Collective Craft Industries

Inspired by the new Union Collective and the future…

Recent activity in Maryland craft brewing (legislatively and otherwise) has engendered new thoughts regarding the future of the industry in the state. As the Union Collective forms there is much to discuss, particularly now that the Baltimore Whiskey Company has chosen to relocate to the Union property. When complete (2018) the Union Collective in Hampden-Medfield will house Union Craft Brewing, Baltimore Whiskey Company, and the Charmery (ice creamery), among other retail operations. This is a potential winning combination of craft beer, craft spirits, and handcrafted ice cream in one location for shoppers- a portent to success. This is something we have seen before and it has a pretty good track record.
One look at St. Michaels on the Eastern Shore and any person interested in locally crafted beverages takes the drive. Why? A very short walk down S. Talbot Street will introduce a consumer to Eastern Shore Brewing, St. Michaels Winery, and Lyon Distilling (along with a bevy of shops filled with locally made items) all in the same block. This brilliant locational strategy aided in the success of all three craft libation companies in addition to the surrounding restaurants and retail shops. Perhaps St. Michaels provides a template for the future. It certainly draws a crowd that is potentially more diverse- as those that consider themselves wine drinkers or predominantly spirit specialists will be more willing to entertain an experience in locally crafted beer when it is a mere few feet away. It also invites a host of available possibilities from beer/spirits/wine bus tour stops, to detours for drivers on their way to/from other localities on the Eastern Shore. All businesses complement one another and reap the rewards from the marketing campaigns of each. It in essence becomes a shared responsibility to draw the crowd and sell a quality product, hopefully ensuring success for all. That is what building an industry in a local community is all about, growing both the business and community it resides in, deriving benefit for all.
In Howard County beginning on Saturday July 1, Hysteria Brewing opens its doors on Berger Road, right next door to Lost Ark Distilling. A shared parking lot, with food trucks, entertainment, and critically consumers that will reap the benefits of both craft manufacturers in one place. While many new breweries are slated to open in the next two years in Maryland, some have chosen their locations, while others are still seeking suitable space. Perhaps, when possible, and as the number of distilleries continues to climb. Maryland craft (alcohol) can continue building together in collective spaces to the enrichment and advantage of one another and the thirsty consumers in the region 9and beyond) eager for these locally crafted, quality beverages.
As for the Union Collective? Well let me just remind everyone of how Union started- a union of Kevin and Jon, and the community. Union has always focused on giving back to the neighborhood that welcomed them through jobs, revitalization, more business, and a shared sense of community responsibility. That is not something that will change with their relocation, in fact they have only gotten started. Craft breweries in Maryland like Union Craft have a huge impact on the local economies in which they operate. Make no mistake (regardless of what macro breweries and their representatives might tell you) local breweries in Maryland foment economic development. We need them as much as they need us, and together Maryland gets stronger, and a heck of a lot tastier!

“Agriculture, Malting, and Breweries in Maryland, a Historical Perspective” Maureen O’Prey

When I first wrote this blog, it initially appeared on the website “Behind the Craft” in 2015. Since then, Dark Cloud Malthouse has opened in Howard County, and more are on the way. Several Hop Farms have also cropped up in recent years in Maryland to fill the void for locally grown hops.

Barley had a long history of harvest in Maryland. Prior to Prohibition Maryland had a fine six rowed bearded winter barley crop that was used for malting, and at one time considered the only barley profitable in the state.[1] It was sown in September and harvested in June and sent to local malting facilities. When enough barley was not harvested within Maryland to supply the maltsters demand, barley supplements came from the west, and local malt houses like H. Straus & Bros. malted the barley, for the breweries that did not malt their own.[2] Prior to Prohibition there was quite a bit more farmland in Maryland, in fact 80% of the state was farmland in 1900.[3]


By 2007 only 31% of Maryland was farmland, despite 30 years of preservation efforts by MAPLF (Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation) and substantial tax breaks geared toward the conservation of farmland.[4] In 2014 the Regional Economic Studies Institute report on the economy noted that the farming industry in Maryland has shown a loss of 3.4%, where all other industries in Maryland demonstrated stability or growth after the recession ended. Today barley grown in Maryland that is suitable for malting is limited. The small amount produced is not nearly enough to supply the demand by breweries, but attempts are being made to rectify that.  


Amber Fields, a local farm and malting facility in Frederick, Maryland partnered with Brewer’s Alley and Monocacy Brewing Company to supply local malted barley and rye to the brewery for production.  Tom Flores, brewmaster at Monocacy and Brewer’s Alley (and the newest member of the board of directors for the Brewers Association of America) worked hand in hand with Greg Clabaugh, the founder of Amber Fields to create a facility for the malting of his barley.  In 2001 Flores and Clabaugh produced the first Maryland beer since Prohibition brewed with local malts. After ten years of tweaking the process, Clabaugh and Flores have consistent production of malted grains for the breweries.[5] They recently began malting rye, and successfully used that to create Monocacy’s Riot Rye, a flavorful pale ale.  


Bryan Brushmiller founder of Burley Oak Brewing Company also partnered with a local farmer Brooks Clayville to begin a malting venture with local grains. As with Amber Fields, it took several attempts to get the barley and malting perfected.  The series of Burley Oak brews that contain locally grown and malted grains are known as ‘Home Grown Ales’. The first in the series was produced in 2013 and named Local, a pale ale embodying everything Brushmiller and Clayville were striving for. Both Clayville and Clabaugh worked in conjunction with the University Of Maryland and their Agricultural Sciences department to plan the best malting grains for the soil.[6]


Burley Oak and Monocacy engender the pervasive ‘buy local-use local’ mentality.  Other breweries would like to follow in the footsteps of Flores and Brushmiller, but are finding it difficult due to a lack of local grains suitable for malting.  This may be what swings the trend back toward growth for a struggling farming industry. The most significant aspect of the expansion of barley and rye farming for malting is the effect on the Chesapeake Bay. Barley and rye are both considered cover crops, and have the added benefit of storing nitrogen in their plant tissue, instead of allowing it to run off into the soil which eventually pollutes the Bay.[7]


A return to the soil for Maryland may be in order. If more farmers in Maryland can plant suitable grains for malting to supply the breweries, everyone benefits. An increase in farming specifically for Maryland breweries not only foments the growth of Maryland’s lagging agricultural industry, but allows for that development without compromising the health of the Bay.  An increase in regionally grown and malted grains is in high demand by other Maryland breweries that would love to produce a regular offering of brews made from local grains.



[1] American Brewer’s Review, 1913, vol. 27, 181-182.

[2] Baltimore American, May 2, 1870, 5.

[3] James DiLisio, Maryland Geography (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 2014), p?

[4] Ibid; Farmland Preservation Report 2014 accessed 2/7/15 via  

[5] Caryl Velisek, “Amber Fields brewing beer with Maryland-grown barley, “, 2012. Accessed 2/7/15.

[6] Bryan Brushmiller, Interview by author, Berlin, Maryland, July 2013; “Burley Farming”, 2015. Accessed 2/7/15.

[7] Velisek, Amber Fields; Stephen Ausmus, “Chesapeake Bay Clean Up Revs Up”, Agricultural Research August 2010, 16-17.


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