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 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.
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!
A look back at the Maryland craft brewing industry in 2018, and glimpse of what is to come in 2019.
Welcome to 2019! After a brief hesitation I decided to open the year with a recap of 2018. There was much to celebrate: several new breweries opened in Maryland- many to rave reviews for the high quality brews they were turning out; the rise of the sour to heretofore unseen proportions- with literally a sour in every brew kettle (completely NOT attributable to Budweiser despite claims to the contrary from Ab-InBev); a sharp rise in Veteran owned breweries across the Free State; and a developing appreciation for the NEIPA in nearly every brewery.
Unfortunately accompanying the triumphs came a pall of darkness cast over the brewing industry in Maryland like a malevolent trespasser. Some breweries closed, others read the tea leaves and chose friendlier climes across our borders to craft their beer. There was also much hullabaloo about a ‘contraction’ coming in the craft brewing industry to which I will comment upon later.
Most that have read this blog for the past few years have become well acquainted with the changes taking place in the industry- particularly those in Maryland. This also assumes most are familiar with the battle raging in Annapolis to adjust the antediluvian, obsolete portions of the laws governing craft breweries. Please note that I did not say ‘all’ breweries which is the relevant point here, and an important distinction. I will be the first person to suggest that mega breweries[i] can wreak havoc upon distributors (and retailers) without specific franchise protections in place. History bears witness to this fact. For smaller craft breweries however those protectionist statutes, from franchise laws to taproom sale limits can spell an end to a craft brewery wasting the funds and life blood spilt in the quest to make their dream a reality. Despite the incredibly vocal support of the voters for these statutory changes, and a Comptroller bent on helping the brewers at all costs- the 2018 legislative session devolved into a mud wrestling competition that unmasked the naked, ugly truth of politics, “power is the great aphrodisiac.”[ii] Much of the wrangling taking place had absolutely nothing to do with craft beer and everything to do with a power struggle.
The epicenter of that power struggle was the entitlement of a handful of career politicians in the legislature and the vigorous influence of the distributor’s lobby throughout halls of Annapolis. This push for corrective legislation deteriorated even further when those legislators not only tossed aside proposed legislation without consideration of the benefits to the majority of Marylanders, but chose instead to examine alcohol regulation in the state as a means of stripping it from said Comptroller’s office. That examination has since turned into a procession of neo-prohibitionist troglodytes (with their entourage of acolytes) trying to return us to the dry days of the Volstead Act. Not surprisingly they are accompanied by many of those bloviating self-important legislators that just love to try and manipulate witnesses in an effort to defend their indefensible shenanigans.
In the midst of this stage show behold our champions- Cindy Mullikin (President of the Brewers Association of Maryland) and Hugh Sisson (Founder and proprietor of Clipper City/Heavy Seas) interjecting relevant commentary on behalf of the breweries complete with supporting documentation, statistics, and above all –common sense- something that seems to be missing from many of the actors involved in the hearings. They have represented Maryland craft beer extremely well in the face of these unscrupulous narcissists. The findings of this task force have yet to be released- and honestly I don’t know what they are going to suggest. If pressed I believe they will advocate for at the very least another increase in alcohol taxes, and at the worst- state control of all alcoholic beverage sales, which would be as dismal as one imagines for the industry.
This is where it becomes important to focus on 2019 and what we should be celebrating. The Brewer’s Association of Maryland is doing a fantastic job on behalf of the more than 80 breweries across the state. Every craft brewery regardless of size should be proud they are so well represented- because they are! No matter what the findings of the task force is not law- it is just a recommendation. Those findings would need to be crafted into proposed legislation and taken to the appropriate committee, debated, and voted upon first- before making it to the full house and senate for a vote. Hmmm…It almost sounds as if I still have a bit of faith left in the process…I do. Trust me I am almost as surprised by this revelation as you are! Let me share another brilliant quote from Henry Kissinger, “Ninety percent of the politicians give the other ten percent a bad reputation.” When it comes to craft beer in Maryland these words have never rung more true.
I still believe that most humans will heed the advice of their better angels and make the right choices for all the right reasons. Hopefully this applies to more than the ten percent of the legislature in Maryland. Only time will tell of course.
