The latest upheavals and successes in the world of Maryland beer. Who is staying? Who is expanding.
Summer is here and things are sizzling! Maryland has seen some drastic shifts in the world of brewing. In a matter of six weeks Guinness announced plans to close the Baltimore Brewery, moving operations to Chicago; Flying Dog sold to FX MATT, closing the Frederick plant; and DuClaw was sold to River Horse, leaving Heavy Seas as the largest (and longest) Maryland independent brewery standing. The dominoes falling for the three of the state’s largest producers certainly was not welcome news for most, but there was quite a bit of good to glean from the industry as well.
Let us begin with Guinness, the shutting down of brewing operations in Baltimore does not come as a great surprise. With the announcement of the opening of Guinness Chicago it was pretty easy to read the tea leaves. Sustaining two operational plants in the U.S. on the heels of COVID was not part of the strategy. Although Diageo (parent company of Guinness) beat expectations in January 2023, on the heels of strong sales in Europe where Guinness saw a 71% increase in sales in Ireland, growth in North America was paltry, coming in at 3%. Combined with increased inflationary pressures, Diageo (and thus Guinness) was primed for belt tightening, not expansion. Additionally, it is far easier to distribute nationwide from the Midwest than the East Coast. As a salve for the Guinness Baltimore Blonde fans that recoiled at the thought of the locally crafted favorite shifting production to Illinois, Hugh Sisson, founder of Heavy Seas and merchant of the industry’s growth in the region since 1996, offered to brew the Maryland flag draped Blonde at Heavy Seas. Alas, nothing has yet come of the offer and astute shoppers might have noticed the labeling has conveniently removed the Maryland flag.
A little more than a month after Guinness revealed the closure, Flying Dog announced they were ‘joining forces’ with FX Matt Brewing (AKA Saranac). Uncapped Podcast broke the story May 22, leaving many stunned. A quick reminder – Flying Dog intentionally chose not to reopen the taproom after COVID was no longer a threat. The bottom line was never about selling pints and giving tours, but large scale production. Tea leaves anyone? Yes they will open a taproom and ‘innovation’ brewery (aka small batch experimental) in downtown Frederick while production moves to New York this summer before closing the plant completely. A bit of history here for those that forgot or might not have known Flying Dog was a Colorado based brewery before relocating to Frederick. Much like Guinness, they were a transplant to the Free State. Once they set up shop they absolutely embraced Maryland, from flag and blue crabs to Old Bay, wending their way into the refrigerators of many Maryland natives. We will see if the Maryland themes continue once they have relocated.
On June 1st, news broke that another Maryland brewery had been sold- DuClaw. This time however, it was a Maryland original. From the very first brew pub in Bel Air in 1996, to the Yellow Brick Road production facility in Rosedale, DuClaw has always been a Maryland brewery. Plagued by nagging issues at the production facility limiting tasting room opportunities among other problems, DuClaw was openly looking for a buyer for years before COVID showed up. The solution for Benfield and crew came in the form of River Horse Brewing out of New Jersey. Sweet Baby Jesus- the iconic flagship (yes I recall just how much they revile the term) beer will be brought to life in a new manger a few hours north. A long time ago, Benfield told me in an interview that he hoped the brewery would discontinue Sweet Baby Jesus, as the goal was always to provide new beers that would capture consumer’s attention and palate, usurping the holy porter. That never came to pass despite their best efforts. Even the illustrious and effervescent Unicorn Farts could not topple the king.
On a somber note, True Respite out of Rockville is up for sale as a turn-key brewery for $1.5 million. The O’Leary family (owners) has mentioned that times are extremely difficult for breweries- more than we know and that we all should double down on buying local. The nearly $13k per month rent (usury in my book- but it is Montgomery County) is certainly indicative of the financial challenges breweries face, particularly when they do not own the plant operations are housed within.
Over the past decade we have witnessed the closure of several breweries in Maryland including Astro Lab, Full Tilt, House Cat, Homaide, Baying Hound Aleworks, Growlers, and more. COVID certainly played a hand and not everyone survives the financial difficulties created by lockdowns. Maryland is nowhere near saturation, and we are well behind most states in breweries per capita according to the Brewer’s Association of America. With the closure of these breweries, our numbers will continue to wane. Craft alcohol laws in the state have reformed, paving the way for new breweries to stand on more solid footing. A cautionary tale remains however for anyone interested in opening a brewery to do their research and talk to those in the industry who have succeeded and critically those who have not. Vital information can be gleaned from those willing to open up the conversations with those who came before.
Opportunity awaits for those wading into the brewing business, but quality is key and the craft beer consumers are particular. As the number of breweries has grown, buyers are less forgiving of unremarkable brews, thus raising the bar. Negotiating finances like steep rents and excise taxes, inflation and supply chain issues coupled with finding trustworthy, reliable distributors is just as crucial to the success of a brewery as crafting consistently excellent beers. A misstep on any of these can sink even the most sought-after brand.
