Ask any brewer about what their best-selling beer is and they’ll most likely name, somewhat apologetically (or even, regretfully), one of their brand’s hazy IPAs. Many brewers tend to enjoy more traditional style beers and are a bit chagrined that hazy IPAs have fully dominated the top-selling craft beer styles for the past few years. Harry Arnold, the founder and brewer of Aristaeus Craft Brewing Company, prefers not to follow trends and leans towards making more classic and sometimes experimental styles, like rye saisons and English brown ales. But at his nano-brewery in Langhorne, PA, the number-one seller is indeed New England Fog, a cloudy, hop-forward IPA made with Galaxy and Citra hops. That’s followed, he’s quick to point out, by a Belgian golden ale in second place.
This sums up Aristeaus in a nutshell: they’re willing to give the people what they want, so to speak, while also doubling down on inventive and/or obscure styles of beer and putting in the time to educate its guests on ways to drink outside the box. It’s an extension of Arnold’s mission to create a beverage menu that reflects the diversity of the community they’re in.
Get to know more about Aristaeus Craft Brewing Co., from the meaning of its name to its mid-pandemic opening, and more!
PA Eats: When did you first get into craft beer or brewing?
Harry Arnold: Like almost every brewing company out there, at the heart of it there’s a passionate home brewer who kept going with it. That’s really what I did. I made my first home brew in 1996; my buddy and I were craft beer consumers, and there was a local homebrew shop nearby. Those used to be like these cool places, but lot of them have closed, at least around me.
For me, owning a brewery was always a pipe dream; I thought it would take so much money to open a massive brewery. I had a career in telecommunications, a union job, and I had to do my time to afford me a pension and healthcare at the end of the rainbow. I knew couldn’t start going down this road until I was done that. When I was about five years away from retirement, I dove back into the craft of brewing and learned techniques and how to design a recipe from scratch. Just like when you cook in the kitchen, there are a lot of shortcuts in brewing, and that’s kind of how I used to brew. I’d use partial mash with liquid malt extract, but then I learned all-grain brewing and I bought a half-barrel system for my basement. I’d talk to any brewer or owner who would listen to me. Before I retired in 2019, that’s all I did. I just focused on getting myself into a financial situation where I could retire, and I swore when I got out I would never work for anyone ever again.
What did you hope to bring the local craft brewing community?
Looking at a lot of the other breweries in this area, I felt like I could contribute and elevate the industry . When you travel the country and go to a place with a dense amount of breweries, like Colorado or the West Coast, it always seems like they have a better quality. I felt like we needed more breweries, to help make the beer scene better. I already knew the demographics and customer base, because I was on the consumer side for decades.
The biggest thing I observed that breweries were doing right and wrong was … I felt like they were often narrowing their customer base because of the types of beers they were producing. I get that there’s a race to see who can make the hoppiest beer, and some places are really successful at that. But there’s a wide variety of palates out there. I wanted to cast a broad net, and not just specialize in one specific style. So I wanted to design many beers and offer things other than beer, . Right now, Aristaeus offers 10 different wines, cocktails and liquor and ciders, things people can produce better than I can. Quality to me is everything and that’s a differentiater now more than ever.
Why did you choose Langhorne for the Aristaeus brewery and taproom?
I’ve lived here in Langhorne my entire life. It’s easier to have a business in the town you grew up in. I also chose this area because the whole Northeast corridor is a tremendous place to be, everything is around here. I knew where there was a need and a good customer base. Where we are is was centrally located and we can pull within everyone in the county, it’s like a hub. Also, the brewery is right in the middle of a protected wetland area and we’re surrounded by dense woods, so it feels like you’re far away.
What was the process of finding your building like?
It took a lot of time. It was a five-year long process. At the time, there were no breweries in Langhorne at all, so I went to the township to see where there was light manufacturing buildings that aren’t being used. They were really nice and sent me a list of properties. I’m self-funded, no partners or bank loans, so I wanted to buy a building, but it wasn’t as feasible. I went to a bunch of buildings, and took pictures of one particular one that I thought had everything I needed. One of the biggest selling points was that the building has its own well. I went to Department of Environmental Protection and had the well tested; we still get it tested monthly and yearly. Because we’re in these protected wetlands, we’re pulling deep water that’s mineral rich from these untouched sources. Water is the number-one ingredient for our beers, and our well is an edge that we have over everybody else.