So, what do we have to celebrate in addition to our great
team at BAM? Well let me start with Patriot Acres, and Checkerspot, and Valhalla,
and Maryland Beer Company, and Cult Classic, and B.C. Brewery, and Inverness, and
House Cat, and True Respite, and Full Tilt (it was a long time coming gentleman),
and Guinness, and oh so many more that I haven’t mentioned. In addition there
are several breweries in planning set to open in 2019 and beyond from Patuxent
to Ten Eyck….
Which brings me back to that contraction… what contraction? Union Craft has expanded (the Collective) right along with Heavy Seas, Frey’s, and B.C. Brewery, and many others. Let us not forget the expansion plans of Dark Cloud Malt House which is yet another reason to fully embrace 2018 as a stellar year- the rise of malt houses once again in our region. It is finally time to reclaim our rich heritage of growing and malting our own grains for Maryland craft breweries. Don’t forget that drinking locally crafted beer made with locally grown malting grains saves the Chesapeake Bay! After the Conowingo Dam debacle that should certainly make malt and the craft brewing industry a priority for everyone in the state. It also serves as a reminder that if you look, there is always a reason to celebrate and support Maryland craft breweries!
I don’t know what will happen in 2019 but I do know Maryland craft beer has not even come close to reaching its zenith. There are many industry-centric bills headed to legislative committees in the Maryland General Assembly beginning on Wednesday January 9th. There is also a wealth of support from voters for this industry that has revitalized Maryland communities and consistently strengthened its powerful voice with action. For now I am enjoying the delicious fruits of our craft brewer’s labor- always mindful of their sacrifices, determination, incredible skill and dedication to this ancient and enduring craft that we love.
P.S. ***Please continue to be a vocal advocate for your
craft breweries and ask your representatives about the industry share with them
how they can help ensure their communities success by supporting craft
[i] My personal definition of ‘mega’ includes any brewery producing over 500,000 bbls annually. Others choose to use the Brewers Association of America definition of craft as any brewery producing more than 6 million bbls annually (along with other caveats).
Tis the holiday season, a time for gatherings and gratitude, and yes sometimes gifts. We are all familiar with Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday and a host of other days I am certain I have lost track of. This strange tradition is rooted in quite a lot of myth and misinformation, and dare I say fun. No I will not argue the merits of getting up at 4 am to catch a fantastic bargain on snow blowers or video game consoles or even a rare bottle of Westvleteren 12, but making a go of it with one (or some of) your favorite people can turn into an adventure that can last an entire day, and memories that last a lifetime. Perhaps that is one of the very reasons we engage in these shenanigans in the first place. Or perhaps it all started with football.
Annually in the 1950’s the Army Navy game would be held in Philadelphia the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The Friday after Thanksgiving was a time when hordes of tourists and suburban shoppers flooded the streets of Philly in anticipation of the game, and a little retail therapy with utter pandemonium ensuing. Every police officer was required to work overtime to deal with the fallout. It was the Philly Police that actually dubbed it Black Friday. By the 1980’s the term was rebranded by retailers to denote the official start of the holiday shopping season with big sales, and even bigger profits- removing the influence of the Army Navy game which has since been moved to December. Taking a look at any annual sales report will demonstrate how very successful this rebranding has been. 30% of annual retail sales take place in the month between Black Friday and Christmas. According to the National Retail Federation an average Black Friday shopper spends over $1,000! Incredible really. This is a retailer’s golden hour to turn a profit.
So, what does all of this have to do with beer? Quite a bit. I was gently reminded by a Brewers Association of Maryland post recently that breweries are small businesses too. Of course I knew that, but many think of breweries as manufacturing entities- often disconnecting the ‘small business’ side that could benefit from the holiday shopping season from the industry they are categorized by. The more than 6 dozen breweries in Maryland. Almost all have a taproom, and benefit from the direct brewery sales, but they also benefit from the 3rd tier retail shopping that takes place at package stores across the state. Like other small brick and mortar businesses in Maryland they are looking to the post-Thanksgiving crowd to help boost their sales, recognition and profitability.
This year America has had a resurgence in consumer confidence- and spending. The National Federation of Independent Businesses has reported an optimism in the economy that we haven’t seen in years, promoting greater capital investment in small businesses, and an increase in hiring to meet the anticipated demand. This is all fabulous, but there is much for breweries and all small businesses to contend with. Breweries comprise an industry that is capital intensive. The equipment costs can be astronomical. Profitability for breweries has webbed and flowed over the decades, sometimes suffering from hop shortages, and more recently aluminum tariffs. Greg Kitsock of the BA just published an in depth look at the rising cost of aluminum and its impact on craft breweries. Now, most of us wouldn’t mind paying $1 more per 6-pack for our favorite craft beer if it meant the extra shelf life that aluminum cans provide. Competition is tightening however in the craft beer market, and for some folks $1 or $2 might make a difference at the checkout counter through no fault of their own.
