Thanks to more than a year of steady work and preparation by husband-and-wife duo Theo and Brandalynn Armstrong, Midtown’s new craft brewpub has hit the ground running.
From humble beginnings – a homemade beer cart and pop-up guerilla tastings – emerges Harrisburg’s latest craft brewery.
“We didn’t have the means to make it happen without brand-building,” says Zeroday Brewing Co. co-owner Brandalynn Armstrong. “We gave away a lot of beer, met a lot of people and opened ourselves up to asking if people are going to like this – and what’s going to happen next.”
Evolving from a portable tap system made from a trashcan, a wooden tabletop and three taps, Zeroday has found a home in Midtown and is ready to grow into a city staple.
For backpackers, a “zero day” is a day of rest when hiking a long trail. Sometimes it’s needed. and sometimes it’s just wanted. Regardless, there are consequences and rewards for taking a zero day.
Brandalynn’s husband and Zeroday co-owner, Theo Armstrong, is an Appalachian Trail thru-hiker (trail name: Guy Smiley). He explains what a zero day on the trail means to him.
“You need to take breaks,” he says, “but every zero day you take on the trail is another day you have to spend on the trail. After a while, you start to hate it.”
The central mark of the Appalachian Trail, which runs from Maine to Georgia, is near Duncannon, about 15 miles north of Harrisburg. Duncannon is a popular stop for thru-hikers to restock and enjoy a trail tradition called “the half-gallon challenge,” where hikers raid local stores for half-gallons of ice cream and attempt to eat the entire container.
“Zeroday is the brewery that Midtown built. We planted a seed, and it turned into a community endeavor.”
“Zeroday is the brewery that Midtown built,” says Brandalynn. “We planted a seed, and it turned into a community endeavor.”
Through networking with local business owners and community members, the Armstrongs fell into the Zeroday space by a stroke of luck. Zeroday is located directly behind and in the same building as Midtown Cinema. As far as a partnership with Midtown Cinema, Brandalynn hopes to create a “movie and a beer” experience, where 32oz. cans called “crowlers” are filled at the bar and allowed in the theater.
The interior of Zeroday is a collision of modern and repurposed items. The bright orange walls and the vintage bulbs in the barn lights set the atmosphere for a night of drinking with friends or performances by local musicians. There are even gigantic interior windows providing views of the brewing operation.
“We want Zeroday to be a place where community members can show off how cool they are,” says Brandalynn. There is also a gallery wall featuring artwork by local artists and photographers that are available without commission.
Zeroday opened on April 8 with four beers on tap, but will eventually ramp up to more than 10 different brews. Theo and Brandalynn source as many ingredients as possible locally. Their house-made ginger beer is made from local ginger grown specifically for them. Even the vendors throughout the construction process were Pennsylvania-based; there’s a beautiful wooden counter sourced from Keystone Vintage Lumber.
Zeroday isn’t overly concerned with brewing tradition – they’re OK with brewing a mango habanero beer.
“We brew what we feel like brewing and name it by what it most closely resembles,” says Theo.
They even talked about getting a bunch of thru hikers together to collaborate on a beer. (Imagine the embodiment of sweaty hikers, worn gear, and every essence of the Appalachian Trail infused with hops and malt to create one of the most curious flavors known to man.)
The first beer brewed in the building is appropriately named Firstborn Stout. It’s a rich dry stout on nitro that’s easy on the palate and finishes well. Wit’s End is a spicy Belgian witbier that is wheaten in color and has a nice finish – a distinct hop taste and the bitter orange peel/ coriander combination make for a funky flavor without being too funky.
One of Zeroday’s flagship beers is Cheap Date, developed to drink like a Bud or Miller but maintain the quality of a craft beer. Cheap Date is a sessionable “yellow fuzzy” American blonde beer for the masses.
The pinnacle of my adventure at Zeroday was the sample of Zeroday IPA I tried from the boiling pot. Completely unfiltered, this IPA was juicy and flavorful; the hops didn’t immediately crush my palate, and I couldn’t wait to sample it again on opening day.
Zeroday Brewing Co. is what Harrisburg needs to propel itself into the craft beer world.
Next time you’re at the Broad Street Market or Midtown Bookstore, stroll over to Zeroday for a beer – it’ll make you feel okay about the miles you don’t hike that day.
• 250 Reily Street, Harrisburg
• Wednesday-Friday, 4-11 p.m.; Saturday, 12-11 p.m.; and Sunday, 12-8 p.m.