Brewer Interview: Rod Stahl (Axemann Brewery)

Brewer Interview: Rod Stahl (Axemann Brewery)

Axemann Brewery – a picture we took when we visited last fall (posted on our Instagram).

Sometime around last summer, last fall area, we had gotten an e-mail from Axemann Brewery about checking them out and doing some beer reviews. As with most things in the world – timing is just a crucial thing to everything. We didn’t get up to Bellefonte until later that year (December 10th), got to do a little hiking, check out Axemann, as well as a few other breweries in the area (Robin Hood Brewing – as well as hitting some breweries on the way back home to Hummelstown – Short Bus Brewing and Shy Bear).

Unfortunately it didn’t work out with us getting to do a sit-down with the brewers and owners of Axemann Brewery, but we were still able to conduct an interview over e-mail for everyone. We are definitely planning on coming back up to the Bellefonte area for some hiking and brews though. And that time we will make sure we get to do a sit-down with them.

The Battle of the Breweries (2022)

Also, if you’ve been living under a rock, or not really checking out our blog – you might not know it, but Axemann Brewery has reached the final four of the tournament. This was a 128 brewery tournament similar in vein to March Madness, that has condensed down into a final fatal fourway. (Because we don’t do anything normal on this blog.) Pitting Axemann Brewery up against Bunnyman Brewing, Gearhouse Brewing, and Von C Brewing.

You can go and vote here: The Battle of the Breweries (2022) – Finals Fatal Fourway.

The Interview

(For ease of interview and reading, after the initial question, I will be referring to ‘The Beer Thrillers’ / myself as ‘TBT’ and Rod Stahl as ‘RS’. This keeps the interview reading in line with how most online interviews are written out as per New York Times style, and makes the ease and flow a lot simpler.)


The Beer Thrillers: Who all is involved with Axemann Brewery?
Rod Stahl: I’m Rod Stahl, the founder and owner of Axemann along with my wife Dorothea who
helps to manage administrative processes including accounting and purchasing. Steve Hirlinger and I worked on the recipe for Blue Stripe, our flagship beer, for about six years before the brewery even opened, and he nailed it. Steve helped plan and design the brewhouse and continues to mastermind brewing formulas. Joe Jaglowski and Jeff Brungard are also instrumental members of the brewing crew. Joe has been managing the production operations and inventory since we opened. Cristina Barnes manages the marketing department for Stahl Sheaffer Engineering, of which I am a co-owner, and she began assisting with labels and marketing materials years before the brewery opened. She continues to lead marketing efforts for Axemann. Mike (Mo) Olmstead is our General Manager. He has more than 15 years of experience managing bars, and he has done a great job with hiring and training staff, setting up and running the taproom, and coordinating events.


TBT: How did it all come to be? How did you decide on the name ‘Axemann Brewery’?
RS: People seemed enthusiastic about the beer when we were home brewing, and we started taking it to festivals. I had a dream of opening a production brewery mainly for distribution with a small tasting room, but somehow it evolved into a 27,000 square-foot multi-level space. We decided to name it Axemann Brewery because we are on Axemann Road, which in turn derived its name from the Mann Axe dynasty that originated near here. If you visit the taproom, you’ll see original Mann axes repurposed as handles on our front doors. (You can see them in the picture we took that is at the top of the article, from our Instagram.)


TBT: In that same vein, why was the area (Bellefonte) chosen for the brewery? How did you pick
out the brewery location?
RS: It was a long search, but when I looked at this facility, I realized it was a great location. It’s bigger than I anticipated, but very cost effective. The historical features of the building with the streamside location and an active railroad made it possible to create a unique experience in this region. We loved the industrial feel of the building and maintained and repurposed many of the fixtures, including the original doors from the lockers of the Cerro Metal Factory employees. We wanted people who spent their careers working here to come in and recognize pieces of their personal or family history. Plus, Bellefonte is undergoing a renaissance, with more planned development along with a distillery, cideries, and our brewery. It’s a great destination. And our location gives us access to the phenomenal natural spring water of Big Spring!


TBT: What are your favorite brewing styles? Your favorite beers to make? Your favorite
Axemann Brew?
RS: I’m really proud of our German beers that are authentic to the style. My favorite is Blue Stripe, and like I mentioned, our head brewer did a great job – people who are familiar with the kolsch style often comment that it’s one of the best.


TBT: How did you get into brewing? What are some of your non – brewing hobbies?
RS: I lived in Harrisburg in the mid 1990’s, and a colleague in the engineering industry there
introduced me to brewing. Since then, I continued home brewing for many years with a dream of one day opening a brewery. Gradually it became a more realistic goal. Running and mountain biking are pretty serious hobbies, and I enjoy the physical part of keeping Axemann running, like building tables, assisting with brewing and canning, and addressing all of the issues that come up when you run a business in an old industrial building.


