Monument City

A look at Monument City Brewing and what is in store for 2019.

December 15, 2018

Monday evening I had the distinct pleasure of attending a media event for Monument City Brewing Company. I was greeted with a Penchant Pils and an overview the evenings activities. What was quite surprising was the media turnout- all women beer writers! Needless to say I was in esteemed company. The purpose was to introduce those unfamiliar with Monument to the brewery, beer selections, and future plans; and to remind the rest of us of the quality product, the history, and what new adventures they were about to embark upon.

Ken and Matt Praay opened Monument City in Highlandtown in April of 2017. Prior to that they chose to market test their beers by contract brewing through Peabody Heights. The response- particularly for their 51 Rye was extremely positive. The journey had been several years in the making. The idea for the family run brewery came to Ken in 2009, after falling in love with Baltimore and its vibrant and growing craft beer scene. When his brother Matt was in town, they would brew together and continue tweaking the results. Ken proceeded to write a whopping 75 page business plan over the course of next year. As a Senior VP of Marketing for Citibank, Ken had both the insight and the acumen. Matt had been contracted to work in the Middle East, and after more than a year of midnight Skype calls the two took a hike on the Appalachian Trail in 2011 to decide if it was the right time to move forward. The bank had other ideas. Contract brewing seemed like the most logical solution- establish proof of concept while they located a building and more money to get started.

The structure they settled on was indeed historic. It was the Williamson Veneer building, built in 1901, and boarded up in 1983. It had (almost everything they needed) to serve as the old neighborhood brewery the brothers had in mind. It also, coincidentally was located not too far from the Pre-Prohibition brewery that inspired their name. The descendants of the historic brewery were kind enough to share plenty of information with the brothers, filling them with a greater sense of purpose- and nostalgia. The work ahead of them was tremendous however. There was only one salvageable window, no roof to speak of,and they had to install their own sewer lines. Yes outhouses were located across the railroad tracks if one was in need….wait what century are we livingin? It might as well have been 1900 considering all that had to be done to bring it up to code. They fabricated most everything they could themselves, and continue to do so if it makes financial sense. They even repurposed an old Miller Lite tank into a hop rocket for dry hopping- the irony of that is not lost. Despite the daunting obstacles in their path they succeeded- with hand trowels at some points, but they persevered nonetheless.

The success of 51 Rye and the core beers planned required very specific equipment that harkened back to the (German-American) brewers prior to Prohibition- including a jacketed mash tun for decoction brewing. They also purchased an oversized lauter tun for high plato brews, a 25 hectoliter brewhouse from MBT, and a  host of fermenters (40, 60, 80 bbl). Within six months of opening they needed to expand. What were they doing right?

Matt Praay providing a tour of the brewery

Simply put they were making quality beer VERY consistently. After listening to Matt (tour guide and Director of Brewing Operations) and Ken(Director of Marketing and Sales, and Business Ops) talk about leaning away from (instead of into) trends, and their adherence to four basic ingredients for beer….Reinheitsgebot immediately came to mind, and harkened back to yesteryear once again. The brothers denied strict adherence, but admitted that most core beers could be viewed by that standard. Where they certainly break from tradition is when it comes to their seasonal beers, occasional collaborations, or when they chose to participate in a ‘trend’ (about one timeper year). A prime example of this comes in the form of their Goetz Caramel Cream milk stout. Yes they used actual Goetz caramel creams in the brew. This is a far departure from beer purity standards- but one well received and for agood cause- MVET, which provides education and training to homeless veterans enabling them to get jobs.  Like the brewers of the past, and their modern counterparts Monument City is a good steward in the community, helping veterans, supplying recycling bins, and supporting Trash Free Maryland, to name a few.

This year (2018) they will peak just over 5,000 bbls.  That growth was supported by the investment in their own canning line, made with a little help from a brilliant local welder and some repurposed bakery conveyors. They have also reached the point where they need to expand once again in 2019- in part because of their desire to continue producing quality lagers that require the longer fermentation period, taking up valuable space from other core beers. They are also investing in their barrel ageing program with sherry, rum, bourbon, and whiskey barrels. Matt and Ken are working on a sour program, and have gone to great lengths to prevent contamination, but again this is a 12-36 month turn aroundfor the Lambics they have planned.  Two 80 bbls, and one 10 bbl tank are on the way to accommodate the 2019 production schedule.

They are also expanding programming through their taproom to include targeted educational programs and a host of new events. This is accomplished under the thoughtful leadership of Taproom Manager Crystal Wack. Therest of the team includes Jack Obernaier, VP of Sales; Kimberely Praay,Business Manager; the two Daves- Thomas and Watt (Head Brewer and Cask Specialist) affectionately known as Dragon and Nighthawk! It is a cohesive and energetic team, and the expansion will see the seven full time and eight part time staff grow in the next year.

Unlike many craft breweries in Maryland that have a business model centered on taproom sales- 96% of the beer Monument City produces is distributed. They viewed self-distribution as a bridge too far, and felt it would serve their interests better to enter into a distribution contract.  They are hyper-focused on Baltimore as their primary market and see themselves as remaining the ‘old neighborhood brewery’ for at least the next 12 years with production topping out around 15,000 bbls/yr. They hire local, buy local, and use local tradesmen and women to help get theirproduct to market.

