Brewery Industry Roundup for August

A brief examination of several industry topics from TTB violations, aluminum shortages, industry stats and new breweries in Maryland .

Welcome friends, it has been a while and there is much to catch up on.

Ab-Inbev- at it again

Starting with the elephant that is always in the room, Ab-InBev (AB) has committed yet another TTB violation of tied-house regulations. The breakdown of offenses establishes a pretty clear pattern. In exchange for the regular purchase of a determined quantity of Ab-InBev products by a sports venue, to the exclusion of competitor’s products, lucrative sponsorship agreements would remain in place for the participating venue. In case you wondered- yes this is illegal.

Additionally, they violated tied-house regulations when AB employees enforced a verbal agreement for Concessionaires to grant favorable placement to AB products, to the exclusion of competitor’s products in exchange for fixtures, equipment, service, etc. Yet again this is illegal.

They were in violation for paying retailers for samplings that never took place- yes this was in effect a bribe for favorable product placement. You guessed it- this is illegal. This list does go on, but for the sake of brevity that is probably enough to understand the process.

Conveniently these things were not written down, but these verbal agreements were clearly understood and provided TTB with enough evidence to force their hand.

Marc Sorini of the Brewer’s Association of America offered a nice write up of the resulting Offer in Compromise (OIC) and its potential impact. The $5 million settlement is small potatoes for AB, but historic for the TTB.  This did not come as a shock to most craft brewers however, as they knew this game was afoot for quite some time, the trouble was proving it. The OIC did not require AB to admit fault, just pay the fine.

There is still possible redress for states and craft breweries impacted by the alleged violations. We will have to wait and see what, if anything transpires from this. AB did promise to work diligently on training employees not to engage in these sorts of practices in the future… Echoes of past promises continue to hang in the air.

The Can Can

There is another front that leaves American craft breweries in a bit of a pickle in 2020- aluminum. Most may remember the debate in the not-too-distant past as to whether bottles or cans were better. Well if you didn’t know- cans won! No surprise, but alas it has created another issue- demand. According to S&P Global Platt, aluminum demand was on the decline before COVID. Since the pandemic, we have seen a marked increase in aluminum demand specifically for beverages. Craft beer can demand has risen 6.7 % this year, most likely a result of required off-premise consumption. Coupled with a lack of recycling due to COVID concerns, the problem has been compounded as 74% of aluminum cans are made from recycled aluminum cans.[i]   Fortunately, we are witnessing a return to recycling, but perhaps not quickly enough.

Earlier this month, Kate Bernot wrote an article in Good Beer Hunting noting the rise in canned wines, and the much maligned and ubiquitous “seltzers” were major contributory factors in the can shortage for breweries.[ii] Whether recycling or seltzer, the issue remains the same- there is a shortage. The law of supply and demand has been pretty clear on this, a shortage equates to a rise in the price of the material. This places breweries squarely between Scylla and Charybdis while in the midst of a pandemic.

One response is it to absorb the increased cost of aluminum in the short term, as production has increased with the easing of COVID restrictions. This is not entirely viable given the difficult financial circumstances most breweries face during this tenuous economic time. Another solution is to pass along the increased cost to the consumer. This is equally troublesome as it may become a test of loyalty for some consumers while pricing out others, resulting in a loss of business. Blaming AB for flooding the market with seltzer still remains an option however, but offers no true plan for overcoming this challenge.  For some breweries it is no longer a matter of passing on cost, but a question of actually receiving cans in the first place- regardless of cost. Time will provide greater insight into this most vexing debacle.

Collaborations

Collaborations are king (or Queen depending on your preference) and 2020 has been a banner year for them despite social distancing. The annual Pink Boots collaboration in March fell on International Women’s Day. Myriad breweries with either female owners or employees hosted the collaborations. This year’s theme was an homage to the suffragettes that valiantly and successfully championed women’s right to vote. The 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment requires a centennial celebration of great magnitude, and the end result of this year’s Pink Boots collaboration (with a proprietary Pink Boots bend of hops) was definitely worthy of the occasion.

Brew for BAM was the most recent Maryland wide collaboration. Proceeds from the malty creations will help fund the Association that supports the legislative priorities and hosts events for the breweries. Due to the pandemic they have lost a primary source of revenue generated through the (several) annual events BAM hosts. Each brewery that participated let inspiration take flight, resulting in a wide and wonderful variety of brews, with a few true surprises!

Another nationwide collaboration began at Weathered Souls Brewing in San Antonio, the Black is Beautiful stout. 17 Maryland breweries partook of this unifying collaboration, each adding their own signature flair to the stout. If you haven’t had a chance to yet sample one of these delights- make it a priority!

Look for more historical collaborations coming from yours truly and Judy Neff at Checkerspot Brewing. Next up- an appropriately historic porter!

Judy Neff and Maureen O’Prey

New Breweries

Maryland breweries are growing and navigating their own course in these uncharted waters. This summer we welcomed the opening of a few new Maryland breweries.

Hopkins Farm Brewery in Harford County opened in July. If you are not familiar, Aaron Hopkins is also the genius behind (the on-site) Chesapeake Malting at Hopkins Farm. They are one of three local malting operations in the Free State and responsible for contributing to many fantastic local brews. A self sufficient farm brew with some quite tasty offerings and plenty of outdoor seating to safely enjoy your brew.

Additionally, the much heralded Ten Eyck Brewery in Queenstown has finally opened its doors! Ten Eyck continued to build its brand while building its brewery through beautifully crafted collaborations with a handful of breweries in the state, including a lovely rye with Checkerspot Brewing. I personally cannot wait to walk through those doors for a Taildragger IPA.

The ladies of Ten Eyck breaking ground

Gateway Brewing in Salisbury, another Eastern Shore creation, is a nanobrewery that opened for tastings last month. Licensing for pint service is pending and anticipated soon.

Last but not least, Richard Carter has made progress on a zoning amendment to Build Rock Hall’s first microbrewery, Delmarva Craft. Updates will be forthcoming.

Statistics and more statistics

Growth is great and the market will shake out those that cannot create products of consistent quality. As I have always said there literally is a beer for every palate and Maryland breweries certainly meet the threshold for diversity of styles, flavors, and preferences.  So what is all the hullabaloo about the latest Brewer’s Association of America stats?