Small businesses are the backbone of Maryland’s economy, creating jobs, building communities, and supplying tax dollars to pay for important and necessary services from schools to transportation to critical infrastructure. We all need small businesses, and breweries are immensely important to each and every neighborhood they operate within. A purchase from a local brewery or business is an investment in your community. I ask you all to bear that in mind this and every season.
Pink boots at Denizens Brewing
Gentlemen’s drinks at Hysteria
Now even though Small Business Saturday and Black Friday have passed, get out of the house and go shopping at a small local retailer, preferably with your favorite person/s and don’t forget to make a stop at the nearby brewery. I can guarantee you the service will be friendly, and you are sure to make lasting memories.
P.S. Don’t forget to tune into the Army Navy game on December 8th (preferably at your local brewery) after all they started this adventure in shopping!
The 2018 Baltimore Craft Beer Festival has come and gone once again. Earlier in the week the weather looked to be of great concern as a tempest raged Friday night. By Saturday morning the worst of the storm was over, having left a grim reminder of man’s inability to conquer nature. As dawn broke, the clouds parted and the sun peaked through, offering a crisp albeit windy day on the waterfront for craft beer lovers, and their furry friends.
Brad and his 3 year old Leonberger Meike enjoying the festivities.
The check-in line was long, but moved quickly and efficiently uniting festival goers with their wrist bands and glasses in minutes. A cornucopia of Maryland craft breweries were spread across the park with host of styles to sample. Accompanying them were a variety of food trucks offering a little something for everyone. There were a handful of non-craft beer vendors on hand selling nuts, portraits, tchotchkes, and the like, but they were few and far between- this truly was a craft beer festival…not a festival with craft beer. There is a distinct difference between the two. One of the more intriguing vendors included Valencia glass-blowing, a mobile glass blower in the tradition of the Italian glass blowers of Venice, on the island of Murano. The demonstrations were mesmerizing, and the audience rapt. This certainly kept festival goers sampling at that end of the complex, and headed home with hand blown ornaments, vases, and gifts.
Glass blowing demonstration with Founder Phillip Valencia using his mobile furnace.
There were some notable beers to sample while watching the demonstrations like the Brewer’s Art7 Beauties locally sourced with Dark Cloud malt, or Lot 54 a blonde ale from Inverness Brewing, and Cult Classic’s take on a NEIPA using only Mosaic hops. The breweries were well spaced to manage the throngs and close enough to help one another keep the tents on the ground on the extremely windy side of the park. Make no mistake, the gusts did not hinder attendance, and certainly helped to keep the beer cooled.
Volker Stewart founder of The Brewer’s Art toasting 7 Beauties on cask.
Co-Founders Ray and Sandy Frank of the new Baltimore farm brewery Inverness Brewing with Comptroller and Industry Ally Peter Franchot, and Kevin Atticks, Director of the Brewer’s Association of Maryland and Grow & Fortify, toasting another successful year for Maryland Craft Breweries.
On the other side of the complex, festival goers were equally enchanted by the live bands that graced the stage. They weren’t just good- they were fantastic. Get Steady was spot on not only with the musical selection, but the dulcet tones of their lead singer that kept everyone singing along. The majority of brewers were located at this end of the park offering the expected styles, and what I like to call ‘adventure styles’. Most craft beer goers are willing to sample any beer in hopes of discovering something new and wonderful to tempt and tantalize the palate. There was quite a bit to choose from in this regard. A personal favorite came from Waverly Brewing’s own Gregory Lee in the form of Horni-Issac a play on the origins of this delightful ale. Greg got back to his Norse roots embracing a Hornindal yeast which fully complemented the hop profile across the palate in a beautiful marriage of its Norse and English origins.
Roy and Greg of Waverly Brewing in front toasting Horni-Isaac.
