Building a Brewery: From Strip Malls to Historic Hospitals

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If you build it, they will come.

What can be said about a baseball field in a cornfield in Iowa can be echoed by breweries in any town across America.

Breweries tend to make their homes by any means necessary. Perhaps in this case, the saying should be if you brew it, they will come.

Some take the old bones of a once-was building and revitalize it. Some get innovative and make a new space all their own.


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Keeping history alive

Battlefield Brew Works

Located in an old Confederate hospital on the outskirts of the Gettysburg Battlefield, Battlefield Brew Works is one of my favorite brewery buildings.

You can feel the history from the moment you walk in the door. Inside, large wooden beams dominate the space, and with each step, the floor creaks out its age.

Whether you believe it or not, the barn is said to be extremely haunted. That just adds to the allure of this brewery and distillery.

Lancaster Brewing Co.

Lancaster Brewing Co. grew out of the Lancaster Malt Company, which was founded in 1995, and took up residence in the Edward McGovern Tobacco Warehouse, one of the more historic buildings in Lancaster.

LBC moved into the nearly-150-year-old building and customized it while still paying homage to the building’s historic past.

The building’s towering presence from the outside coupled with the interior’s wooden beams, brick, and other holdovers from the original build in the 1890s make it feel like a proper place to enjoy a beer.

Working with the locals

Zeroday Brewing Co.

Breweries are always collaborating. Whether it’s with other brewers or with local businesses.

Zeroday Brewing Co.’s search for a home led them to Midtown where they reimagined and revitalize the vacant space attached to Midtown Cinema to make the building a constant hub of Midtown activity.

Located at the rear of the Cinema, ZerØday has grown into its space and is a gathering point for neighbors and travelers alike.

The building wasn’t new for either business, however.

At one time, Midtown Cinema was a grocery store, and ZerØday’s location was a Rite Aid Blood Donation center.

The two businesses have collaborated on more than just a home, too. If you go to Midtown Cinema, you can hit up ZerØday before to grab a crowler to sip on during your film.

And ZerØday has hosted preparties, after-parties, and other events to help make coming to the cinema even more of an event.

It’s been a match made in movie watching and beer drinking heaven.

Revamping an unused building

GearHouse Brewing Co.

Something I always look forward to when visiting a new brewery is not only how they use the space but how they transform it to fit their needs.

GearHouse Brewing Co. in Chambersburg found its home in an old railroad building initially built in 1894. It was used to redirect trains on their way to their final destination.

Chef Josh Fidler Brings Talents to GearHouse Brewing Co.’s Kitchen

The six partners at GearHouse have updated the entire building but maintained its charm. You can still see old railroads as you arrive, and the large gears outside let you know where you are.

GearHouse’s brewhouse can be seen from the tasting room, which has three rooms that all have a different vibe to them. You can get the taproom feel and family space all in one location.

With a new expanded menu from Chef Josh Fidler and an ever-rotating lineup of craft beer from Dave Kozloski, GearHouse needs to be on your short list of breweries to check out.

Appalachian Brewing Co.

Appalachian Brewing Co. is Harrisburg brewing history.

ABC was the first brewery in Harrisburg post-Prohibition, and they have continued operations in their same building at 50 N. Cameron street for more than 20 years.

When they first acquired the building from the city in 1995, it was run-down, fire damaged, and in need of major repairs.

Before beer started to flow, the building was home to a number of different businesses.

ABC’s current lagering room is the oldest part of the building and dates back to 1890 when it was owned by the Harrisburg Passenger Railway Co. and Harrisburg Trolley Works.

Following that, the rest of the building was constructed in 1918 and was home to Auchenbauch Printing Co. and then later as an office for the Work Projects Administration in the 1940s.

During World War II, the building transitioned into creating and housing aircraft parts and was also a training facility for mechanics prepping for the war effort.

Luckily, ABC was able to keep that charm throughout the building by salvaging and restoring the original beams and bricks that give the brewery its character.

Making modern work

Mad Chef Brewing Co.

Not all breweries take over the remnants of a once-operational building. Some, like Mad Chef Craft Brewing, take the opportunity to go into a modern, clean-slate build-out for a fresh, blank canvas.

You can call them strip malls if you want to use common terms or trivialize it, but brewers are savvy and creative, so these taprooms still have charm and character.

Mad Chef’s brewery and taproom sit in a row of businesses just off of Route 72 in East Petersburg. While it’s not much to look at from the outside, once you get in the tasting room you’ll easily forget that you’re sitting next to a gym and a shoe store.

Al’s of Hampden and Pizza Boy Brewing Co.

Most local beer drinkers probably already know the story of Al’s of Hampden and Pizza Boy Brewing Co.

In case you don’t — the current building wasn’t the pizza shop-and-brewery’s original location — but they didn’t move far.

Their original space is just down the street in the little strip on the corner just before you would turn onto Wertzville Road (Valley Bistro has recently opened at the former pizza shop), and they still use the basement for their barrel-aged beers.

Al Kominski built the current building from the ground up, greatly expanding both customer seating and brewing operations.

Pizza Boy’s brewery is designed so that you can see all the brewing equipment from the brewhouse to the fermenters. You can even see the lines running from the service tanks directly to the taps.


This by means is no end all be all list of interesting brewery locations. These are simply some of my favorites because of how they made their space work for them.

Let me know your favorites!

Sara Bozich
Author: Sara Bozich

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