A little news on International Women’s day and the Year of the Woman!
It has been a while since the last post, but hopefully it was worth the wait. Today is International Women’s Day, and it seemed like the most appropriate time to share what is certainly going to be an auspicious Year of the Woman!
2020 (August 18) recognizes the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, and the passage of the 19th Amendment leally granting women in the United States the right to vote. In January, Denizens (a women –owned brewery) honored this milestone with a collaboration of women brewers in Maryland coming together to create a suffragette stout. This delicious chocolate stout honors those women that came before and fought for civil rights we enjoy today. Many collaboration brews are ongoing among women in the brewing industry to create brews that celebrate the Year of the Woman.
FeBREWary brought the annual celebratory month for Maryland crafted beer, and the iconic Cupid’s Curse competition at the Winter Warmer showcase. What a tasty competition it was, on Valentine’s Day nonetheless, with chocolate and cherry creating a heavenly stir.
FeBREWary also saw the third incarnation of the Baltimore Beer Babes Calendar photo shoot, where women from various sectors of the industry in Baltimore came together to raise money for Kennedy Krieger by making a calendar. This annual calendar was the brainchild of Mahaffey’s proprietress Alice Kistner. This year the event was hosted by Checkerspot Brewing Company owner Judy Neff. Calendars will be sold later this spring with many signing opportunities at Mahaffey’s and other locales, with all proceeds sent to Kennedy Krieger.
Now that March has settled in warmly, it was also time to delve deeply into the past for two historical beer recreations with Judy Neff at Checkerspot Brewing. The first is a 200 year old special occasion recipe from a very particular woman brewer named Mary, who thought poorly made beer was pernicious. March was the time of year to brew beer due to climate and conditions necessary. It was a labor of love patience, and arm strength. It will rest for two years before serving. After that, it remains an extremely high quality ale that can be stored for eight years! It’s just that good….
Next up is something that will be celebrated much sooner- on April 7- a legalization brew. This historical gem is a recreation of a beer crafted by an extremely talented Irish Brewer. This triple-hopped Baltimore original was consumed minutes after midnight by H.L. Mencken at the Rennert Hotel, when 3.2% beer was legal for the first time after 13 dry years of the failed experiment known as Prohibition. Although the Women’s Christian Temperance Union led the charge toward Prohibition in the late 19th century, it was also women- many Maryland women- that helped lead us out.
Release parties for both brews will of course be held at Checkerspot with much revelry and lots of historical tidbits to share!
It is International Women’s Day in Year of the Woman after all, and there is much to celebrate and enjoy, so stay tuned!
A reflection on 2019, and a look forward to what is coming in 2020 for the brewing industry in Maryland.
2019 came in with a rush for the craft brewing scene in Maryland. Amid the plethora of new breweries, we welcomed favorable changes in legislation for craft alcohol manufacturers in Maryland and the nation. Sadly, we also witnessed the closure of local breweries and other beloved institutions that helped bring attention to industry in its nascent stage of revitalization.
2018 left us a bit shell shocked legislatively as the muckraking revealed the lopsided, antediluvian alcohol laws and the lengths the entrenched beneficiaries were willing to go to in order to hang on to their empires built upon the backs of craft alcohol manufacturers in Maryland. It was instructive and served as a platform for change in 2019. The close of the 2019 Maryland legislative session witnessed the passage of the Brewery Modernization Act and Beer Franchise Law reform. All in all this was a resounding victory and most craft breweries could breathe a sigh of relief, as profitability would not be nearly as restricted for most with an increase in taproom sales; the elimination of the buy-back proviso; an increase in taproom hours; and increases in both production and self-distribution limits among other favorable changes. Barriers to profitability had been lifted for most, and many brewers that were operating on thin margins could finally rejoice.
For others the joy was somewhat muted, particularly for older breweries stuck with a dunce of a distributor. Although franchise law reform enables breweries to terminate a relationship with a distributor in 45 days without cause for fair market value, the cost of extricating from those franchise contracts is often cost prohibitive, thus they remain in a bad “marriage” indefinitely. For those breweries a bad distributor is already hemorrhaging profits due to the lack of consistent and reliable deliveries, making a payout of “fair market value” a nonstarter. Overall however there was far more to celebrate than decry.
We witnessed the opening of long awaited breweries like Patuxent Brewing- Charles County’s 1st brewery, which opened this June. They are a welcome addition to a community that was incredibly thirsty for quality, locally produced brews. This minority owned Southern Maryland brewery has certainly created a buzz and should be a planned stop for any beer traveler.
In Carroll County Brewery Fire opened to much acclaim from craft beer lovers and an extremely supportive chamber of commerce excited for the increase in beer and agro tourism. 1623 also settled on a location in Eldersburg at the Liberty Exchange, which will contribute to this swell of good beer in Carroll County.
Montgomery County saw its share of new breweries with Elder Pine in Gaithersburg and Silver Branch in Silver Spring. These are two can’t miss breweries that could not be more different: Silver Branch for the truly authentic German beers they produce and Elder Pine for the locally-farmed ingredients in lesser known styles. Another Montgomery County staple- Denizens- expanded into Prince George’s County with their new Riverdale Park production brewery and taproom.
Pooles Island opened in Baltimore County, keeping it local and interesting. In addition to the standard fare one would expect they have host of surprises, including Le Blanc Fort- a hybrid beer with Sauvignon Blanc resulting in a crisp, dry, delightful drink.
These were just a handful of the new members joining the 100+ Maryland breweries. 23 more are slated to open in 2020.
Unfortunately, 2019 observed upheaval in the industry as well. Rubber Soul, House Cat Brewing, and Barley and Hops all shuttered their doors this year. For some like House Cat- experimental yeasts led to their undoing, while others suffered from financial woes. Smoketown Brewing in Brunswick was ripe for expansion into Frederick and took advantage of House Cat’s closure by moving into the facility next door to Attaboy and a stone’s throw from Idiom- an ideal location for beer tourists.
