Harrisburg brewery launches German collaboration

As Harrisburg-based Millworks plots an expansion to Cumberland County, the company’s brewmaster, Jeff Musselman, has been busy cooking up beer recipes with an international partner.

The Midtown Harrisburg brewery, which hopes to open a tasting room on Market Street in Camp Hill, will release a special pilsner beer on Friday.

It was brewed in collaboration with Keesmann Brewery, which is based in Bamberg, Germany. 

The breweries struck up a relationship through an old college connection. Millworks owner Josh Kesler, who was a German language major at Lebanon Valley College, was introduced by a college classmate to Keesmann‘s owner, Stefan Keesmann.

“At first we did a lot of Skyping — Stefan would speak German to me, and I’d speak English back,” Kesler said.

Over the Memorial Day weekend, Keesmann and his son, Lukas, visited Millworks to talk about beer recipes and how the two parties could work together. Lukas stayed in Harrisburg for several weeks after to learn about the Millworks.

Like the Millworks, Keesmann features a restaurant. The owners have talked about possible food pairings and having their respective brewmasters and chefs travel overseas for special releases.

For example, the chef at the Millworks could whip up an American-style barbecue in Germany to pair with a Keesmann-brewed beer. Next year, Keesmann’s chef could come to the U.S. to design a meal.

“I think there is a lot of potential here,” said Musselman, who is visiting the 150-year-old German brewery later this month to flesh out a plan for the Oktoberfest-style beer.

The goal, he said, is to create the recipe in Germany and then come back to Harrisburg to brew it. Both breweries would focus on making these collaboration beers for local audiences in their respective restaurants, rather than trying to package and export.

For a brewery that typically offers around 15 different kinds of beer, Musselman said collaborations can help the Millworks expand its reach. Both companies stand to benefit from a marketing perspective because the special releases could expose their brands to new audiences.

“I’m hoping this turns into a longer-term relationship,” Musselman said. “It could be fun to do a different style each time.”

Collaborations are not new in the craft beer industry. Regional breweries often get together to brew small-batch beers for annual events. As the number of breweries continues to grow, startup breweries also look to get their name out by partnering on special beers with more established brands.

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