The 2019 figures came out by state and Maryland was in the middle- sort of:

33rd for number of breweries per capita (2.5 per 100,000 drinking age adults)

22nd for number of breweries

25nd for economic impact

49th for economic impact per capita

22nd for barrels produced per year

So, how do we unpack this? Well the number of breweries is pretty straight forward- we are a state with 112 breweries. Hard stop.

The number of breweries per capita means that 32 other states have more breweries per 100,000 legal drinking age adults than we do. Can we do better? Absolutely, but let’s keep in mind a little thing called size. Maryland is petite compared to the land mass of some of other our great United States. There are areas of the Free State that are extremely dense in population and some quite sparse. I am not adverse to a brewery on every corner, but is it feasible that a business model like this can survive? Probably not, just as having too many breweries in very rural areas would need to rely mainly upon distribution and tourist traffic to survive, which is difficult during COVID.

This brings us to the number of barrels produced per year- coming in solidly at 22nd. Factor this in with the last number and perhaps it will make a little more sense. Our breweries in Maryland are cranking! We may not have the per capita breweries, but the 112 breweries we do have are really out-producing many other states. Obviously this is fabulously encouraging.

Moving along to the sticky widget that is economic impact. We are smack dab in the middle of the country for economic impact at 25th. What does this mean? In a nutshell our breweries have a nearly $1 billion economic impact (954 million to be precise) on Maryland’s economy. The figure is derived from the total impact of beer brewed by craft brewers as it moves through the three-tier system.[iii] This includes jobs in breweries, jobs created at affiliated industries because of the breweries (distributors, bottle makers, can manufacturers, retail sales people, etc.), and sales of beer, food and merchandise sold in breweries and taprooms.  This number is quite impressive and a definitive and substantial increase from just a few years prior.

So how does this jibe with the economic impact per capita? Simple. This correlates directly to our placement in breweries per capita. We are almost dead last in this category. How can that be when our economic impact is clearly more substantial? If we have more breweries per capita, most likely we will have a greater economic impact per capita. For the number of drinking age adults, we could probably do better, but we already out-produce many states with the breweries that we do have.

Another correlation I think is relevant is the change to Maryland’s antiquated franchise and craft brewing laws that only went into effect last July, 2019. Give this number a chance to come up. It probably will based on increased taprooms sales and opportunities for our craft breweries one the pandemic is in our rearview mirror.

Do not forget where we are as far as economic impact on our state- we are faring much better than many of the states that lead us in per capita economic impact. This is not doom and gloom by any means, but a light shining brightly, strengthening in illumination with each passing year.

Here is a quick takeaway direct from the BA statisticians on how US craft breweries are situated:

Overall U.S. beer volume sales were down 2% in 2019, whereas craft brewer sales continued to grow at a rate of 4% by volume, reaching 13.6% of the U.S. beer market by volume. Craft production grew the most for taprooms. Retail dollar sales of craft increased 6%, up to $29.3 billion, and now account for more than 25% of the $116.0 billion U.S. beer market. The industry also provided more than 580,000 total jobs, with more than 160,000 jobs directly at breweries and brewpubs, including serving staff at brewpubs.[iv]

The bottom line is our craft breweries are consistently eating away at big beer’s market share (translation- AB-InBev). Perhaps that is what keeps AB execs up at night, and why they continue to see so many tied-house violations.

Just a thought!

Sláinte!


[i] Sara Baltic, “Of cars and cans: US aluminum and the pandemic” S&P Global Platt Insights (July 2, 2020) https://blogs.platts.com/2020/07/02/us-aluminum-demand-coronavirus-pandemic/

[ii] Kate Bernot, “Summer Crush — Aluminum Can Shortage Costs Stack Up as Breweries Likely to Suffer for Months” Good Beer Hunting Sightings, (Aug 4 2020)  https://www.goodbeerhunting.com/sightlines/8/4/aluminum-can-shortage-costs-stack-up-as-breweries-likely-to-suffer-for-months?fbclid=IwAR0QvABaNyxb349Ud3CkjuxO5x7rVz1q-6MN79J9tQaJ7_IM3GdNpwlXE28

[iii] Bart Watson, “National Economic Impact and Data” Brewers Association of America (2019) https://www.brewersassociation.org/statistics-and-data/economic-impact-data/

[iv]Bart Watson, “National Beer Sales & Production Data” Brewers Association of America, (2019) https://www.brewersassociation.org/statistics-and-data/national-beer-stats/

Be Like Acorn: Part 2

The update on our hero squirrel Acorn, and how he inspires and emulates our craft alcohol producers during this pandemic.

When I last took pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard as it is in the modern world, I shared the inspirational story of Acorn- a wee squirrel who overcame insurmountable odds to survive a harrowing injury. I equated it to our craft alcohol producers during this pandemic and their fight to come out the other side financially viable. An Acorn update was requested, and I am overjoyed to comply.

I am happy to report that although it was a bit touch and go at points since that posting, Acorn has improved tremendously and is on the mend from the worst aspects of his trauma. The featured Acorn image (above) was taken April 23rd, and if you look closely you will see not only the healing- but the faintest hint of a sweet smile. Make no mistake, he still has some healing to do before calling him 100%. For those of you wondering- yes medical experts have been consulted, and they are pleasantly surprised and equally inspired by this wee hero!

Inspired Squirrel Acorn, overcoming injury to thrive
Acorn on April 19th when things were not looking so good. Fortunately, it was just
another stage of healing.

Again, I will draw parallels to our craft alcohol industry in Maryland. It has been a rollercoaster, most notably when the first round of Federal SBA loans were dispersed and Maryland received less than 1% of those monies. Watching small business loans being handed out to publicly-traded multimillion dollar corporations was a slap in the face of our hardworking entrepreneurs. Some of these companies- Shake Shack and Ruth’s Chris to name two- returned the funds after gaining notoriety with a side of public shaming. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin stated that there will be a “clawing back” of the funds from those large companies that received monies intended to save small businesses. Round two of federal SBA funding is underway currently. We shall see how this turns out, and whether or not those promises will be kept.

