Happy Valley is just one of those places that conjures up a lot of images and emotions. For the Penn State faithful, it’s a place they’ve come to love. For the rest of us, it’s “out there” – some place we’ve heard a lot about, but probably haven’t ever visited. However, settling into my bar stool at the Happy Valley Brewery, I began to understand the passion and love that people have for this place.
Whether you love or loathe State College is largely determined by how you feel about Penn State. And how you feel about Penn State is largely a question of whether you went there, or played against (and probably lost against) one of its powerhouse sports teams. However, we discovered there’s a lot more to Happy Valley and State College than Penn State.
The broader State College area is beautiful and there’s a lot of fun things to do in the area. During our visit, we spent a day exploring the Central PA Tasting Trail, which offers numerous wineries, distilleries, and breweries to explore.
For us, the highlight of the Central PA Tasting Trail was Happy Valley Brewery. It is equal parts restaurant, brewery, and social space. Located in a historic building that has been a part of the community for over 200 years, this place just feels just perfect.
This intersection in rural Pennsylvania was the original Klinger Farm. Dating back to at least 1814 (and over 40 years before the founding of Penn State), the farm was a community icon. The Klinger Family continued running the farm up until 1977, when the government seized part of the land for the highway and the building fell in disrepair.
During the 1990s and early 2000s, the barn made a brief appearance as a high-end furniture store, before becoming the temple of virtue that it is today.
Enter the brewery. Founded in 2013, this mixed space features two levels with different atmospheres. There’s a hip vibe and live music downstairs. Upstairs, a trendy farm-to-table eatery serves up revolutionary meals (more on that later). Happy Valley Brewery is the place to meet friends for a night out, catch a game or just relax in the fun environment.
Happy Valley is first and foremost a brewery. Master Brewer Josh Davies trained at Hoegarden before striking out on his own. During our visit, the bartender Kelsey set us up with a craft beer tasting.
Master Brewer Josh loves his hop-heavy, West Coast-style IPAs (not my favorite), but there’s a beer for everyone at the Happy Valley Brewing Company! The HayDay, a light American Wheat Ale, and the ZZerbert, a Lambic-style fruit beer, were both excellent on a hot day. The Tailgater and the Barnstormer are the most popular beers, but visitors shouldn’t overlook the light lemon Stratus and the Craftsman Brown Ale with hints of almond.
I sampled six of their 12 beers and enjoyed each and every one. Most breweries focus only on beers. However, they also have great mixology with hand-crafted cocktails feature housemade syrups.
If you don’t get lost under murals of gods and cherubs, you will get lost in the food. They have so much more than pub grub. This is gourmet dining.
We enjoyed the Bayou Bowl, an amazing mix of shrimp and grits accented with andouille sausage and a fried egg. Then came the icing on the cake – the Klinger Chicken Dinner – which was a winner! A massive portion of perfectly fried chicken alongside a hearty sausage and sage gravy, it was absolute decadence. It was served with poached eggs and buttery, flaky cronuts. Laura has repeatedly said that the chicken dinner is one of the best things she’s ever eaten.
This is the kind of place that makes you feel complete. If you’re in State College, you have to stop in for a visit.
We were the guests of Happy Valley Brewery thanks to Central Pennsylvania Convention and Visitors Bureau, and we stayed at the charming Reynolds Mansion in nearby Bellefonte. All opinions of the hoppy and delicious are our own.