So what have we lost? Jobs… and beer Guinness, Flying Dog and DuClaw will continue to produce the beers that have lined our fridges for decades. What becomes of the contract brewers that relied on these facilities to produce their Maryland grown brews? We will have to see how this plays out, but the ripple effect of these consolidations might deprive us of the smaller start-ups we were just beginning to discover, and others we have known for quite some time.
There is good news to report however, as we are seeing growth and expansion in our Maryland originals from Heavy Seas to Mully’s to Rockwell to Checkerspot. The Free State has a long history of expansion and contraction when it comes to craft brewing. We are just in the process of dialing it in adn teh summer is going to sizzle!
A preview of the positive changes ahead for Maryland’s craft alcohol manufacturers.
There has been a lot happening over the past several months and most of it is really good news for craft alcohol manufacturers in Maryland!
Where to begin? Let us start with Grow and Fortify. This organization has been the backbone of Maryland’s craft alcohol organizations from the Brewer’s Association of Maryland, the Maryland Wineries Association, to the Distiller’s Guild. They have championed a level playing field for craft alcohol manufacturers in the legislature, while steadfastly encouraging value added agriculture in the Free State. Always embracing the history behind these industries, it is literally their mission…
Cultivating an environment where value-added agricultural producers, startups, operators and growers innovate and thrive.
They grow the organizations & businesses that fortify Maryland’s agricultural heritage while helping them create a sustainable future. This has not gone unnoticed, and the team behind Grow & Fortify has done an amazing job of living up to their mission and keeping their promises. Notably, the organization’s founder and familiar face Kevin Atticks, was appointed Secretary of Agriculture by incoming Governor We Moore. He could not have made a better choice. There is no one in the state more familiar with the issues facing this industry and every business impacted by agriculture than Kevin Atticks. His passion and determination to make sure Maryland does not abandon its agricultural underpinnings, while finding new ways to foment the growth of this industry in innovative and truly exciting new ways in unparalleled. He will leave an indelible mark on the state’s history and help push Maryland to the forefront, moving beyond the obstacles, entrenchment and inaction that has so often plagued the department and stymied the growth of the industry.
His successor, Janna Howley is most capable, and a brilliant choice to skillfully lead Grow & Fortify for many years to come. Prioritizing the industries we literally cannot live without, and fighting for their symbiotic partners, our farmers and craft alcohol manufacturers will thrive under Howley’s tenure.
Other news that is brewing includes the impending move of Checkerspot Brewing from the Sharp Street location across Russell Street to 1421 Ridgely. They will continue to serve the pre- and post-game crowds that flock regularly throughout the year for Ravens and Orioles games. The new facility, a former printing business, is vastly larger at 24,000 sf to accommodate growth, and an expansive the tap room with open seating. Coupled with the 2023 move, brewery owners Rob and Judy Neff took top honors in the 11th annual Sam Adams Building the American Dream Challenge. Checkerspot was not only crowned at the GABF in Colorado this past fall, they will collaborate with Jim Koch’s team this March on a beer using local Maryland malt from Brad Humbert’s Bear Branch Malt, formerly Dark Cloud. They also receive mentoring and financial support, which could not have come at a better time for the brewery, as the deft guidance has already paid off via architectural planning and equipment.
You may wonder what will become of the former Checkerspot location. Owner Sam Himmelrich is purchasing the brewery “as is” including all equipment, hoping to lure a new team to begin brewing in the facility in 2023. There may be plenty of interest from aspiring brewery owners to assume control of the turn-key facility. Be on the lookout for more minority, women and Veteran brewers throwing their hats into the ring as Maryland is poised for growth in this regard with the newly elected leaders vowing to provide greater opportunity and structural support for the these entrepreneurs.
Despite the trials of the pandemic, soaring inflation and recessionary pressures along with continued supply chain issues, Maryland still has the driving undercurrent of increasing brewery offerings in the state. Take a look at the breweries in planning. Watch for announcements here and from the Brewers Association about the progress these fearless entrepreneurs are making.
Nationally, independent craft breweries have seen a nearly 8% rise in sales (nearly 25 million bbls) with total breweries topping 9200! This is encouraging despite the number of breweries that closed during the pandemic, we are on the rise. In Maryland there are more than 120 breweries, ranking 24th in the nation. The $917 million annual economic impact is nothing to sneeze at, but honestly we can do better and I know our talented, motivated Maryland brewers are up to the challenge!
Stay tuned for upcoming events surrounding the March 2023 Women in Beer collaborations!
A new Frederick farm brewery has opened, Prospect Point. It is a site to behold, and a beer to be shared!
Welcoming a new brewery into Maryland is always a joy. I must say the opening of Prospect Point was particularly delightful due to the delays the family faced trying to open their doors to the public. On Friday May 20, 2022, the Carroll family welcomed dignitaries and guests to their grand opening/ribbon cutting ceremony and it was a terrific success.
Prospect Point farm brewery is situated just outside of Frederick with picturesque views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The inviting foothills and hop fields surround visitors with a tantalizing breeze and spacious outdoor seating for 500. The taproom’s tall tin celling, industrial imagery and copious tables provide another appealing venue for craft beer lovers to sample the offerings.