For those of us that have been around for a bit, we were left feeling bereft at the loss of Baltimore Beer Week. This annual institution started by Joe Gold, formerly of Heavy Seas Brewery, and Dominic Cantalupo together craft beer lovers to Baltimore for a decade, with engaging events that introduced novices and aficionados alike to the best Maryland had to offer in craft beer. It bolstered the industry at a time it when it was just starting to take off, when folks really weren’t envisioning Maryland as a craft beer destination. In fact, although hard to believe now, in 2008 many were still hesitant to embrace craft beer at all. My how times have changed, and oh how I will miss the beer history walks (and breakfast beers), the passports, and the awesome shirts among the numerous other things that made is so special. The impact of Baltimore Beer Week forever remains. Some of the traditions- including the homebrew extravaganza, the race at Max’s, and a host of other events have been resurrected. The legacy of BBW, and of Dom and Joe and what they created will live on.
The industry has also learned to be incredibly adaptable. Jailbreak in Laurel for example, changed their classification to better serve patrons by opening a kitchen, and serving wine and spirits. Many breweries have included other craft alcohol options in house to reach a wider audience, including Elk River in Cecil Waverly in Baltimore, and Silver Branch in Silver Spring.
Full Tilt opened their new facility in Govans, serving other local craft beers in addition to wine while transitioning production over from Peabody Heights. In recent weeks, they transitioned to both a brand new general manager; Marshall Lilly, and head brewer- Jordan McGraw, formerly of Hysteria in Columbia. They still serve wine, but with the new brewmaster upping their game, they will see quite a bit more demand.
The devastating floods in Ellicott City have taken their toll on the town, and upended plans for many businesses. One creative solution has emerged from the devastation- Ellicott Mills Brewing Company has been purchased by the Phoenix Emporium, providing a secure future for both in what have certainly been trying times for success.
Heavy Seas has rebranded to usher in the new decade and appeal to a larger demographic of craft beer drinkers. They have also introduced a host of new offerings to tempt and tantalize, including a hazy IPA that launches January 10th – Hydra’s Haze.
There is much to look forward to look forward to in 2020. A slew of new brewery openings including Ten Eyck in Queenstown- a woman owned brewery and taproom ( made up of Veterans and First Responders); and Ministry of Brewing- a brewery in the historic St. Michael’s German Catholic Church in Fells Point… and that is just January!
Burnish Beer is slated to open in Salisbury with Randy Mills, former partner and brewmaster of RaR Brewing, at the helm. Sapwood Cellars in Columbia is expanding with three new 20 bbl tanks in 2020 just to meet demand. The Wine Co-op at Union Collective will also open in 2020 leading to a trifecta of craft alcohol manufacturers in one location. More historical recipe recreations are on tap from yours truly in combination with the fabulous Judy Neff and team at Checkerspot.
There is of course much more to say, and a plethora of breweries to cover.
It was a great decade for brewing in Maryland and I can’t wait to see what happens in 2020!
The long awaited opening of Taneytown’s 1st brewery- Brewery Fire has finally arrived.
October 6, 2019
It finally happened! After many hurdles and bumps in the road and a few more yet to overcome, and one full year after winning the 2018 Carroll Biz Challenge, Jesse Johnson and Dave Palmer have opened Brewery Fire in Taneytown on September 27, 2019.
Brewery Fire is currently the third Carroll County brewery
but not the last, with three others in planning- Flood Zone, 1623, and Pipe the
Side. The Taneytown brewery is ideally situated off of Old Taneytown Road next
to Thunderhead Bowl and within view of the roundabout taking advantage of the main
thoroughfare and foot traffic. It is a great neighborhood for such a venture,
and one that has been much welcomed by the town.
The men behind Brewery Fire certainly enjoy the support of the community. The local business owners understand what a draw the brewery can be in addition to the agro-tourism, the picturesque scenery, charming (real) bed and breakfasts, antique shops, restaurants and bakery I close proximity to the brewery. Local Business leaders understand and completely buy into the philosophy that a rising tide lifts all boats, and by that measure if one succeeds, they all benefit. This also happens to be Jesse and Dave’s philosophy, and they are laser focused on being a positive and most contributory part of Taneytown.
Brewery Fire has incredible patronage from local residents (of
all ages). If you were expecting to find a predominantly millennial crowd-
think again. There is a not a
demographic (of legal drinking age) that Brewery Fire has missed in its appeal
and the results are impressive- from the groups of senior citizens that are
making this their regular go to
place, to the discerning style-centric millennials, and of course those in the
middling area between the two. The buzz extends well beyond Taneytown to
Westminster, Baltimore, Annapolis, and Southern Maryland.
The brewery is a vivid mix of industrial meets vintage- from
Kirk Seese’ 1980’s themed mural (which of course includes The Princess Bride and
Indiana Jones) in the bier garden, and digital
beer menu nestled above the taps of the bar. There of course is the taproom
which adds to the ambience by adeptly mixing corrugated aluminum with
beautifully carved wooden countertops created by Makers Woodshop (in nearby
Woodstock), with Super Nintendo (yes you too can play), providing the fun and
inviting atmosphere for everyone. Makers Woodshop is also going to use Brewery
Fire as a place to showcase some of their work- a terrific partnership and a
win for everyone!
Make no mistake-the beer is the main event. The “Executor”
West Coast IPA exactly what it should be- they did not miss a thing. The Red
Ale “Start Now” was named after a favorite and inspiring Comptroller of
Maryland employee, and one that most in the industry knows well- Lou Berman. His
years of experience is always an asset, and “Start Now” serves as a lovely and delicious
reminder of that expertise. Even before Brewery Fire officially opened Jesse and
Dave were working on collaborations with other Carroll County brewers from Pub
Dog to 1623. More collaborations are coming because this is a united community
of brewers aiding one another to realize their dreams, and all of Maryladn is
Dave and Jesse are still working on a few things to maximize
the Brewery Fire experience, but they are finally open and the beer is sublime.
