Gunpowder Falls Brewing

Martin Virga, of Phoenix, brewmaster at his new Gunpowder Falls Brewing company, shows off the two beers he is currently producing, a dunkel and a pilsner. The beers are being distributed in bars and liquor stores in the Baltimore metro area. (Staff photo by Brian Krista, Patuxent Publishing / November 27, 2012)

Martin Virga is a typical sleep-deprived new father. He checks his progeny early each morning before heading to work and spends each evening with them, sometimes not falling into bed until long after midnight.

Virga, 46, of Phoenix, is the proud papa of two German-style lagers he creates at Gunpowder Falls Brewing, a new brewery he opened last month in New Freedom, Pa.

The brewery has a tasting room where visitors can sip two beers — a soft yellow Pils and a pale brown Dunkel. The beers are made in a cavernous warehouse behind the tasting room.

"I'm brewing beer the way they used to centuries ago," Virga said. "I use four ingredients — water, yeast, hops and malted barley."

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Although the Dunkel is a dark beer, it is not heavy, he said, and actually has a softer taste than the Pilsner.

He achieves the delicate flavors that make each beer unique by using different varieties of malted barley and hops.

Once these two beers are established, Virga hopes to introduce new varieties as well.

After Virga and his assistant brew master, Daniel Williams, 20, also of Phoenix, combine those four ingredients, it takes four weeks until the beer is ready to be bottled.

They brew once a week, so each of the four stainless steel fermentation tanks contains beer in a different stage of completion.

"This is a very fun job," Williams said. "It's a cool process to see and we do it all by hand. This place always smells so good."

Virga, Williams and some part-time employees also sanitize brown beer bottles, label them, fill them and package them for delivery.

Gunpowder Falls beer is already pouring into liquor stores, bars and restaurants in Baltimore County and city.

Although the beers are brand new to the market, they are doing well, said Robert Yorke, with Legends Limited, a Maryland distributor.

"Most every place that has tried it has re-bought it," he said.

In North County, Gunpowder Falls beer can be found at Troyer's Liquors in Hereford. The beer is also in Woodberry Kitchen in Baltimore, Max's on Broadway in Fells Point and Racers Café in Parkville, as well as Wine Source in Hampden, Wells Liquors in Baltimore, Wine Merchant in Lutherville and Calvert Liquors in Hunt Valley.

"Gunpowder Falls beer has been selling very well," said Steve Judge, who runs the craft and imported beer department at Calvert Liquors. "He's the only guy around who is doing old-style German beers."

Thomas Stumpp, a friend of Virga's who is a native of Germany and visits Baltimore several times a year, said he has tried both beers and was impressed. He saw the brewery under construction and tasted Gunpowder Falls beer when the tasting room opened.

"The Pilsner was my favorite," he said. "It's very authentic German style."

Life-changing trip

Virga grew up in Palm Springs and said a family trip that included a tour of the Olympia Brewery in Washington changed his life.