The road to this well planned and executed brewery was long in coming. Somewhere around 2014+- I was working on the Beer in Maryland book and searching through ProBrewer for something I can no longer recall, when I came across Dan Carroll’s post asking for insights into opening a nano-brewery on his hop farm. The Carroll family owns Pleasant Valley Hop Farm. I was quite excited to see another Farm brewery in Frederick open, particularly on the south side of town.
Fortunately, Dan and his father had a veteran farm brewer on their side- Tom Barse of Milkhouse Brewery at Stillpoint Farm. He offered stout guidance and the concept eventually formulated into a plan. Unfortunately, COVID reared its spiky little head and delayed the project. As a non-essential business, permits were put on terminal hold, and once those were finally granted, supply chain and labor shortage issues wrecked its own special havoc. Fast forward to May 20, 2022, and you realize it was worth the protracted wait, making it all the sweeter for the Mike, Dan, Nick and their family!
The brewery houses a 10 bbl brewhouse and four 10 bbl fermenters. There is plenty of room for expansion and that is the goal. The beer is solid and well-received by the patrons. The pilsner was bright and clean, the hazy offered a nuanced citrus that was enchanting, balanced and easily drinkable -perhaps too much so!
I suggest a road trip- and don’t forget the kids and the dogs, as they are welcome to this family friendly venue. Food trucks are on site on weekends, and there is ample parking. Visit their Facebook page for hours and events!
In more good news, Tom Barse opened at fresh market at Milkhouse Brewery at Stillpoint Farm. When you are headed to the farm for beer, bring a cooler and pick up farm fresh beef, eggs, lamb greens and other delights! It has conveniently become a one stop shop for the freshest of everything!
In other expansion news, Crooked Crab’s 8,000+ sf expansion is moving right along with floor drains dug and new fermenters delivered. Follow the progress on their Facebook page. They keep turning out one great beer after another, and with this expansion there will be a lot more to quench your thirst.
Saints Row Brewing has completed their move from Rockville to Gaithersburg this past week. The move provides a larger facility not only for brewing but for the opening of their boutique coffee company, Hallowed Grounds Coffee Co. Hmmm…coffee and beer? I think that is a marriage made in Heaven!
Author and brewer Mary Eaton took a no-nonsense approach to crafting high-caliber beer.
“What an amazing human being and what a stickler for quality,” says Maureen O’Prey, historian and author of Beer in Maryland and Brewing in Baltimore. “What a stickler for following her recipe to the letter.
“She felt that any beer that left a hard or a sour or a pungent sensation on your tongue was not good beer. It was pernicious beer. And if you got it from a tavern or an ale house, you would end up with headaches and nausea and all kinds of things that you wouldn’t have had if you were drinking the beer that she was making in her house.”
Eaton held the firm belief that beer was best when made at home—specifically, by women, who unbeknownst to many, had been brewing for millennia around the time her book came out in 1822. In The Cook and Housekeeper’s Complete and Universal Dictionary, Eaton shares a bevy of meticulous recipes for beers with no-fuss names like “good” and “wholesome.”
“It’s really amazing when you look at what she wrote back in 1822, because the standards she’s demanding are what you would expect at a brewery today,” O’Prey explains. “Without knowing what pH was, she recognized good water from bad water, and how to turn bad water into good water. Everything was sanitized.”
Long before refrigeration, Eaton knew the cooler months of March and October were the most ideal for brewing. And as O’Prey found out herself, her recipes, while laborious and painstakingly detailed, yield an age-defying magic.
Referencing the aforementioned, 200-year-old book, O’Prey and Judy Neff, the owner of Checkerspot Brewing in South Baltimore, attempted to recreate three of Eaton’s recipes—plus one of their own, a 12.9 percent ABV ale appropriately dubbed “Pernicious Mary.” Per the author’s instructions for brewing, the latter sip sat for two years. But this weekend, the duo’s hard work will pay off when the four “fool-proof” brews hit the Checkerspot taproom.
This Saturday, March 5, in honor of Eaton, and to celebrate the start of Women’s History Month, Neff and O’Prey will host an event aptly dubbed “200 Years in the Making” at the Sharp Street brewery. For $70, VIP ticket holders will receive an exclusive bottle of “Pernicious Mary.” And for $40, Checkerspot guests will have the chance to sample three of Eaton’s fairly mild trademark blends: “Good Beer,” “Agreeable Table Beer,” and “Wholesome Beer” (yes, those are really their names).
From 1-4 p.m., O’Prey will be on site to sign her two books and give two lectures: one about the history of women in beer, and the other about the time she spent with Neff working to master Eaton’s time-held recipes. A portion of proceeds from ticket sales will benefit The Well, a Baltimore nonprofit helping women heal from trauma.
“Maureen is so thorough with all of her research,” says Neff, who looks forward to sharing Eaton’s legacy with Checkerspot. “She’s been passionate about craft beer and history for so long. We’re really lucky to be able to work together—to be a woman brewer and a woman beer historian, which is very rare to find. We make a pretty good team.
“[Too often] you only hear about men opening breweries. So I think it’s kind of cool for people to hear a different side of the story, that there was this woman, 200 years ago brewing beer at home. And she considered her beer the best, better than any guy could make.”
