Traditional German-Style Brews Await at Gunpowder Falls Brewing

by Jennifer Waldera on Nov 10, 2015 in Beer

Always enthusiastic about trying new brews, we’ve been excited to see a slew of newcomers popping up at recent local beer festivals. However, we were particularly intrigued by one - Gunpowder Falls Brewing - that resides just over the Maryland line in tiny New Freedom, PA.

In fact, before Gunpowder Falls started showing up at the likes of Das Best Oktoberfest and Baltimore Beer Week events, we ran across them during a Sunday afternoon Google search of “breweries near me” while looking for a proper place to get our Sunday Funday on. A cursory glance at the details of the spot sealed the deal. They had us at Reinheitsgebot, and Gunpowder Falls would be the afternoon’s destination. 

A food law that boasts being the longest in history to remain in existence, Reinheitsgebot is a German purity code enacted in 1516 that allows only water, hops, malt (and eventually yeast) to be used in the production of beer. While brewing according to the code does not necessarily guarantee a higher quality end product, the adherence to Reinheitsgebot is a potential indicator of the presence of a skilled brewmaster at the helm of a brewery. In this case, that assumption was accurate.
 
Seated in the cozy tasting room with obvious regulars swilling beer and cooking sausages on the charcoal grill just outside the door, it took only a few minutes and a couple of sips to realize that we were in familiar company. While we hadn’t had the pleasure of personally meeting brewmaster Martin Virga previously, we were well acquainted with his beer from his time at Ellicott Mills Brewing company in the early 2000’s.
 
Trained in Munich, where he received his brewmaster certificate at Doemens Academy, Virga fine-tuned his skills in Germany before returning to the US and helping to open Capitol City Brewing Company. From there, he moved on to Ellicott Mills, in which he had a stake in ownership until 2004. There, his style of brewing drew loyal legions to the cozy brewpub in Ellicott City’s quaint historic district.
 
On our visit, only the Dunkel and Pilsner (fortunately, two of our favorites from Virga’s previous lineup at Ellicott Mills) were available, though there are four other varieties brewed onsite as well - Export Hell, Marzen, Schwarzbier, and Helles. Balanced and mild, the golden colored Pilsner (5% ABV) is clean and crisp. The lightly hopped Dunkel (5% ABV) is a smooth session beer that, while sporting a darker hue and warmer aroma, maintains the drinkability of a lighter beer.
 
Obviously, the attraction to the brewery is the beer itself, but the small spot boasts a hearty dose of character that will bring beer enthusiasts back as well. Jovial regulars and the amusingly snarky-at-times staff, as well as Martin himself, make the tasting room feel more like a buddy’s home bar. Walls are bedecked with flags and random decor, slow cookers are filled with the makings of beef tacos and pulled pork for purchase, and cigars are for sale to enjoy outside as well.
 
While we’d heartily recommend the quick ride up I-83 to spend an afternoon at Gunpowder Fall Brewing, it is possible to find some of their brews occasionally on tap at Canton Crossing Wine and Spirits, and at the Wine Source in Hampden. The brewery is open on Fridays from 4–8 PM and on Saturdays and Sundays from 1–7 PM.
 
Gunpowder Falls Brewing, 15556 Elm Dr., New Freedom, PA; 717-759-0330

Photos via Gunpowder Falls Brewing

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