The upside to all of this is the innovation and fight we continue to see from our Maryland small businesses- and yes I am pointing in large part to the craft alcohol manufacturers. I have watched companies completely overhaul their business plans to survive this pandemic. A prime example of this is Checkerspot Brewing Company. They just added a canning line and are now distributing to retail stores in the Baltimore region. This is a drastic shift from the taproom sales (and select bars/restaurants) centric plan they opened with nearly 2 years ago. They have also begun to sell masks alongside produce baskets, fabulous beer (canned and crowled) and delicious farm fresh cuisine.

Checkerspot Brewing Company’s new canning line.

As mentioned previously Biermi, the beer delivery app created by the brilliant True Respite team, has catapulted in popularity and use across Maryland and the nation. Over 120 breweries nationwide are using the app to deliver fresh local beer at a time when folks are prohibited or unable (or both) to leave their homes.

In Hagerstown Stone House Urban Winery has become a bit of a social distance tourist destination of sorts. How? Soda Pup- the curbside wine delivery dog! Place your order, indicate what car you will be arriving in, drive up to the winery (don’t exit your vehicle of course) and Soda Pup trots out with wine filled saddle bags to deliver your order. Genuis!

Soda Pup delivering wine and reminding folks to obey social distancing guidelines!

New releases along with collaborations are also still happening (with social distancing in place) between breweries, distilleries and wineries, continuing to temp our taste buds and delight our palates- leaving us yearning for what comes next. Virtual Happy Hours- many hosted by the Brewers Association of Maryland in coordination with the breweries have introduced us to these new brews in an intimate yet social distanced setting, setting a trend that should continue even after the pandemic fades. Hopefully- so many of these innovations we once believed unnecessary will stick around- they are pretty fantastic!

As difficult as times may be right now, remember to to draw on inspiration and keep fighting.

Be Like Acorn!

Sláinte

Be Like Acorn!

Strange times we find ourselves in this year- unprecedented in fact.  Coronavirus, COVID-19, global pandemic or whatever your personal choice of names, we have breached the unknown, and Lord knows we are all trying to survive and adjust.

For many, figuring out how to stay financially afloat is second only to remaining healthy and virus free. When a proliferation of businesses are closed and deemed non-essential it becomes a daunting task.

Meet Acorn- a mighty warrior squirrel that lives in my yard. Wee Acorn has had a rough go of it. A little over three weeks ago- yes back when things were somewhat normal comparatively- I came home from work to find a maple branch had snapped from our tree and landed on poor, unaware Acorn. Needless to say he was completely confused- dazed in fact, just sitting up on his hind legs trying to grasp what had happened. Not wanting to startle him, I observed him before attempting to whisk him off to the vet. He regained some semblance of himself in a few minutes and began searching the ground for food. I thought, “OK, maybe he isn’t as injured as he appears.”

I proceeded to cut up an apple and gently toss cubes in his direction. Initially, fear sent him hobbling straight up the tree before realizing delicious Honey Crisp awaited him (after my departure of course). I fretted over this poor quadruped, but was delighted to see him out and about six days later, eating scattered birdseed.

It was also the time I finally saw the left side of his head and face fully, and it was gut wrenching. He clearly had a fractured skull, missing ear, and wound on his back from where a jutting section of branch made contact. No I am not a vet but apparently I play one on the internet. It was unbelievable that he survived, and frankly I wasn’t sure he was long for this world.

A few days ago I caught sight of Acorn, much healed compared to my previous sightings. He was actively eating at a tree feeder. What was more interesting were the three squirrels Acorn shares a nest with readily giving him a wide berth so he could eat his fill. I was gobsmacked. What a pivotal moment. Each day since, I have witnessed his munching heartily at the feeder, regaining strength.

Acorn recovering day by day. March 28, 2020 M. O’Prey

Why am I sharing Acorn’s story? Because Marylanders need to be like Acorn- resilient against overwhelming odds!

We are all facing an uncertain future. This virus and its fallout present not only life threatening dangers, but the potential destruction of livelihoods, and financial security. That is really scary- particularly for business owners and for those they employ.

Many provisions, exceptions, and strategies have been put in place to try and help consumers and businesses survive this pandemic. Importantly, federal and state tax filing and payment deadlines have been extended. In Maryland, enforcement was suspended on taproom sales, distribution, delivery and carryout of craft alcohol for manufacturers, bars and restaurants.  Licenses of all types will not expires until 30 days after the state of emergency has lifted.

Loans, grants, and incentives were made available at the state level from the Department of Commerce. At the Federal level the $2 trillion stimulus package offered aid to businesses small and large in the form of forgivable loans, tax credits, deferrals, and other programs, along with a stipend for individual taxpayers.

This is a great start, but ultimately is it enough? As we have already witnessed- operationally things have to change for many businesses to survive. Innovation is the key and companies have responded.

Clothing manufacturers like Under Armour are making protective gear known as PPE Personal Protective Equipment. Distilleries like McClintock and Patapsco (and so many more) have converted to making much needed hand sanitizers to supply to hospitals and first responders.

Brandon O’Leary, co-founder of True Respite worked in concert with web developer Brian O’Connor to create biermi– a beer delivery app.

In only two weeks it is becoming a nationwide phenomenon and the go-to for breweries trying to stay alive long enough to come out the other side of social distancing. Beer tenders and your favorite brewery personnel are your smiling beer messengers- so tip well!

Your beloved pubs and restaurants, that might never have delivered are now offering curbside pickup and delivery of not only your favorite foods- but your favorite drinks. If it is a fully-loaded Bloody Mary you crave, it is just one click away.

This new era of marketing and remote service specialization has emerged and crafty, clever entrepreneurs are finding ways through this decidedly difficult time.

It is also up to us to help one another. Together we can find a way to the other side. Buy local, pick up or get delivery, and know that every dollar spent keeps a business open, staff employed, and families fed.

If you have a great idea- don’t sit on it- make it happen. If ever there was a time- it is now!

Defy the odds!

Be resilient!

Overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges…

Be like Acorn!

International Women’s Day

A little news on International Women’s day and the Year of the Woman!

It has been a while since the last post, but hopefully it was worth the wait. Today is International Women’s Day, and it seemed like the most appropriate time to share what is certainly going to be an auspicious Year of the Woman!