If you want consistent, really well-made, quality beer that showcases the ingredients, and veers (most of the time) away from trendy- this is the place to be. This brewery is not about flash or gimmicks. That is whythe naming of the brews is so tough for them- it is about the ingredients(which are promptly posted on each and every can), brewed seamlessly to create a balanced, quality beer you can trust. Honest craft beer.

They have done what we all know and expect (rightly so ornot) of Maryland breweries- spur economic growth and help revitalize the neighborhoods that welcome them. Since opening, Monument City has been joined by Urban Axes, a ballroom, and a restaurant- making it a one stop location for beer, food, and fun.

Take the time to stop in if you haven’t and give them a try-whether you prefer the perfectly balanced American Brown Ale, or the seasonal offering of Woodstove- a beautifully crafted 100% malt Imperial Stout that provides a subtle ribbon of milk chocolate that dances across the palate. You will not be disappointed.

Here’s to 2019- may it be a grand and prosperous one for the Praay family and Monument City!

Prost!

Life. Beer. Repeat

A look a B.C. Brewery and Jim Wagner’s newest venture with Rich Mak.

December 4, 2018

Tuesday evening I was afforded the opportunity to sit down with Jim Wagner of B.C. Brewery and talk about life and beer and history. As an integral part of my journey to document the legacy of Maryland brewers I spent the day with him when he was still brewmaster at DuClaw. It wasn’t too long after they moved operations to the Yellow Brick Road facility in Rosedale. It was a memorable day. Wagner was and still is one of the kindest people I have ever met- genuine and completely open hearted. The (new) DuClaw facility was grand and each unfinished space whispered a promise of continued growth and recognition for the creativity behind the malted beverages- that were suddenly produced on a much larger scale than the first wee brewpub could have imagined.

I always wondered if and when Wagner would strike out on his own. I didn’t have to wait long. After nearly two decades as brewmaster, Wagner left DuClaw in the summer of 2017 to become an ‘international man of leisure’. That lasted for some months. Wagner needed time to figure out what was next and rediscover what is was to truly enjoy life again. Once he was ready, he began charting a path back to brewing- on his own terms. After a lot of ’misses’ he eventually found a partner- Rich Mak, on ProBrewer. They spoke for hours to discover if they had chemistry that could not only open a brewery together but sustain a strong working relationship well into the future. It turned out to be a very good match with both coming to the quick realization they were both in it for the beer. They chose to open in Hunt Valley- one of the few brewery deserts in Baltimore County. The industrial space was perfect- it literally screams BREWERY with its high ceilings and readily expandable space. Located adjacent to a light rail stop and within walking distance from hotels, businesses, a college extension campus, and I-83, it could not be more perfectly situated.

P1060391Jim Wagner standing next to 7 bbl brewhouse at B.C. Brewery

Both Wagner and Mak are ‘hands on’. Together they literally built B.C. Brewery- the cooler, the bar, the tables, the lights, the boiler, and the brewhouse. The brewery has a 7 bbl brewhouse, along with a 2 bbl brewhouse (that they fortunately do not have to use), and 7bbl fermenters to hold the liquid gold. In addition to great beer, B.C. Brewery also has great food, courtesy of Dave Magdeburger, an incredibly talented chef with a gift for creating delicious food that skillfully complements the beer. In fact he was wheeling a whole hog (yes literally) out to smoke while I was there. Another very unique offering of the brewery comes from Beth Vita, a young craft brewer forced to redirect her passion for beer into gluten free cider because of a celiac diagnosis. Vita is incredibly talented at making dry, flavorful ciders and will soon expand into crafting gluten free beers once a dedicated mill is added to the brewery. She is a gifted and focused member of the B.C. Brewery team and I look forward to sampling the gluten free offerings once they become available.

Cider however is not the most unique thing about this brewery- Table Tap is. Much to Wagner’s surprise, Mak’s idea of self-serve beer taps has charted a new course of sorts for the brewery. Self-serve taps are relatively new, but not completely. A few restaurants in Maryland have had self-service wine taps for years. The transition to beer was inevitable. It is a simple concept- grab a glass, enter your card, and chose how much of a pour you desire (½ ounce or more) of a particular beer or cider. Quite frankly I too was surprised at how very successful this concept was- so successful in fact they had to install more. Table Tap accounts for upwards of 75% of their sales. Beertenders are happy not to bother with samples, and customers can choose from an assortment of beers without waiting for help. That frees patrons to take their time in deciding which beer to order as a full pour. It is a win for everyone- and customers are quite happy to get back to socializing or playing corn hole. Yes corn hole is located inside the brewery so that weather is never a factor!

P1060393 A view to the brewery with the Table Tap self-serve taps on the wall to the right. 