O’Prey agrees: “I think Mary would be proud. It is such an honor to be able to bring this incredible woman’s recipes back, and make them well. Women have always been a part of this beautiful, wonderful art of making beer.”
Grace Hebron is an Editorial Assistant at Baltimore. A graduate of Towson University, and formerly an intern at the aforementioned city glossy, she loves to cover lifestyle and community news. She also writes the Weekend Lineup column.
It is the time of year for gatherings and gratitude, forgiveness and transitions, revelry and redemption. It is after all the holidays!
While we have certainly ushered in the craft beer era in Maryland over the past decade, the joy of a new brewery opening can be bittersweet when mingled with another brewery closing. COVID-19 had a deleterious impact on many breweries, with their recovery often dependent upon the jurisdiction in which they resided. The suspension of enforcement, coupled with the 2021 legislation allowing many of these courtesies to continue until the end of 2022, mitigated much of the fiscal damage for brewers. Not all however, could persevere. Some were already vexed by non-pandemic related issues and succumbed.
Additionally, NIMBY has taken hold as farm breweries have seen tremendous growth, fomented by a pandemic that embraced social distancing, outdoor gatherings and the warming glow of fire pits. Despite the common sense economic benefit of value added agriculture, Harford County councilmembers pandered to the “not in my backyard mentality,” introducing a moratorium on farm breweries. After 18 months of planning and expense, AleCraft Brewery was forced to relocate their planned farm brewery, complete with hop farm, biergarten, and gastro pub across the border to Railroad, Pennsylvania. Sadly, they have also chosen to move their primary 5,000 sf, seven barrel production facility to Pennsylvania as well. This is a huge loss for Harford County and Maryland craft beer, but apparently a victory for an irritable neighbor.
With the pandemic in our rear view mirror, it is a blissful season to reacquaint ourselves with beer festivals like the Baltimore Craft Beer Festival in Canton. Over fifty breweries were in attendance to share their tantalizing creations. It was also an opportunity to sample tasty offerings from up and coming breweries like Joyhound Beer and Abbeywood Brewing, while rediscovering some old favorites like Oliver Brewing. This was not the first festival of the year, but definitely the place to be for a vast range of styles from the largest collection of Maryland brewers assembled since COVID struck. Kudos to Abby Cassarella, Jim Bauckman, Kevin Atticks and the whole crew at the Brewer’s Association of Maryland for putting on another exceptional event!
Pub Dog Brewing was in fine form at the festival, showing off a brilliant Vermont style IPA that kept fans wanting more. This was celebratory as friend and owner George Humbert was eager to share how busy he has been now that he re-opened Pub Dog Pizza & Drafthouse in Columbia, nearly two years after the gas explosion that closed the pub. The gourmet pizza is as good as you remember and the beer is sublime. A grateful crowd lined the block in March to welcome Pub Dog back to the neighborhood.
Another anticipated opening, Burnish Beer Company was also met with much fanfare in late October. Randy Mills, former co-owner and brewer at RaR Brewing in Cambridge created a destination in Salisbury that welcomes thirsty beer travelers year round. In addition to the delicious food options, a cocktail and wine menu is available for the folks that may not have come over to the brew side of things just yet. After two years in planning, a global pandemic could not stop Mills on this most welcome endeavor.
Crooked Crab Brewing in Odenton announced they are expanding operations at Telegraph Road. The expansion will be completed in 2022, nearly doubling the size of the brewery to 15,000 sf. Crooked Crab has certainly garnered a vast following with staples like Haze for Daze and seasonal Vespa Werewolf. Craft beer drinkers are excited by the news and intrigued by the possible expanded offerings once the construction is finished.
This heartwarming news is only tempered by the loss of an Eastern Shore brewery- Backshore Brewing (formerly known as Shorebilly), and the legendary Wharf Rat in Fells Point. In a tearful video message, Uncle Nate of Backshore informed patrons that owner Danny Robinson has decided to close the brewery at the end of November 2021. After pivoting to tea-based alcohol production in 2015 for beach goers, Robinson expanded his footprint to several others states including Florida. This closure comes as a surprise to many, although Uncle Nate has promised to try and buy the brand to continue operations on the shore.
Farther north in Baltimore, the Wharf Rat permanently closed on November 6, 2021. It was the founding home of Oliver Brewing before both the brewery and Pratt Street were sold to an outside investor. For more than 30 years the Wharf Rat was Baltimore’s favorite place for locals, overflowing with history. The English ambiance and malty ales transported patrons back to the Age of Sail when English vessels were moored in the harbor and offloading cargo on the docks. The Wharf Rat was sold at auction for nearly one million dollars in October with the buyer remaining anonymous- for now.
In case you missed it, the Pinks Boots Society Greater Maryland Chapter collaborated on a decadent new brew. Tit’s Up is a New England Style India Pale Lager in honor of breast cancer awareness month. This collaboration between Checkerspot Brewing, DuClaw Brewing and TenEyck Brewing Company reminds women to stand strong in the face of adversity. Participating breweries as well as several regional package stores have this consequential brew on shelves now. Don’t miss out!
