There’s a lot new right now at Mount Gretna Craft Brewery (MGCB) – a new executive chef, new brewers, new beers, and new partners – and it’s all part of a spring refresh that has folks at the “Corner” very excited right now.
MGCB occupies Leed’s Corner, a longtime Campbelltown community hub that sits at the northwest corner of the intersection of routes 322 and 117.
In the spirit of community (a hallmark of Campbelltown as with so many other towns in Lebanon County) the various refreshes that took place at MGCB are the product of passionate people working together to make something that’s truly high quality. They’ve got a story to share about their work, too.
Owners Allison and Brad Kleinfelter invited LebTown, along with other media outlets and restaurant partners, to sample the new menu and updated brews at a Tuesday, April 13 testing event. (In full disclosure, meals and drinks were provided gratis, but MGCB was not involved in the editorial process for this article and did not review the article prior to publication.)
With MGCB reaching its third anniversary of operation during the summer of 2020, cofounders Allison and Brad Kleinfelter did not make a huge deal of the brewery’s birthday — the pandemic obviously overshadowed and complicated any such plans. The brewery ended up using the opportunity to rethink and reset its approach to virtually every aspect of restaurant management, including exciting new key hires, new beers, and an iteration on the brewery’s popular pub food menu geared towards including a greater variety of fresh, local, and healthy-tasting flavors.
The addition of Ancestor Coffeehouse & Crêperie last year also brought Rick and Ryan Stammel into the orbit of the Corner. The Stammels are a father/son duo who, along with daughter/sister Ally Stammel (operator of the roasting company, Sonder), have increased Lebanon County’s coffee and crêpe production capacity immensely since the spring 2019 opening of Ancestor’s original North Cornwall Commons location. During the preview event, the Kleinfelters credited Rick Stammel with helping them transform the brewpub’s operations, saying he was nothing short of a godsend. Stammel had been General Manager of Dutch Wonderland for nearly two decades, but after retiring in December 2020 transitioned into a role as General Manager of Mount Gretna Craft Brewery – perhaps a bit smaller as an assignment, but with Stammel’s expertise just as impactful as it was on a larger stage. In a followup email, Allison Kleinfelter said that Stammel is focused specifically on improving overall guest experience by building processes, standards and efficiencies into business operations.
The brewery interior remains mostly as it was before, with the exception of some changes to the bar area to make high-traffic operations more comfortable for bartenders and servers. The kitchen was also reconfigured to make it more efficient to work in.
Although the interior is mostly the same, changes should be expected for outside. The Kleinfelters said during the tasting event that a covered deck is in the works, supplementing the existing uncovered outdoor seating. The business is working with the township on details to proceed.
The restaurant has also welcomed new Executive Chef Arden Campbell. Campbell is a Lebanon native and Cedar Crest High School graduate. Campbell studied in the culinary program at the Pennsylvania College of Technology, an educational and career choice that can be somewhat attributed to Campbell’s first ever job at Heisey’s Diner. (Gary Heisey was also his baseball coach.) Without the pandemic it’s possible Lebanon County might not have been able to get Campbell back; he was thriving in the greater DC area restaurant and country club scene and able to cater at high profile events like the Kentucky Derby. But timing, as they say, is everything and so by the time Campbell connected with the Kleinfelters it might have started to seem like fate. It’s not that often someone really asks you in a job interview, “Great! Can you start tomorrow?”
Campbell’s goal with the updated menu is to provide an experience of what the Central PA region has to offer, drawing from Lebanon County’s rich agricultural tradition. You’ll still find pizza, burgers, and wings on the menu, but new options have been added that don’t compromise taste for calories. The Flyin’ Hawaiian is a grilled chicken sandwich with smoked pineapple and an insane flavor. Mexican Street Corn Dip, Shishito ‘Roulette’, and Citrus Fennel Salad are other new additions which stand out from the usual bar fare, which of course MGCB still offers (the Farmhouse Ale Burger is a particular favorite of mine).
Campbell expects to be doing plenty of collaborations with the beer side of the operation, which is now up to five brewers, including cofounder and head brewer Brad Kleinfelter. Also on on the team are Brian Mills, master of lager; Mark Brandt, caretaker of IPAs and Hazys; and Brad Moyer and Brian Kenney, the two newest team members who together are serving as MGCB’s sour specialists, with plans in the works for some high end/complex barrel-aged beers.
Don’t expect anything too out in the deep end though; the MGCB team is looking to make the best possible versions of the beers it produces, rather than simply trying to push the palette envelope. “A lot of beer these days is loaded with some weird stuff,” as one of the brewers put it during the tasting.
Staff are prepped to help you find a drink to go along with your meal. Beer pairings for different meals are listed on MGCB’s menu, with the Grisettna (“Rustic four grain ale composed of oats, rye, wheat, and barley”) and the Cerveza del Lago (“Light and crisp from our key ingredient – flaked maize”) being standouts for your correspondent. MGCB also features craft cocktails made with Dead Lightning and Hidden Still liquors (both local) as well as local wines from Waltz Vineyards and the Vineyards at Grandview.
MGCB is open Wednesday & Thursday from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Find more information at GretnaBrewery.com or at the brewery’s page on Facebook.
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