A Typical No-Frills Exterior
Buying Beer in Pennsylvania
In the state of Pennsylvania in the United States, there are unique laws regarding the sale of alcoholic drinks. Beer, wine and hard liquor cannot be sold in food stores or convenience shops. Wine and hard spirits are only sold in "State Stores" - state owned/operated liquor stores. Beer is NOT sold in these stores. For beer, the consumer must patronize a state-licensed independent beer distributor. The beer distributor does not have freedom in what other products are sold at the establishment. No --- the other products are limited to soda pop, bagged snack foods such as popcorn, chips, pretzels and beef jerky, and other such snacky items. Roasted peanuts are a common snack offered, so the smell of the roasted nuts is often part of the expected ambience. Cigarettes and lottery tickets round out the selections.
Speaking of ambience, all beer distributors have the Man Cave vibe. The stores are always concrete floor, warehouse looking places. Walls are corrugated steel or cinder block. Lighting is dim. The aisles are probably just wooden pallets with cases and cases of beer stacked on them. Frequently, the more popular beers are also kept (by case) in a cooler for customers with an imminent party at hand. Until recently, beer distributors could not open on Sundays. Happily, that has changed. (Hey - not everybody's sabbath is on Sunday.)
Such is the beer consumer's lot in Pennsylvania.
How to Find a Beer Seller
As a relative newcomer to Lebanon City, I needed to determine my options for purchasing the occasional case of Moosehead or Yuengling Lager. Factors which affect the desirability for me include location, hours, and price. However, as the costs to distributors are also regulated, many distributors sell at similar prices.
The Yellow Pages of the phone book (yes, the old-fashioned paper book), word of mouth, and my wanderings created my short list.
Following are the distributors which I have visited to make my decision for favorite beer buying venue.
A Fancier Exterior than Most Beer Distributors
5 Beer Distributors to Check Out
E & E Discount Beer Warehouse
911 E. Cumberland St. 17042
1120 Maple St. 17046
1608 W. Cumberland St. 17042
Wet Your Whistle Beverage
1136 Federal St. 17042
Frattaroli’s Beer and Soda Outlet
702 Quentin Rd. 17042
Dark and Dull
Lebanon Beverage has the darkest, no-frilliest interior. It does have a unique feature, nonetheless. Lebanon Beverages has a BIG, yet peaceful, dog in attendance.It does not bark, but it certainly looks one over. Lab-pit bull mix?I am not sure, but this beast certainly would deter me from doing anything I wasn't supposed to do!
On a Major Highway
E & E Beer sits just outside the city of Lebanon in a busy commercial area. It is on the south side of a 4-lane highway (Route 422), but not at a traffic light. Other distributors acknowledge that it has the lowest prices and I found this to be true. Its webpage is inviting, so I was surprised at the actual store because it is the same old, same old. If a customer was travelling eastbound on 422 to a destination farther along, E & E would be convenient to pop into and then continue without crossing traffic lanes. However, anyone going there and then returning will need to be careful getting either in or out.
Pluses for E & E:
E & E has a website with Announcements, Humor (although it is more like interesting short trivia bits), a Glossary of beer making terms, and Recipes (three so far.) Also, specials are listed on the site. it has an inside ATM banking machine and its phone voicemail has an option to hear the current special.
Locations of Lebanon Beer Distributors
Lightest and Brightest
Two of the distributors actually had discernably more interior light than a typical distibutor. Cumberland Beverage and Wet Your Whistle seemed to provide larger aisle space and more artificial overhead lighting. Also, Cumberland seemed to be sparkling clean. This does not mean that the others have dirt, just that they look like garages and a garage does not need to be surgically sterile.
The Cumberland website has pages for each category of the domestic, craft, and imported beers it sells. Additionally, it has an outside ATM banking machine.
Days and Hours Open
|Name||Weeklong Hours||Sun. Hours||Credit Cards||Webpage|
E & E
M-Th 10-9 , F-Sat 9-10
M-Tu 9-9, W-Th 9-10, F-Sat 9-11
VS, MC, Dis
M-Th10-10, F-Sat 10-11
Wet Your Whistle
M-Th 9-9 , F-Sat 9-10
VS, MC, Dis
M-Th8-10, F-Sat 8-11
VS, MC, Dis
Brewing and Vintnering Supplies
Wet Your Whistle carters to, and supports, home brewers and vintners. It has a section with 3 aisles of starter kits, tubing, supplies, ingredients, yeasts and so forth for home beer or wine makers. In Addition, it is trying to create a Lebanon Valley Home Brew Club. Part of this effort includes offering a free Intro to Home Brewing class on Sat March 23, 2013. It webpage is solid and informative AND it has the bonus feature of newsy, chatty blogs by the owner.
A beer brewing poll
Cheap and Traditional
Frattaroli's was the second cheapest (more on this later) and was just typical. Nothing extraordinary in any direction regarding décor or products offered. It sits on a local busy road, but the good folks of Lebanon are so friendly and polite, that someone is sure to let you pull out.
All have their own parking. Some have webpages, but when it comes down to it, that probably will not be the deal-breaker on where one buys beer. I did an informal comparison on the cost of a case of Yuengling Lager 12-ounce cans. There was a $3.00 difference in price among these five stores.
Cheapest: E & E
Next Cheapest: Frattaroli's
Tied for middle price: Lebanon Beverages and Cumberland Beverage
Most Expensive: Wet Your Whistle
Everyone has minimum standards for his or her beer supplier. If yours is "location, location, location," there is only one criteria for you - the shortest distance from home or work. If price matters most and distance is second, you may need to phone some of these distributors to ask what the price is this week for a case of ______ (fill in the blank with your desired brew.) On the other hand, if you are actually hoping for a gourmand experience - fuggetaboudit. This is Pennsylvania. Go to a microbrewery for that. :)
Any Other Nominees?
If I have missed the favorite city beer distributor of a "Lebanezer," just drop me a line. I will be happy to investigate.
Photos and text copyright 2013 Maren E. Morgan.
Maren Elizabeth Morgan (author) from Pennsylvania on March 11, 2013:
DDE, yes, just one of those local quirks. Since I have spent most of my life in PA, I am used to it and accept it.
Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on March 11, 2013:
Well researched and new to me.
Rebecca from USA on March 10, 2013:
Welcome. And I agree 100%.
Maren Elizabeth Morgan (author) from Pennsylvania on March 10, 2013:
Oh, yes - local independent businesses need to remain so that the national chains do not become...shall we say greedy? Thanks for your comments. :)
Rebecca from USA on March 09, 2013:
I found this interesting because, it's always been so strange to me that you have to get beer from specific locations in PA. Ohio is not like that. This Hub makes me glad I don't drink beer in PA. lol. Nice work. :) It's great to see someone promoting local business in this economy.