In other collaboration news, I am thrilled to announce the latest historical collaboration between myself and Judy Neff of Checkerspot. Admiral Buck is launching on Thanksgiving eve! Admiral Buck is a recreation of late 19th century imperial Bock from the brewery of Edward Stiefel. It is aged in barrels provided by USN, Ret. Scott Sanders, Rear Admiral of Tobacco Barn Distillery. Mark your calendars and make a trip to the brewery on November 24th where I will be giving a talk on the full history of the beer and brewing in the 1800’s. Judy and I will be sharing other tantalizing tidbits about upcoming collaborations that you won’t want to miss! Don’t forget to grab a couple of bottles of Admiral Buck, a once in a lifetime historical brew to share at Thanksgiving!
A July look at the industry including the road to recovering from COVID, changed legislation, new trends, new breweries, and speed bumps in the road slowing progress.
As we begin to feel a return to more familiar surroundings, breweries and other Free State craft alcohol producers are working diligently to overcome the summer drought and pick up a head of COVID recovery steam. The good news is they have a few things operating in their favor this year.
This past legislative session we witnessed the application of common sense to craft alcohol laws with regard to continuing the (state of emergency) protocols put in place that allowed these manufacturers to survive COVID. This included an increase from 3,000 bbls to up to 5,000 bbls of beer to be distributed by a class 5 or class 7 brewery holding the proper (class 7) wholesale permit. It also continues the sale and delivery of products by the manufacturers of craft alcohol in Maryland directly to consumers, as well as direct shipping. Additionally, it lifts limits on maximum purchases from distilleries along with the nonsensical guided tour requirement. Apparently however, there was concern by legislators that the entire year of COVID lockdown was not nearly enough of a testing period to fully prove the validity of this “experiment” and they placed a sundown on this legislation, making all of this common sense legislation disappear after December 31, 2022- giving alcohol manufacturers and their guilds roughly 18 months to prove their case.
For many, the use of available outside space was pivotal to survival during COVID and now has become a perpetual addition to their breweries, wineries and distilleries. Some in more urban and industrial areas worked out the conversion of parking areas into semi-permanent seating and entertainment areas for the summer months. Regardless of space, everyone celebrated the re-opening of the indoor facilities they worked so hard to design.
The workarounds of 2020 have given way to new trends like crowlers instead of growlers – a much more convenient process and one I am personally happy to partake in. How many growlers can one person own after all? With the realization that once they were no longer in use, those empty growlers required a lot of storage space I didn’t have- there was no turning back.
Another trend that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon is seltzer. Yes seltzer… the ubiquitous drink that comes in a plethora of fruity, low alcohol flavors. The scorching summer heat has certainly fed their popularity. As the trend continued, even the most adamant breweries chose to provide at least one seltzer option for the converted (or overheated).
Craft non-alcoholic IPA’s have also become something of a trend- at least a mini trend. Most recently, Flying Dog released Deepfake a non-alcoholic IPA with Simcoe, Mosaic and Citra hops to much fanfare. It is a great option for those that love beer but don’t always want the alcohol. This is one trend that is bound to increase in popularity over the next few years.
One thing that most of us are very pleased to see is the return of celebrations- whether it be acknowledging a hard fought milestone for a manufacturer – like a third or tenth anniversary, or the return at least in some form to the festivals. One such example is rapidly approaching. The Brewers Association of Maryland has partnered with Pink Boots of Greater Maryland and Max’s Taphouse for the first annual Maryland Craft Beer Brewers Olympics. The event is being held at the B&O Railroad Museum August 15th from 12:00-4:00. This is a fundraising event for BAM with proceeds being allocated towards the funding and development of Human Resources personnel, education and advancement for a more inclusive industry.
This is great timing as the Maryland craft alcohol scene is continuing to expand from in-planning to grand openings. Pariah Brewing is opening their East Coast brewery in the old Union Craft Brewing space this fall. Reduce, reuse recycle? Sort of. Owners Christa and Brian Mitchell have outgrown their San Diego brewery and decided to get back to their roots by opening a second brewery on Union Avenue in Baltimore- a spot ready made for the 20 bbl brewhouse.
Guilford Hall Brewery recently opened in the old Crown Cork and Seal plant. The brewery boasts seating for 200, with a bar restaurant on the upper level. Martin Coad is the brewmaster concentrating on producing well-crafted German brews including pilseners and lagers, among other Bavarian and Viennese selections.
If either of these things seem a little bit familiar…you are not alone in thinking history is repeating itself. Perhaps DeGroens (Baltimore Brewing Company) and Flying Dog (when they were in Colorado and Maryland) come to mind?
All however, is not sunshine and hops. Some breweries that had big plans have had to put things on hold, in some cases indefinitely. Brad and Eryn Streett were slated to open AleCraft Farm Brewery in Harford County until Councilman Robert Wagner introduced a moratorium on farm breweries in the county days before their zoning hearing. On the surface it appears to be another case of NIMBY (not in my backyard) syndrome that plagues many value-added agriculture businesses, threatening their very existence. Hopefully common sense and diplomatic dialogue will prevail and AleCraft will move forward.