Take a drive, enjoy the scenery, and be ready to bring a few crowlers home…because
yes it is that good!
What is in store for craft beer lovers at the new brewery breaking ground in Queen Anne’s County?
Sunday marked the official groundbreaking of a new brewery in Queen Anne’s County- Ten Eyck. The name is familial, drawn from founder and brewmaster Nicki Sener and her father, affectionately known as “Gangster Ten Eyck”. The Ten Eyck family emigrated from the Netherlands during the Colonial era and planted roots throughout what eventually became the United States of America. Etymologically, it is derived from the Dutch and translated as ‘under the oak’ or ‘lives at the oak’. Charming most certainly, but not the most interesting aspect of this new brewery.
It is the women behind the brewery that provide the most
intriguing story behind this venture- veterans and first responders. Nicki
Sener is not only the founder but both a veteran and a first responder (law
enforcement). Sharon Horgan and Shayne Sewell both served in the Air Force
along with Michelle (Mo) and Jennifer Barrett. Jessica Hammond Graf coached
women’s rugby at the Naval Academy, while she and her wife Yancy Hammond Graf both
played for USA Women’s Rugby. What brought them together? Rugby and craft beer,
and a common set of experiences. It was actually
Yancy that first delved into mash tun of homebrewing while playing rugby, and
from that point forward it became an integral part of the group dynamic. Although quite talented, Yancy has since
passed the mash paddle off to Nicki, and for good reason,
“It was easy to believe in the vision of Ten Eyck, because we enjoy the creativity that emanates from this woman.” Yancy Hammond Graf, speaking of founder Nicki Sener.
If you hadn’t guessed by now, these women are close- they
not only support one another, but perhaps more importantly build and invest in
each other. They champion strengths while helping buttress the gaps. They are a
united front, one that not only understands the magic of teamwork, but the essential
role of allowing individual character to shine.
The brewery is situated on a patch of land ideally suited for local patrons and travelers. Ten Eyck is just off of Grange Hall Road and Rte. 213, within spitting distance of Route 50 (Blue Star Memorial Highway or Ocean Gateway- you choose.) The location also happens to be directly across from Chesapeake College and the nearest gas station. Between beach goers and the college crowd, foot traffic should not be a problem for Ten Eyck no matter the time of year. The 4,244 sf facility will house a 10 bbl system from Oregon, with three 10 bbl bright tanks and a 20 bbl fermenter. Foeders are also in route. For those of you unfamiliar, they were created predominantly for wine although other craft creations from spirits to beer have incorporated these enormous wooden vats in the maturation process. The high liquid to wood ratio provides a perfect environment for the beer to develop, while imparting oak, vanilla, and other mellow characteristics into the alcohol without threat of acidification that is often a product of smaller barrel ageing. The vast height of the vessel allows for greater capacity with a smaller footprint than standard barrels. Lagers and stouts are ideal for Foeders, and if dedicated- can make a particularly sublime sour.
The taproom will have 12 taps of myriad styles. The goal is
to offer a little bit of everything to the consumer from lagers, to IPA’s to
sours. For the non-beer drinkers they are also crafting both soda and cider. There
will not be a full kitchen, so food options include a picnic lunch, or
available food trucks. Ten Eyck will have a full bier garden, complete with dog
pools for your waggy-tailed quadruped, and perhaps a hitching post for your
thoroughbred. They have literally thought of everything!
I have sampled Ten Eyck’s offerings before, but on a 94
degree day filled with bright sun I was curious how my opinion and my palate
might be informed. I will begin with the one thing I rarely drink- cider. It
was quite perfect for such a warm afternoon. The blueberries and blackberries
were all locally grown and handpicked, lending themselves to a lingering and immensely
refreshing mouthful of bright, full flavors that would have been lost in mass
harvested berries, but were not overpowering.
The Blackberry Rye IPA offered a similar profile in that it
was fully flavored, yet impressively balanced between the hop profile and the
expected bite of the rye. My favorite
however was the Tail Dragger IPA. This little beauty was named after Hanna, who
not surprisingly is a pilot who was gracious enough to actually wear a t-shirt
with her plane imprinted upon it. This cunning craft was a merger of Galaxy and
Citra hops, producing an IPA that brought forth every nuance of malt underneath
the hop profile that was not at all overpowering, but brilliantly complex.
The brewery is slated to open no later than January 2020, although they are hoping for an October debut. This remarkable group of women are building something incredible together…..stay tuned and don’t forget to thank them for their service!
Thomas Peters was famous for his Baltimore brewery, now find out what a hero he was before the mash tun!
July 5, 2019
As an historian you never stop documenting the current,
investigating the past, and learning more about those that came before. Thomas Peters, as many of you have read, was
an early brewer in the city of Baltimore. He opened his industrial brewery on
the Jones Falls in 1784, just after his service in the Revolutionary war. What
most don’t know is the extent of his service and his affiliation with George
Washington. Details of Thomas Peters’ service in the Continental Army has come
to light from his 4th great grandson, Wilmer “Pete” Barnes. Barnes,
a 26 year Air Force Veteran carried on the family’s birthright of military
service and commitment to our great nation. Pete was kind enough to share the
details of his namesake’s heroic deeds.