No matter where you started, you ended with great craft beer and got to know a collection of newly opened breweries and breweries in planning. I was thrilled to see True Respite, Cult Classic, Balt County Brewing, Checkerspot, Crooked Crab, Brawling Bear, and Inverness Brewing– all newly opened in 2018 pouring at the festival. The breweries in planning included Mobtown, opening in Canton in 2019; Ironweed opening in Ocean City in 2019; and an absolutely delightful surprise- Ten Eyck a completely women owned and operated brewery opening in Queen Anne’s County in 2019.
Bailey and Brendan O’Leary, Co-Founders of True Respite Brewing.
The usual suspects that we all know and love were also in attendance including Union Craft, Heavy Seas, Manor Hill, Jailbreak, Monocacy, Oliver, Flying Dog and a slew of names like Denizens that every beer drinker in Maryland has tasted, and probably has in their beer fridge right now! A complete list of participating breweries is available through the Brewer’s Association of Maryland. Every participating brewery had at least one (if not several) high-quality, well-crafted brews to offer- a promise (of sorts) that a drive to their brewery would not disappoint. They also served as inspiration to the myriad homebrewers contributing to the Nepenthe homebrewing event of just what is possible if you have the drive and the patience to make it happen…. A lesson for us all.
All in all it was a brilliant day on the waterfront sampling Maryland craft beer. It also got me thinking about a few things. Recently I have read articles touting the demise of beer festivals using words like ‘ubiquitous’, and ‘tired’. Hmm… No- not at all. I humbly agree to disagree. Craft beer festival like this one (very well planned and executed) provide the PERFECT place to gain an audience and a consumer base. This is where a beer drinker will be introduced to a new brewery, or an old brewery with a new offering. This is where it begins, or in some cases where the flame is reignited and we fall in love all over again with a brewery or a beer we let slip away for a time. There is no better place to bring the family, the dog, or a friend and spend the day in a scenic park enjoying a brisk fall day discovering what talented artisans we have in our midst.
This weekend I had the distinct privilege of meeting the team behind Charles County’s very first brewery- Patuxent Brewing Company. This brand new brewery isn’t open yet but things are on track for 2019. In fact they were hesitant to even order their equipment due to the tangle of zoning issues and inspection shenanigans, along with a host of other things I will get to shortly.
At the heart of Patuxent Brewing are the founders, husband and wife Davie and Kendra Feaster, and their business manager- the third member of this perfect trio- Tranice Watts. I can state simply that they are a cohesive, symbiotic unit, and could not be more perfectly suited to work together. They are inseparable ‘peas in a pod’ according to Kendra. Tranice and Davie have known each other since they both attended Crossland High School. They met in welding class- yes welding class. Tranice was mistakenly scheduled in the class, while Davie actually signed up for it, but the friendship was instant and Tranice never looked back. Welding and race cars forged a lasting partnership that has stood the test of time and relocations, and has served them both well building a brewery. Kendra Feaster, with her Master’s degree in Marketing and a photographic eye is a veritable “Jill of all trades” and Davie’s wife of four years.
They all offer critical elements to the collaboration. Kendra brings her marketing expertise while Davie brings his passion and experience as a homebrewer in search of bold flavor. He also has experience in both the retail and wholesale sectors of the three tier system leaving him uniquely suited to navigate the monopolistic, restrictive, and archaic alcohol regulatory system in place in Maryland. Tranice in addition to her extraordinary business acumen brings a background in environmental science to help make the brewery as green as possible. They are all in balance, whether constructing the brewery tables and bar, or reminding one another to keep pushing forward despite the obstacles- and there have been plenty. The underlying component to all of this is their deep friendship and their unwavering faith. Through the most trying times they always go back to the understanding that this is exactly what they are supposed to be doing, and despite the challenges- God is navigating, lighting the path forward.
Right to Left: Kendra Feaster, Tranice Watts, and Davie Feaster of Patuxent Brewing Company
Those hurdles have been numerous and extremely daunting. Charles County has been incredibly supportive of Patuxent Brewing and has worked with Kendra, Davie and Tranice to make sure it opens. The difficulty comes from the complete and total lack of experience, regulations, and zoning for breweries- quite simply because Charles County has never had one before. They are quite frankly guinea pigs, doing the hard work so that other breweries might follow suit. It is one heck of a gamble that Kendra and Davie have sunk their life savings into. The learning curve for them and for the County is large. Patuxent did their due diligence, with Tranice studying brewery business models extensively, and Kendra and Davie working with the Brewers Association of Maryland’s director Kevin Atticks, and President Cindy Mullikin, while getting up to speed on their boards, commissioners, and elected officials. They have also found the entire brewing community extremely welcoming and helpful. Davie has a standing offer from Calvert Brewing (among others) to gain practical experience on their industrial system in preparation for working on his own.
