Author and brewer Mary Eaton took a no-nonsense approach to crafting high-caliber beer.
“What an amazing human being and what a stickler for quality,” says Maureen O’Prey, historian and author of Beer in Maryland and Brewing in Baltimore. “What a stickler for following her recipe to the letter.
“She felt that any beer that left a hard or a sour or a pungent sensation on your tongue was not good beer. It was pernicious beer. And if you got it from a tavern or an ale house, you would end up with headaches and nausea and all kinds of things that you wouldn’t have had if you were drinking the beer that she was making in her house.”
Eaton held the firm belief that beer was best when made at home—specifically, by women, who unbeknownst to many, had been brewing for millennia around the time her book came out in 1822. In The Cook and Housekeeper’s Complete and Universal Dictionary, Eaton shares a bevy of meticulous recipes for beers with no-fuss names like “good” and “wholesome.”
“It’s really amazing when you look at what she wrote back in 1822, because the standards she’s demanding are what you would expect at a brewery today,” O’Prey explains. “Without knowing what pH was, she recognized good water from bad water, and how to turn bad water into good water. Everything was sanitized.”
Long before refrigeration, Eaton knew the cooler months of March and October were the most ideal for brewing. And as O’Prey found out herself, her recipes, while laborious and painstakingly detailed, yield an age-defying magic.
Referencing the aforementioned, 200-year-old book, O’Prey and Judy Neff, the owner of Checkerspot Brewing in South Baltimore, attempted to recreate three of Eaton’s recipes—plus one of their own, a 12.9 percent ABV ale appropriately dubbed “Pernicious Mary.” Per the author’s instructions for brewing, the latter sip sat for two years. But this weekend, the duo’s hard work will pay off when the four “fool-proof” brews hit the Checkerspot taproom.
This Saturday, March 5, in honor of Eaton, and to celebrate the start of Women’s History Month, Neff and O’Prey will host an event aptly dubbed “200 Years in the Making” at the Sharp Street brewery. For $70, VIP ticket holders will receive an exclusive bottle of “Pernicious Mary.” And for $40, Checkerspot guests will have the chance to sample three of Eaton’s fairly mild trademark blends: “Good Beer,” “Agreeable Table Beer,” and “Wholesome Beer” (yes, those are really their names).
From 1-4 p.m., O’Prey will be on site to sign her two books and give two lectures: one about the history of women in beer, and the other about the time she spent with Neff working to master Eaton’s time-held recipes. A portion of proceeds from ticket sales will benefit The Well, a Baltimore nonprofit helping women heal from trauma.
“Maureen is so thorough with all of her research,” says Neff, who looks forward to sharing Eaton’s legacy with Checkerspot. “She’s been passionate about craft beer and history for so long. We’re really lucky to be able to work together—to be a woman brewer and a woman beer historian, which is very rare to find. We make a pretty good team.
“[Too often] you only hear about men opening breweries. So I think it’s kind of cool for people to hear a different side of the story, that there was this woman, 200 years ago brewing beer at home. And she considered her beer the best, better than any guy could make.”
O’Prey agrees: “I think Mary would be proud. It is such an honor to be able to bring this incredible woman’s recipes back, and make them well. Women have always been a part of this beautiful, wonderful art of making beer.”
Grace Hebron is an Editorial Assistant at Baltimore. A graduate of Towson University, and formerly an intern at the aforementioned city glossy, she loves to cover lifestyle and community news. She also writes the Weekend Lineup column.
It is the time of year for gatherings and gratitude, forgiveness and transitions, revelry and redemption. It is after all the holidays!
While we have certainly ushered in the craft beer era in Maryland over the past decade, the joy of a new brewery opening can be bittersweet when mingled with another brewery closing. COVID-19 had a deleterious impact on many breweries, with their recovery often dependent upon the jurisdiction in which they resided. The suspension of enforcement, coupled with the 2021 legislation allowing many of these courtesies to continue until the end of 2022, mitigated much of the fiscal damage for brewers. Not all however, could persevere. Some were already vexed by non-pandemic related issues and succumbed.
