Small Business Saturday, Football and Beer

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

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

Black-Friday-Old-Days

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

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Diamondback Brewing samplers

 

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

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

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

Cheers!

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

Go Navy!

The Baltimore Craft Beer Festival 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sláinte!

Patuxent Brewing Company

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your only limit is your MIND!!

Sláinte!

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

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

 

Comptroller’s Cup Time!!!!!

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.

Women in Beer Pintcast

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.

Sláinte!

 

MLK/BAM Update

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!