Despite all of this they still have no brewing equipment in place. Inspections have hindered them- again due to the inexperience of the inspectors. A prime example of this could be seen with Patuxent’s cold storage inspection. Davie installed foam board on the walls. This was approved by the fire marshal, but he was forced to remove it when a clearly inexperienced local inspector told him only drywall or fiberglass was allowed on the walls. Davie and the fire marshal argued that drywall or fiberglass would mold and foam board was standard protocol for cold storage-to no avail. It has been just these sorts of things that provide a lesson for everyone involved- unfortunately at the expense of the Feasters.
Another rather incredible series of delays came from the Smallwood Village Zoning Board, run by Meredith Management. Zoning has taken several months- in this case not only because of the lack of zoning in place for this type of manufacturing (breweries), but something far more disconcerting. The zoning board immediately challenged Patuxent with “concerns” about what type of crowd they wanted to bring in and the music they would play…. Yes Patuxent Brewing Company is 100% minority owned- a rarity in and of itself, but becoming more commonplace with each passing year. The insinuation by the board was (disappointingly) clear. Unfortunately the county could not help move things along because they had no actual representatives on the Smallwood Village Zoning Board. Therefore the delays piled up and enormous restrictions were placed upon Patuxent once the final language was agreed to. The good news is that they have final approval- which is what the county was waiting for to help push toward the finish line. The greatest restrictions include limiting capacity to 45 patrons- despite fire code allowing 75+, and they are required to operate as a Nano brewery producing no more than 200 barrels per year. This is not a recipe for profitability without additional events and streams of income. They are looking at the parking lot as an opportunity to expand capacity for events like festivals, yoga, single mingles, and a host of other wonderful ideas.
This is where I need to share with you Patuxent Brewing’s take on Charles County and being a 100% minority owned business. Kendra, Davie and Tranice absolutely LOVE Charles County- it is their home. They love their community- which is diverse and eclectic, and inviting regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, class or gender. Tranice truly believes there is NO better place to raise a family than Charles County. Davie speaks with great fondness about his home, the support from neighbors, and the idyllic days of fishing on the Patuxent River; while Kendra tells of how everyone in the community has reached out to welcome Patuxent Brewing with open arms. Many partnerships have already been constructed from restaurants (and Huntington Golf Club) carrying their beers, to planned fundraisers with the Humane society and various religious groups. The genuine affection they have for their home, county, and the people within is palpable. Everyone in Waldorf is family to them. The Feasters would not have tied their entire financial future to a brewery in Waldorf if that were not the case.
The other component to this is how much they want to give back to this incredible region that has been so generous to them. They view themselves as stakeholders responsible for acting as good stewards in their community. They want to bring people together over a beer and get them to actually talk- like good neighbors and friends do. They recognize and embrace their role, as their brewing predecessors in Maryland have always done, to build strong communities. When it comes to being one of the only 100% minority owned breweries in the nation they spoke with like mind. Kendra summed it up decisively,
“I don’t want this to be a black thing or a white thing…it’s a beer thing.”
They want to be known for the quality of the beer they produce and promise NEVER to sacrifice quality for quantity. A promise I have no doubt they will keep. A recent trip to the Fresh Fest in Pittsburgh also brought in accolades- particularly for the King’s Wife, Davie’s New England IPA made in honor of Kendra. It also brought comradery from other minority brewers that experienced challenges and discrimination when getting started in the industry.
After all of this I asked them what they might do differently if they had it to do all over again. The response was one that comes from knowing now just what it was they didn’t know when they began:
Hire a lawyer from day one to help navigate many of the intricacies, from inspections to zoning to permitting, and just about everything in between.
Find a guide for opening a brewery. Well there really isn’t one yet….other than attending a brewery start up class at Seibel. Fear not Kendra is probably going to write one geared specifically for Charles County, Maryland! The breweries that come after Patuxent should thank her- better yet immortalize her!
Networking- establishing connections on the various boards, and with elected officials and commissioners to facilitate the process. You have to know people as it is much easier to work with existing relationships to get things done than start fresh with strangers.