Additionally, NIMBY has taken hold as farm breweries have seen tremendous growth, fomented by a pandemic that embraced social distancing, outdoor gatherings and the warming glow of fire pits. Despite the common sense economic benefit of value added agriculture, Harford County councilmembers pandered to the “not in my backyard mentality,” introducing a moratorium on farm breweries. After 18 months of planning and expense, AleCraft Brewery was forced to relocate their planned farm brewery, complete with hop farm, biergarten, and gastro pub across the border to Railroad, Pennsylvania. Sadly, they have also chosen to move their primary 5,000 sf, seven barrel production facility to Pennsylvania as well. This is a huge loss for Harford County and Maryland craft beer, but apparently a victory for an irritable neighbor.
With the pandemic in our rear view mirror, it is a blissful season to reacquaint ourselves with beer festivals like the Baltimore Craft Beer Festival in Canton. Over fifty breweries were in attendance to share their tantalizing creations. It was also an opportunity to sample tasty offerings from up and coming breweries like Joyhound Beer and Abbeywood Brewing, while rediscovering some old favorites like Oliver Brewing. This was not the first festival of the year, but definitely the place to be for a vast range of styles from the largest collection of Maryland brewers assembled since COVID struck. Kudos to Abby Cassarella, Jim Bauckman, Kevin Atticks and the whole crew at the Brewer’s Association of Maryland for putting on another exceptional event!
Pub Dog Brewing was in fine form at the festival, showing off a brilliant Vermont style IPA that kept fans wanting more. This was celebratory as friend and owner George Humbert was eager to share how busy he has been now that he re-opened Pub Dog Pizza & Drafthouse in Columbia, nearly two years after the gas explosion that closed the pub. The gourmet pizza is as good as you remember and the beer is sublime. A grateful crowd lined the block in March to welcome Pub Dog back to the neighborhood.
Another anticipated opening, Burnish Beer Company was also met with much fanfare in late October. Randy Mills, former co-owner and brewer at RaR Brewing in Cambridge created a destination in Salisbury that welcomes thirsty beer travelers year round. In addition to the delicious food options, a cocktail and wine menu is available for the folks that may not have come over to the brew side of things just yet. After two years in planning, a global pandemic could not stop Mills on this most welcome endeavor.
Crooked Crab Brewing in Odenton announced they are expanding operations at Telegraph Road. The expansion will be completed in 2022, nearly doubling the size of the brewery to 15,000 sf. Crooked Crab has certainly garnered a vast following with staples like Haze for Daze and seasonal Vespa Werewolf. Craft beer drinkers are excited by the news and intrigued by the possible expanded offerings once the construction is finished.
This heartwarming news is only tempered by the loss of an Eastern Shore brewery- Backshore Brewing (formerly known as Shorebilly), and the legendary Wharf Rat in Fells Point. In a tearful video message, Uncle Nate of Backshore informed patrons that owner Danny Robinson has decided to close the brewery at the end of November 2021. After pivoting to tea-based alcohol production in 2015 for beach goers, Robinson expanded his footprint to several others states including Florida. This closure comes as a surprise to many, although Uncle Nate has promised to try and buy the brand to continue operations on the shore.
Farther north in Baltimore, the Wharf Rat permanently closed on November 6, 2021. It was the founding home of Oliver Brewing before both the brewery and Pratt Street were sold to an outside investor. For more than 30 years the Wharf Rat was Baltimore’s favorite place for locals, overflowing with history. The English ambiance and malty ales transported patrons back to the Age of Sail when English vessels were moored in the harbor and offloading cargo on the docks. The Wharf Rat was sold at auction for nearly one million dollars in October with the buyer remaining anonymous- for now.
In case you missed it, the Pinks Boots Society Greater Maryland Chapter collaborated on a decadent new brew. Tit’s Up is a New England Style India Pale Lager in honor of breast cancer awareness month. This collaboration between Checkerspot Brewing, DuClaw Brewing and TenEyck Brewing Company reminds women to stand strong in the face of adversity. Participating breweries as well as several regional package stores have this consequential brew on shelves now. Don’t miss out!