What was Wagner’s hesitation with Table Tap? People. It is also why he left DuClaw. He missed the brewpub atmosphere where he could interact with consumers on a daily basis, explaining the style and the choice of ingredients, and the inspiration behind each brew. He has plenty of that at B.C. Brewery and the best part (for them) is they don’t distribute. One of the most stressful aspects of his time at the DuClaw Rosedale facility was dealing with distribution. I could go on and on about franchise laws in Maryland and how absurd they are for smaller breweries- but you all have heard the mantra by now. It is sufficient to say that between distributor hassles and shelf-space being at a premium Wagner and Mak have found a path to success without it. Table Tap is a big part of that. They also don’t have to sacrifice the human interaction- the social component that makes every day so special to be successful.

Wagner is back to really enjoying his work life- interacting with his team and all of the people coming in and out of the brewery to sample his brews, play corn hole and yes- ask lots of questions about their favorite beer. Wagner and Mak are also keeping it local. They are enjoying the resurgence of maltsters in the region and they have been using Proximity Malt (on the Eastern Shore) for many of the beers. Wagner has also delved into Paw Paws- the largest native fruit in North America, grown right here in Maryland at Deep Run Paw Paw Orchard. The most recent incorporation is his Paw Paw Hazy IPA- clean, juicy and crisp, with a surprising depth of flavor.  In addition, local collaborations are planned with his former brew mates Kurt Krol and Brandon Miller, among others. The vitality in Wagner is once again evident, and it permeates every facet of the brewery, and every beer produced. Life. Beer. Repeat.

Currently B.C. Brewery has a total 24 beers/ciders on tap. Wagner has named 90% of them- most from fishing trips with his friends. I urge you to head on over- ask questions, and spend the day enjoying a one of a kind Maryland brewery. You will not be disappointed!

Cheers!

Small Business Saturday, Football and Beer

Tis the holiday season, a time for gatherings and gratitude, and yes sometimes gifts. We are all familiar with Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday and a host of other days I am certain I have lost track of. This strange tradition is rooted in quite a lot of myth and misinformation, and dare I say fun. No I will not argue the merits of getting up at 4 am to catch a fantastic bargain on snow blowers or video game consoles or even a rare bottle of Westvleteren 12, but making a go of it with one (or some of) your favorite people can turn into an adventure that can last an entire day, and memories that last a lifetime. Perhaps that is one of the very reasons we engage in these shenanigans in the first place. Or perhaps it all started with football.

Annually in the 1950’s the Army Navy game would be held in Philadelphia the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The Friday after Thanksgiving was a time when hordes of tourists and suburban shoppers flooded the streets of Philly in anticipation of the game, and a little retail therapy with utter pandemonium ensuing. Every police officer was required to work overtime to deal with the fallout. It was the Philly Police that actually dubbed it Black Friday. By the 1980’s the term was rebranded by retailers to denote the official start of the holiday shopping season with big sales, and even bigger profits- removing the influence of the Army Navy game which has since been moved to December. Taking a look at any annual sales report will demonstrate how very successful this rebranding has been. 30% of annual retail sales take place in the month between Black Friday and Christmas. According to the National Retail Federation an average Black Friday shopper spends over $1,000! Incredible really. This is a retailer’s golden hour to turn a profit.

Black-Friday-Old-Days

So, what does all of this have to do with beer? Quite a bit. I was gently reminded by a Brewers Association of Maryland post recently that breweries are small businesses too. Of course I knew that, but many think of breweries as manufacturing entities- often disconnecting the ‘small business’ side that could benefit from the holiday shopping season from the industry they are categorized by. The more than 6 dozen breweries in Maryland. Almost all have a taproom, and benefit from the direct brewery sales, but they also benefit from the 3rd tier retail shopping that takes place at package stores across the state. Like other small brick and mortar businesses in Maryland they are looking to the post-Thanksgiving crowd to help boost their sales, recognition and profitability.

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Diamondback Brewing samplers

 

This year America has had a resurgence in consumer confidence- and spending. The National Federation of Independent Businesses has reported an optimism in the economy that we haven’t seen in years, promoting greater capital investment in small businesses, and an increase in hiring to meet the anticipated demand. This is all fabulous, but there is much for breweries and all small businesses to contend with. Breweries comprise an industry that is capital intensive. The equipment costs can be astronomical. Profitability for breweries has webbed and flowed over the decades, sometimes suffering from hop shortages, and more recently aluminum tariffs. Greg Kitsock of the BA just published an in depth look at the rising cost of aluminum and its impact on craft breweries. Now, most of us wouldn’t mind paying $1 more per 6-pack for our favorite craft beer if it meant the extra shelf life that aluminum cans provide. Competition is tightening however in the craft beer market, and for some folks $1 or $2 might make a difference at the checkout counter through no fault of their own.

Small businesses are the backbone of Maryland’s economy, creating jobs, building communities, and supplying tax dollars to pay for important and necessary services from schools to transportation to critical infrastructure. We all need small businesses, and breweries are immensely important to each and every neighborhood they operate within. A purchase from a local brewery or business is an investment in your community. I ask you all to bear that in mind this and every season.

Now even though Small Business Saturday and Black Friday have passed, get out of the house and go shopping at a small local retailer, preferably with your favorite person/s and don’t forget to make a stop at the nearby brewery. I can guarantee you the service will be friendly, and you are sure to make lasting memories.

Cheers!