Thomas Peters’ father William hailed from Liverpool, England,
but Thomas was an American born and raised in Pennsylvania. He was a founding
member of America’s very first military unit organized in defense of the
colonies in 1774. After the first Continental Congress was held in Philadelphia,
three members of the Committee of Correspondence along with twenty five
concerned citizens which included Thomas Peters formed the Light Horse Cavalry
of the City of Philadelphia to defend the colonies. This all-volunteer unit
equipped at their own expense with horses, sabers, a carbine and two flintlock
pistols with saddle holsters. The uniforms were those of the fox and hound
hunting club that many of the founders claimed membership in. This much
heralded unit is still in existence today, renamed the 1st Troop
Philadelphia City Cavalry and stands as the oldest serving cavalry unit in the
Republic. The flag of the regiment is the first to visually depict the thirteen
colonies, represented by 13 stripes festooned along the top left of the flag.
Thomas Peters’ service was nothing short of exemplary. He
and his troop served as the rearguard escorting George Washington across the Delaware
River in 1776. At the battle of Trenton on December 26, 1776 a Light Horse Cavalry
detachment was responsible for capturing Hessians (the German mercenaries from
Hesse hired by King George III as auxiliary troops during the American
Revolution). This was critical to the American victory at Trenton. Thomas Peters was also deployed with Colonel
Joseph Reed, Adjutant General and his small team of Light Horse Cavalry members
sent on a reconnaissance mission that successfully captured enemy dragoons and revealed
the number of British soldiers Washington was to face in battle. Thus, knowing
he was outnumbered Washington marched through the night to Princeton where he
would launch a successful counterattack against the British with the Light
Horse Troop at his side, routing three of Cornwallis’ regiments. Many military
historians argue this was the turning point for the revolution. It most certainly kept the Americans in the fight
and the British on their heels. Peters’ war time service did not stop there
however as he was subsequently appointed commissary general of prisoners in
That was merely the beginning of the story for Thomas
Peters, as through his service he developed a fine kinship with the man whom he
fought beside and would later become our first President, George Washington. After
the conclusion of the war Peters set about opening his brewery in Baltimore.
One of the most curios aspects of this endeavor was not only Peters building
one of the largest, most expansive industrial breweries in the nation at the
time, but his continued relations with George Washington. This is best captured
in the various correspondence between them in the years following the
conclusion of the war. When Peters
opened his brewery, he did not have his own malting operations- that would come
with the initial expansion a year later. The concern for Peters was getting the
proper barley supply for the purpose of malting. This is where General
Washington came into the picture, along with a few other notable figures.
The planting of grain to aid recovery efforts after the
destruction levelled upon the fields during the Revolutionary war was
impressive, and an agricultural boom was in full swing. Not all of the seed
sown was the best for planting in certain climates or suitable for malting,
however. Washington relied upon Thomas Peters as brewer, and maltster with
access to suitable barley seed, and harvested bushels. Peters also supplied
vital technological aid to Washington, taking advantage of the latest
inventions of the time aiding agricultural production. In one correspondence, Washington
thanked Peters for the recommendation of an efficient barley cleaning machine
that reduced the work of men. It is unclear which machine he was referring to,
but most likely it was the grain cleaning machine of J. Savory.
Shortly after the war, great difficulty existed in finding
barley that was not compromised with oats, or finding the right type of barley
for malting and spring barley was scarce. Peters engaged with John Beale
Bordley, the famous agriculturalist who specialized in growing hops and malting
grains for his own brewing and distilling operations on Wye Island. This was
one of his prime sources of barely. Bordley was integral to supplying the beer
ration to Washington’s Continental Army along with many other goods during the war.
Peters was also able to procure spring barley for the purposes of malting from
George Washington’s Mount Vernon plantation by 1788, when seed and grain
accessibility was more abundant. Washington also relied upon the grains to
supply his own brewing and distilling operations at Mount Vernon.
Many of the letters detail the deep connections between the brewers
in Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania- a network of allies working together
once again for a common cause- good beer. Like so much of the past this is not
unlike the brewers of today, the networks they developed amongst one another to
aid in common cause and develop a lasting kinship.
Thomas Peters’ legacy is one of heroism and determination. His brewery would eventually change hands and become known as the Star Spangled Banner Brewery where Mary Pickersgill sewed the stars on the garrison flag that flew proudly over Fort McHenry during the British bombardment September 13- 14, 1814. Peters’ story also serves to illuminate the close relationships that developed among colonists and brewers in our nascent country. It truly was a small world, yet a very connected one in which a brewer, a president, and a farmer from diverse regions would consort for a common, noble cause and remain steadfast friends until death.
Today is Memorial Day. It is the day we remember United States service members who died serving our nation in combat.
For some it is a day of BBQ and gatherings, a long weekend, or just a wee respite from the daily ins and outs of life. For others it is a solemn day of remembrance and reflection, thinking upon those that gave all for their country so that we may enjoy that BBQ, long weekend, or friendly gathering.
I want to take a few minutes of your time to remember our fallen heroes, lest we forget why today is a national holiday. Arlington National Cemetery is a solemn place where many of our fallen are laid to rest, but not all. It is a place of great reverence, where John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Medgar Evers, Grace Hopper, Joe Louis Barrows , and my great uncle are interred. They served our nation with distinction, but many more were lost- in combat defending the freedoms we hold so dear… more than Arlington can hold.
Marine Cpl. Jennifer Marie Parcell of Bel Air Maryland died February 7, 2007 supporting combat operations in Al Anbar Province during Operation Iraqi Freedom. She was a Lioness.
Marine Capt. Jesse Melton III from Randallstown, Maryland perished September 9, 2008 in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.
Army Staff Sgt. Daniel Rodriguez of Baltimore, Maryland died July 18, 2012 in Ghazni City, Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.
Army Spc. George Mitchell of Rawlings, Maryland died April 7, 2003 in Baghdad during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
These are merely a handful of the fallen heroes from our nation’s most recent conflicts. There are so many more from every corner of America dating back to the Revolutionary War and the founding of our great nation.
Today please honor those Americans that sacrificed everything for the rest of us to live the lives we choose. Freedom is not free, and we as Americans are free because of these fallen heroes. Never forget!
