Crafting Chaos

Lisa Harpster and John Schaffer tap into the craft beer market with a new downtown brewery.

Lisa Harpster and John Schaffer at their Antifragile Brewing Co., courtesy

On the recommendation of a mutual friend, John Schaffer ’06, ’12 MBA Bus and Lisa Harpster ’99 H&HD, ’08 MEd Edu both read "Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder," a book by writer and risk analyst Nassim Nicholas Taleb that explains why some things or people not only can endure chaos but use it to flourish. “The concept is really about getting stronger with hardship,” Harpster says, “working through it instead of giving up on it.”

The idea of applying that premise to brewing inspired Schaffer and Harpster— who opened a very different fermentation-based business, Moody Culture Kombucha, in 2017—to launch Antifragile Brewing Company, which opened last April in downtown State College. Originally open Friday through Sunday, the brewery extended its hours to dog beer can courtesy Lisa Harpster and John SchafferThursdays during the fall and has incorporated live music and food vendors. It has partnered with other local businesses—using juices from K2 Roots in its kombucha, cold brew from Rothrock Coffee, and coffee from The Cheese Shoppe for a coffee stout—and uses Pennsylvania-made spirits for its craft cocktails.

Antifragile opens each weekend with 10 beers on tap—mostly IPAs, but Belgians, stouts, and lagers, too—plus taps for tea and kombucha, and sells 16-ounce cans it fills on the premises. The owners started small so they could change and pivot as the business grew and encountered new challenges. “‘Antifragile’ is positioning yourself to capture the upside,” Schaffer says.