In other collaboration news, I am thrilled to announce the latest historical collaboration between myself and Judy Neff of Checkerspot. Admiral Buck is launching on Thanksgiving eve! Admiral Buck is a recreation of late 19th century imperial Bock from the brewery of Edward Stiefel. It is aged in barrels provided by USN, Ret. Scott Sanders, Rear Admiral of Tobacco Barn Distillery. Mark your calendars and make a trip to the brewery on November 24th where I will be giving a talk on the full history of the beer and brewing in the 1800’s. Judy and I will be sharing other tantalizing tidbits about upcoming collaborations that you won’t want to miss! Don’t forget to grab a couple of bottles of Admiral Buck, a once in a lifetime historical brew to share at Thanksgiving!
A brief overview of Women’s history Month and the incredible women in the Maryland craft brewing industry.
March is a month that represents a diverse range of things to many folks, but it also happens to be women’s history month. This month in particular has been an active one despite the pandemic still continuing to shift the paradigm for an abundance of us. The month kicked off in fine fashion, harkening back to the days of yore with a women’s brew on March 8th.
As most of you that have read the book or participated in the beer history walks know, brewing was the purview of women historically. It was our responsibility to make beer and cider for the family along with myriad other tasks like tending the hearth and the kitchen garden. Many have also heard of Ninkasi, the ancient Sumerian goddess of beer, or Saint Brigid who turned dirty bathwater into beer for both leper and cleric alike, and the list goes on and on.
This is not to say that men were not brewers prior to the colonial era, as they were, but it was a household chore (hardly an appropriate word) that fell to the females of the domicile. The shift away from women as brewers can be seen in colonial America with the build up to war. A need to supply our Revolutionary troops with daily rations of beer (1 qt. of spruce beer per day to be precise) required a scaling up in production. Once brewing was removed from the household it was placed in the hands of men. Do not misunderstand, some women continued to brew and a few of them brewed on the industrial level until the death knell of the Volstead Act rang its discordant tune.
After Repeal, it was still part and parcel a realm for men, although a new understanding would emerge by the 1940’s, in no small part due to the changing role of women in WWII. They became a target consumer for breweries, and by the 1950’s Maryland breweries like Gunther were completely redesigning workspaces to accommodate female employees. But a return to brewing was a still a ways off for many.
Enter Terry Fahrendorf, and the narrative completely changes- and history along with it! Terry was a female brewer at a time when the industry was male dominated and the Swedish bikini models were still considered a viable default marketing gimmick. Fahrendorf traveled the nation engaging in collaborative brews at each stop. She met very few women in the industry, but those she came across forged an immediate bond and a revolution- a Pink Boots revolution. This was the genesis of the Pink Boots Society, an organization founded by Fahrendorf to not only provide a sisterhood of females in the industry, but educational opportunities and advocacy for women vastly outnumbered in an field that once belonged to us.
Pink Boots has grown exponentially since 2007, as have the number of women returning to this profession. The society provides a strong foundation not only for seasoned industry experts, but those wishing to start their own breweries, or further their new found careers in all aspects of brewing. It is also the basis of the March 8th collaboration. Annually, the Pink boots Society selects a blend of hops in advance of the annual collaboration (usually October), sending the information out to chapters in each region across the nation to plan. This year the hops chosen were: Ahtanum®, Cashmere, Citra®, Loral®, and Sabro®, creating a blend with tropical, herbal, citrus & woody aromatic qualities.
This year, with the greater Maryland chapter reformulated, Judy Neff, owner and head brewer of Checkerspot Brewing Company played host for the event. The hops would be used in a cold India Pale Lager that also happen to be a little hazy! The socially distanced brew day was a complete success! What set it apart from the other annual collaborations is the team behind this greater Maryland chapter (Amethyst Tymoch & Rachel Bradley) working to put together something exceptional, a collaborative brew day with breakout sessions- making the most of the day.