So what comes next? Ordering equipment of course! Davie is looking for a 1 or 3 barrel system to get started, along with 3 barrel fermenters. They will partner with local farms, not only giving spent grain to farmers as feed, but purchasing local hops and malt as it becomes available. They have partnered with Martin Prouxl, Agriculture Business Development Manager hired by Charles County Economic Development Department to promote local agriculture, to assist them in this endeavor. They already have a regular bevy of food trucks lined up once the taproom opens. They will have 8 taps with 4 dedicated to year round flagship beers, and 4 to seasonal and experimental offerings. Davie strikes a balance between what is expected- porter, IPA, NEIPA, cream ale, with the unexpected- sweet potato bourbon, or peanut butter bacon beer among other exciting and bold flavor profiles. The sweet potato bourbon beer was a collaborative effort with local Blue Dyer distillery and comes as no surprise. After chatting with Davie I learned very quickly that he is a man that loves FLAVOR! It is also no surprise that if he had his druthers, he would work on a collaboration beer with Sam Calgione of Dogfish Head to see just how far they could push the flavor envelope together.
The brewery offers ample parking, and includes a children’s play area that will have a dedicated monitor. They want it to be a family place where everyone is welcome, so much so they sacrificed their only office space for the play room. The brewery also has two VIPs that will almost always be on premises, Cinnamon and Spice. They are the Feasters wee puppies that are so undeniably sweet your heart is guaranteed to melt. They take after Kendra and Davie, two of the nicest people I have ever had the honor to meet.
Eventually, perhaps a few years from now, they will need to relocate to expand operations beyond 200 barrels and the current limited seating capacity. It will still be located in Charles County, most likely not too far from where they are located now.
Today they are just excited to get the beer flowing, and build a lasting legacy. What is the legacy they want to leave?
In one hundred years, Davie wants people to say, “They were all about their community, and the King’s Wife is still here.”
For Kendra, “They were unstoppable. They had an idea and stuck with it no matter what, and it is still bearing fruit.”
Perhaps both of these visions of their future are best described by the writing on taproom wall when the three faced some of their most difficult days,
“Your only limit is your MIND!!”
If you are interested in helping build their legacy please check out their fundraiser:
Brewers Association of Maryland
6247 Falls Road, Suite G
Baltimore, MD 21209
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MARYLAND CRAFT BEER COMPETITION TAKES PLACE SATURDAY, AUGUST 18, 2018
The annual Maryland Craft Beer Competition is coming up, winners announced at REVIVE!
(BALTIMORE, MD, AUGUST 10, 2018) – Each summer Maryland breweries enter their best beer to be judged in the Maryland Craft Beer Competition. This year nearly 200 beers, lagers, and ales will be submitted by brewers seeking to earn the title of “Best of Show” and to bring the coveted Comptroller’s Cup back to their brewery. Dozens of beer styles are represented in this competition and medalists will be announced publicly to attendees of REVIVE! Divine Food + Divine Beer, a Brewers Association of Maryland event taking place this August.
Calvert Brewing Company in Upper Marlboro serves as the host venue for the 2018 Maryland Craft Beer Competition. Local craft beer enthusiast and BJCP Master Judge Phil Sides helped with event organization and heads up the judging efforts. Event organizers will converge on the brewery later this week to sort and label all of the competition entries. “There are a lot of moving parts for a competition like this,” says Kelly Dudeck of the Brewers Association of Maryland. “From registration to judging, the goal is to ensure that all entries are properly labeled and appropriately handled.”
Awards for the Maryland Comptroller’s Cup will be publicly announced at REVIVE!, an upcoming food and beer pairing event taking place at the Shrine of St. Anthony in Ellicott City on Saturday, August 25, 2018. This tasting event showcases gold-medal breweries from the 2017 Maryland Craft Beer Competition and pairs those beers with delicious fare prepared by handpicked Maryland chefs. Tickets to REVIVE! are currently on sale and are only available in advance.
The Brewers Association of Maryland (BAM), founded in 1996, is the non-profit trade association of Maryland brewing companies. The mission of BAM is to grow, promote and protect the Maryland craft beer industry.
I am sure most if not all of you are quite familiar with Naptown Pintcast. I had the distinct honor and privilege to be invited to participate in Liz Murphy’s Pintcast with none other than Cindy Mullikin, owner of Mully’s Brewery and the President of the Brewer’s Association of Maryland. The format involved drinking beer, while discussing beer. One of my favorite things to do!
