BELLEFONTE— Licensing applications, rezoning requests and renovations are under way for a proposed new brewery on Axemann Road in Bellefonte.
Axemann Brewery is owned by Rodney Stahl, of Boalsburg, and will occupy over 20,000-square-feet of the former Cerro Metal Plant. Now called Titan Park, the site is owned by Navitus LLC, a corporate partnership between Shaner Capital and G.M. McCrossin, Inc. Currently zoned for heavy industrial use and housing several manufacturing tenants, site manager Joe Leahey hopes that a proposed designation of highway mixed use zoning will allow the brewery to serve as an anchor in revitalizing the site.
“The newer designation will allow manufacturing, but will also allow things like this microbrewery, and potentially things like coffee roasters, restaurants and office spaces,” Leahey said.
Stahl has been home brewing as a hobby for many years.
“I’ve always had the idea that if the right opportunity and situation came along, I wouldn’t mind doing this more commercially,” he said. “So I kept my eyes and ears open and looked around occasionally.”
Reasonable rent in an idyllic setting along the Logan Branch stream and a change to Pennsylvania laws seemed to offer just the opportunity and situation he was seeking. Now Stahl is going through the application process to become licensed as a commercial brewer and is working with Hoffman Leakey Architects to design what will be the largest brewery in the county.
“My initial plan was just to do a production brewery, but that evolved as Pennsylvania laws changed,” he said. “A few years ago the law changed to allow breweries to serve open pints… So with that change, I realized it made a lot of sense to also have a taproom. My initial idea was to have a small taproom, but as we visited other breweries and saw the draw that they had, the taproom started getting bigger and bigger; it’s now going to be bigger than the production brewery.”
Although converting the old factory building will take a lot of work, Stahl feels it will be worth the effort.
“You could not build something like this today, with this stream-side presence. It’s a very high quality stream and the foundation wall of the building is the stream bank… So you’ve got a mix of this industrial feel in a very pure kind of environmental setting.”
Plans for the renovated space include a spacious indoor and outdoor seating area overlooking the stream, as well as an area for large games such as corn hole and shuffleboard. A second story will be used for private events and will feature an outdoor deck. The old factory windows will be moved from exterior walls to the area around the production floor, where patrons can watch and learn about the brewing process.
The taproom will also feature themes centering around the history of the building as the former site of Titan Metal, Cerro Metal, and Bolton Metal, as well as the significance of water in Bellefonte.
Stahl is currently looking for someone to take over ownership of a kitchen area so food would be available on site as well.
“I never really wanted anything to do with the restaurant business, but I realized we need to have food there, too,” he explained. “There is a mechanism that allows us to basically lease out some space for a kitchen to provide food on a take-out basis. It would be a separate ownership, not part of our liquor license. We would provide a place for their customers to eat, and they could also do catering and take-out.”
Stahl said Axemann Brewery’s flagship beer will be his own Blue Stripe brand of beer, which he described as “an easy-drinking pilsner, German Kolsch-style beer.” He plans to sell cans and kegs, and to serve open pints and growlers in the taproom, as well as Pennsylvania-produced wines and spirits. He is also considering becoming a contract brewer for brewers who need to produce more beer than their own facilities can handle.
Leahey said Axemann Brewery will bring something unique and beneficial to the area.
“With what Rod wants to do with the brewery and the location of the stream and the other potential tenants that could come in, this could really become more of a destination — a place where people might come to spend an entire Saturday or Sunday afternoon,” he said. “That’s something this area doesn’t have and could really benefit from having.”
Local officials also apparently see the potential benefits to revitalizing Titan Park in this way.
“(State Representative) Kerry Benninghoff, (State Senator) Jake Corman and the county commissioners have really been supporting us and have some things in the works that we are hopeful for… Spring Township has been so supportive and proactive. Everyone has been working together to try to make this a success,” Leahey said. “It’s like a win-win for everybody.”
If all goes smoothly, Axemann Brewery could open as early as September 1, Leahey said.