Jackworth Ginger Beer to Open Brewery in Larimer

You’ve probably tasted the crisp, slightly spiced flavor of ginger beer within a Moscow Mule. But have you indulged in the cider-like taste of alcoholic ginger beer? Now, all of that is about to change with Jackworth Ginger Beer in Larimer, the only producer of alcoholic ginger beer in the state of Pennsylvania. 

A Long Time Coming

Jackworth Ginger Beer is a project that’s been ten years in the making. It dates back to owner and Point Breeze native Jackworth Smith’s first experiments with a ginger beer recipe in his home. 

“I was living in Philadelphia working as a musician and bartending when Fever Tree ginger beer was getting popular, and I kept wondering why it was called beer if it was non-alcoholic,” said Smith. “It turns out before prohibition, there used to be hundreds of alcoholic ginger beer brands, so I took a recipe from the late 1800s and started teaching myself to brew.” 

Three photos of different distilling materials from a white jug on the left to a black one in the middle and a big steel brewer on the right.

The progression of Smith’s fermentation equipment starts left with the first jug he ever brewed in and ends on the right with his large fermentation chamber, where he now makes his large batches of ginger beer.

What started off as a hobby quickly became a real business idea when Smith reconnected with his Oberlin College friend and co-owner, Tyler Lewis. After extensive time planning out their recipes and strategy, their business was quickly becoming a reality. 

“[Smith] introduced me to his ginger beer-making process, and at that time, we were so young and excited that we started an LLC and we’ve been working on it ever since then,” said Lewis. “Then finally during COVID in 2022, we decided to look for investments to make our bar actually happen, and it’s been a process since then.” 

Planning the Bar

When the two worked out the details of their establishment, they knew inclusivity was the biggest factor. Not only in the atmosphere itself but even in the liquors that are used and drinks that are served. It’s a place for those who consume alcohol, those who don’t, those who are looking for a place to hang out, those who want some alone time, and so much more. 

“You want a place where people can come if they want a cocktail, if they don’t and they’re just not drinking for a day, a week, a month, or even their whole lives,” said Smith. “Sober living is not binary like we think it is so we want to be a place that’s consistently available for people.” 

But selling ginger beer, especially alcoholic ginger beer, isn’t the easiest job when people don’t understand what it is, exactly. That’s where education comes into play — not just for consumers but for bartenders as well. 

“We have to kind of educate people, especially anyone we partner with, on what alcoholic ginger beer is and the naturalness of it,” said Smith. “There’s this familiarity from a Moscow Mule and novelty in that, but many bartenders don’t know that alcoholic ginger beer is even a thing. And many people assume because they don’t like ginger, that they won’t enjoy ginger beer, which is far from the truth.”

Three Ginger Beers for The Three Rivers

When it comes to brewing ginger beer, the team makes three different types to sample. There’s an original non-alcoholic version, a spicy non-alcoholic version, and a 5% ABV alcoholic version. Each has its own unique flavor and punch of spice. The taste is something that they call “refreshingly fiery.” Plus, upon tasting, it’s easy to tell that a house-brewed ginger beer makes all the difference. It gives a fuller flavor where you can dissect the ginger, lime, and cane sugar all in one sip. But it’s not just the ginger beer they serve. They also shake up a variety of cocktails using products from local distilleries.  

“We get to show off all our Pennsylvania distilled liquors and brewed beers,” said Smith. “Pennsylvania’s agriculture is great and we want to partner with these different producers to support their brand like how we use Maggie’s Farm Rum in our Dark and Stormy cocktail, combining our own ginger beer as a mixer. It’s all about the community.”

Helping Strengthen the Community

Community and revitalization have been two big themes for the owners since Smith’s father owned Dunning’s Grill in Regent Square, where Smith grew up bartending. He continues to use those skills to this day, alongside Lewis’ time with Blue Sky Kitchen’s bar. These experiences have allowed them to set the stage for an innovative new environment with plenty of personality with a little help from designers Nico Hartkopf and Kate Holroyd. 

“Our bar is very fresh and natural,” said Lewis. “We’re the rebirth of ginger beer, the rebirth of the Howard Jackworth era. You can see it from the design aesthetic where everything is repurposed from Construction Junction. You can see it in the ingredients we use. We even use this color of blue too, that’s kind of salty like a body of water, it’s very reminiscent of the three rivers.”

There’s much more to come from Jackworth Ginger Beer as Smith and Lewis look forward to their opening, which will be announced in the coming weeks. For now, the two continue to work out a plan for creating a safe space.

“It really is all about inclusivity,” said Lewis. “Spirits, drinks, and food bring people together in general and I think that’s what the catalyst is. Having something new and unique that people can share together over our warming ginger beer.”

Story by Kylie Thomas / Photography by Star Laliberte

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