with a lot of fingers crossed, as things can always happen, but here’s to hoping for the best and that it all goes smoothly from here on out.
I would also be remissed if I didn’t mention that they are currently starting the hiring process for kitchen and bartending staff. Bartenders, baristas, kitchen workers (dish tank, bus boys, servers, etc.), if you have any interest, you can get ahold of them through their Facebook page currently to apply. Their website also has a built-in job application. Rubber Soul Brewing Home Website.
I again, would like to thank Jamie for the opportunity to come out and check out the facility. I know the whole town (as well as the whole local craft beer scene) is on pins and needles waiting for any and all news on their opening. So this was a great joy to get to walk around and find out whats going on. This looks to be a perfect fit for Hummelstown and the brewery.
In the coming weeks leading up to the opening, I will be posting regular updates, from both my own walks by, as well as any pictures or videos Jamie gives me to pass on. And of course, once they open, I’ll be visiting regularly and doing beer reviews as well as a full brewery review most likely at their grand opening. I know I can’t wait!
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