What am I doing today? I am attempting to take the Murph challenge. United States Navy Lt. Michael P. Murphy was a Navy Seal that lost his life June 28, 2005 behind enemy lines in Afghanistan. Gravely wounded, he exposed himself to enemy fire to send a distress signal to HQ in an attempt to save the lives of his Seal Team. Only 1 survived- Marcus Lutrell. He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart.
The Murph Challenge raises money for the Lt. Michael P. Murphy Memorial Scholarship Fund and involves: 1 mile run, 100 pull ups, 200 pushups, 300 squats, followed by a 1 mile run. My niece, a Marine and a graduate of the US Naval Academy Class of 2008, served three tours (1- Iraq, 2-Afghanistan) during combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. She is currently in her second trimester of pregnancy and has taken and successfully completed the Murph Challenge today. I am extremely humbled by her, and proud of her… and no where near her level of fitness. Therefore, I am not timing myself, and I may not make it through- but I am going to give it my best effort for all veterans and particularly those that have lost their lives. Hopefully by next year I too can be a factor in raising money for this worthy cause.
After I am done I will fully enjoy a local Maryland craft beer- probably Full Tilt- Memorial Pils. I bet you can guess why.
It was Grand Opening Weekend at Full Tilt Brewing, and what a journey it has been to open these doors!
It has been a long time coming, and the day has finally arrived…the day Full Tilt Brewing celebrated the Grand Opening of their very own brewery. The journey has not been an easy one, in fact it would have dissuaded far less persistent souls. Persistent- a word that only just begins to describe Dan Baumiller and Nick Fertig, co-founders of Full Tilt Brewing.
In 2012 the lifelong friends and homebrewers took the plunge into the industry and began contract brewing out of Peabody Heights. The two faced myriad challenges from scheduling difficulties to limits on yeast choices, and an inability to produce anything less than 75 bbl batches, effectively killing their opportunity to produce small batch and seasonal brews. The logical choice was to open their own brewery once they achieved name recognition to support it. This was a wise plan, particularly in a rapidly expanding craft brewing hub like Maryland. Name recognition in Baltimore came not only from their regular lineup that included Baltimore Pale Ale, Hops the Cat IPA (affectionately named after Fertig’s cat Hops who has since passed on- and yes he has a dog named Barley) and a Memorial Pilsner honoring our nation’s veterans, but a genius endeavor that helped save an iconic Baltimore institution called Berger Cookie. The creation of the Berger Cookie Stout not only helped prevent Berger Cookie from closing its doors- it helped elevate the brand in Baltimore. It was finally time to open their own brewery.
Things would not transpire as planned however. A few false starts-including a potential Towson brewpub delayed their plans for a couple of years. As the saying goes, “good things come to those who wait.” Undeterred, Baumiller and Fertig forged ahead eventually settling on a simply delightful location in the Govans neighborhood of Baltimore on York Road at Bellona Ave in the nearly century old Accelerator Building. The exterior is inviting with massive glass bay doors that will open in summer weather. The interior is well laid out, and the exposed brick walls with Hops the Cat and other ‘tilted’ frescoes painted upon them provide a comfortable, cool and welcoming ambience for the taproom.
The brewery is equipped with a 15 bbl brewhouse, two 30 bbl and two 15 bbl fermenters and cold storage. This will allow for a variety of small batch and one offs that will only be available in the taproom. At the helm of brewing operations is veteran brewer Brian Smith, formerly of Lancaster, Beltway, DuClaw, Pub Dog and Flying Dog. The search wasn’t easy as several candidate interviews were conducted in hopes of finding the right balance between talent and temperament. Smith fit the bill perfectly. The plan is to produce around 1,000 to 1,500 bbls out of the new brewery while maintaining the contract with Peabody Heights. This allows them to produce strictly small batch special, seasonal, and collaborative brews at the new facility, while leaving the large scale production brews like their Pale Ale at Peabody– embracing the best of both worlds. This allows for the flexibility they craved but were denied. Now they could quite literally have something new every single week if they chose to. They finally get to work on their own schedule instead of someone else’s and that by itself is liberating.
They have a full beer, wine, and liquor license although they only plan to carry beer. Currently they have a near complete lineup of Full Tilt products on tap including Hops the Cat IPA, Port of Baltimore Baltic Porter, Better Dan Red IPA, Memorial Pils, Govans Blood Orange Gose, and more along with a few guest brews from RaR, Hysteria, Barley & Hops, and Atlas. In part this is a precursor of what is to come in the form of collaborations- notably Atlas, in addition to a host of others already on the calendar. They have a barrel ageing program in the works using local whiskey barrels from Baltimore Spirits Company.
Like so many Baltimore breweries of the past, Full Tilt has quickly become part of the fabric of the Govans community. They technically opened in December of 2018 before they were brewing on premises, but they already have a host of regulars who consider Full Tilt this their local neighborhood brewery. The food offerings are plentiful with Rolling Grillproviding food four days a week, a variety of food trucks scattered throughout the week, and a Wendy’s right across the street for the cravings of fast food lovers. The location is ideally situated to serve the residents including Steve Jones of Oliver Brewing fame who stops in often with the whole family to enjoy a brew and a meal. This truly is a family friendly place where children are welcome, and there is much to entertain them from Shuffle Board to Skee Ball to Galaga. Adults can partake of those games in addition to catching sports on the multiple big screens, or enjoying the talented live bands that play on the weekends. Saturday crowds were treated to the group That’s What She Said, who ably covered an array of familiar songs, and serenaded Nick with Happy Birthday. Yes the grand opening celebration on March 23rd also happened to be Nick Fertig’s 35th Birthday, and what a celebration it was!