P.S. Don’t forget to tune into the Army Navy game on December 8th (preferably at your local brewery) after all they started this adventure in shopping!

Go Navy!

The Baltimore Craft Beer Festival 2018

The 2018 Baltimore Craft Beer Festival has come and gone once again. Earlier in the week the weather looked to be of great concern as a tempest raged Friday night. By Saturday morning the worst of the storm was over, having left a grim reminder of man’s inability to conquer nature. As dawn broke, the clouds parted and the sun peaked through, offering a crisp albeit windy day on the waterfront for craft beer lovers, and their furry friends.

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Brad and his 3 year old Leonberger Meike enjoying the festivities.

The check-in line was long, but moved quickly and efficiently uniting festival goers with their wrist bands and glasses in minutes. A cornucopia of Maryland craft breweries were spread across the park with host of styles to sample. Accompanying them were a variety of food trucks offering a little something for everyone. There were a handful of non-craft beer vendors on hand selling nuts, portraits, tchotchkes, and the like, but they were few and far between- this truly was a craft beer festival…not a festival with craft beer. There is a distinct difference between the two. One of the more intriguing vendors included Valencia glass-blowing, a mobile glass blower in the tradition of the Italian glass blowers of Venice, on the island of Murano. The demonstrations were mesmerizing, and the audience rapt. This certainly kept festival goers sampling at that end of the complex, and headed home with hand blown ornaments, vases, and gifts.

P1060254Glass blowing demonstration with Founder Phillip Valencia using his mobile furnace.

There were some notable beers to sample while watching the demonstrations like the Brewer’s Art 7 Beauties locally sourced with Dark Cloud malt, or Lot 54 a blonde ale from Inverness Brewing, and Cult Classic’s take on a NEIPA using only Mosaic hops. The breweries were well spaced to manage the throngs and close enough to help one another keep the tents on the ground on the extremely windy side of the park. Make no mistake, the gusts did not hinder attendance, and certainly helped to keep the beer cooled.

P1060258Volker Stewart founder of The Brewer’s Art toasting 7 Beauties on cask.
P1060289Co-Founders Ray and Sandy Frank of the new Baltimore farm brewery Inverness Brewing with Comptroller and Industry Ally Peter Franchot, and Kevin Atticks, Director of the Brewer’s Association of Maryland and Grow & Fortify, toasting another successful year for Maryland Craft Breweries.

On the other side of the complex, festival goers were equally enchanted by the live bands that graced the stage. They weren’t just good- they were fantastic. Get Steady was spot on not only with the musical selection, but the dulcet tones of their lead singer that kept everyone singing along. The majority of brewers were located at this end of the park offering the expected styles, and what I like to call ‘adventure styles’. Most craft beer goers are willing to sample any beer in hopes of discovering something new and wonderful to tempt and tantalize the palate. There was quite a bit to choose from in this regard. A personal favorite came from Waverly Brewing’s own Gregory Lee in the form of Horni-Issac a play on the origins of this delightful ale. Greg got back to his Norse roots embracing a Hornindal yeast which fully complemented the hop profile across the palate in a beautiful marriage of its Norse and English origins.

P1060266Roy and Greg of Waverly Brewing in front toasting Horni-Isaac.

No matter where you started, you ended with great craft beer and got to know a collection of newly opened breweries and breweries in planning. I was thrilled to see True Respite, Cult Classic, Balt County Brewing, Checkerspot, Crooked Crab, Brawling Bear, and Inverness Brewing– all newly opened in 2018 pouring at the festival. The breweries in planning included Mobtown, opening in Canton in 2019; Ironweed opening in Ocean City in 2019; and an absolutely delightful surprise- Ten Eyck a completely women owned and operated brewery opening in Queen Anne’s County in 2019.

P1060262Bailey and Brendan O’Leary, Co-Founders of  True Respite Brewing. 

The usual suspects that we all know and love were also in attendance including Union Craft, Heavy Seas, Manor Hill, Jailbreak, Monocacy, Oliver, Flying Dog and a slew of names like Denizens that every beer drinker in Maryland has tasted, and probably has in their beer fridge right now! A complete list of participating breweries is available through the Brewer’s Association of Maryland. Every participating brewery had at least one (if not several) high-quality, well-crafted brews to offer- a promise (of sorts) that a drive to their brewery would not disappoint. They also served as inspiration to the myriad homebrewers contributing to the Nepenthe homebrewing event of just what is possible if you have the drive and the patience to make it happen…. A lesson for us all.

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All in all it was a brilliant day on the waterfront sampling Maryland craft beer. It also got me thinking about a few things. Recently I have read articles touting the demise of beer festivals using words like ‘ubiquitous’, and ‘tired’. Hmm… No- not at all. I humbly agree to disagree. Craft beer festival like this one (very well planned and executed) provide the PERFECT place to gain an audience and a consumer base. This is where a beer drinker will be introduced to a new brewery, or an old brewery with a new offering. This is where it begins, or in some cases where the flame is reignited and we fall in love all over again with a brewery or a beer we let slip away for a time. There is no better place to bring the family, the dog, or a friend and spend the day in a scenic park enjoying a brisk fall day discovering what talented artisans we have in our midst.

