Mount Gretna Craft Brewery is expanding beyond Lebanon County lines.
The growth of the popular establishment is perhaps most noticeable because Gretna beers have been appearing at bars, restaurants, wineries and beer distributors in several surrounding counties. But, behind the scenes, owners are preparing for an even larger growth spurt as they make plans for two new locations in the area.
“The first couple of years was to get our operation up and running,” explained co-owner Brad Kleinfelter. “We dipped our toe into the pool. Now we want to dive into the pool and be a more noticeable presence.”
The brewery at 2701 Horseshoe Pike, Palmyra, has been open for business about 4 1/2 years… although Kleinfelter – who runs the business with his wife and co-owner, Allison – said he considers this their third year of operation.
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“We kind of discount last year, as many businesses probably do. So we’re in year three of our plan of execution,” he said. “Obviously, COVID put a halt to many things.
“We’re still dealing with COVID,” he added. “But we’re doing better this year than we did last year, during the height of COVID.”
After opening the original brewery and restaurant, Kleinfelter said their first goal was canning their product and expanding distribution to a wider range.
They’ve already inked a contract with Redner’s Markets for beer sales there, he said, and they’re working on similar arrangements with Giant and Weis grocery chains.
Gretna is also starting to appear in some local beer distributors – not only in Lebanon County, but further afield in Lancaster, York, Dauphin and Cumberland counties as well.
“Just a few,” he said. “We’re warming the market up for us.”
Gretna is already expanding its output, he noted – they’ve added two brewers to the staff (now comprising one part-time and two full-time brewers, as well as Kleinfelter himself), they’ve revamped their brewing processes and have added some premium lines for barrel-aged, solera and sour brews.
In fact, he said, the brewery’s canning line “positions us really well, coming out of COVID, to achieve some strong growth and penetration into that market.”
They’re selling 12- and 16-ounce cans for their flagship and season beers. The flagship line, Kleinfelter said, includes the Chiques Creek IPA, the Belgian Cherry Wheat, the Helles Lager, the Tailgate Sipper session ale and Hemp Hemp Hooray.
They are also producing 750ml “bomber” bottles, which will be reserved only for premium beers such as the barrel-aged and solera stock.
“This isn’t just an ale or lager, this is something that takes three to six months to produce,” he explained. “It’s a fun project. People have new and interesting things to try all the time. … We’re always adding to our repertoire, our lineup. People are really enjoying that.”
Finding a second location
With canning underway, the owners of Mount Gretna Craft Brewery are moving ahead with phase two of their business plan, which means opening a second location elsewhere in Lebanon County.
“We’re currently on the Dauphin County side, so we’re looking for something on the other side of the county,” Kleinfelter said. “It will be more of a tasting room. We won’t be brewing there.”
Although no agreement has been made about a new location, Kleinfelter said they are looking at a few possible sites.
“Nothing is concrete yet,” he said, although he hopes to have a site secured and preparations underway by next spring at the latest.
Another brewery in the works
And then they want to open a third location, mirroring the original brewery but with a larger operation.
Although located on the eastern edge of Campbelltown (despite its Palmyra address), the original brewery attempts to evoke the atmosphere of Mount Gretna’s wooded environment.
“Part of our theme is, we’re outdoor enthusiasts,” Kleinfelter explained. “We’re all about the outdoors – as is Mount Gretna.”
To that end, the third phase of their expansion plan involves opening a new brewery and restaurant with two or three acres, “a larger outdoor area, with an outdoor stage and amphitheater for concerts.”
It will also afford them the space for a bigger brewing and canning operation, which will increase the scope of their distribution efforts, he said.
“The brewery at the original location will be for specialty and one-off beers,” Kleinfelter said. “The new location will be for flagship beers and the canning operation.”
The third location also might range further afield, he said – they’re looking for suitable suites in Lebanon, Dauphin and Lancaster counties.
“It’s exciting,” Kleinfelter said. “We’re branching into new territories.”
Meanwhile, Lebanon County residents with a thirst for a local Gretna brew can visit the brewery itself or find their beers at local establishments such as the Gin Mill, the Union Beer House and Cumberland Beverage in Lebanon and Brass Rail Beverage in Campbelltown.
Further afield, their cans are available at Breski Beverage in Harrisburg and Route 15 Beverage Express in York, as well as some local wineries.
“We are working on several more that should be up and running in the next month or so,” Kleinfelter said, noting updates to availability will be posted on their Facebook page.
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