Waynesboro Becoming Destination Town
by Blair Garrett
With the world’s gradual return to normalcy looming on the horizon, the need to make up for lost time is ever-growing.
There are countless great restaurants and places locally to have an awesome experience, and more seem to be popping up every month. Just over the Mason Dixon Line in Pennsylvania, not far from us in northern Frederick County, several places have risen from the shutdowns to bring good drinks and good times to all.
A wide variety of options are now available for just about any craving, but a fun and unique side of Waynesboro hasn’t had its chance to blossom just yet.
The rapidly changing town has seen an influx of businesses over the past few years. Notably, more breweries have found a new home in the south-central Pennsylvania town. Waynesboro even boasts a brand new distillery, sure to spice up the weekends of visiting customers and regular locals.
Rough Edges Brewing
Just past the square on Waynesboro’s main drag lies Rough Edges Brewing. The small team has found tremendous success crafting brilliant recipes into well-balanced beers.
The brewery is led by owners Wes Phebus and Casey Phebus, who are excited for an opportunity to flourish post-pandemic.
“The growth in Waynesboro has been fantastic,” Casey Phebus said. “We like to think we are a part of that. With us and Lake House, and the other breweries opening up, I think we’re part of making Waynesboro a destination.”
The brewery’s launch was an initial success, but due to the ongoing pandemic, Waynesboro’s newest brewery had to weather the storm during uncertain times. “We opened February of 2020. We were open six weeks, but the weekend of our grand opening, we got shut down, and it was heartbreaking,” Phebus said. “We had been doing well, and the community was very happy and very receptive.”
Adjusting to the restrictions wasn’t easy, but Rough Edges pulled through selling beer to-go, allowing them to keep brewing and producing great local craft beer.
“The community was insanely supportive,” Phebus said. “We survived with that model, and then we were able to finally have indoor dining, and luckily we were in a position to get right back into it.”
Rough Edges came to be through Wes’ home-brew hobby, which eventually blossomed into a career in crafting beers.
“Wes started as a homebrewer, and got into it as a pretty serious hobby,” Phebus said. “After a year or so, he decided he wanted to brew professionally, so he left his prior career and got a job at Something Wicked Brewing over in Hanover.”
Phebus quickly took over as head brewer at Something Wicked, and the two seized the opportunity to open a place of their own when presented with the chance to do so.
“We had aspirations to have our own place, and we wanted to bring our love for craft beer to our hometown.”
To date, Rough Edges offers a variety of craft beers that have been making waves in the community. “We do a little bit of everything,” Phebus said. “We have kettle sours, IPAs, we have a root beer float stout that’s been really popular, we have lagers on, too.”
You can catch some of Rough Edges’ beers at select stores locally, or at their brewery, Thursday through Sunday.
Lake House Distillery
Lake House Distillery is one of Waynesboro’s newest attractions, and it has quickly become the talk of the town. Their sign hanging above the bar features owners Aaron and Tara Lake’s name and family home, displaying the at-home feel of a comfortable and intimate bar and restaurant.
The couple opened Lake House Distillery just two months before the chaos of the pandemic set in, and navigating their way back to a full-capacity business has been a journey and a half.
“It was a brand new business, with nothing like that around here, and eight weeks later, Corona shut us down,” Tara Lake said. “It was kind of a gut punch after you spend 18 months of building.”
After renovating and pouring money and time into their passion project, the uncertainty of what was to come pushed the pair to take action to help in any way they could.
“Around here, hand sanitizer was very difficult to find,” Lake said. “During the pandemic, we used what product we had that we were going to be making whiskey with, and we made hand sanitizer with it. We donated it to the fire department, police departments, nursing homes, the post office, and all the first responders to make sure that our community had some sort of protection.”
The Lake family gave away hand sanitizer to the community after first responders had been stocked up, continuing to provide for Waynesboro residents in any way they could. “ It was two weeks that turned into eight months,” Lake said.
The distillery pushed through the pandemic by selling to-go drinks, and now has events in the works. They often feature live music on the weekends to show guests a great time to go with their great drinks.
Aaron Lake runs the spirits side of the business, perfecting his craft with an open-barrel fermentation process and a whole lot of fine-tuning. If it isn’t up to his quality, he won’t pass it on for distribution.
“When I put something out, I want to make sure that it’s good. That’s our name, that’s our house on the sign,” Aaron said. I’ve dumped up to 45 gallons of whiskey down the drain, just because I won’t sell it if it’s not to my standard.
His attitude of continuing to learn and hone his skills has made Lake into a phenomenal distiller. “I will never call myself a master distiller because I want to learn,” Lake said. “Once you stop being humble and learning things, that’s the day you start losing interest in it.”
Waynesboro used to be a bustling hub for distilleries over a century ago, and Lake touched on some of the history behind the town’s pre-prohibition era scene.
“Pre-prohibition time, there were actually five distilleries in Waynesboro,” Lake said. “One of them was about two blocks from here called Pen-Mar Distilling Company. A lot of people think of whiskey as a southern thing, but all of the distillers that are in Kentucky came from Pennsylvania distillers. The old colonies and the farmers moved south where corn was more prevalent, and up in Maryland and Pennsylvania rye was more common.”
The Lake family has a few great whiskeys and vodkas, and more in the works coming soon. On hand, Lake House Distilling has a corn whiskey, a white rye, a vodka, an applejack brandy, and an apple pie moonshine that compete with decade-old companies.
Their spirits can be found at their Waynesboro location and in stores located throughout the greater Catoctin Region, including Catoctin Furnace Liquors in Foxville, North End Liquors in Hancock, Liberty Liquors in Cumberland, and Prohibition Hub in Hagerstown.
With both Tara and Aaron still working full-time jobs, Lake House Distillery’s action takes place on the weekends, often featuring food trucks, live music, and good times.
With more and more places opening in Waynesboro, it’s easy to see why breweries and distilleries would follow suit. Waynesboro currently has Rough Edges, Lake House Distillery, and 633 Brewing, named after the 633 acres of land Waynesboro was originally settled on, and more to come soon.
Waynesboro is not a giant metropolis, but there is a lot to look forward to in the coming years for this growing town, and the new businesses that have set roots here have created a real destination that people in surrounding areas have noticed.
Rough Edges features great drinks and great designs, with their IPAs quickly gaining popularity.
Aaron and Tara Lake, owners of Lake House Distillery, show off their brand-new refurbished bar, featuring handmade drinks and a hometown feel.
Photo by Blair Garrett