Suffragettes marching for support of the right to vote

2020 (August 18) recognizes the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, and the passage of the 19th Amendment leally granting women in the United States the right to vote.  In January, Denizens (a women –owned brewery) honored this milestone with a collaboration of women brewers in Maryland coming together to create a suffragette stout. This delicious chocolate stout honors those women that came before and fought for civil rights we enjoy today.  Many collaboration brews are ongoing among women in the brewing industry to create brews that celebrate the Year of the Woman.

Brewers Association of Maryland, Winter Warmer Showcase

FeBREWary brought the annual celebratory month for Maryland crafted beer, and the iconic Cupid’s Curse competition at the Winter Warmer showcase. What a tasty competition it was, on Valentine’s Day nonetheless, with chocolate and cherry creating a heavenly stir.  

FeBREWary also saw the third incarnation of the Baltimore Beer Babes Calendar photo shoot, where women from various sectors of the industry in Baltimore came together to raise money for Kennedy Krieger by making a calendar. This annual calendar was the brainchild of Mahaffey’s proprietress Alice Kistner. This year the event was hosted by Checkerspot Brewing Company owner Judy Neff. Calendars will be sold later this spring with many signing opportunities at Mahaffey’s and other locales, with all proceeds sent to Kennedy Krieger.

Now that March has settled in warmly, it was also time to delve deeply into the past for two historical beer recreations with Judy Neff at Checkerspot Brewing. The first is a 200 year old special occasion recipe from a very particular woman brewer named Mary, who thought poorly made beer was pernicious. March was the time of year to brew beer due to climate and conditions necessary. It was a labor of love patience, and arm strength. It will rest for two years before serving. After that, it remains an extremely high quality ale that can be stored for eight years! It’s just that good….

Next up is something that will be celebrated much sooner- on April 7- a legalization brew. This historical gem is a recreation of a beer crafted by an extremely talented Irish Brewer. This triple-hopped Baltimore original was consumed minutes after midnight by H.L. Mencken at the Rennert Hotel, when 3.2% beer was legal for the first time after 13 dry years of the failed experiment known as Prohibition.  Although the Women’s Christian Temperance Union led the charge toward Prohibition in the late 19th century, it was also women- many Maryland women- that helped lead us out.

A Crusader for Repeal

Release parties for both brews will of course be held at Checkerspot with much revelry and lots of historical tidbits to share!

Be sure to come on down to the Spot to check out these and many well-crafted brews!

It is International Women’s Day in Year of the Woman after all, and there is much to celebrate and enjoy, so stay tuned!

Ode to 2019 and welcome to a new decade of brewing in Maryland

A reflection on 2019, and a look forward to what is coming in 2020 for the brewing industry in Maryland.

2019 came in with a rush for the craft brewing scene in Maryland. Amid the plethora of new breweries, we welcomed favorable changes in legislation for craft alcohol manufacturers in Maryland and the nation. Sadly, we also witnessed the closure of local breweries and other beloved institutions that helped bring attention to industry in its nascent stage of revitalization.

2018 left us a bit shell shocked legislatively as the muckraking revealed the lopsided, antediluvian alcohol laws and the lengths the entrenched beneficiaries were willing to go to in order to hang on to their empires built upon the backs of craft alcohol manufacturers in Maryland. It was instructive and served as a platform for change in 2019. The close of the 2019 Maryland legislative session witnessed the passage of the Brewery Modernization Act and Beer Franchise Law reform. All in all this was a resounding victory and most craft breweries could breathe a sigh of relief, as profitability would not be nearly as restricted for most with an increase in taproom sales;  the elimination of the buy-back proviso; an increase in taproom hours;  and increases in both production and self-distribution limits among other favorable changes. Barriers to profitability had been lifted for most, and many brewers that were operating on thin margins could finally rejoice.

For others the joy was somewhat muted, particularly for older breweries stuck with a dunce of a distributor. Although franchise law reform enables breweries to terminate a relationship with a distributor in 45 days without cause for fair market value, the cost of extricating from those franchise contracts is often cost prohibitive, thus they remain in a bad “marriage” indefinitely. For those breweries a bad distributor is already hemorrhaging profits due to the lack of consistent and reliable deliveries, making a payout of “fair market value” a nonstarter. Overall however there was far more to celebrate than decry.

Patuxent Brewing Label

We witnessed the opening of long awaited breweries like Patuxent Brewing- Charles County’s 1st brewery, which opened this June. They are a welcome addition to a community that was incredibly thirsty for quality, locally produced brews.  This minority owned Southern Maryland brewery has certainly created a buzz and should be a planned stop for any beer traveler.

In Carroll County Brewery Fire opened to much acclaim from craft beer lovers and an extremely supportive chamber of commerce excited for the increase in beer and agro tourism. 1623 also settled on a location in Eldersburg at the Liberty Exchange, which will contribute to this swell of good beer in Carroll County.  

Montgomery County saw its share of new breweries with Elder Pine in Gaithersburg and Silver Branch in Silver Spring. These are two can’t miss breweries that could not be more different: Silver Branch for the truly authentic German beers they produce and Elder Pine for the locally-farmed ingredients in lesser known styles. Another Montgomery County staple- Denizens- expanded into Prince George’s County with their new Riverdale Park production brewery and taproom.

Pooles Island opened in Baltimore County, keeping it local and interesting. In addition to the standard fare one would expect they have host of surprises, including  Le Blanc Fort- a hybrid beer with Sauvignon Blanc resulting in a crisp, dry, delightful drink.

These were just a handful of the new members joining the 100+ Maryland breweries. 23 more are slated to open in 2020.

Unfortunately, 2019 observed upheaval in the industry as well. Rubber Soul, House Cat Brewing, and Barley and Hops all shuttered their doors this year. For some like House Cat- experimental yeasts led to their undoing, while others suffered from financial woes.  Smoketown Brewing in Brunswick was ripe for expansion into Frederick and took advantage of House Cat’s closure by moving into the facility next door to Attaboy and a stone’s throw from Idiom- an ideal location for beer tourists.