Sláinte!

Patuxent Brewing Company

This weekend I had the distinct privilege of meeting the team behind Charles County’s very first brewery- Patuxent Brewing Company. This brand new brewery isn’t open yet but things are on track for 2019. In fact they were hesitant to even order their equipment due to the tangle of zoning issues and inspection shenanigans, along with a host of other things I will get to shortly.

At the heart of Patuxent Brewing are the founders, husband and wife Davie and Kendra Feaster, and their business manager- the third member of this perfect trio- Tranice Watts. I can state simply that they are a cohesive, symbiotic unit, and could not be more perfectly suited to work together. They are inseparable ‘peas in a pod’ according to Kendra. Tranice and Davie have known each other since they both attended Crossland High School. They met in welding class- yes welding class. Tranice was mistakenly scheduled in the class, while Davie actually signed up for it, but the friendship was instant and Tranice never looked back. Welding and race cars forged a lasting partnership that has stood the test of time and relocations, and has served them both well building a brewery. Kendra Feaster, with her Master’s degree in Marketing and a photographic eye is a veritable “Jill of all trades” and Davie’s wife of four years.
They all offer critical elements to the collaboration. Kendra brings her marketing expertise while Davie brings his passion and experience as a homebrewer in search of bold flavor. He also has experience in both the retail and wholesale sectors of the three tier system leaving him uniquely suited to navigate the monopolistic, restrictive, and archaic alcohol regulatory system in place in Maryland. Tranice in addition to her extraordinary business acumen brings a background in environmental science to help make the brewery as green as possible. They are all in balance, whether constructing the brewery tables and bar, or reminding one another to keep pushing forward despite the obstacles- and there have been plenty. The underlying component to all of this is their deep friendship and their unwavering faith. Through the most trying times they always go back to the understanding that this is exactly what they are supposed to be doing, and despite the challenges- God is navigating, lighting the path forward.

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Right to Left: Kendra Feaster, Tranice Watts, and Davie Feaster of Patuxent Brewing Company

Those hurdles have been numerous and extremely daunting. Charles County has been incredibly supportive of Patuxent Brewing and has worked with Kendra, Davie and Tranice to make sure it opens. The difficulty comes from the complete and total lack of experience, regulations, and zoning for breweries- quite simply because Charles County has never had one before. They are quite frankly guinea pigs, doing the hard work so that other breweries might follow suit. It is one heck of a gamble that Kendra and Davie have sunk their life savings into. The learning curve for them and for the County is large. Patuxent did their due diligence, with Tranice studying brewery business models extensively, and Kendra and Davie working with the Brewers Association of Maryland’s director Kevin Atticks, and President Cindy Mullikin, while getting up to speed on their boards, commissioners, and elected officials. They have also found the entire brewing community extremely welcoming and helpful. Davie has a standing offer from Calvert Brewing (among others) to gain practical experience on their industrial system in preparation for working on his own.

Despite all of this they still have no brewing equipment in place. Inspections have hindered them- again due to the inexperience of the inspectors. A prime example of this could be seen with Patuxent’s cold storage inspection. Davie installed foam board on the walls. This was approved by the fire marshal, but he was forced to remove it when a clearly inexperienced local inspector told him only drywall or fiberglass was allowed on the walls. Davie and the fire marshal argued that drywall or fiberglass would mold and foam board was standard protocol for cold storage-to no avail. It has been just these sorts of things that provide a lesson for everyone involved- unfortunately at the expense of the Feasters.

Another rather incredible series of delays came from the Smallwood Village Zoning Board, run by Meredith Management. Zoning has taken several months- in this case not only because of the lack of zoning in place for this type of manufacturing (breweries), but something far more disconcerting. The zoning board immediately challenged Patuxent with “concerns” about what type of crowd they wanted to bring in and the music they would play…. Yes Patuxent Brewing Company is 100% minority owned- a rarity in and of itself, but becoming more commonplace with each passing year. The insinuation by the board was (disappointingly) clear. Unfortunately the county could not help move things along because they had no actual representatives on the Smallwood Village Zoning Board. Therefore the delays piled up and enormous restrictions were placed upon Patuxent once the final language was agreed to. The good news is that they have final approval- which is what the county was waiting for to help push toward the finish line. The greatest restrictions include limiting capacity to 45 patrons- despite fire code allowing 75+, and they are required to operate as a Nano brewery producing no more than 200 barrels per year. This is not a recipe for profitability without additional events and streams of income. They are looking at the parking lot as an opportunity to expand capacity for events like festivals, yoga, single mingles, and a host of other wonderful ideas.

This is where I need to share with you Patuxent Brewing’s take on Charles County and being a 100% minority owned business. Kendra, Davie and Tranice absolutely LOVE Charles County- it is their home. They love their community- which is diverse and eclectic, and inviting regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, class or gender. Tranice truly believes there is NO better place to raise a family than Charles County. Davie speaks with great fondness about his home, the support from neighbors, and the idyllic days of fishing on the Patuxent River; while Kendra tells of how everyone in the community has reached out to welcome Patuxent Brewing with open arms. Many partnerships have already been constructed from restaurants (and Huntington Golf Club) carrying their beers, to planned fundraisers with the Humane society and various religious groups. The genuine affection they have for their home, county, and the people within is palpable. Everyone in Waldorf is family to them. The Feasters would not have tied their entire financial future to a brewery in Waldorf if that were not the case.

