Isaac’s Restaurants will open its Isaac’s Craft Kitchen & Brewery at North Cornwall Commons in mid-April, if things go as planned, but the usual supply chain uncertainty and required state inspection make it hard to know precisely when the brewpub will be ready to serve guests.
Long known in the region for their sandwiches, the Lebanon taproom – the company’s 14th location – will be the second true brewery for Isaac’s, which began exploring the craft beer space about a decade ago.
The brewery will be at 119 Springwood Drive, in the same building as Ancestor Coffeehouse & Creperie. The North Cornwall Commons complex also includes the recently opened Mick’s All American Pub, another watering hole with Lancaster County roots.
Isaac’s Restaurants Business & Market Development director Johnny Roberts told LebTown the brewery origin story in an interview last week, explaining that the idea took root out of a series of craft beer dinners at Isaac’s Downtown Lancaster location, where a full-service “Pickle Bar” was the official beginning of the mini-chain’s foray into the libation space.
Roberts explained that those four-course/four-beer dinners, featuring craft brewers discussing the art and science of brewing, helped reveal a path for the company to grow and evolve with the times. A process of evolution that seems even more apt today, coming off the challenges of the pandemic, where it seems the last few years have been all about “pivoting.”
“How fast can you change with the world that’s changing,” said Roberts, who noted how the experience of those craft beer dinners prompted him to sign up for HACC’s Brewing Science Certificate program (PDF) and develop a formal background in the brew arts. Roberts ended up talking to Isaac’s CEO Mike Weaver about the program, and one thing led to another and eventually three Isaac’s employees received the HACC certificate.
Roberts said that Weaver challenges the company to see what’s coming down the path and pursue what would be best for Isaac’s, trying to help get the brand more robust. Compared to a liquor license, which can’t be used across multiple restaurants and can be hard to make profitable, brewing offers a different set of challenges and benefits. But, altogether, the opportunity fit with the company’s identity of being a bit quirky, making things from scratch, and aiming to delight customers.
It was the “perfect fit,” said Roberts.
As part of recent PLCB modernization, licensed Pennsylvania breweries today can operate up to two satellite locations, giving Isaac’s the opportunity eventually to provide the majority of its locations with locally made microbrews to complement the sandwiches from just three breweries. The downtown Lancaster location was first to be outfitted with a brewing system, and Lebanon will be the second (a third is planned for Lemoyne). The seven-barrel brewing systems at the breweries will be used to produce a variety of beer styles, ranging from pilsners and witbiers to ales and stouts.
Isaac’s has hired Allison White as general manager for the Lebanon location and is currently searching for an assistant manager. More jobs are expected to be posted soon. Roberts said he expects they’ll have a lot of people interested in the opportunity.
“It’s a great company to work for,” he said. “A lot of fun.”
If you’re wondering whether your favorite Isaac’s sandwich will be available at the new location, the answer is a resounding “yes” – Roberts called it a twofer, with Isaac’s bringing its long-requested sandwiches to Lebanon, plus the beer. The taproom menu will also feature some additional items compared to the classic deli concept, such as new starters and additional dinner items.
Since the Lebanon location will be an active brewery, state inspections will be the final hurdle to pass for opening. Isaac’s officially takes over the space on April 1 and things are moving fast. “The main thing now is getting the brewhouse proper ready for the equipment,” said Roberts.
Roberts said reviews of the beer have been great so far, noting that a lot of Lebanon Valley residents made it out to recent tastings such as PA Flavor at the Farm Show Complex and Autos & Ales at the Hershey Museum.
For more information about Isaac’s, visit the company’s website.
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