Both Baumiller and Fertig have families to support, Nick and
his wife have a beautiful 6 month old son named Max (subconsciously named after
Hops the Cat who was formerly known as Max); Dan and his wife have two
beautiful children and a third on the way in May. Both fathers want to see their
children enter into what is now the family business- brewing. They will have
quite a legacy to pass along with a few hard earned lessons along the way.
They faced numerous challenges on their journey to opening
the brewery, and when I asked what they would change if they could, I received two
Nothing because it brought us to where we are today.
To aim for a smaller retail space to house the brewery right out of the box instead of thinking a large production brewery was the best option.
For now they are focusing on the fact that they have waited their whole lives for this moment and it has finally arrived. Make no mistake it is hard work, and both are keeping their day jobs while Full Tilt finds its footing. They have made it this far because they never gave up. Under no circumstances would they be deterred from pursuing their dream…
“Right now we are living our dream, and if more people come out to our brewery, it will be that much better!”
Dan Baumiller, co-founder Full Tilt Brewing
As I drove away Queen:
“We are the Champions” was playing on
the radio and I found myself thinking yes, these men certainly have paid their
dues time after time….. Now I am just happy to be able to give them a hearty
congratulations that was so long coming.
Catching up with Lynn. An honest conversation with Lynn Pronobis of Union Craft Brewing.
Meet Lynn Pronobis, chemist, brewer, athlete, friend, and all around extraordinary woman. Lynn began her career at Union Craft as an intern in 2012 while completing her chemistry degree at UMBC. She wasn’t planning on a career in brewing, she actually started out wanting to go to med school to become a heart surgeon. After working at a hospital she gained clarity and realized that it was not the right path for her to lead a happy, healthy life. Next she explored a career in pharma – but soon grew disenchanted with the process and the waste. A career in brewing was never on her radar, but an internship was an integral part of resume building in the waning years of college and a brewery seemed like a great fit where she could apply her acumen in chemistry while gaining valuable experience. To call Lynn a ‘knowledge sponge’ would be an understatement- she has a subconscious drive to learn everything she possibly can, to immerse herself in process and execute her duties swiftly and efficiently, all while finding ways to improve the final results. This is her nature, and she is by nature a scientist.
It was not until her second internship with Union that she realized she was in the right place- perfectly suited for a career where she could meld her scientific background with her need to be challenged both physically and mentally. Union not only provided all of these things- they also provided the team environment she craved. Having played softball for UMBC, Lynn was not only used to the team atmosphere- she required it. Lynn has performed just about every job in the brewery as part of the learning process, and she has grown right alongside the brewery. She is responsible for launching their cask program- which has become an incredible and indelible success. What started as an experiment has turned into an important component of Union’s portfolio.
For Lynn, casks were the perfect platform to figure out how to combine flavors. It is also a place where her rigid scientific training flows seamlessly into art. Lynn will be the first person to tell you that her base of operations – her foundation- is math and science where everything begins. She starts with her end goal and works backwards to attain it. That is not however where it ends. Cask beer is art just as much as it is science and Lynn has found the sweet spot in the give and take between the two. In 2018 she broke her own record by taking over 350 casks to market, something most would have thought implausible in the not too distant past in Maryland. Although many people still don’t understand what casks are, in Baltimore the population of those that do is incredibly rich, according to Lynn.
She has a well-earned reputation for her casks. Many accounts are wary of casks until they find out it is made by Lynn. She instills confidence- they trust it because they trust her. This is what she has been working toward- trying to make her cask program the very best in the state. It hasn’t always been easy however and there is a trail of lessons learned, some surrounding fruit, some surrounding process. Her motivation is strong as she wants to make THE perfect dark sour, a lesser known style and measurably more difficult as a kettle sour. This woman appreciates a challenge! Anyone that has sampled her dark sour and the dark fruit undercurrent that delicately tantalizes the palate knows how very talented she is. Many believe she has already achieved her goal of producing THE perfect dark sour.
Casks are also the vehicle that inspired her recipe writing.
There is a freedom with the cask program- total control over process and
ingredients that she enjoys. There are certain limitations however that are not
present when brewing. One example would include the ability to add and then
remove ingredients after a desired time (which you cannot do from the cask).
After watching Kevin Blodger write recipes for years she gained a tremendous
understanding of the relationship between malts and hops, and how the flavors
interact. Kevin has been a font of knowledge that she has eagerly tapped into.
Lynn has a hand in almost everything happening in the brewery. She is responsible for brewing operations in addition to the barrel ageing and cask programs, distribution oversight, and a host of operational processes. One improvement that she is very proud of is her keg location map. After attending an MBAA seminar on managing a warehouse, she was struck by an idea to improve efficiency. She created a 16 lane layout, complete with coded markings allowing for swift keg access and retrieval for rotation and distribution. This coded language can be seen throughout the brewery from the brew schedule, to the barrel program, to her meticulous recipe notes. My favorite was a cask note marked ‘killed it’, an indicator that a cask turned out exactly as planned. Having tried that particular cask I could not agree more! These are all hallmarks of an orderly, scientific mind.
This mind has served Lynn quite well. She is extremely sharp
with an uncanny ability to see the big picture where many get mired in the
details. She has a maturity well beyond her 29 years which, combined with her
extensive brewing experience has now cast her in the role of learned mentor- be
assured however that her thirst for knowledge is never quenched. Her life
hasn’t always remained as tidy and easily quantifiable as science; in fact
quite often it has been a battle.
A female in a predominantly male industry faces intense scrutiny, and Lynn is no exception. As a gay female this has brought a greater range of challenges and reactions. As a woman, Lynn quickly grew tired of the assumptions that she was either a bartender (because she couldn’t possibly be a brewer), or incompetent because she was a woman, or very young, or both. She only wanted to be looked upon as an equal, and she made certain that she could carry her own weight- literally. When Lynn started at Union she would go in the bathroom and do pushups every day to make sure she could carry full kegs, and move the ladders and other equipment on her own; physically capable of doing everything the men could do. At Union she was treated as an employee, an equal, a member of the team, which was and always is the desired goal.