The other component to this is how much they want to give back to this incredible region that has been so generous to them. They view themselves as stakeholders responsible for acting as good stewards in their community. They want to bring people together over a beer and get them to actually talk- like good neighbors and friends do. They recognize and embrace their role, as their brewing predecessors in Maryland have always done, to build strong communities. When it comes to being one of the only 100% minority owned breweries in the nation they spoke with like mind. Kendra summed it up decisively,

I don’t want this to be a black thing or a white thing…it’s a beer thing.”

They want to be known for the quality of the beer they produce and promise NEVER to sacrifice quality for quantity. A promise I have no doubt they will keep. A recent trip to the Fresh Fest in Pittsburgh also brought in accolades- particularly for the King’s Wife, Davie’s New England IPA made in honor of Kendra. It also brought comradery from other minority brewers that experienced challenges and discrimination when getting started in the industry.

After all of this I asked them what they might do differently if they had it to do all over again. The response was one that comes from knowing now just what it was they didn’t know when they began:

  1.  Hire a lawyer from day one to help navigate many of the intricacies, from inspections to zoning to permitting, and just about everything in between.
  2. Find a guide for opening a brewery. Well there really isn’t one yet….other than attending a brewery start up class at Seibel. Fear not Kendra is probably going to write one geared specifically for Charles County, Maryland! The breweries that come after Patuxent should thank her- better yet immortalize her!
  3.  Networking- establishing connections on the various boards, and with elected officials and commissioners to facilitate the process. You have to know people as it is much easier to work with existing relationships to get things done than start fresh with strangers.

So what comes next? Ordering equipment of course! Davie is looking for a 1 or 3 barrel system to get started, along with 3 barrel fermenters. They will partner with local farms, not only giving spent grain to farmers as feed, but purchasing local hops and malt as it becomes available. They have partnered with Martin Prouxl, Agriculture Business Development Manager hired by Charles County Economic Development Department to promote local agriculture, to assist them in this endeavor. They already have a regular bevy of food trucks lined up once the taproom opens. They will have 8 taps with 4 dedicated to year round flagship beers, and 4 to seasonal and experimental offerings. Davie strikes a balance between what is expected- porter, IPA, NEIPA, cream ale, with the unexpected- sweet potato bourbon, or peanut butter bacon beer among other exciting and bold flavor profiles. The sweet potato bourbon beer was a collaborative effort with local Blue Dyer distillery and comes as no surprise. After chatting with Davie I learned very quickly that he is a man that loves FLAVOR! It is also no surprise that if he had his druthers, he would work on a collaboration beer with Sam Calgione of Dogfish Head to see just how far they could push the flavor envelope together.

The brewery offers ample parking, and includes a children’s play area that will have a dedicated monitor. They want it to be a family place where everyone is welcome, so much so they sacrificed their only office space for the play room. The brewery also has two VIPs that will almost always be on premises, Cinnamon and Spice. They are the Feasters wee puppies that are so undeniably sweet your heart is guaranteed to melt. They take after Kendra and Davie, two of the nicest people I have ever had the honor to meet.

Eventually, perhaps a few years from now, they will need to relocate to expand operations beyond 200 barrels and the current limited seating capacity. It will still be located in Charles County, most likely not too far from where they are located now.

Today they are just excited to get the beer flowing, and build a lasting legacy. What is the legacy they want to leave?
In one hundred years, Davie wants people to say, “They were all about their community, and the King’s Wife is still here.”
For Kendra, “They were unstoppable. They had an idea and stuck with it no matter what, and it is still bearing fruit.”

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Perhaps both of these visions of their future are best described by the writing on taproom wall when the three faced some of their most difficult days,

Your only limit is your MIND!!

Sláinte!

If you are interested in helping build their legacy please check out their fundraiser:

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/patuxent-brewing-company#/

 

Task Force to Study Maryland Alcohol Regulation: Round #1

The first meeting of the new State Alcohol Regulation Task Force (created by the passage of HB 1316) was held in the Economic Matters Committee Hearing Room on September 12, 2018. I realize it has taken me a week to weigh in. In part I wanted to digest what transpired, but I also wanted to conduct a little more research. This provided some clarity as well as a bit more confusion with regard to the direction this task force is headed. It also forced me to speculate about an underlying, hidden agenda.

I was relieved to see members of all three tiers represented on the task force. The standard protocols were followed beginning with an historical jaunt through Maryland’s 3 tier system, followed by a breakdown of exactly how alcohol is regulated and by whom. A brief comparison of Maryland’s regulatory system with other states was also done and this was when things began to get interesting. Challenges to the methodology of the comparison came quickly from one panelist- David Jernigan PhD.
A little background research on Jernigan is quite revealing.

