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Craft Beer Week Article from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette



When people go to Sprague's, they feel like they're at a backyard picnic or family reunion.

Vague about Sprague's
Sprague Farm and Brew Works is like a big secret no one could keep but didn't know how to tell.

By Katie Chriest
Contributing Writer

Sunshine In A Glass

Sprague Farm & Brew Works' Gemashilchkeit.

These days, the naming of craft brews is nearly as much of an art as the brewing itself.  At Sprague's beer names like Hellbender Porter, Effin' Dunkel Weizen, and Ale Mary Wit (named for Mary "Minnie" Sprague) have made ordering more fun since day one.
     This summer, they've gone bilingual.  The new Gemashlickeit was named to loosely echo Gemutlichkeit, a German word that translates, essentially, to "good vibes".
     Brian Sprague described Gemashlichkeit as "a nice summer wheat and bar based beer, light in body with a mild hefeweizen yeast presence and very mildly hopped."

Think of Gemanslichkeit as your go-to beer for definitive summer freshness and flavor.  It's like sunshine in a glass - and we could all use a little more of that this year. Prost!

Katie Chriest

One friend called it the happiest place on Earth. Another told me I had to get down there, that I would just love it, then sputtered like a giddy schoolgirl after seeing "Twilight."
     Still, others smiled wistfully as if just back from vacation, with condensed, vague versions of how amazing it was, with "vague" being the operative word.
     No one has ever described Sprague Farm and Brew Works with any specificity. It was like some big secret no one could keep, but didn't quite know how to tell.
     Finally, I saw Sprague's for myself. And finally, I understand.
     Descriptions of the unfamiliar often rely on comparisons to the familiar. But that's precisely the problem -- and greatest thing -- about Sprague's.
     Unless you've been there, you haven't been there. As
chain pubs pop up every two
 months and every 20 feet, Sprague's nonconformity is a breath of fresh country air.
     Minnie and Brian Sprague opened their brewery three years ago, but held off on the pub side until this year.
     "We always had it in the back of our minds," Minnie Sprague said, "but we weren't sure how people were going to receive us. That's why we started with the brewery."
     They needn't have worried. The pub packs them in every weekend, with cars all along the tree-lined driveway and folks spilling out onto barnyard picnic tables.
     If that sounds like folksy cliché, it's not. First of all, all persuasions -- rural to urban -- gather at Sprague's to chill out. And Sprague Farm is the real thing, not some franchise counterfeiting country living.
     "We're trying to keep it going as a farm," Brian Sprague said. "We're growing our own hops and barley to see if we can make at least
 one beer per year from our own crops."
     The Spragues are exploring additional ways to "green" their nature-surrounded operation. They're growing switch grass as a potential alternative fuel, maintaining tons of green space to lessen their carbon footprint, and examining geothermal heat for their renovated barn.
     "It's an evolutionary process," acknowledged Brian Sprague, who knows a thing or two about evolution.
     He's the creator of chain saw-carved works of art, visible around the farm and on the web at That expertise inspired another idea you won't find on upper Peach Street.
     "Minnie and I are thinking about having a chain saw and beer fest," he said, "which may sound like a bad idea, but we'd keep the pros on the chain saws and the other pros on the beer."
    And Sprague's has a history of putting pros to good use.
     "The pub has been a community effort," he added, "with people who have expertise in different areas. Our friends showed up and pitched in because they wanted to keep the cause going."
     Maybe that's why people say being at Sprague's is more like being at a backyard picnic or family reunion. It's not just the pastoral setting, the concrete-free outdoor spaces.
     Maybe that's why, when the Spragues are approached about franchising, they can't quite imagine it.
     "You could do the building, the beer," Brian Sprague said, "but it'd be hard to replicate what we have here."
     Hard to describe it, too.  See for yourself
The Skinny 

Sprague Farm and Brew Works 22113 Highway 6 and 19 Venango  

(814) 398-2885

• Open Thursday from 2 to 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday from noon to 9 p.m.

• Kitchen offers meat and cheese tray, Smith's hot dogs, beef brisket, chips and pretzels.

• Live music presented regularly. E-mail Minnie and Brian Sprague at"> to be added to their e-mail list.

• No cover.

• Plenty of parking available, but please don't park on the road.



Published by Meadville Tribune: May 18, 2006 11:37 pm         

Crawford County microbreweries

By Ryan Smith

5/19/06 — “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”
Benjamin Franklin

CAMBRIDGE TOWNSHIP - The earthy scent of toasted wheat, rye and malts is unmistakable: It’s the stuff that beer is made of.

And at Sprague Farm and Brew Works, there’s about 1,500 pounds of it ready to be brewed into what will be Crawford County’s newest locally-produced beers. “We’re ready to start” brewing, Brian Sprague said recently.

He and his wife, Minnie, plan to have the first batches of their Hellbender porter, Ale Mary wheat ale and Rust Belt amber lager ready for the beer-drinking public by mid-June. Meadville micro-brewer Matt Allyn has been working closely as a consultant in the crafting process, Sprague said.

A member of the American Brewers’ Association, Sprague said his operating license allows customers to sample and buy beer directly at the microbrewery on Route 6/19, but prohibits on-site drinking. Plans to have Sprague beers available on draft at some local taverns are in the works, he said.

Initially, the beers will be sold in kegs and refillable half-gallon-size “growlers,” according to Sprague. The porter, ale and lager will be available in bottles within the next couple of months.

Along with producing and selling its own beers, Sprague Brew Works, a converted and updated circa-1880s dairy barn, offers its visitors an up-close look — through a huge glass window — at the brewery itself.

Inside that white-walled room are the Vafac mash tun and brew kettle, purchased from the Easton-based Wierbacher brewing company. The fermentation tanks are on the lower level. “Logistically, (the brewery) works very much like the farm was designed to,” said Sprague, only with a non-dairy end-product.

“We’re going to make good beer. My tastes have always been toward the darker beers, but I like the whole spectrum” of tastes that will be offered.

Along with the beer, visitors can also get tours, learn about the brewing process and check out the Spragues’ Bier Halla Museum featuring a wide collection of new and old breweryana.

“It’s been fun” getting the business started, said Minnie, “and it’s going to be more fun” once the brewery’s doors are officially opened.

Sprague Farm and Brew Works’ official grand opening is scheduled for July 14, Brian’s birthday. “It’s been a lot of work since the idea first took shape over a decade ago,” he said, with “lots of help from friends and family — without that, we wouldn’t be here.”

Ryan Smith can be reached at 724-6370 or by e-mail at




Brian Sprague anticipates that his micro-brewed beer will be on the market by mid-June.
/ JOE McINTYRE/Meadville Tribune