Another new brewery has opened up in the Central Pennsylvania area that you should check out the next time you’re in the Lancaster area. If you can’t tell by the brewery name, the place takes their food just as seriously as their beer. Everything is artisanal and hand crafted. Introducing Mad Chef Craft Brewing located at 2023 Miller Rd, East Petersburg, PA 17520.
But before I dig in, I think it’s important for you to get to know co-owners. Greg Kendig (left) is both Business Manager and Assistant Brewer while Francisco Ramirez (right) is Head Chef and Brewmaster. I had the opportunity to interview these talented guys during my visit.
As you were in the process of making your brewery dreams come true, did you get any help or insight from other area breweries?
Greg: I’m related to the owners of JoBoy’s Brewpub in Lititz, PA. Maria Jo Harless is my cousin. Her and her husband, Jeff Boy Harless, were very helpful in providing insights and advice along the way. I did all the brewery equipment setup myself so it was nice to have folks in the area to ask questions. St. Boniface Brewing Co. was also helpful in providing knowledge about brewing techniques and efficiencies as well as sharing some of their yeast strains. My friends at Columbia Kettle Works and ZeroDay Brewing Co. both provided advice on the brewery licensing process as well as other business tips. I love how the local craft beer community here in Central PA bands together and helps each other out.
What craft beers in the industry inspire you?
Francisco: I make it a point to explore not only PA beers but also brews from across the country that I can get locally. We have great taprooms and bottle shops like The Fridge and Hunger & Thirst that get a great selection of unique bottles and drafts. Ballast Point Brewing Co. makes some lovely beers that have a tremendous flavor profile: Habenero Sculpin, Grapefruit Sculpin, Calm Before the Storm and Indra Kunindra which has lots of depth and spice complexity. That one was a real standout for me with the intense curry and cayenne notes. I think because I’m a trained Chef and food lover the layers of flavor really connected with me.
When did you get started in brewing?
Francisco: I started about eight years ago and devoured as much knowledge as possible along the way. I used to drive to Philly for work, so I passed the time by listening to podcast after podcast about brewing. I read as many books as I could get my hands on as well as watching how-to videos that gave me insight on refining my skills.
What type of beers are you producing here at Mad Chef?
Francisco: The goal really is to brew beers that are balanced and compliment the food we are serving. We get a lot of folks stopping by that are new to the craft beer scene and that’s the perfect opportunity to educate them on the styles and offering suggestions on what they might like. We always have a variety of beers on tap that are in constant rotation so there’s something new to explore each time you visit. I like to take a traditional style, for example a stout or red ale, and put a twist on it. Just recently, we did an oatmeal stout that was aged on French Red Oak chips soaked in Myers Rum.
Greg: We aim to produce clean beers that are very drinkable. We’re not going for palette wreckers here. We want the beer to be flavorful and work with the food served from our kitchen. The beer should never over power the dish.
What is your future plan for Mad Chef Craft Brewing?
Francisco: Of course, distribution. But that’s not going to happen immediately. Right now we’re focused on creating perfect beers for our current location. In the future, we hope to open a second brewing location that can meet the big demand that distribution brings. Beyond that, I would love to see a Mad Chef in Puerto Rico where I’m from!
What advice would you give to brewery startups?
Greg: Make friends with as many brewers as possible. Ask them lots of questions. Do your research to understand permitting laws and processes. Consider hiring someone to help with the equipment installation. Oh! And, set aside twice the amount of money than you think it’ll take to start a brewery.
I had a chance to sample a few Mad Chef brews. One being the oatmeal stout mentioned above that was aged on French Oak chips soaked in rum. It’s called Black Beerd Oats. The brew has a slight smokey and light boozey nose while the mouthfeel is smooth and creamy. Coffee and caramel flavors are present.
F18 IPA, which is becoming their best seller, is a malt-forward India pale ale that doesn’t hit you in the face with bitter hops. It’s red in color and has notes of raisin, caramel, pine and grass. It reminds me of Midwest style IPAs that are sweeter and easy drinkers.
Next up was the Shed Saison which was light amber in color. It was more malt-forward than I expected. Instead of the typical Belgian saison that has big banana or bubble gum flavors, I detected notes of caramel, lemon, apple cider, smoke and a hint of peach. It’s a saison with a twist.
I would totally pair this with the Chicken & Waffles dish on the menu.
Since my visit was prior to opening, I didn’t get a chance to try the food, but from the delicious aromas coming from the kitchen as they were prepping food, I am definitely making it a point to come back to try EVERYTHING! The staff was busy slicing meat for the variety of sandwiches on the menu like the Cuban that features slow roasted pork loin, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard. All of the bread served comes in fresh daily from a bakery in Philly. You could smell fresh garlic and caramelized onions being sauteed. My mouth seriously was watering.
Several dishes on the menu incorporate their fresh brewed beer. For instance, the house made hummus and sauerkraut has the F18 IPA mixed in. Even the seasoning for the hand cut pommes frites has hops added to it. Neat!
When you visit, be sure to ask the server what beer will pair nicely with your food selection. Or visa versa. The staff is educated daily on what the food tastes like, what the beer tastes like and how to make recommendations to their customers. I always appreciate well-informed staff! It can make all the difference during your dining experience.
A nice mix of industrial and natural elements, the space is a beautiful display of modern cozy. The floors are stained and polished concrete. The high ceilings make the space feel open and airy. The lights above the bar are old-fashioned reproductions that give off a soft glow and adds lots of character.
There are a variety of seating options from high top tables that use reclaimed wood to traditional tables with the same wood top to bellying up to the bar that’s topped with a sheet of copper. The wall of windows lets in lots of natural light through the space. The kitchen and brewery are both open to the dining room so you can see all the action while you enjoy your food and brew.
Monday 4PM – 10PM
Tuesday – Closed
Wednesday 4PM – 10PM
Thursday 4PM – 10PM
Friday 12PM – 10PM
Saturday 12PM – 10PM
Sunday 12PM – 10PM
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