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Natural Awakenings Lehigh Valley

Fegley’s Brew Works

Jul 07, 2011 12:08AM ● By Beth Davis

In 1998, the Fegley family—brothers Rich, Jeffrey and David, along with parents Peg and Dick—entered the brewing and restaurant business with the opening of Bethlehem Brew Works at the corner of Main and Broad Streets in the city of Bethlehem’s Historic District. The area was once home to the Lehigh Valley’s first professional brewer’s house, which established an urban brewing tradition in Bethlehem that flourished until the mid 20th century, when global-corporate beers took over. When Brew Works first opened, it was a difficult economic time for the city. The Bethlehem Steel plant was shutting down, and the region was suffering. In fact, the one other restaurant in the neighborhood closed the week after Brew Works opened. The Fegley’s though, were optimistic, as they set out to bring urban craft brewing back to the local cultural fabric of the community. Over the next several years, business flourished as Bethlehem Brew Works chose to ignore the public exodus, and instead celebrated the history of steel and paid tribute to the region’s working class culture in its decor and menu. Downtown Bethlehem also began to flourish, and more restaurants and shops began to open. Eventually Brew Works expanded its space, and its kitchen tripled in size and the brewery added more tanks to keep up with the demand for the brews. In 2004, brother and director of marketing and public relations, Mike Fegley, who had been living in New York City, returned to the area to help with the business, which included plans to open an Allentown Brew Works. Plans were in place and it was business as usual until 2006, when the death of brother and co-owner, David Fegley, shocked the family. He passed away in his sleep of a heart attack at the age of 33. A cancer survivor, he apparently had the “heart of an 80-year-old man.” Mike says it was a rude awakening for everyone. “After he passed, we became more aware of what we were eating and how we were treating our bodies. We knew we wanted to make some changes.” And so began a move toward healthier fare and a more sustainable way of doing business. With the opening of the Allentown Brew Works quickly on the horizon, they began combing the menus. “We started by looking at anything with hydrogenated oil,” explains Mike. “If it had it, we either removed it, or came up with a better way of making it.” The popular Brew City® Fries were among the items made with hydrogenated oil. He went to his supplier for a better option, but was told a hydrogenated oil-free variety was not available yet as it was still in the test market phase. Eventually, though, Brew Works became one of the first in the nation to get Brew City Fries that were free of the oil. After year in the making, Allentown Brew Works opened in 2007 opened on Hamilton Street, housed inside the historic Harold’s Furniture Building. The 400-seat restaurant offers two and a half levels of dining, plus banquet facilities, multiple bars, an outdoor patio, and a 15-barrel brewery with seven fermentation tanks and eight serving tanks.

Today the urban made brew can be found on tap and in bottles at hundreds of bars and pubs throughout the local region. Although the “brew” at Brew Works is certainly a main attraction, the commitment they have made to green initiatives and sustainability definitely deserves applause. Fegley’s works closely with Pocono Produce Company, located only 44 miles from Brew Works, to source as many of their ingredients and raw materials from farmers and manufacturers that are located within a 100-mile radius as possible. Their ground beef comes from Dale Koehler Farms in Bethlehem, which is located less than 10 miles from both locations. Mike says the brewing operations also upcycle—which means to convert waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of better quality—about 312,000 pounds of spent grain to feed the cattle at Koehler Farms. In addition, the Allentown location is powered by a large solar array that covers the entire rooftop of the building and the restaurant has been retrofitted with all LED ambient lighting.

Allentown Brew Works is also one of the few restaurants in the Lehigh Valley reducing their ecological footprint and saving money by diverting food scraps from their waste stream and keeping it out of landfills. More than 18,000 gallons of the food scraps and compostable waste is sent to the Rodale Institute each year to make top quality compost. “We are working to double that number by getting a similar program for our Bethlehem location,” notes Mike. He says the choices they’ve made, and continue to make, are all for the betterment of the overall health and wellness of everyone that comes through the door. “We are proud to serve great food and great beer, but we are a lot more than that. We take care of our customers and our employees and try to do the right thing and help people make better choices.”

Fegley’s Brew Works is located at 812 W. Hamilton Street in Allentown and 569 Main Street in Bethlehem. For more information, visit TheBrewWorks.com.

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