For those of us that have been around for a bit, we were left feeling bereft at the loss of Baltimore Beer Week. This annual institution started by Joe Gold, formerly of Heavy Seas Brewery, and Dominic Cantalupo together craft beer lovers to Baltimore for a decade, with engaging events that introduced novices and aficionados alike to the best Maryland had to offer in craft beer. It bolstered the industry at a time it when it was just starting to take off, when folks really weren’t envisioning Maryland as a craft beer destination. In fact, although hard to believe now, in 2008 many were still hesitant to embrace craft beer at all. My how times have changed, and oh how I will miss the beer history walks (and breakfast beers), the passports, and the awesome shirts among the numerous other things that made is so special. The impact of Baltimore Beer Week forever remains. Some of the traditions- including the homebrew extravaganza, the race at Max’s, and a host of other events have been resurrected. The legacy of BBW, and of Dom and Joe and what they created will live on.

The industry has also learned to be incredibly adaptable. Jailbreak in Laurel for example, changed their classification to better serve patrons by opening a kitchen, and serving wine and spirits. Many breweries have included other craft alcohol options in house to reach a wider audience, including Elk River in Cecil Waverly in Baltimore, and Silver Branch in Silver Spring.

Full Tilt opened their new facility in Govans, serving other local craft beers in addition to wine while transitioning production over from Peabody Heights. In recent weeks, they transitioned to both a brand new general manager; Marshall Lilly, and head brewer- Jordan McGraw, formerly of Hysteria in Columbia. They still serve wine, but with the new brewmaster upping their game, they will see quite a bit more demand.

The devastating floods in Ellicott City have taken their toll on the town, and upended plans for many businesses. One creative solution has emerged from the devastation- Ellicott Mills Brewing Company has been purchased by the Phoenix Emporium, providing a secure future for both in what have certainly been trying times for success.

2019 Heavy Seas Logo

Heavy Seas has rebranded to usher in the new decade and appeal to a larger demographic of craft beer drinkers. They have also introduced a host of new offerings to tempt and tantalize, including a hazy IPA that launches January 10th – Hydra’s Haze.

Ministry of Brewing

There is much  to look forward to look forward to in 2020. A slew of new brewery openings including Ten Eyck in Queenstown- a woman owned brewery and taproom ( made up of Veterans and First Responders); and Ministry of Brewing- a brewery in the historic St. Michael’s German Catholic Church in Fells Point… and that is just January!

Burnish Beer is slated to open in Salisbury with Randy Mills, former partner and brewmaster of RaR Brewing, at the helm.  Sapwood Cellars in Columbia is expanding with three new 20 bbl tanks in 2020 just to meet demand. The Wine Co-op at Union Collective will also open in 2020 leading to a trifecta of craft alcohol manufacturers in one location. More historical recipe recreations are on tap from yours truly in combination with the fabulous Judy Neff and team at Checkerspot.

There is of course much more to say, and a plethora of breweries to cover.

It was a great decade for brewing in Maryland and I can’t wait to see what happens in 2020!

Brewery Fire

The long awaited opening of Taneytown’s 1st brewery- Brewery Fire has finally arrived.

October 6, 2019

It finally happened! After many hurdles and bumps in the road and a few more yet to overcome, and one full year after winning the 2018 Carroll Biz Challenge, Jesse Johnson and Dave Palmer have opened Brewery Fire in Taneytown on September 27, 2019.

Brewery Fire is currently the third Carroll County brewery but not the last, with three others in planning- Flood Zone, 1623, and Pipe the Side. The Taneytown brewery is ideally situated off of Old Taneytown Road next to Thunderhead Bowl and within view of the roundabout taking advantage of the main thoroughfare and foot traffic. It is a great neighborhood for such a venture, and one that has been much welcomed by the town.

The men behind Brewery Fire certainly enjoy the support of the community. The local business owners understand what a draw the brewery can be in addition to the agro-tourism, the picturesque scenery, charming (real) bed and breakfasts, antique shops, restaurants and bakery I close proximity to the brewery. Local Business leaders understand and completely buy into the philosophy that a rising tide lifts all boats, and by that measure if one succeeds, they all benefit. This also happens to be Jesse and Dave’s philosophy, and they are laser focused on being a positive and most contributory part of Taneytown.  

Brewery Fire has incredible patronage from local residents (of all ages). If you were expecting to find a predominantly millennial crowd- think again.  There is a not a demographic (of legal drinking age) that Brewery Fire has missed in its appeal and the results are impressive- from the groups of senior citizens that are making this their regular go to place, to the discerning style-centric millennials, and of course those in the middling area between the two. The buzz extends well beyond Taneytown to Westminster, Baltimore, Annapolis, and Southern Maryland.

Kirk Seese Mural in the Bier Garden

The brewery is a vivid mix of industrial meets vintage- from Kirk Seese’ 1980’s themed mural (which of course includes The Princess Bride and Indiana Jones) in the bier garden,  and digital beer menu nestled above the taps of the bar. There of course is the taproom which adds to the ambience by adeptly mixing corrugated aluminum with beautifully carved wooden countertops created by Makers Woodshop (in nearby Woodstock), with Super Nintendo (yes you too can play), providing the fun and inviting atmosphere for everyone. Makers Woodshop is also going to use Brewery Fire as a place to showcase some of their work- a terrific partnership and a win for everyone!

Make no mistake-the beer is the main event. The “Executor” West Coast IPA exactly what it should be- they did not miss a thing. The Red Ale “Start Now” was named after a favorite and inspiring Comptroller of Maryland employee, and one that most in the industry knows well- Lou Berman. His years of experience is always an asset, and “Start Now” serves as a lovely and delicious reminder of that expertise. Even before Brewery Fire officially opened Jesse and Dave were working on collaborations with other Carroll County brewers from Pub Dog to 1623. More collaborations are coming because this is a united community of brewers aiding one another to realize their dreams, and all of Maryladn is benefitting

The Executor IPA

Dave and Jesse are still working on a few things to maximize the Brewery Fire experience, but they are finally open and the beer is sublime. Take a drive, enjoy the scenery, and be ready to bring a few crowlers home…because yes it is that good!

Cheers!

Under the Oak

What is in store for craft beer lovers at the new brewery breaking ground in Queen Anne’s County?

