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
chain pubs pop up every two
and every 20 feet, Sprague's nonconformity is a breath of fresh
Minnie and Brian Sprague opened their
brewery three years ago, but held off on the pub side until this
"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
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
He's the creator of chain saw-carved works
of art, visible around the farm and on the web at www.sleepingchainsaw.com..
That expertise inspired another idea you won't find on upper Peach
"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
"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
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
Sprague Farm and Brew Works 22113
Highway 6 and 19 Venango
(814) 398-2885 www.sleepingchainsaw.com
• 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 firstname.lastname@example.org">
email@example.com to be added to their e-mail list.
• No cover.
• Plenty of parking available, but
please don't park on the road.