Jernigan is best known for his action-research approach to the issue of alcohol advertising, marketing, and promotion and its influence on young people…He testifies regularly at city, state, and national levels around alcohol availability and taxation. He trains advocates around the world using the best evidence.1

A quick glance at his list of publications and one quickly fathoms the purpose of his research- restructuring alcohol regulation with a goal to limit access through complete state control and high taxation. Yes this is called Temperance. He veers away from Prohibition…but not really. Jernigan was the architect of the increased alcohol tax in Maryland a few years back, and he is back now trying to go further. His acolytes are widespread including Raimee Eck, current President of the Maryland Public Health Association, who also testified and even chose to use the word ‘temperance’ in her slide presentation.

Eck also wrote an Op-Ed in the Baltimore Sun November 29, 2017 challenging Reform on Tap, while completely misconstruing its point…”Comptroller Franchot’s focus on increasing alcohol production, sales, and consumption without a review of the health consequences and costs is misguided.” Clearly she did not grasp the point of HB 518- which was not to increase consumption but replace the purchase of out of state beer with Maryland manufactured beer.

Some important points:

1) Is alcohol consumption increasing or decreasing? It depends upon who you ask. Jernigan says it’s up, while most other data sets suggest it’s down.

2) Jernigan chose not to weigh vital statistics from Maryland, but instead chose CDC statistics which enabled him to count far more deaths as ‘attributable’ to alcohol. Jernigan was challenged by Webster Ye of Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Ye noted that alcohol related deaths had not increased, but held steady. Ye also noted the decrease in deaths overall, whereas Jernigan said death rates were on the rise in Maryland.

3) Senator Conway also weighed in with questions on causation, particularly when Jernigan stated that the vast number of homicides in Baltimore City were attributable to alcohol. Jernigan stated it was difficult to disentangle gangs and illicit drugs from alcohol in homicides rates. Jernigan stated that 80% of homicides are committed while drinking. Conway recognized along with most of us that homicides have other causal factors that could be addressed- entirely unrelated to alcohol. It begins with job training and educational opportunities in economically disadvantaged areas to provide options other than gangs and criminal activity for people to not only survive but build a future. That discussion is for another day however. People commit crimes for a host of reasons and ignoring those other causal factors in deference to alcohol will not solve those problems.

4) Jernigan and Eck could not truly differentiate craft beer from other beer, spirits or wine. When he was asked by Shelby Watson of Robin Hill Winery what was the alcohol 12-20 years olds were drinking and where they were getting it, Jernigan answered that ‘cheap’ was what they targeted in straw purchases, while the younger ones were stealing only the ‘good stuff’ from home. Wine however wasn’t really a factor in this age group. ‘Cheap’ and craft beer are not synonymous and what Jernigan did not chose to point out was that the cheap beer is in large majority supplied by the monopolistic mega brewers- you know who I am referring to. They also made the obvious mistake of stating that craft beers are 7-9%, and consumers don’t seem to comprehend they are drinking higher ABV. All of this completely disregards a large segment of the craft beer market that produces session beers, and the exceptional labelling (as required by the TTB) of the ABV, coupled with the work craft breweries in educating the populace on the ABV. The paucity of authentic craft beer specific statistics and documentation was deeply concerning.

5) Jernigan also stated that the recent proliferation in retail outlets has been ignored and is responsible for a 4% increase in violent crime. President Mullikin asked if he had the statistical carve out for the breweries. He did not, and reverted to the stat that off-premise sales are responsible for twice the number of violent crimes as on-premise sales.

To quote Mark Twain, “Lies, damn lies and statistics…”

6) Jernigan’s testimony nearly word for word, could be taken from an article in The Lancet, titled “Alcohol use and burden for 195 countries and territories, 1990-2016: a systematic analysis of the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016”. This article
a. Lays alcohol at the feet the most of society’s ills;
b. Completely disregards any health benefits of alcohol as negated by the harm;
c. And adds the best method to eradicate it:

“The most effective and cost-effective means to reduce alcohol-related harms are to reduce affordability through taxation or price regulation, including setting a minimum price per unit (MUP), closely followed by marketing regulation, and restrictions on the physical availability of alcohol.”

As a point of note, I too believe we should work constructively to educate young and old alike on the dangers of binge drinking, drinking and driving, and health and societal related complications of alcohol. I am also neither an epidemiologist, nor a statistician. I do however recognize cherry picking data to persuade an audience.

Jernigan and Eck certainly had a rapt audience in Miller and Kramer who both seemed to have pre-planned some of their questions and commentary. Kramer’s reference to the Governing article he read was one that Jernigan himself was a contributor to. Miller was eager for “simple fixes at the regulatory level” to stop the alcohol related deaths, which alluded to higher alcohol taxes and state control of production, distribution, and sales. Miller also commented, almost verbatim to Jernigan that he was extremely concerned with the whittling away of the alcohol regulatory framework each legislative session.

dry

Folks, we have been down this road before. Nearly two centuries ago a Temperance movement began with a belief it would cure all of the ills of society. It took decades, but when it finally found support it quickly moved from Temperance to Prohibition. I don’t have to tell you how that turned out but I will remind you of a few key takeaways from the failed experiment. Prohibition did not solve society’s ills. Try as you might you cannot regulate morality. It has been tried- repeatedly and failed. You can legislate and make things illegal, but people will still act in the manner they choose. During Prohibition alcohol was still produced, distributed, and consumed- most of it at much greater potency than anything being consumed before the Volstead Act. The loss of state, local and federal revenues was catastrophic to the economies, coupled with incredible job loss. Closing the breweries, wineries, and distilleries put a fair percentage of people out of work but it also severely harmed the 200 affiliated industries that relied upon their business from glass manufacturers to painters, leaving many more without wages. This was supported in 1926 when the federal government completed its inquest into the causes of unemployment. It was directly attributable to Prohibition, not automation as the dry party proclaimed. If you think crime and unemployment are problematic now- enact Prohibition.