Sunday marked the official groundbreaking of a new brewery in Queen Anne’s County- Ten Eyck. The name is familial, drawn from founder and brewmaster Nicki Sener and her father, affectionately known as “Gangster Ten Eyck”. The Ten Eyck family emigrated from the Netherlands during the Colonial era and planted roots throughout what eventually became the United States of America.  Etymologically, it is derived from the Dutch and translated as ‘under the oak’ or ‘lives at the oak’. Charming most certainly, but not the most interesting aspect of this new brewery.

It is the women behind the brewery that provide the most intriguing story behind this venture- veterans and first responders. Nicki Sener is not only the founder but both a veteran and a first responder (law enforcement). Sharon Horgan and Shayne Sewell both served in the Air Force along with Michelle (Mo) and Jennifer Barrett. Jessica Hammond Graf coached women’s rugby at the Naval Academy, while she and her wife Yancy Hammond Graf both played for USA Women’s Rugby. What brought them together? Rugby and craft beer, and a common set of experiences.  It was actually Yancy that first delved into mash tun of homebrewing while playing rugby, and from that point forward it became an integral part of the group dynamic.  Although quite talented, Yancy has since passed the mash paddle off to Nicki, and for good reason,

 “It was easy to believe in the vision of Ten Eyck, because we enjoy the creativity that emanates from this woman.” Yancy Hammond Graf, speaking of founder Nicki Sener.

Nicki’s mash paddle.

If you hadn’t guessed by now, these women are close- they not only support one another, but perhaps more importantly build and invest in each other. They champion strengths while helping buttress the gaps. They are a united front, one that not only understands the magic of teamwork, but the essential role of allowing individual character to shine.

The brewery is situated on a patch of land ideally suited for local patrons and travelers. Ten Eyck is just off of Grange Hall Road and Rte. 213, within spitting distance of Route 50 (Blue Star Memorial Highway or Ocean Gateway- you choose.) The location also happens to be directly across from Chesapeake College and the nearest gas station. Between beach goers and the college crowd, foot traffic should not be a problem for Ten Eyck no matter the time of year.  The 4,244 sf facility will house a 10 bbl system from Oregon, with three 10 bbl bright tanks and a 20 bbl fermenter. Foeders are also in route. For those of you unfamiliar, they were created predominantly for wine although other craft creations from spirits to beer have incorporated these enormous wooden vats in the maturation process. The high liquid to wood ratio provides a perfect environment for the beer to develop, while imparting oak, vanilla, and other mellow characteristics into the alcohol without threat of acidification that is often a product of smaller barrel ageing. The vast height of the vessel allows for greater capacity with a smaller footprint than standard barrels. Lagers and stouts are ideal for Foeders, and if dedicated- can make a particularly sublime sour.

The taproom will have 12 taps of myriad styles. The goal is to offer a little bit of everything to the consumer from lagers, to IPA’s to sours. For the non-beer drinkers they are also crafting both soda and cider. There will not be a full kitchen, so food options include a picnic lunch, or available food trucks. Ten Eyck will have a full bier garden, complete with dog pools for your waggy-tailed quadruped, and perhaps a hitching post for your thoroughbred. They have literally thought of everything!

I have sampled Ten Eyck’s offerings before, but on a 94 degree day filled with bright sun I was curious how my opinion and my palate might be informed. I will begin with the one thing I rarely drink- cider. It was quite perfect for such a warm afternoon. The blueberries and blackberries were all locally grown and handpicked, lending themselves to a lingering and immensely refreshing mouthful of bright, full flavors that would have been lost in mass harvested berries, but were not overpowering.

The Blackberry Rye IPA offered a similar profile in that it was fully flavored, yet impressively balanced between the hop profile and the expected bite of the rye.  My favorite however was the Tail Dragger IPA. This little beauty was named after Hanna, who not surprisingly is a pilot who was gracious enough to actually wear a t-shirt with her plane imprinted upon it. This cunning craft was a merger of Galaxy and Citra hops, producing an IPA that brought forth every nuance of malt underneath the hop profile that was not at all overpowering, but brilliantly complex.

The brewery is slated to open no later than January 2020, although they are hoping for an October debut. This remarkable group of women are building something incredible together…..stay tuned and don’t forget to thank them for their service!

Prost!

Before the Banner

Thomas Peters was famous for his Baltimore brewery, now find out what a hero he was before the mash tun!

July 5, 2019

As an historian you never stop documenting the current, investigating the past, and learning more about those that came before.  Thomas Peters, as many of you have read, was an early brewer in the city of Baltimore. He opened his industrial brewery on the Jones Falls in 1784, just after his service in the Revolutionary war. What most don’t know is the extent of his service and his affiliation with George Washington. Details of Thomas Peters’ service in the Continental Army has come to light from his 4th great grandson, Wilmer “Pete” Barnes. Barnes, a 26 year Air Force Veteran carried on the family’s birthright of military service and commitment to our great nation. Pete was kind enough to share the details of his namesake’s heroic deeds.

Thomas Peters’ father William hailed from Liverpool, England, but Thomas was an American born and raised in Pennsylvania. He was a founding member of America’s very first military unit organized in defense of the colonies in 1774. After the first Continental Congress was held in Philadelphia, three members of the Committee of Correspondence along with twenty five concerned citizens which included Thomas Peters formed the Light Horse Cavalry of the City of Philadelphia to defend the colonies. This all-volunteer unit equipped at their own expense with horses, sabers, a carbine and two flintlock pistols with saddle holsters. The uniforms were those of the fox and hound hunting club that many of the founders claimed membership in. This much heralded unit is still in existence today, renamed the 1st Troop Philadelphia City Cavalry and stands as the oldest serving cavalry unit in the Republic. The flag of the regiment is the first to visually depict the thirteen colonies, represented by 13 stripes festooned along the top left of the flag.

Light Horse Cavalry of the City of Philadelphia Flag. Courtesy of Wilmer “Pete” Barnes, 4th Great Grandson of Thomas Peters. Frame hand constructed by “Pete”.