There is lots more to share from pincasts to collaborations that you will not want to miss. Stay tuned and stay hydrated!
A brief overview of Women’s history Month and the incredible women in the Maryland craft brewing industry.
March is a month that represents a diverse range of things to many folks, but it also happens to be women’s history month. This month in particular has been an active one despite the pandemic still continuing to shift the paradigm for an abundance of us. The month kicked off in fine fashion, harkening back to the days of yore with a women’s brew on March 8th.
As most of you that have read the book or participated in the beer history walks know, brewing was the purview of women historically. It was our responsibility to make beer and cider for the family along with myriad other tasks like tending the hearth and the kitchen garden. Many have also heard of Ninkasi, the ancient Sumerian goddess of beer, or Saint Brigid who turned dirty bathwater into beer for both leper and cleric alike, and the list goes on and on.
This is not to say that men were not brewers prior to the colonial era, as they were, but it was a household chore (hardly an appropriate word) that fell to the females of the domicile. The shift away from women as brewers can be seen in colonial America with the build up to war. A need to supply our Revolutionary troops with daily rations of beer (1 qt. of spruce beer per day to be precise) required a scaling up in production. Once brewing was removed from the household it was placed in the hands of men. Do not misunderstand, some women continued to brew and a few of them brewed on the industrial level until the death knell of the Volstead Act rang its discordant tune.
After Repeal, it was still part and parcel a realm for men, although a new understanding would emerge by the 1940’s, in no small part due to the changing role of women in WWII. They became a target consumer for breweries, and by the 1950’s Maryland breweries like Gunther were completely redesigning workspaces to accommodate female employees. But a return to brewing was a still a ways off for many.
Enter Terry Fahrendorf, and the narrative completely changes- and history along with it! Terry was a female brewer at a time when the industry was male dominated and the Swedish bikini models were still considered a viable default marketing gimmick. Fahrendorf traveled the nation engaging in collaborative brews at each stop. She met very few women in the industry, but those she came across forged an immediate bond and a revolution- a Pink Boots revolution. This was the genesis of the Pink Boots Society, an organization founded by Fahrendorf to not only provide a sisterhood of females in the industry, but educational opportunities and advocacy for women vastly outnumbered in an field that once belonged to us.
Pink Boots has grown exponentially since 2007, as have the number of women returning to this profession. The society provides a strong foundation not only for seasoned industry experts, but those wishing to start their own breweries, or further their new found careers in all aspects of brewing. It is also the basis of the March 8th collaboration. Annually, the Pink boots Society selects a blend of hops in advance of the annual collaboration (usually October), sending the information out to chapters in each region across the nation to plan. This year the hops chosen were: Ahtanum®, Cashmere, Citra®, Loral®, and Sabro®, creating a blend with tropical, herbal, citrus & woody aromatic qualities.
This year, with the greater Maryland chapter reformulated, Judy Neff, owner and head brewer of Checkerspot Brewing Company played host for the event. The hops would be used in a cold India Pale Lager that also happen to be a little hazy! The socially distanced brew day was a complete success! What set it apart from the other annual collaborations is the team behind this greater Maryland chapter (Amethyst Tymoch & Rachel Bradley) working to put together something exceptional, a collaborative brew day with breakout sessions- making the most of the day.
The first session, diversity and inclusion, was extremely impactful. Women in the industry from broad range of backgrounds (Tranice, Courtney, Crystal, Hannah, Kara, Jordan, Diane) shared their experiences and advice on how to improve the relations and make it more inclusive for everyone regardless of race, gender, or sexual preference and believe it or not- make it beer centric. This session was open, vulnerable, true and honest, and like a fine wine will continue to have legs- promising depth, character, and complexity for years to come. This session was an eye opener for some, a moment of solidarity for others. Regardless, it forged a path forward to navigate the complexities of a world that is challenging, painful, exclusionary at times, but inherently capable of becoming diverse, inclusive and healing.
One of my favorite quotes came from Tranice Watts of Patuxent Brewing, “Your only limit is your mind.” Straight forward and undeniably powerful (like the woman herself). People often limit themselves and perhaps need to be reminded to go beyond their self-imposed limits. Change happens with one mind at a time and,
“Diversity is beautiful” Jordan, Waredaca
The second session shined the spotlight on Crystal Rivera, co-owner (with her father) of Puerto Rico Distillery in Frederick. Crystal shared her story starting out as homebrewer at FIU, before recapturing her family history. Her father (retired Navy) was considered a Puerto Rican mountain “hillbilly” with a rich culture of making distilled sugar cane (rum) moonshine known as Pitorro. Crystal shared the challenges she faced not only entering an industry that was filled with machismo, but opening in the midst of a pandemic. Although she found herself making hand sanitizer out of the gate, she eventually created something most Americans had no experience with unless they had traveled to Puerto Rico themselves and were fortunate enough to sample it. Much like brewing, Pitorro wouldn’t be Pitorro without the women. Crystal shared with us that although men historically distilled the rum, the women were the ones infusing it and making it exceptional! She was also kind enough to bring samples of her absolutely delightful creations. I must say the almond was exquisite, balanced and warm, and I cannot wait to make the drive to Frederick for a bottle!
