Hopping from One Lily Pad to the Next

By Jason Jugenheimer & The Flight Crew

NEW BRIGHTON, Pa. – Dotting the landscape of various western Pennsylvania rivers are small mill towns that serve as a reminder of the American steel industry and its impact on generations of people occupying the great rivers and tributaries all the way to Pittsburgh.

New Brighton is an example of one of western Pennsylvania’s nostalgic mill towns. Situated just across the Beaver River from Beaver Falls, its tree- lined streets, small shops and committed business owners and residents alike are leading a revitalization of the town.

Langdon McComas and Marian Schwartz, owners of Quality Time and Carry Out, are two such business owners looking to make a positive impact on their community. The restaurant opened four years ago and provides fantastic takes on home-cooked meals at great prices. It features homemade soups, shakes, wraps, sandwiches, bowls and dinners.

For a restaurant that “Specializes in Specials,” including lobster rolls every other Saturday and menu items to suit all tastes, bringing in a craft brewery that could offer several rotating beers and seasonal offerings made sense.

What McComas and Schwartz wanted was to partner with a small craft brewery that shared their vision so they could provide beer to their customers. According to McComas, “We were talking to a larger brewery who already was in another local establishment so it didn’t quite fit. But, he introduced us to Mara and Chris Palipchak.”

Croaker’s craft beer meshes with the mentality of old mill towns.

The introduction worked because Croaker’s, which brews and operates in New Castle, Pennsylvania, since opening as a home brew shop in 2017, officially expanded as a taproom to New Brighton in February 2022 and features four to six beers on tap, along with an assortment of cans for purchase at the restaurant.

Croaker’s, which is no stranger to making strategic jumps in the craft beer industry, has grown from a home brew shop and brew-on-site establishment to a growing craft brewery. In fact, Mara Palipchak says, “We are working on another expansion to increase batch size and bring craft beer to another market that has been devoid of a craft brewery for several years.” Stay tuned.

It’s easy to see why the pairing of Croaker’s and Quality Time and Carry Out fit together. Both establishments pride themselves on being involved in local events to raise awareness for causes. Croaker’s Brewing is often seen hosting or participating in beer events and other fundraisers, while Langdon is heavily involved in New Brighton events such as the Wine Walk, Fall Fest and Taste of the Town.

Beer truly builds communities and really meshes with the mentality of old mill towns that are striving to reinvent themselves through revitalization and bringing new small business and visitors to them.

After work on a warm Thursday evening, the Flight Crew headed to New Brighton to grab some food, some beer and to spend a little time with Langdon, Marian, Mara and Chris. These are some the beers we enjoyed after punching our timecards.

Soccer Mom Wild Cherry Kolsch
4.2% ABV

Roger Gillespie: Few beers are better on a hot summer’s day than a crisp cold Kolsch. The style is
clean, light, refreshing and easy to drink. Why mess with it?

Well, Mara had the idea to give this gem a hint of wild cherry and the result is a tribute to her creativity. Soccer Mom pours clear golden color with a lingering white foamy head. The wild cherry aroma catches you as you raise your glass. Not too sweet and really gentle on the palate. A 4.2% ABV makes for a refreshing afternoon beer no matter where you are or what you’re doing. Chris’s label work isn’t too shabby either. 

Gladful Gherkin Cucumber Saison
6.3% ABV

Jason Jugenheimer: One of my favorite summer snacks is a fresh-off-the-vine cucumber with a touch of salt. To find that in a glass is both refreshing and soulfully satisfying.

Brewed with a French yeast strain, it gives off aromas of the Champagne of Beers. It’s a beer that has adorned many a bar top in mill towns across the country.

The flavor though is anything but. Hints of briny cucumber flavor pair well with the saison style. It’s light and crisp with just a touch of wild funkiness on the finish. It’s truly a summer pool and picnic beer, or as the can says, ‘Carousingly Cucumberific.’ So get your gherkin on if you get the chance.

Tlaloc Mexican Lager
5.1% ABV

Dave Shively: Croaker’s positions itself in the marketplace as a nano-brewery. But there is nothing small about Mara’s creation of the Tlaloc Mexican lager.

It can go head to head with any of the popular style Mexican lagers that I have tasted recently, which were handcrafted at much larger breweries. Tlaloc was light amber in color – not overly sweet – which I found refreshing and was both effervescent and crisp. This time of year, I enjoy Mexican style lagers while out by the pool.

Ironically, Tlaloc was the Aztec god of rain.  Hopefully this deity doesn’t disturb the short pool season we get to enjoy while living here in the Midwest. If he keeps it nice and balmy for us, Tlaloc and I will get along just fine.

Mana Blueberry Hard Seltzer
7% ABV

Joe Sanfilippo: There’s always a first time for everything and this first time for me is a review of a seltzer. With the craze for seltzers growing over the last several years, it was finally time to do a review of one.

I wasn’t sure how this was going to be after sampling some other very good beers on this trip. Mana Blueberry Hard Seltzer is an all-day drinker and very refreshing during these hot summer days.

It comes locked and loaded with an ABV of 7% (which is fine by me). It pours a light blue in color; don’t mistake it for Windex… It emits an aggressive blueberry aroma.  After one sip I knew I was hooked on this. You need to grab some of these before the winter pool covers come out.

Lemon Frog Lemon Meringue Blonde Ale
5% ABV

Brian Long: With a beer name like this one, some of you may be asking if Croaker’s is a bakery or brewery. Well, in this instance, maybe a bit of both.

That’s right, the owners have managed to take one of my favorite pies and transformed this Heavenly dessert into an easy-drinking full-flavored beer. Push aside the cake and ice cream and pour yourself a pint of this dessert.

The use of freshly baked lemon peels jumpstarts this beer, with a heavenly lemon fragrance. The beer itself has a light, lemony tartness and nice sweetness. The perfect balance of lactose smooths off the finish.

Mara claims, “If poured with the right head… the head itself tastes like meringue.”  In that case, I guess I’ll be going back for seconds and thirds to get that perfect pour. I only hope the next party or function I’m invited to, I’m asked to bring a dessert. Mine will be very portable and easily to dispose of.

On Point Fine Irish Stout
4.7% ABV

Rob Tittel: On a hot summer evening, when my fellow Flight Crew brethren were gravitating toward quaffable summer styles like Kolsch, saison, Mexican lager and even a seltzer, this reviewer leaned into a style typically more associated with winter weather and chilly St. Paddy’s Day celebrations: A dry Irish stout.

Croakers’ take on this is, as the name implies, On Point. Pouring a deep brown to black, this 4.7% ABV beauty features notes of toffee and coffee with little to no bitterness present.

A little sweetness is present here and the flavor profile skews closer to Murphy’s Irish Stout than its more widely known cousin, Guinness. The medium body and low ABV makes this extremely drinkable, even on a warm summer day. If you’re a fan of this style, why wait for St. Paddy’s Day? Get yourself some On Point today.

Recommended Flight Pattern: Get nostalgic in New Brighton and grab a pint and a plate at Croaker’s Brewing Company at Quality Time and Carry Out.

Pictured at top: Joining forces are Langdon McComas, left, and Marian Schwartz, far right, co-owners of Quality Time and Carry Out. Next to Comas are Chris Palipchak and Mara Palipchak, co-owners of Croaker’s, a craft brewery.