At times being gay was easier for Lynn because she was
looked upon as more of an equal since she wasn’t an option for men, and she
wasn’t going to steal anyone’s girlfriend. It was almost easier to become good
friends with coworkers. Outside of the brewery it was an entirely different
story. Unfortunately sexism is still commonplace, but Lynn’s method of dealing
with it has changed. When men would hit on her she used to attempt to diffuse
the situation by telling them she was gay which often resulted in relentless
badgering about her sexuality. She often received ignorant comments like,
“You just haven’t met
the right guy yet…”
All of this used to make her incredibly angry, but over time
she learned to change the narrative with quick-witted, funny responses like,
“Perhaps YOU just haven’t me the right guy yet!”
There is nothing more powerful than turning the tables by
demonstrating how much you don’t care what others think about you. For Lynn
this was completely liberating. Sometimes, she still finds herself frustrated
but that is when she takes to the forklift – an instant salve. Detaching from
social media also provides respite- although social media has become the main
driver for sales and marketing in this day and age. It is also a place where
unkind thoughts are ubiquitous.
This past year has been perhaps the most frustrating she has experienced. It has been a perfect storm of challenges- one after the other from the aluminum tariffs creating havoc with canning and in particular labelling when trying use alternative cans; the move from the old brewery to the new collective; the government shutdown which backlogged TTB approvals; the closure of a Crown Cork and Seal plant; and the high volume of sales in the taproom at a time when production was limited (due to the host of issues listed). There is a light at the end of this tunnel, but the road is long, and she is pacing herself. The old brewery is still operational at least for the next year, and the 20 bbl system is currently being used as the pilot system. An unusually large pilot system.
At the end of the day there are many things to take away. The first is that Lynn loves what she does- what she produces, and she loves the team that is Union. Her hope is that people take a moment before judging (beer or people for that matter) and think about the process, the various elements that needed to coalesce to make that beer- from the ingredients, to packaging to distribution. She wants people to really take the time to understand the beer. On this front headway is being made, and in part that is due to her ability to talk to people about beer, the style, and the inspiration for it.
The future is looking very bright for Lynn and for Union. In
fact Lynn wants to see Union supplant Natty Boh as the beer synonymous with
Baltimore- a town she will never leave. She also wants to surpass National
Brewing Company’s peak production (yes we are headed for a brewery capable of
producing millions of barrels of beer annually!)
The next time you stop at Union for a pint or a growler take a moment to ask about the style, the process, the inspiration, as you might be pleasantly surprised. Oh and one last thing to remember- if Lynn isn’t smiling it doesn’t mean she is in a bad mood, she’s just plotting the next delightful creation, and one I can’t wait to try!
As many of you already know, the brewing community is one that engages in extensive outreach to help those in need. One of the projects I am honored to be apart of is the Annual Beer Babes Calendar. This incredibly important fundraiser was the brainchild of Alice Kistner- proprietress of Mahaffey’s Pub in Canton. All of the calendar girls are fixtures in the Maryland craft brewing community from brewers to distributors, to bar owners and beertenders, and everything in between and I am blessed and humbled to stand with them and be included in their ranks. All calendar proceeds go to the Kennedy Krieger Institute: Center for Autism and Related Disorders.
Please enjoy these behind the scenes photos from our 2020 calendar shoot at Union Craft Brewery, who graciously hosted us once again. The stylists and make up artists, photographer and videographer all donated their time and costs for this incredible cause. Calendars go on sale April 20 at Mahaffey’s. Mark your calendars!!!
A behind the scenes look at the middle tier with Legend Erin Tyler.
Perhaps too often I profile only one part of the brewing
industry- the breweries. On Saturday I was afforded the opportunity to sit down
with Erin Tyler, General Manager of Legends Limited Distributing to examine the
‘middle tier’ of the industry while enjoying a beer at Mahaffey’s. Erin got her start in the industry on the retail
side working in restaurants. In 2005 she made the transition to the middle tier
at Legends Limited. A naturally
gregarious person that enjoys interacting with people, sales married perfectly
with her background in craft beer, wine and spirits.
Legends Limited was founded by Pat and Sherri Casey in 1994
when they became frustrated by the lack of reputable distributors for their
import alcoholic beverage brands. Yes, to clarify Legends started because of imports-
not because of craft as it hadn’t really taken off at the time. Craft would
soon follow. They opened in the Natty Boh tower at the same time Brimstone Brewing
was in residence. When Erin began at Legends they were extremely small- only nine
employees. With an unprecedented thirst for knowledge and ever inquisitive,
Erin absorbed everything she could from her accounts and the specialists behind
the bar/counter like Casey at Max’s Taphouse, Robert from State Line, and Randy
from Whole Foods. This was invaluable and helped catapult Erin up the ranks at
Legends. As she learned everything she could to maximize her potential, Pat and
Sherri Casey sold Legends to a larger family of distributors in 2009, Sheehan Family
Companies, a distribution company founded in 1898. This coincided with the
rapid proliferation in craft breweries across the country and shifted the focus
to specializing in craft and imports. Legends never distributed macro products
like Budweiser, remaining dedicated to the craft/import side, and this
continued under the new ownership.
Today Legends has eighty five employees, and distributes
over forty craft beer brands. They landed five Maryland breweries including
Union, RaR, Manor Hill, Oliver Brewing, and Burley Oak. As Erin noted- they are
not brand collectors but work specifically with suppliers that fit well with
their portfolio. The approach is not to sign breweries unless they can market and
place the products with a full devotion of resources. In fact Erin made her
opinion quite clear:
“New breweries should self-distribute to learn the ins and outs of
distribution, before signing with a distributor.”