The third and final session brought with it much fun and technical expertise- the art of beer photography. In this modern day of social media as a prime mode of advertising, great photos are critical to audience engagement and retention. Rachel Bradley of DuClaw shared her expertise, tools and lightbox tips to a successful beer photo creation. This light, fun, yet incredibly helpful session topped an already fabulous day, the rewards of which are ongoing -as witnessed in the improved posts you have probably already seen!
The Pink Boots collaborative brew will be available to consume in April. Two Pink Out release events have already been scheduled at Full Tilt and Ten Eyck. Get your tickets while you can!
I was honored to participate with so many new and many known Pink Boots members that came out to brew (or showed in spirit) on March 8th :
Cameron – 1623 Brewing
Carrie – 1623 Brewing
Emma – Astrolab Brewing Company
Jim Baukman- BAM (Wait a Man?????-LOL! Yes happily invited to cover the event)
Why the list you ask? Take a good, long look at this list and realize this includes only a fraction of the women in the industry in Maryland. The tide is shifting…
That by no means wrapped the month however. After a year of waiting Pernicious Mary was finally bottled! Who is Pernicious Mary? In case you missed it (perhaps because of a global pandemic), last March 2020, I collaborated with Judy Neff of Checkerspot Brewing to recreate a 200 year old recipe by a female brewer. This historic old ale was a special occasion brew- requiring an extremely large grain bill, a lot of time, and exceptional attention to detail. Mary, the brewer was a stickler for quality beer, finding standard offerings at taverns to be lacking in quality and quite ‘pernicious”. Hence the name! After a year of barrel aging, Mary was finally ready to be bottled….but Mary requires one more year of cellaring in the bottle! Yes patience is a virtue- but is well worth the wait, as the beer is capable of cellaring for 10 years! Stay tuned event detail will be forthcoming for this limited release.
The brand new podcast Brew LaLa was released by Pink Boots chapter leader Amethyst Tymoch, who you might know as the @beerdashian on Instagram, or perhaps she poured you a pint at the spot. Why another Maryland beer podcast you ask? Diversity is beautiful after all and quite frankly it is different from the other brewing podcasts you might watch. Highlights include the science behind the brewing segments with Dr. Judy Neff, and some fast facts on brewing history with yours truly. This is in addition to myriad other topics and a cavalcade of guests making it both fun and informative!
On Sunday March 21, I once again was the lucky recipient of an invite to participate in another women’s collaborative brew day. This grapefruit Hefeweizen was brewed for a Mother’s Day 2021 release at Patuxent Brewing Company in Waldorf Maryland in May. This small group brought together experienced brewers with those dreaming of becoming brewers, along with others in the field. It was an inspired choice for not only the style of beer, but the collection of women. Both ideas were the brainchild of Diane R. (Patuxent Brewing Co. videographer and brewer in training). The day was a captivating mixture of soulful conversation, lighthearted fun, and a splendid feast. A special thank you to Davie Feaster (head brewer) for hosting us and sharing his extraordinary BBQ talents! I look forward to the reunion on Mother’s Day ladies!
On March 22, the latest Revenews podcast hit the airwaves! If you are not familiar with this financial podcast from the Maryland Comptroller’s office, I implore you to tune in. Co-hosts Alan Brody and Samantha Igo keep audiences informed about the latest happenings from the agency with special guests covering a wide array of topics. They keep their listeners engaged with wit, wisdom, and laughter- a must listen! Spoiler alert- I was invited on as a guest (on St. Patrick’s Day none the less) to talk about women in beer and history. It was a perfect combination for the day and as you will hear- we had grand time. Be sure to check it out!
Speaking of things you need to know… did you know that Manor Hill Brewing changed hands shortly before the pandemic? In December of 2019, Rachel Marriner Mull took the reins from her father Randy. Rachel is a power house who happens to be imminently qualified- and she also happens to be crushing it! Rachel is President and CEO of Manor Hill Productions, Manor Hill Farm LLC, and Victoria Restaurant Group as well as the brewery. She is an unstoppable force not only in the industry, but in the state! I am hoping to garner a more in depth interview for an upcoming future article.
Whew! It has been a busy month and rightfully so. Still, I want to leave you with one last thought, or more of a rule of thumb. When you go to a brewery, or a bar, a distillery, or a winery, a sheet metal fabricator or any business at all, remember one thing:
If a women is the brewer, or the welder, or the distiller, the vlogger or the beertender -assume she is there because she knows what she is doing. She is the expert. Don’t look around for a male counterpart. Instead, assume she knows what she is doing- because she does. She shouldn’t have to work ten times harder because she is a she, but she does, and she knows her stuff- you count on it!
A look at what 2021 holds for our breweries in Maryland, and a look back at how they survived 2020.
