In a bit of a surprise, sad, and shocking news, Crystal Ball Brewing Co. out of York, PA has shut down. Completely. Both locations. Right off the heels of them doing a Friday night charity event, the news came Saturday in a surprise manner.
Kevin Keller made the first rumor mention on the Breweries in PA Facebook group, and the firestorm spread from there, and quickly reported in official means. The YDR (York Daily Record).
The brewery was around for seven years and the first in the new wave of breweries in York. Other breweries have since moved into York (Mudhook, Liquid Hero, and Collusion Tap Works). Crystal Ball Brewing had two locations – West York and a taproom in downtown York on Beaver Street.
Two years ago I had gotten to visit the taproom downtown. Around the time my great uncle was slowly dying to mesothelioma, my family came down to York to visit, afterwards we stopped there (and it turned out it was Bike Night in York as well, so my girls got to see a parade as well). The beers were all good to ok, nothing atrocious, nothing bad, nothing infected or wrong on a created side. The beers were made well, presented well. The staff was very friendly. They also had a group there doing advocacy for domestic abuse with a pair of bright red heels. For their Facebook page, they took photos of me wearing the heels and walking around in them, as well as my three daughters. They were doing an upcoming walk where men would walk a mile in red heels to fight domestic abuse.
The staff was all very friendly, talkative, and extremely generous with their time with myself and the girls. This can be usually said for most breweries I have visited with my girls, the staff is typically very accommodating with the girls and love having them, like Logyard, Troegs, Boneshire, etc, and this was no exception.
This is disappointing news to see, not just as a consumer, but as someone who recognizes that these were people with jobs, people who put their livelihood and stock into this company, and it sadly didn’t work out.
The brewery as a whole, has been open for seven years. They were always a staple at the Renaissance Faire (Mount Hope) brewfest, as well as a few others. They did canning on a small but distributive service, throughout much of Central PA.
There has been a lot of talk about craft beer, and breweries, and what the level of ‘saturation’ is for the market – especially here in Central PA. And while, it might not be a full “bubble bursting” type thing, there is definitely going to be some changes to the atmosphere, or geology, or geography of breweries in the area. Brewers, owners, and others have talked about this a bit recently, and there is some interesting insights out there. People like David A. Morrow, Christopher Harvey, etc, have elucidated the issue probably better than I can, and I’ve been vocal with similar thoughts and concerns.
Just having a brewery, just making beer, won’t be enough. One of the biggest things about breweries, is that everyone with the ‘hobby’ of beer making, thought they could take their hobby and make it a business and a profession. And sadly, that’s not how the market is (anymore). A hobby is not a business. You need to first, make good beer, have quality control, batch to batch should be the same high standard, you need to make a community around your brewery, events, activities, reasons for people to stop there and drink, and make a ‘third place’ out of it. Food, entertainment, events. Don’t push for secondary and tertiary locations. Don’t try and overextend yourself with canning and bottling lines. Make quality, consistent beers people can enjoy on your premises. Stay small until you have enough capital to expand larger, and always expand slowly, and below where you actually are. Overextending yourself will be the downfall of several breweries this year.
Sadly, it does look like we’ll have a few more breweries closing this year. But, on the good news front, we will also be having a few new ones opening to be really excited for. Liquid Noise in Marysville just opened (and I had gotten to stop in for their grand opening, and talked to head brewer Brad Moyer, so look for an upcoming article there). As well as Hemeaur and Wolf Brewing in Mechanicsburg. So, despite sad news like Crystal Ball Brewing closing, there is still some good news out there on the horizon.
Its a shame to see Crystal Ball Brewing go. They will be fondly remembered for their Coconut Porter and their All Seeing Eye IPA. They were a staple to the York scene and a great part of their community. If you go to Weiss or a Sheetz for the next few weeks or so, you might still be able to find a few of their beers on the shelves. Might not be a bad idea to buy one last 4pk or can for old time’s sake.
So let’s lift a pint to their honor tonight and toast the achievement, success, and happiness they did provide for a time. Lets hope their employees find work, and the owners can move on to new successful endeavors.
- After a near 7 year run, Crystal Ball Brewing announces the last beer has been poured (York Daily Record)
- Crystal Ball Brewing (York) Has Closed All Locations (Breweries in PA)
Cheers to everyone! Be on the lookout for several new beer reviews upcoming, my remaining Tree House beer reviews, Scratch #400 from Troegs, and much more!
Also be on the lookout for write-ups on the Hummelstown Winter Fling, Liquid Noise, and much more.