Sage advice, and unexpected from the distribution side- but
that is what sets Legends apart from other distributors. Their territory covers
all of Maryland and Washington D.C. In
2018 they added 20,000 sf of warehouse space to bring the total to 70, 000 sf
of temperature controlled warehouse, complete with cold boxes for all
kegs. This is one of the most critical
components for breweries when it comes to choosing a distributor- temperature
control to maintain the freshness and quality of the beer. Along with that they
hired a new warehouse manager and operations team to change the layout and
maximize space and efficiency. Legends is truly a ‘partner’ with their
suppliers as they co-op everything: printing (they have an in-house printer),
tap handles, POS, glasses, etc. Erin’s sales team is extremely well trained and
highly respected for their craft beer/wine/spirits knowledge. This is one of the
reasons the relationships Legends maintains with their suppliers is so strong,
and why there is little turn over in her sales team. In addition, the company benefits
are numerous and generous, from the health insurance to the tuition
reimbursement, to the sixteen paid hours of leave for volunteer activities.
This is an family-oriented operation, and that is exactly how Erin describes
her team- a family, and one she is extremely reluctant to ever consider leaving.
Erin is content at Legends, enjoying the challenges brought on a daily basis from trucks breaking down to beer not coming in when a big event is on tap. She never asks her team to do anything she herself would not do, which has her doing a bit of everything- and she revels in this. There is always quite a lot happening, but she never lets her team lose focus- they need to collaborate and work together to make sure that at the end of the day the customers and suppliers are happy. This is the true end game of the middle tier, and Legends has mastered this. The quality of her team is a large part of the success, but so is consumer education (which her team engages in regularly), continuing education for her employees to learn about new products (and the push to work with the growing population of craft distilleries), and a willingness to adapt their models to the ever-changing climate- whether that be changes in consumer buying or changes in legislation. When queried about the slate of proposed alcoholic beverage bills on the table in the legislature her answer was simple- we have adapted before and will do so again whatever may come.
The recent host of craft breweries that have sold to AB-InBev and Constellation, has required a bit of flexibility on Legend’s part to navigate these uncharted waters. A sale of rare, premium spirits a few years ago required an IT intervention to add the extra digit (five instead of four) in the cost line to log the product in the system. No matter the challenges Legends adapts and one thing remains immovable: they strictly adhere to guidelines governing industry practices, and all reps are extremely well versed in each facet. Erin is very proud of this and this is why they have such a stellar reputation in the craft industry. In addition to this being policy- they are experts at understanding the products, retail spaces, availability of shelf space and refrigeration, and the market. They do their homework.
This is really the story of Erin and of Legends and how the
services they provide cannot be replicated. Whether it be a draft technician- a
trade skill that so many people don’t know or utilize anymore, the Micromatic and
other industry training classes employees participate in regularly, the BJCP manual
used to train all salespeople, or the fact that they consider their most
valuable assets at to be human capital…this is a one of a kind operation. Erin
Tyler is also one of a kind. She is the only certified cicerone at her company,
although the parent company has a master cicerone on staff, and provides
funding for employees to complete cicerone certification.
Erin is also one of the very few women in the country heading a distribution house. She states that she has encountered very little pushback, and her breadth of knowledge allays any concerns a supplier or retail establishment could drum up. Her reputation precedes her. She does acknowledge that things might have been different if she had signed with a macro distributor. The different establishments she would have interacted with might have tipped the balance in a less than favorable way for her and her career. Erin sees more diversity in the industry now than ever before, and predicts an expanded presence in all tiers. She actively works to bring women in contact with craft beer as a co-founder of the Baltimore Beer Babes, and has helped introduce consumers from all backgrounds to the wonders of craft beverages. This is the industry, the craft industry (whether beer, wine or spirits) and it is her favorite part of the job, working with people- because as a whole they are really good people. This is also where she reminds me that she met her best friend Alice Kistner, owner of Mahaffey’s because of this industry. Years ago when Erin was just a sales rep and Mahaffey’s was one of her clients (when Wayne still owned it) Alice walked in to apply for a job. That was at the beginning of a wonderful and lifelong friendship that has continued to solidify to this day, and even includes annual tropical vacations.
What does the future hold for Erin and Legends? Personally,
she will finish the MBA she has been pursuing at University of Baltimore, and
travel. Travelling affords time to completely detach (no cell service) and immerse
herself in something entirely new. Croatia was restorative, and stunningly
beautiful, while Estonia revealed a burgeoning craft brewing world filled with unexpected
and delicious IPA’s. Kosovo, Macedonia, and Albania are next on the itinerary. As
for Legends? The focus will shift to a very proactive approach since the last
few years have been reactive with the growth of the market. Spending time on
strategic/long term planning is priority as Erin wants Legends to be the best
specialty beverage distributor in the state in five years. Erin also wants to
be the person behind the great breakthrough in craft beer distribution…stay
tuned. One thing is certain, she is not leaving Legends:
“I can’t imagine
doing anything else- they are my family!”
They are very lucky to have her. Unfailingly Erin operates
in the best interest of her suppliers the way she operates in the best
interests of her employees, reminding me- “without them where would we be?” I
would add to that…without Erin where would Legends be? There is no question
they are far better positioned because of her, as are all of their partners
from suppliers to retail shops.
After nearly three hours spent on the intricacies of the business,
Erin left me with a few golden nuggets to get excited about;
Union Craft Brewing’s release of a new year round IPA- Divine (the name suits it perfectly)
Firestone Walker’s release of Rosalee
Oskar Blues Guns n’ Rosés Ale
Better Wine Company Nitro Rosé in cans
They all sound intriguing! So put on a little David Bowie,
or just watch Labyrinth and take a
sip of that delightful craft beverage and be grateful Erin and Legends are here
in Maryland to deliver it to you- always fresh!