Well 2020 is in the books and it has been one for the ages! The pandemic indelibly altered an already fluid landscape forcing breweries, wineries and distilleries to make wholesale (pun intended) adjustments to their fundamental operational practices. As closures mounted, business owners scrambled to stay alive amid constantly changing regulations and requirements…
No indoor dining; only 25% capacity indoor dining; 50% capacity indoor dining; outdoor dining only; no outdoor dining; bars that serve food can be open but not bars that don’t serve food, and of course no masks needed (March)… to wear the damn mask (April).
Sometimes it was a local jurisdictional directive- sometimes it was state mandated. Either way this was exhausting and costly.
Added to this mishmash was a growing aluminum shortage and Maryland alcohol manufacturers were in a bit of a pickle to put it mildly. Necessity is the mother of invention, and one thing our craft producers know how to do is innovate. They learned to bend like reeds in a tornado to witness another sunrise, but it wasn’t easy.
The adaptations manifested almost immediately in the form of delivery apps (like Biermi), transitions to primarily wholesale manufacturing, and of course the varied conversion of any available outdoor space for seating to accommodate patrons. For some parking areas worked, for others a spot of grass or sidewalk sufficed, but each space was unique, creative, and socially distanced. More importantly, it helped keep the business alive. Some relief arrived in the form of the Federal Cares Act, small business loans and grants from the state of Maryland, along with a tax forbearance. Local credit unions and banks stepped up to offer favorable grants, loans and forbearances as well to keep the doors open for so many. Most thought it would only be a few months, but it turned into several.
Some manufacturers were able to not only survive the challenge of 2020 and COVID, but thrive- turning adversity into opportunity. Silver Branch was open only a year when the pandemic hit, upending their first anniversary party and forcing them to invest more quickly in a larger wholesale production operation than anticipated, along with an abundant delivery service. Mully’s Brewery not only endured the pandemic, they thrived even though limited to outdoor only seating. A 1500 sf taproom expansion is now underway at the brewery, offering a hopeful reminder that once vaccines are rolled out people will be back in the taproom once again!
Checkerspot Brewing not only weathered the storm, they soared above it, much like a butterfly. Limited to outdoor seating only (although at the time of this writing Mayor Scott has removed that option) they improvised, and with a little help from the landlord, under the over became the go-to place for socially distanced outdoor seating, complete with big screen televisions to watch the Orioles and Ravens play while sipping on your favorite brew. With demand on the rise, the brewery also invested in a canning line for carryout, wholesale, and delivery. As of winter 2020/2021 they too are in the process of expanding the brewery to accommodate the shift from primarily taproom focused to wholesale operations.
Patuxent Brewing in Charles has also worked tirelessly to meet the demand for their signature brews. Patuxent opened in 2019 as Maryland’s first 100% minority owned brewery. Since that time they have seen such a demand for their beer, it has been a challenge to keep up! Through collaborations and tourism (prior to COVID) they were getting some pretty serious name recognition. COVID has not slowed them down and they have hit the ground running- taking home a few fairly significant awards. In October 2020 they were named the Regional Manufacturing Institutes (RMI) Champion of Manufacturing and the People’s Choice Award winner for Diversity and Inclusion. Accolades did not stop there as the ever tenacious Tranice Watts, along with co-owners Davie Feaster and Gene Lott were not only finalists in the Brewbound Pitch Slam this year, they won $25k as the 8 Trill Pils Minor Craft Beer Business Award winners! This is a must visit brewery folks!
In addition to the savvy business moves made by our Maryland breweries a few new ones were able to open in 2020, including TenEyck, Pherm, Forward, Hopkins and more. Check out the New Breweries page to see who is open.
More good news came in the form of the passed Craft Beverage Modernization Tax Reform Act that was passed by congress in December. This was the next step for fair excise taxes for small craft alcohol producers, and it also came with COVID relief package for these same manufacturers who have suffered under the weight of pandemic restrictions. President Trump signed the bill into law in the waning days of December, securing the future of these industries.
Now, all our producers need is Maryland to come on board to secure the future of Maryland’s craft alcohol manufacturers by making some of the state of emergency changes permanent. Since Governor Hogan declared a state of emergency, breweries, wineries and distilleries have seen a suspension of enforcement on carryout limits, home delivery, shipping and off-premise consumption. These have no doubt helped keep alcohol manufacturers, bars and restaurants in business. With the transition to wholesale local retailers are carrying MORE local craft beer than ever before, which for some package store owners came as a surprise. It was a lesson learned for many that even with a change to more favorable regulations for these manufacturers (or lack of enforcement more appropriately) everyone is still coming out ahead. So why move back to those arbitrary restrictions once COVID has passed?
What will happen after the state of emergency is lifted? There was talk of making these changes permanent through legislation in the upcoming session (2021). Governor Hogan introduced a COVID relief bill in January that does nothing to extend these limits. Was this just a moment in the sun in a year marred by darkness? Or will someone actually go to bat for the craft alcohol manufacturers? After all didn’t they step up when we needed them the most by converting their businesses to manufacture PPE and hand sanitizer to protect us?
If you recall back in summer I likened our breweries to a champion squirrel named Acorn. Suffering terrible injuries from a falling branch he should have perished. Instead I am happy to say he is healed and thriving- not just surviving! A lesson in luck? Perhaps, or just sheer determination winning out against the odds.
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 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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.