Unconventional would be one way to describe Fetish Brewing Company’s approach to brewing.
While it might not be the usual way to go about it, it’s fun as hell, and that’s just the way they like it.
“We wanted to create a place where we wanted to hang out,” said Michael Simpson, co-owner of Fetish. “The only leverage for us has been, is it fun? So far it has been, but every day I assume no one is going to show up, and we’re going to lose money.”
If you’re tuned in to the local craft beer scene, Fetish probably isn’t entirely new to you. They started out a few years ago with a small taproom in Lancaster while also selling retail to local bars and restaurants.
Now, they have a full-fledged tasting room in the heart of Rock Lititz ready to serve up their unique take on craft beer.
The Fetish story
Fetish was started by three guys. Simpson, Brandon Stetser, and Aaron Risser, who started brewing in a driveway six years ago.
“In truth, in the very beginning, Brandon and I wanted to start a business for no other reason other than we liked each other and we got along,” said Simpson.
The problem was, they didn’t know what they wanted to do.
One night, Simpson went out to a bar and met Risser who was bartending while also homebrewing on the side.
“He handed me what was Ghost Pepper, which ended up being one of our first beers, and I thought ‘holy shit,'” said Simpson. “So I called Brandon and told him that this [brewing] is what we were going to do.”
From there, the trio spent the next year huddled around Risser’s brew system once a week. After about six months of brewing, they wanted to beta-test the beer.
They chose 12 people and gave them beer for free. That number then doubled to 24, and once they hit 36 people, they started to charge for what was now essentially a CSA, or community-sourced agriculture.
“After about two years, we opened up a really small tasting room that turned out to be illegal, but we didn’t know it was illegal when we opened,” said Simpson. “There was about four-month zoning battle between us and the city, and to be fair, we were totally wrong.”
They closed the taproom but kept brewing.
“We had so many municipalities asking for us to bring our brewery to their city,” said Simpson. “Our rule of thumb has been the less we do, the bigger this thing gets.”
After doing nothing for a few months, they were approached by one of the more prominent voices at Rock Lititz.
“We came up to see the space, and I told Brandon, if we don’t do this, I’m quitting,” said Simpson.
After a year of outfitting the taproom by hand, they opened January 24, and are rolling with a variety of classic beer styles and some beers I’ve never seen before.
Since Fetish had been around for a few years already, they had a list of about 27 recipes ready to brew.
Fetish has several year-round offerings in a wide array of beer styles.
Submissive IPA is their take on a classic hop-forward IPA, while Dominant is a DIPA that wrings in around 8% ABV.
Belgian 60 is a Belgian Blonde aged in French Oak Cabernet barrels for 60 days and is refreshing with notes of oak, honey, and a bit of Belgian spice.
Sahti is an ancient Finnish juniper ale with locally sourced raisin, dates, and grains of paradise. For saison lovers, they feature their Spelt Saison, which was one of their original bottled beers.
They also aren’t afraid to go out on a limb to make something a little bit unconventional either.
“I think what we’re really good at is that we’ll just try something,” said Simpson. “The only reason to do this is to have fun.”
One way to have fun, and maybe get into some trouble, is with their Peat. It’s a 12% Scottish Wee-Heavy aged for six to nine months on Laphroaig-soaked oak chips.
Oh, and just because they like to try different things, they have a sour version of Peat as well.
Another non-traditional current offering is their Buchanan Strong, a stout, that Simpson said really isn’t a stout, made with Madeira in honor of Lancaster’s own James Buchanan.
Above all of the others, there are two barrel-aged beers that they have been working on for years.
Wild American Blonde has been sitting in French Oak Cabernet Barrels for three years. It’s full of flavor with great acidity and oak tannins.
Next up, seems to be Fetish’s, or at least Simpsons, pride and joy.
American Wild Dark is a wild ale with loads of fresh cherries for a sweeter flavor and kick from the cherries.
“It’s our showcase beer,” said Simpson. “That beer tells the story about us. It’s the beer that explains our obsession with things that don’t make money but are worth doing. It speaks to our own obsession with things being handcrafted that shouldn’t be. It’s our brand, and a unique beer in that there aren’t many beers that old coming from Lancaster. It’s very much us.”
Fetish’s taproom is a part of the Rock Lititz campus. It’s in Pod 2, which is a 25,000 square foot building that houses everything from a coworking space to music industry service providers.
While the taproom itself isn’t large, Fetish’s license spans the entire building, so you have ample to space to settle down with a beer. Be sure to check out the loft area if it’s open for Jenga, corn hole, and ping pong.
There’s a large bar in the taproom and a few other seating options. Behind the bar is a massive stereo system hooked up to a record player that is the focal point of the bar.
Beer and vinyl? Sign me up.
“We wanted to build a place we wanted to hang out at,” said Simpson. “We’re huge vinyl nerds, and when this thing was fun, it was just us brewing in the garage, smoking cigarettes, and listening to vinyl. That attitude is something we’ve tried to keep.”
Fetish only offers bar snack food like pretzel and chips, but they plan to bring in local food trucks on occasion. 717 Tacos was there when I visited.
They also serve a rotating lineup of other local craft beer, Pennsylvania wine, and cocktails.