As you can imagine there was quite a bit to chat about. Cindy Mullikin as many of you know is the very first female President of BAM, and she is responsible for some fabulous award winning beer coming out her plant in Prince Frederick. Cindy hosted us, and these incredible brews are of course on tap and in our glasses during this engaging conversation on women in beer. The Hazy III as most of you know is a brilliant NEIPA that is a surprising 10%, and a trip tp Prince Frederick will definitely be worth your while for the host of beers from the Shucker Stout to the Patuxent Pale- of which we sampled our share!
A HUGE thank you to the incomparable Liz Murphy for her time and talents, and quite frankly the invitation to be a part of her legacy of pint casts! Here is the link to the pintcast- Enjoy!
Be sure to keep up with Liz in all her amazing beer travels and conversations at Naptown Pint.
January 15, 2018
Today is a doubly good day indeed. First and foremost, we honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He was born on this day in 1929. Dr. King forged a path of non-violence at a provocative and difficult time in American history that literally changed the world. That is no small feat. His message of unity and equality have become a part of the fabric of our society.
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
This is one message that has personally resonated with me. Everyone will have a different takeaway from Dr. King. Think about his message. Take a moment today and ruminate on Dr. King and his legacy, and perhaps raise a glass to this incredible humanitarian and the gifts he has given to civilization!
Secondly I want to take a moment to share with you the results of the Brewer’s Association of Maryland election for the 2018 Board of Directors. On January 14, 2018 the following Board was chosen:
• President: Cindy Mullikin, Mully’s Brewery – Prince Frederick, Calvert Co.
• Vice-President: Tom Knorr, Evolution Craft Brewing – Salisbury, Wicomico Co.
• Treasurer: Phil Bowers, Brewer’s Alley – Frederick, Frederick Co.
• Secretary: Brett Snyder, Waredaca Brewing – Laytonsville, Montgomery Co.
• At-Large: Hugh Sisson, Heavy Seas – Halethorpe, Baltimore Co.
• At-Large: Adam Benesch, Union Craft Brewing – Baltimore City
• At-Large: Julie Verratti, Denizens Brewing – Silver Spring, Montgomery Co.
Cindy Mullikin may not be a name everyone is familiar with, but they soon will be. Mullikin is a strong, business savvy, no-nonsense, straight shooter. She is measured certainly, but has no trouble speaking up for the Brewers Association of Maryland, and understands how to negotiate the best path moving forward. In such uncertain times as these for Maryland breweries, she is poised to lead. I have absolutely no doubt she will navigate this treacherous path with clarity, and sound judgement. She will persevere for BAM.
Complimenting Mullikin’s ascent is Tom Knorr of Evolution. Knorr’s experience with BAM and the industry in both Delaware and Maryland will be infinitely useful, and often called upon. His willingness to work for legislative changes to benefit breweries will buttress the efforts already underway. Unflinching determination is a keystone to his success.
Longtime member Phil Bowers of Brewer’s Alley will also be an asset, having witnessed the ebb and flow of the Association over the years, along with the changes in legislation, and growth in the industry. He has ridden many storms, and is definitely an asset for BAM.
Brett Snyder of Waredaca is one of the newest members to BAM and the board. The farm brewery opened just over two years ago, and is focused on environmental stewardship, and great beer! This will be another great addition, providing a well-rounded perspective.
Our At-Large members are ones well known to most every craft beer drinker in the state. Adam Benesch of Union, Hugh Sisson of Heavy Seas, and Julie Verratti of Denizens. Benesch is business and beer smart, but his true gift is his ever-calm, ever-attentive presence that invites pleasant/rational conversation even in the midst of the most volatile discussions. Shall we call him Buddha? Perhaps. Hugh Sisson of course broke the mold in Maryland brewing in the 1990’s, and continues to understand the shifting tides of the industry. A steadfast member of BAM to utilize for his wealth of knowledge and experience. Julie Verratti- lawyer, activist, advocate. Outspoken when she needs to be, always fighting doggedly to improve the industry, the beer, and society for that matter. A champion we all want in our corner!
The future is uncertain. We can all be sure that this is a powerful group that has been chosen to helm the Brewer’s Association of Maryland, and I cannot wait to see what 2018 brings!