Mark Lehman is looking forward to quitting his day job. That’s because his second job is co owner and brewer at Breaker Brewing – located in an old Monastery and School in Wilkes-Barre. And that’s his passion – where he also works but really has fun. “I remember my first Sierra Nevada – and Dogfish 60 – it was an awaking…”
Mark and his co-owner Chris Miller were home brewers that made the jump to “Nano” in 2009 distributing their beers to local restaurants and bars from their 1.5 barrel set up in the garage. “We got some attention because we were written up in some beer magazines as being one of the first ‘nano brewers’. That helped us” Mark explained.
They are living a prudent craft beer appreciator’s dream because Mark and Chris vowed to not owe anyone else, and not risk their family’s lifestyle to pursue their passion. So they moved slowly and cautiously, building out their own equipment, establishing their market, but keeping risk in check (“we have families”). “We are only restricted by the amount of beer we make now” commented Guy – the all around ops, sales and delivery and go to person at the brewery.
In April Breaker moved to the new location – the monastery and school, and have applied for a brew pub license. They are building the pub out themselves of course, the bar in the tap room and tables are made from their church pews. They are installing the industrial sinks, putting up the walls in the kitchen on the weekends themselves to meet code.
Probably the best example of their approach is on the large chalk board (one of the many reminders of the old school building origin) in the tap room. The left slate lists “on tap today”, the center “in the fermenters”, and the third “in our mind”. Mark told me that originally they wrote up some ideas they had, but soon patrons were writing their own ideas on it.
“One time I walked in the taproom and people were chanting ‘Peanut Butter Chocolate Stout!’ – someone wrote it up there, and of course we had to make it”. It’s that creativity and home brewer attitude that led them to produce “Ginger Cranberry Ale” and other interesting brews suggested by the locals.
They are filling up their new location quickly – grains stored upstairs, brew house, taproom and kitchen on the main floor and fermenting tanks in the basement. “It was not fun dragging the 55 lb bags of grain up the stairs – but I know the coach of the local football team, and now they will grab the bags and run them upstairs for us.” That is local participation!
So, check these guys out, and you’ll find 8 brews on tap – along with their popular “Lunch Pail Ale”, inventive things like a pear sour, and a black IPA, and their 9% Christmas ale. Drop by and fill a growler (like I did) and maybe Mark and Chris can quit their day jobs sooner!