Thomas Peters’ service was nothing short of exemplary. He and his troop served as the rearguard escorting George Washington across the Delaware River in 1776. At the battle of Trenton on December 26, 1776 a Light Horse Cavalry detachment was responsible for capturing Hessians (the German mercenaries from Hesse hired by King George III as auxiliary troops during the American Revolution). This was critical to the American victory at Trenton.  Thomas Peters was also deployed with Colonel Joseph Reed, Adjutant General and his small team of Light Horse Cavalry members sent on a reconnaissance mission that successfully captured enemy dragoons and revealed the number of British soldiers Washington was to face in battle. Thus, knowing he was outnumbered Washington marched through the night to Princeton where he would launch a successful counterattack against the British with the Light Horse Troop at his side, routing three of Cornwallis’ regiments. Many military historians argue this was the turning point for the revolution.  It most certainly kept the Americans in the fight and the British on their heels. Peters’ war time service did not stop there however as he was subsequently appointed commissary general of prisoners in York, Pennsylvania.

That was merely the beginning of the story for Thomas Peters, as through his service he developed a fine kinship with the man whom he fought beside and would later become our first President, George Washington. After the conclusion of the war Peters set about opening his brewery in Baltimore. One of the most curios aspects of this endeavor was not only Peters building one of the largest, most expansive industrial breweries in the nation at the time, but his continued relations with George Washington. This is best captured in the various correspondence between them in the years following the conclusion of the war.  When Peters opened his brewery, he did not have his own malting operations- that would come with the initial expansion a year later. The concern for Peters was getting the proper barley supply for the purpose of malting. This is where General Washington came into the picture, along with a few other notable figures.

The planting of grain to aid recovery efforts after the destruction levelled upon the fields during the Revolutionary war was impressive, and an agricultural boom was in full swing. Not all of the seed sown was the best for planting in certain climates or suitable for malting, however. Washington relied upon Thomas Peters as brewer, and maltster with access to suitable barley seed, and harvested bushels. Peters also supplied vital technological aid to Washington, taking advantage of the latest inventions of the time aiding agricultural production. In one correspondence, Washington thanked Peters for the recommendation of an efficient barley cleaning machine that reduced the work of men. It is unclear which machine he was referring to, but most likely it was the grain cleaning machine of J. Savory.

Shortly after the war, great difficulty existed in finding barley that was not compromised with oats, or finding the right type of barley for malting and spring barley was scarce. Peters engaged with John Beale Bordley, the famous agriculturalist who specialized in growing hops and malting grains for his own brewing and distilling operations on Wye Island. This was one of his prime sources of barely. Bordley was integral to supplying the beer ration to Washington’s Continental Army along with many other goods during the war. Peters was also able to procure spring barley for the purposes of malting from George Washington’s Mount Vernon plantation by 1788, when seed and grain accessibility was more abundant. Washington also relied upon the grains to supply his own brewing and distilling operations at Mount Vernon.

Many of the letters detail the deep connections between the brewers in Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania- a network of allies working together once again for a common cause- good beer. Like so much of the past this is not unlike the brewers of today, the networks they developed amongst one another to aid in common cause and develop a lasting kinship.

Thomas Peters’ legacy is one of heroism and determination. His brewery would eventually change hands and become known as the Star Spangled Banner Brewery where Mary Pickersgill sewed the stars on the garrison flag that flew proudly over Fort McHenry during the British bombardment September 13- 14, 1814. Peters’ story also serves to illuminate the close relationships that developed among colonists and brewers in our nascent country. It truly was a small world, yet a very connected one in which a brewer, a president, and a farmer from diverse regions would consort for a common, noble cause and remain steadfast friends until death.

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Memorial Day

A little reminder of what is behind Memorial Day…

Today is Memorial Day. It is the day we remember United States service members who died serving our nation in combat.

For some it is a day of BBQ and gatherings, a long weekend, or just a wee respite from the daily ins and outs of life. For others it is a solemn day of remembrance and reflection, thinking upon those that gave all for their country so that we may enjoy that BBQ, long weekend, or friendly gathering.

I want to take a few minutes of your time to remember our fallen heroes, lest we forget why today is a national holiday. Arlington National Cemetery is a solemn place where many of our fallen are laid to rest, but not all. It is a place of great reverence, where John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Medgar Evers, Grace Hopper, Joe Louis Barrows , and my great uncle are interred. They served our nation with distinction, but many more were lost- in combat defending the freedoms we hold so dear… more than Arlington can hold.

Marine Cpl. Jennifer Marie Parcell of Bel Air Maryland died February 7, 2007 supporting combat operations in Al Anbar Province during Operation Iraqi Freedom. She was a Lioness.

Marine Capt. Jesse Melton III from Randallstown, Maryland perished September 9, 2008 in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. 

Army Staff Sgt. Daniel Rodriguez of Baltimore, Maryland died July 18, 2012 in Ghazni City, Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.

Army Spc. George Mitchell of Rawlings, Maryland died April 7, 2003 in Baghdad during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

These are merely a handful of the fallen heroes from our nation’s most recent conflicts. There are so many more from every corner of America dating back to the Revolutionary War and the founding of our great nation.

Today please honor those Americans that sacrificed everything for the rest of us to live the lives we choose. Freedom is not free, and we as Americans are free because of these fallen heroes. Never forget!

What am I doing today? I am attempting to take the Murph challenge. United States Navy Lt. Michael P. Murphy was a Navy Seal that lost his life June 28, 2005 behind enemy lines in Afghanistan. Gravely wounded, he exposed himself to enemy fire to send a distress signal to HQ in an attempt to save the lives of his Seal Team. Only 1 survived- Marcus Lutrell. He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart.

Navy Seal Lt. Michael Patrick Murphy

The Murph Challenge raises money for the Lt. Michael P. Murphy Memorial Scholarship Fund and involves: 1 mile run, 100 pull ups, 200 pushups, 300 squats, followed by a 1 mile run. My niece, a Marine and a graduate of the US Naval Academy Class of 2008, served three tours (1- Iraq, 2-Afghanistan) during combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. She is currently in her second trimester of pregnancy and has taken and successfully completed the Murph Challenge today. I am extremely humbled by her, and proud of her… and no where near her level of fitness. Therefore, I am not timing myself, and I may not make it through- but I am going to give it my best effort for all veterans and particularly those that have lost their lives. Hopefully by next year I too can be a factor in raising money for this worthy cause.

After I am done I will fully enjoy a local Maryland craft beer- probably Full Tilt- Memorial Pils. I bet you can guess why.

God bless our fallen heroes.

