German Style Craft at Gunpowder Falls

German Style Craft at Gunpowder Falls
Gunpowder Falls Brewing
15556 Elm Drive | New Freedom, PA 17349

If you know me, you know I have a strong passion for all things German, especially German beer.

After two wonderful trips to Germany with my husband, we continue to reminisce by visiting German clubs, various Oktoberfests, and delicious German restaurants (especially Brauhaus Schmitz). So when I found out there is now an American brewery located in southern Pennsylvania that brews solely authentic German-style lagers, I knew I had to try their beers.

When we first approached the industrial building where Gunpowder Falls is located, I wasn’t completely sure I was at the right place. We drove around the rear of the building and saw small Bavarian flags hanging from the fence by Interstate 83. Ah, we’ve found it. The sign hanging above the door proudly read “Gunpowder Falls Brewing Exit 4”.

The interior of the building, while simple, expressed German… errr Bavarian pride. An “Ein Prosit” banner hung from the wall and several German books were displayed on the counter. Rich quickly spotted a book on Dresden and began to page though.

The bar had a stainless steel top, and a television along with several chalkboards hung behind the bar. My attention went directly to the list of beers on tap, and an additional board shared the food offering for the day: CHILI. I will admit the simple menu made me giggle a bit. I was later explained that it was a homemade white chicken chili.


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Gunpowder Falls Brewing is located in the very southern part of Pennsylvania in New Freedom, PA just off exit 4 of Interstate 83, just a few miles from the Maryland border. They make “authentic German craft beer” and consider themselves an American-German craft brewery, one of the only solely German style American breweries out there. They use the same ingredients and brewing techniques as German Braumeisters have for hundreds of years, and their beers are brewed according to the Reinheitsgebot (German Purity Law of 1516). They brew Bavarian style beers, malts imported from Germany, and primarily Hallertau pelletized hops.

Owner and head brewer, Martin Virga, is originally from Phoenix, Arizona. He began his apprenticeship at Kaiser Bräu in Neuhaus an der Pegnitz after graduating from Loyola Marymount University. He then began his studies to become a Braumeister at Doemens in Munich.

After returning to the United States, Martin went to Baltimore, Maryland and began working in the lab at G. Heileman Brewing Company. He was also hired to help start the brewing operations at Capitol City Brewing Company in Washington D.C. He later left to start his own brewery, Ellicott Mills Brewing Company with the beer brand Alpenhof, in Ellicott City, Maryland. He sold his interest in Ellicott Mills Brewing in 2004.

Martin 2

Martin Virga, Owner and Head Brewer at Gunpowder Falls

Martin currently lives in Cockeysville, MD, but chose to open Gunpowder Falls in Pennsylvania because of the favorable brewery regulations. Here he could sell beer on site and not have to worry about running a restaurant. The brewery and tasting room opened in November 2012. The brewing equipment currently houses about a quarter of the brewing space, and Martin is looking forward to adding more tanks and expanding production in the near future.

I sat at the bar and ordered a flight of their 3 beers for $5. Drafts were also available for $4.25 or pitchers/growler fills for $16. A bowl of pretzels were available at the bar, as well as leftover Christmas candy. Rich was ecstatic to see York Peppermint Patties. Anything to make the designated driver happy, right?

Anyway, I began with the 5% ABV pilsner, which is brewed in the Bavarian “Landpils” or country pilsner style, using German malts and Hallertau noble hops. Upon first sniff, I was taken back to the beer gardens of Bavaria. The beer offered a delicate balance between the malt sweetness and mild hop bitterness.

The next beer was the 5% ABV Dunkel, a traditional Bavarian dark lager. This brew offered a distinctive malty taste and a finished with hints of fine coffee. The Dunkel is brewed with five different malt types and is lightly hopped. It may be dark, but this beer is not heavy at all.


The final offering was their season, a Schwarzbier. Available in December and January, this 5.5% ABV beer starts off smooth and creamy and ends with subtle hints of chocolate and coffee. The roasty character of this beer warmed me up quickly, and I kicked myself for not having an empty growler in the car to take this seasonal home with me.

The pilsner and dunkel are available for take out in six packs for $8.50 or cases for $34. They will fill growlers and sankey kegs if you bring your own. The seasonal offerings are only available in growler fills. And trust me, don’t forget your growler.

As I left Gunpowder Falls, I encouraged Martin to tackle a German-style hefeweizen, quite possibly my favorite beer style ever. I will definitely be visiting the brewery regularly, whether on my way to Baltimore or BWI Airport, or if I’m simply craving a well-crafted German beer.

Gunpowder Falls Brewing beers are currently available at a variety establishments though their distributorships Brewery Products of York, PA and Legends Limited of Rosedale, MD. If their beer is not sold at your favorite bar or retail store, they encourage you to drop them a note!

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