An Authentic Adams County Experience
By Karen Hendricks | Photography by Casey Martin
The Knouse family name is practically synonymous with farming. Since the 1960s, Knouses have worked six family farms scattered throughout Adams, Cumberland, and Franklin Counties; since 1984, they’ve operated the iconic Historic Round Barn & Farm Market on Cashtown Road. You don’t have to look far to find the family’s newest venture: Thirsty Farmer Brew Works is located across the road from the Round Barn. But for a family rooted in agriculture, Thirsty Farmer branches out in an exciting new direction.
“We married our family’s two passions together,” says Kevin Knouse, business manager at Thirsty Farmer. “Farming—and blending that with a love of craft beer. Thirsty Farmer is centered around agriculture and who we are.”
Kevin is one of six Knouse family members who serve as co-owners of the craft brewery and restaurant, located west of Gettysburg, near Chambersburg Road (Route 30 West). His partners, spanning two generations, include brother Kyle, father Brian, uncle Milton Knouse II, aunt Tonya White, and cousin Milton Knouse III.
Nestled into the family’s picturesque rolling farmland, Thirsty Farmer is a former storage building, renovated and expanded into a fresh new bar/restaurant with a nostalgic nod to the family’s agricultural ties woven into the décor. Two little red antique ride-on tractors from the ’50s overlook the space—they once belonged to brothers Brian and Milton.
The menu is straightforward, unpretentious, and wholesome. “We wanted to stick to what we know—smoking and pulling meats, keeping everything light and flavorful, being authentic to who we are. People can design their own meals—we bring a ‘build your own’ [BYO] concept to the menu,” Kevin says.
Guests first choose a vessel (flatbread, panini, quesadilla, brioche roll, or wrap), add a meat of their choice (pulled beef, chicken, ham, pork, or portabella mushroom), a specialty spread—many of which are sold across the street at the Round Barn—and then cheese and toppings. We tried two tasty options: a flatbread with pulled pork, apple honey BBQ sauce, mozzarella, pickled jalapeños, and Pink Lady apple slices, paired with a Vienna Lager; and a panini with pulled ham, pepper jack cheese, tomatoes and lettuce, plus a tangy roasted garlic mustard sauce, paired with a brown ale.
The menu also features small plates such as soft pretzels with toppings or loaded chips and salsa—Kevin recommended ours be topped with pulled beef, cheddar, and apple salsa, paired with an India Pale Ale (IPA). Other salsa options include pineapple or peach; desserts include delicious apple cider donuts.
Each of the six family partners plays a role in Thirsty Farmer—in addition to their “regular” jobs with the family farming business. For the elder Milton, that means he’s head brewer.
“What I tried to do is make beer that would appeal to almost everyone—from non-hoppy styles to the hoppy styles, from light to darker styles,” says Milton. “They’re all very drinkable with very low alcohol.”
Thirsty Farmer operates four taps; small-scale wheat beers with fruit flavors will rotate onto the chalkboard menu this summer. Customers can take their favorite brews home in growlers.
Large windows allow visitors a behind-the-scenes look at the brewery and its tanks, “to keep it authentic,” says Kevin. Also visible from Thirsty Farmer is the family’s one-acre plot of hops; it produced 330 pounds of pellets in nine varieties last year.
“You wouldn’t have beer without agriculture,” says Kevin. “People are sometimes too separated from farming and where their food comes from. Brewing requires farming and people who are connected to the land.”
Milton began experimenting with brewing about 25 years ago. The family agreed his craft beer concepts were ready for sampling at the Round Barn about five years ago. Thirsty Farmer’s brews were tailored to that feedback.
Meantime, Brian oversees the hard cider products, featuring Knouse apples—a blend of Gold Rush, Granny Smith, Gala, and Jonathan. The menu features a constant rotation of ciders. On the day we visited, the chalkboard listed three varieties: #1—a sweet, tart variety with oak chips; #2—a mildly-hopped cider; and #3—a tart, dry cider with a champagne finish.
The bar, constructed entirely of applewood from family orchards, was another of Brian’s roles. He also constructed every table in the restaurant, with assistance from Sherman Newberry of Newberry Millworks in Aspers. He proudly points to the various types of woods in each highly-polished table—oak, cherry, and apple.
That Family Feeling
What’s it like to work with his son and family? “Ninety-five percent of the time, it’s great,” Brian says with a smile. “We have an opportunity a lot of people don’t have.”
“The biggest thing we hear is that people like the atmosphere…a friendly, happy place to come,” says Kevin. “From the deck, you can see the orchards, the hops, farmland. Sometimes you’re going to see tractors, or truckloads of bins of apples. You’re on a working farm.”
Kevin, a fourth-generation farmer, has a set of twins at home—a boy and girl who are almost three. He already has hopes they’ll follow in his footsteps, into agriculture. “I have dreams they’ll fall in love with the business like I did.”
Thirsty Farmer Brew Works
290 Cashtown Road
Biglerville, PA 17307
Thirsty Farmer is one of 14 locations mapped out by Destination Gettysburg’s new Adams County Pour Tour, a culinary trail highlighting craft beverage makers of all types, from wineries to breweries, distilleries, and cideries.
For Kevin Knouse, who opened Thirsty Farmer in March, the tour’s May launch is “perfect timing. Everything they’re trying to promote is exactly what we’re doing here,” he says.
Tour stops are scattered throughout the entire county, highlighting the diversity in craft beverages made in Adams County—including apples produced on 20,000 acres.
The trail is designed to encourage residents and visitors alike to explore the Pour Tour via passports, available at each location. Visitors earn stamps by purchasing or tasting drinks; passports with five, 12, or 20 stamps are eligible for prizes.
Adams County Winery, Orrtanna
Adams County Winery’s Wine Shop at 25C, Gettysburg
Battlefield Brew Works/Spirits of Gettysburg, Gettysburg
Boyer Cellars, Biglerville
Brookmere Wine & Tasting Room, Abbottstown
Buddy Boy Winery & Vineyards—Tasting Room, Gettysburg
Center Square Brewing, Abbottstown
Halbrendt Vineyard & Winery, Orrtanna
Hauser Estate Winery, Biglerville
Knob Hall Winery—Tasting Room, Gettysburg
Mason Dixon Distillery, Gettysburg
Reid’s Winery: The Cider House, Gettysburg
Reid’s Winery: The Home Winery, Orrtanna
Thirsty Farmer Brew Works, Biglerville
For more information, visit www.AdamsCountyPourTour.com.