Fully Tilted- Finally!

It was Grand Opening Weekend at Full Tilt Brewing, and what a journey it has been to open these doors!

It has been a long time coming, and the day has finally arrived…the day Full Tilt Brewing celebrated the Grand Opening of their very own brewery. The journey has not been an easy one, in fact it would have dissuaded far less persistent souls. Persistent- a word that only just begins to describe Dan Baumiller and Nick Fertig, co-founders of Full Tilt Brewing.

Dan Baumiller and Nick Fertig, co-founders of Full Tilt Brewing

In 2012 the lifelong friends and homebrewers took the plunge into the industry and began contract brewing out of Peabody Heights. The two faced myriad challenges from scheduling difficulties to limits on yeast choices, and an inability to produce anything less than 75 bbl batches, effectively killing their opportunity to produce small batch and seasonal brews. The logical choice was to open their own brewery once they achieved name recognition to support it. This was a wise plan, particularly in a rapidly expanding craft brewing hub like Maryland.  Name recognition in Baltimore came not only from their regular lineup that included Baltimore Pale Ale, Hops the Cat IPA (affectionately named after Fertig’s cat Hops who has since passed on- and yes he has a dog named Barley) and a Memorial Pilsner honoring our nation’s veterans, but a genius endeavor that helped save an iconic Baltimore institution called Berger Cookie. The creation of the Berger Cookie Stout not only helped prevent Berger Cookie from closing its doors- it helped elevate the brand in Baltimore. It was finally time to open their own brewery.

Things would not transpire as planned however. A few false starts-including a potential Towson brewpub delayed their plans for a couple of years. As the saying goes, “good things come to those who wait.” Undeterred, Baumiller and Fertig forged ahead eventually settling on a simply delightful location in the Govans neighborhood of Baltimore on York Road at Bellona Ave in the nearly century old Accelerator Building. The exterior is inviting with massive glass bay doors that will open in summer weather.  The interior is well laid out, and the exposed brick walls with Hops the Cat and other ‘tilted’ frescoes painted upon them provide a comfortable, cool and welcoming ambience for the taproom.

Hops the Cat

The brewery is equipped with a 15 bbl brewhouse, two 30 bbl and two 15 bbl fermenters and cold storage. This will allow for a variety of small batch and one offs that will only be available in the taproom.  At the helm of brewing operations is veteran brewer Brian Smith, formerly of Lancaster, Beltway, DuClaw, Pub Dog and Flying Dog.  The search wasn’t easy as several candidate interviews were conducted in hopes of finding the right balance between talent and temperament.  Smith fit the bill perfectly.  The plan is to produce around 1,000 to 1,500 bbls out of the new brewery while maintaining the contract with Peabody Heights. This allows them to produce strictly small batch special, seasonal, and collaborative brews at the new facility, while leaving the large scale production brews like their Pale Ale at Peabody– embracing the best of both worlds.  This allows for the flexibility they craved but were denied. Now they could quite literally have something new every single week if they chose to. They finally get to work on their own schedule instead of someone else’s and that by itself is liberating.

They have a full beer, wine, and liquor license although they only plan to carry beer. Currently they have a near complete lineup of Full Tilt products on tap including Hops the Cat IPA, Port of Baltimore Baltic Porter, Better Dan Red IPA, Memorial Pils, Govans Blood Orange Gose, and more along with a few guest brews from RaR, Hysteria, Barley & Hops, and Atlas. In part this is a precursor of what is to come in the form of collaborations- notably Atlas, in addition to a host of others already on the calendar.  They have a barrel ageing program in the works using local whiskey barrels from Baltimore Spirits Company.  

Like so many Baltimore breweries of the past, Full Tilt has quickly become part of the fabric of the Govans community. They technically opened in December of 2018 before they were brewing on premises, but they already have a host of regulars who consider Full Tilt this their local neighborhood brewery.  The food offerings are plentiful with Rolling Grill providing food four days a week, a variety of food trucks scattered throughout the week, and a Wendy’s right across the street for the cravings of fast food lovers. The location is ideally situated to serve the residents including Steve Jones of Oliver Brewing fame who stops in often with the whole family to enjoy a brew and a meal. This truly is a family friendly place where children are welcome, and there is much to entertain them from Shuffle Board to Skee Ball to Galaga. Adults can partake of those games in addition to catching sports on the multiple big screens, or enjoying the talented live bands that play on the weekends. Saturday crowds were treated to the group That’s What She Said, who ably covered an array of familiar songs, and serenaded Nick with Happy Birthday. Yes the grand opening celebration on March 23rd also happened to be Nick Fertig’s 35th Birthday, and what a celebration it was!  

Nick Fertig (bottom right with birthday wrestling belt) celebrating his 35th birthday with friends at the Grand Opening of Full tilt Brewing.

Both Baumiller and Fertig have families to support, Nick and his wife have a beautiful 6 month old son named Max (subconsciously named after Hops the Cat who was formerly known as Max); Dan and his wife have two beautiful children and a third on the way in May. Both fathers want to see their children enter into what is now the family business- brewing. They will have quite a legacy to pass along with a few hard earned lessons along the way.

The Baumiller Family

They faced numerous challenges on their journey to opening the brewery, and when I asked what they would change if they could, I received two answers:

  1. Nothing because it brought us to where we are today.
  2. To aim for a smaller retail space to house the brewery right out of the box instead of thinking a large production brewery was the best option.

For now they are focusing on the fact that they have waited their whole lives for this moment and it has finally arrived. Make no mistake it is hard work, and both are keeping their day jobs while Full Tilt finds its footing. They have made it this far because they never gave up. Under no circumstances would they be deterred from pursuing their dream…

“Right now we are living our dream, and if more people come out to our brewery, it will be that much better!”

Dan Baumiller, co-founder Full Tilt Brewing

As I drove away Queen:  “We are the Champions” was playing on the radio and I found myself thinking yes, these men certainly have paid their dues time after time….. Now I am just happy to be able to give them a hearty congratulations that was so long coming.

Dan Baumiller, Chris Limon, Maureen O’Prey, Nick Fertig

What to look for in the near future:

  • Camden Cream on Nitro
  • Honey Saison
  • Session IPA
  • Barrel Aged Russian Imperial Stout

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