April 7, 2024Inside the Brew: Visionaries Behind Lancaster City’s Rural City Beer Co.

Step into the dynamic landscape of Lancaster City’s thriving beer culture with Rural City Beer Co., a local taproom steeped in history and flavor. Nestled at 25 W King Street, Rural City Beer Co. boasts an intriguing tale and rich historical background.

A Family-Run Venture Fueled by Passion

Rural City Beer Co. is a family-run business created by two brothers who enjoyed home-brewing. After taking a few business classes, they decided to leave their careers and head into the brewing world. They ended up creating three locations, one in Reamstown, PA, a beer garden in the Warehouse District, and a tap room in the heart of Lancaster City.

James Burton, one of the owners of Rural City Beer Co., explains where the name came from. “Rural City came from a failed naming. We wanted to trademark our first name, Wunder Beer Co., but a brewery in Belgium had the name, so we threw the naming into a crockpot, kind of set it and forgot it.”

“One of our partners, Shaun, came up with Rural City because our group of friends are half from the Philly area and the other half from Bangor, PA… very rural. As we discussed the name, we realized Lancaster is basically a Rural City. A bustling city surrounded by farmland,” Burton explains.

Before opening Rural City Beer Co., both brothers worked as professional brewers in different breweries before starting a business of their own. “Both, Ben and I, were professional brewers at separate breweries. Ben started his brewing career working for numerous breweries on the food and bar side, before brewing with Chatty Monks in Reading and then Mad Chef Craft Brewing in East Petersburg. I began my beer career with a few brew days at local breweries, and some bartending prior to beginning at Swashbuckler Brewing in Manheim, located at the PA Renaissance Faire.”

When it comes to the beer-making process, the Burton brothers use traditional practices, but add their own twist to the flavor and naming process. “Beer is a process that involves a lot of science and a good amount of art. We use traditional beer producing practices and tie in our own twists on flavors and recipe construction. The ‘beer naming’ usually happens after fermentation is complete and sitting at our weekly meetings. Tasting to get the creative juices flowing,” Burton notes.

Unraveling the History

Burton highlights that both Rural City Beer Co. locations have a lot of history including tunnels under Lancaster City’s location used in the Prohibition Era. “The city, and county, of Lancaster has a rich history in manufacturing. This includes the production of Beer! Prior to prohibition, Lancaster was regarded as the brewing capital of Pennsylvania, with 14 breweries. During prohibition, there were still thirsty, beer loving, locals that wanted libations. Some of the breweries ran finished beer through rubber hosing in sewage tunnels. Most notably, I’d say, was from Star Brewing, running under Columbia Ave. to King St., and into a warehouse for distribution.”

Although not in Lancaster City, the Reamstown location also has a hint of history attached to it. “Rural City’s brew system is located in Reamstown. Reamstown is rich with history, from early settlers to Native Americans. The building where production takes place is in the old Lesher Hardware store dating back to 1911. As a previous professional Archaeologist, my love for history bleeds into many of our brews and beer names. Many of them have a hint or direct connection with a historical aspect of Lancaster or beer history in general,” Burton notes.

Varied Offerings Across Rural City’s Locations

When it comes to menu items, there are tons of dishes that keep customers coming in. At the Reamstown location, beer is the main event, but the smash burger and other seasonal and holiday specials make this location unique!

The Lancaster Taproom location has a consistent meat and cheese board with a growing lunch menu. Burton notes that he wanted the Lancaster City location to be the spot for “light pub grub.”

At the Warehouse District location, customers come for the outdoor space and ice cold beer, but also for the various food trucks that set up outside. Burton explains that he enjoys working with the Lancaster City community to create a new menu each week.

What Sets Rural City Beer Co. Apart

As there are many breweries in Lancaster City, Burton explains that there are a few ways he is set apart from the competition. “Lancaster as a whole, has become a beer lover’s destination. It encompasses all different people, styles and flavors. I would say what sets us apart from other breweries, is our background and continued passion for the industry as a whole. We believe the way to grow the industry and to grow the beer scene is to work together and support each other’s growth.”

“We like to say we are ‘Traditionally Abstract’. We focus on true to style ales and lagers, while also trying to bend the beer rules with different adjuncts to create something new, while also paying homage to where brewed malt beverages came from,” Burton says.

Another thing that sets the business apart from other breweries is their art markets called the “Big Bloom.” These events are a staple at the Warehouse District location and will become an event for Lancaster City residents and visitors to enjoy soon at the Taproom location.

Overall, Burton hopes Rural City Beer Co. helps to foster a sense of community in the city. “That is our company-wide mission. Prior to and after opening in the city, we have made it a priority to work with other community members and local businesses. We like using locally sourced products and making them available to our guests.”