I am not suggesting this task force will currently push for Prohibition, but they are well on their way based upon week 1. For now I expect higher alcohol taxes and a move toward complete state control- only one of these will likely gain traction in the next few sessions. We will need to wait to see what happens next month.

Beer for thought…

 

Governing Article
http://www.governing.com/topics/health-human-services/gov-alcohol-abuse.html
Lancet Article
https://www.thelancet.com/pdfs/journals/lancet/PIIS0140-6736(18)31310-2.pdf
Task Force Testimony
http://mgahouse.maryland.gov/mga/play/5c144f0e-acc1-42f7-ba99-e13563125da4/?catalog/03e481c7-8a42-4438-a7da-93ff74bdaa4c

1. David H. Jernigan, PhD. Professor, Health Law, Policy & Management , “Biography”. accessed September 19, 2018 via Boston University School of Public Health https://www.bu.edu/sph/profile/david-jernigan/

The Brewery Worker on Labor Day

September 3rd, 2018

Today is Labor Day, a day in which we honor the achievements of American workers. In 1884 Congress passed an act marking the first Monday in September Labor Day. Since then we have witnessed various incarnations of how exactly to celebrate this national holiday. Parades, once grand affairs for a multitude of eager spectators, have waned in recent decades while BBQs and beach trips seem to supplant large-scale organized festivities for most. It is the last hurrah of summer before children return to school and fall sets in.

The exact origins of Labor Day are a bit controversial, as two different labor organizers (both named McGuire- one a machinist, the other a carpenter) are named as founders. What is significant is that the origins of Labor Day, regardless of who is responsible arose from the 19th century unions organized to protect and defend workers from harsh conditions, little pay, and unfair practices. Breweries were also participants in the formation of unions, although it was a bit more complicated than it was with many other labor unions.

The National Union of Brewers was founded right here in Baltimore in 1886. The Brewery Worker was published for its members on a regular basis. The name was eventually changed to reflect all brewery laborers, not just the brewers. Despite this, not all of the members felt their interests were well served and they chose to split off and form their own separate unions. Coopers were one of the highest paid trades of the time, and they often felt at odds with the goals and practices of the brewery worker’s union. Where brewers invited new technologies- coopers often shunned such advances as compromising their tradecraft. This in large part was the impetus for the separation, and they were quickly joined by coopers from the distilling and wine industries all operating with a common goal.

What were conditions like for brewery workers when Labor Day became a national holiday? That answer truly depends on location, and ownership. Many of the breweries in the 19th century were owned by immigrants that came to America to flee persecution, compulsory military service, and famine. Many of these immigrants were German, some Irish, with a smattering of others in between. Many brewery owners paid for the passage of their workers from Bremen to Baltimore, and housed them in their homes with their families. They worked on average 12 hours a day (sometimes more) with Sunday hours extremely limited for worship, rest, and fun. Conditions were typical of the time- manual labor in often sweltering or frigid temperatures depending upon the season. The upside of this was a regular supply of beer and meals, and a roof over their heads. Beyond that the working environment was quite dependent upon the individual brewery owner.
There are many stories of Baltimore brewery owners engaged in equal opportunity employment practices long before there was an EEOC. There is also documentation of Maryland brewery owners paying for medical care for workers that were ill, or injured on the job. In some cases if workers could not be healed, owners offered a type of supplemental stipend for a period of time until that worker or his family could find other gainful employment. Make no mistake- not all brewery owners were this considerate of the best interests of their employees. There are many tales of vicious proprietors taking whips to their staff, or other such deviant practices to intimidate laborers into greater productivity, thus spawning the need for the rise of unions.

What has changed since the 19th century? There is no longer a Brewery Workers Union as it folded into the Teamsters Union in the 1960s. In fact those working in most of the local craft breweries we visit today are not affiliated with a union at all. In the modern world, conditions still vary by brewery and yes it is still sweltering in summer, and freezing in winter as is the nature of the industry. Fortunately we are seeing greater diversity in plants across the country with far better working conditions- despite the often extreme temperatures.

One thing has not changed however and that is the incredible effort that brewery workers put into making this luscious nectar of the Gods that we call beer. The pride, the craftsmanship, and the end result are a testament to those that Labor for us, for themselves, and all those that came before them in this historic industry.

Whatever you may be doing today take a moment and raise your glass to the American Brewery Worker past and present on this Labor Day.

Sláinte!