I signed the lease here in December of 2019. We redesigned the space, went to get permits in March of 2020 when the whole world shut down. So we were here for a year and a half before we could even open. We kept our community engaged by having a beer naming contest for a four-pack of beers that we canned in that time. It was a great engagement. The four-pack was a toasted coconut milk stout, an Irish Red called Bernadette, named after my mom, then this saison, New England Fog IPA, and a saison, Big Oak Bend. That was the one from the naming contest; it’s named after Big Oak Rd. where we’re located. Then July 1, 2021 is when we actually opened the doors, after a few soft openings.
Speaking of your beer, what’s your philosophy around what you brew and why?
With our beer we try to be diverse — that’s a reflection of the community. We’re not all hazy bros … we joke around about those type of drinkers in the industry but that style does sell. I do a lot of traditional styles, which seems out of the ordinary, but that’s what I like. I think a lot of people aren’t exposed to them enough. The IPA craze has taken over the craft beer industry, it’s almost become the identity of the industry. But I don’t want to do what everyone else is doing for the sake of just doing it. That’s the easy way out. I want to stick to my own guns, and while I do produce IPAs, there are so many other styles we make.
I’ve literally had people come in and say, “I don’t like saisons,” or “I don’t like anything with rye in it,” and I’ll have them try one and it changes their mind and their preconceived notions. Really, the craft beer industry is about an exchange of information. People come to craft breweries because they want quality versus quantity. I think most people are looking for an interesting story, and they want to know the guy who brew their beer is also a friend that they can talk to and learn about it. They take that information with them, and when they go out to restaurants and bars they know more of what they’re looking for. I think the whole community aspect of what we do here is so important.
What has the community’s response been to Aristaeus opening in their town?
The top comment I get is that people feel welcome and comfortable. That’s the vibe: we’re all friends you just don’t know it yet. People feel safe and welcome here, we get a diverse crowd, young, old, LGBTQ, there’s a large Indian population here, Black, white, Latino, we get it all and it’s awesome. When you come in here, we’re just people and I discourage any politics and religion talk. We’re just here to get a beer together. We were voted Best Brewery in Bucks County a year and a half in the beginning of 2023.
Is there a story behind the name of the brewery?
Yes. It was such a struggle to figure out what to call the brewery. We didn’t want it to be too campy, or super serious, and I didn’t want it to be a punch line or pop culture reference. I went back to basics, and thought about my home brewing and what is it I’m really trying to do. I love brewing with honey, and knew that no matter what, I want a honeybee in the brewery’s logo. I started researching honeybees, and found a Greek myth about Aristaeus and his Bees. I learned that Aristaeus was a god known as a master of the rustic arts, basically anything craft. He’s a master fermenter, cheesemaker, olive grower, bee keeper, animal husbandry, all of these different crafts he perfected and would pass the knowledge down to humans. I thought the name was too good to be true, because it ties into the craft of fermenting and figured I couldn’t be the first person to connect these dots. I found out that there are beers named after him, but no breweries! I like the name and connection to me personally.
Any future plans to share?
We bought a canning line, so we’re expanding at a pretty rapid rate. This time last year I made an investment in new equipment, and doubled our capacity. Next year, we’re planning on expanding where you can get our beers outside of the taproom, as another form of marketing for us. I don’t see the value in trying to get too big, or to get our beer at every single location around here. What makes you money is retail, pints across the bar. A year or two down the road, a second location at some point might be a possibility. The ultimate goal to maximize retail is open three locations!
For more info on Aristaeus Craft Brewing Company, including its current tap list or to place an order online, visit its website. For events and beer releases, check out its Facebook and Instagram pages.
Find Aristaeus Craft Brewing Company at 2475C Big Oak Rd. in Langhorne, PA; (215) 757-2337.
This series is made possible by support from the Pennsylvania Malt and Brewed Beverage Industry Promotion Board and grant funding from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.
- Photos: Aristaeus Brewing