TBT: What from your past experiences has most prepared you for the brewery and brewing life?
What do you recommend for other brewers / home brewers or people looking to get into
brewing, or running/starting a brewery?
RS: Having an engineering degree and co-owning Stahl Sheaffer Engineering definitely helped me prepare for setting up the brewery and running this business. All of the years I’ve spent sampling and enjoying different brewing styles and craft beers didn’t hurt either! My wife and I have traveled to the west coast and other parts of the US and different countries in Europe. Finding brewpubs and trying the local beers is always a priority.


TBT: How was the opening of Axemann Brewing? How did things go at the beginning? How was
everything throughout the pandemic and COVID-19? How did you handle things in the
brewhouse and in the sense of upfront (financials, marketing, etc)?
RS: After more than a year of construction and several years of brainstorming and planning,
we were finally set to open in April 2020, so the timing of the pandemic was particularly bad. However, we were able to start packaging beer to meet the increased demand of distribution for people who had nowhere to go to buy beer on tap. So the production side of the business carried the weight until we officially opened the taproom in July of 2020. Of course capacity was limited, but we used that as an opportunity to really nail down our systems and serving processes. Given that our space is so large – we can accommodate over 500 guests – we were able to provide more than the required social distancing and ensure that our guests had the best possible experience. And we have garage doors along the stream side of the building that we opened up as much as possible to maintain a circulation of fresh air. The brewhouse maintained operations with a limited number of employees who were able to work apart from each other due to the large space.


TBT: Where do you see Axemann Brewing going in 2022? What is a 5 year goal for Axemann
Brewing and a 10 year goal for Axemann Brewing?
RS: We are currently looking at opportunities for one of more satellite locations within Pennsylvania. Within 5 to 10 years, we hope to have an expanded distribution footprint throughout the Mid Atlantic states. We currently have several different distribution agreements that cover approximately 40 counties in PA. We are also making changes and constantly updating our craft beer selections in the Taproom to grow our reputation as a destination brewery.


TBT: What are some of your favorite breweries? To visit? To drink? What are some of your
favorite styles to drink? Favorite beers to drink?
RS: Besides Axemann? Troeg’s and Appalachian Brewing Company are favorites. I also really enjoyed the Santa Fe Brewing Co when I was in New Mexico last year. As I mentioned I prefer the authentic German styles. I really like a lot of the Founders beers as well as Oskar Blues and Harpoon.

TBT: What are some trends you foresee on the horizon for craft brewing? What would you PREFER
or RATHER see become more popular – as far as styles go, or brewing processes, etc?
RS: I see brewing trends going back to traditional and authentic styles but with a craft quality in regard to the hops and grains versus mass production. That is a strong focus of ours, and it is noticed by our beer aficionados, whether an IPA, pale ale, German sour, or kolsch.


TBT: What breweries have you done collaborations with? And would like to do collaborations
with in the future?
RS: We haven’t done a beer collaboration yet, but we have discussed potential collaborations and look forward to it. We are currently brewing a barrel-aged series with a local spirits distillery.


TBT: Do you think there is such a thing as a ‘craft beer/brewery bubble’? Do you see more
breweries opening in the future or more breweries closing up? What are some things you’d
like to see breweries in your area do, or Pennsylvania in general?
RS: The number of new breweries is still high but growing at a slower rate.


TBT: And lastly – is there anything else you’d like to talk about or mention? Any pictures or
promotional material you’d like to include? Any upcoming events or brewery activities or
beer releases you’d like to talk about?
RS: We currently host a cornhole league, open mic nights, and a weekly trivia night as well as special events to raise funds for non profits. We are planning for more outdoor activities, and more events. Our taproom features a game area with shuffleboard and giant jenga as well as cornhole. We release small batch brews periodically (Bierfass Friday), and assess how they are received to potentially add them to our regular lineup. We will be having our third annual Oktoberfest this year. Watch for details!


The Wrap – Up

I would like to thank Rod Stahl very much for taking the time to answer our questions and to do this interview with us. As well as Christina Barnes for reaching out to us in the first place. We greatly enjoyed our visit last December, and can’t wait to come up and get to hang with you guys and drink some beers.


For those who haven’t been to Axemann Brewery, it is a fantastic brewery and facility. You can find it in Bellefonte, PA at this location:


Be sure to follow Axemann Brewery on all of their various social media platforms and stay informed:

Axemann Brewery’s canned beers

More Interviews

For more interviews, click here (more will be forthcoming too!) :


Thanks For Reading

Thanks for reading everyone. We always greatly appreciate everyone taking their time to check out the blog. Hopefully you enjoyed the interview. It was great getting Rod to answer our questions! If you can think of any breweries (or are a brewer yourself) that we should interview next, let us know in the comments!

Also, make sure you don’t forget to vote in the Brewery Battle, which ends on Good Friday (April 15th, 2022) at 11:59PM EST. You can vote by clicking here: The Battle of the Breweries (2022) – Finals Fatal Fourway.

As always, thanks for reading and happy drinking!


Cheers Everyone!

-B. Kline

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