The first session, diversity and inclusion, was extremely impactful. Women in the industry from broad range of backgrounds (Tranice, Courtney, Crystal, Hannah, Kara, Jordan, Diane) shared their experiences and advice on how to improve the relations and make it more inclusive for everyone regardless of race, gender, or sexual preference and believe it or not- make it beer centric. This session was open, vulnerable, true and honest, and like a fine wine will continue to have legs- promising depth, character, and complexity for years to come. This session was an eye opener for some, a moment of solidarity for others. Regardless, it forged a path forward to navigate the complexities of a world that is challenging, painful, exclusionary at times, but inherently capable of becoming diverse, inclusive and healing.
One of my favorite quotes came from Tranice Watts of Patuxent Brewing, “Your only limit is your mind.” Straight forward and undeniably powerful (like the woman herself). People often limit themselves and perhaps need to be reminded to go beyond their self-imposed limits. Change happens with one mind at a time and,
“Diversity is beautiful” Jordan, Waredaca
The second session shined the spotlight on Crystal Rivera, co-owner (with her father) of Puerto Rico Distillery in Frederick. Crystal shared her story starting out as homebrewer at FIU, before recapturing her family history. Her father (retired Navy) was considered a Puerto Rican mountain “hillbilly” with a rich culture of making distilled sugar cane (rum) moonshine known as Pitorro. Crystal shared the challenges she faced not only entering an industry that was filled with machismo, but opening in the midst of a pandemic. Although she found herself making hand sanitizer out of the gate, she eventually created something most Americans had no experience with unless they had traveled to Puerto Rico themselves and were fortunate enough to sample it. Much like brewing, Pitorro wouldn’t be Pitorro without the women. Crystal shared with us that although men historically distilled the rum, the women were the ones infusing it and making it exceptional! She was also kind enough to bring samples of her absolutely delightful creations. I must say the almond was exquisite, balanced and warm, and I cannot wait to make the drive to Frederick for a bottle!
The third and final session brought with it much fun and technical expertise- the art of beer photography. In this modern day of social media as a prime mode of advertising, great photos are critical to audience engagement and retention. Rachel Bradley of DuClaw shared her expertise, tools and lightbox tips to a successful beer photo creation. This light, fun, yet incredibly helpful session topped an already fabulous day, the rewards of which are ongoing -as witnessed in the improved posts you have probably already seen!
The Pink Boots collaborative brew will be available to consume in April. Two Pink Out release events have already been scheduled at Full Tilt and Ten Eyck. Get your tickets while you can!
I was honored to participate with so many new and many known Pink Boots members that came out to brew (or showed in spirit) on March 8th :
Cameron – 1623 Brewing
Carrie – 1623 Brewing
Emma – Astrolab Brewing Company
Jim Baukman- BAM (Wait a Man?????-LOL! Yes happily invited to cover the event)
Why the list you ask? Take a good, long look at this list and realize this includes only a fraction of the women in the industry in Maryland. The tide is shifting…
That by no means wrapped the month however. After a year of waiting Pernicious Mary was finally bottled! Who is Pernicious Mary? In case you missed it (perhaps because of a global pandemic), last March 2020, I collaborated with Judy Neff of Checkerspot Brewing to recreate a 200 year old recipe by a female brewer. This historic old ale was a special occasion brew- requiring an extremely large grain bill, a lot of time, and exceptional attention to detail. Mary, the brewer was a stickler for quality beer, finding standard offerings at taverns to be lacking in quality and quite ‘pernicious”. Hence the name! After a year of barrel aging, Mary was finally ready to be bottled….but Mary requires one more year of cellaring in the bottle! Yes patience is a virtue- but is well worth the wait, as the beer is capable of cellaring for 10 years! Stay tuned event detail will be forthcoming for this limited release.
The brand new podcast Brew LaLa was released by Pink Boots chapter leader Amethyst Tymoch, who you might know as the @beerdashian on Instagram, or perhaps she poured you a pint at the spot. Why another Maryland beer podcast you ask? Diversity is beautiful after all and quite frankly it is different from the other brewing podcasts you might watch. Highlights include the science behind the brewing segments with Dr. Judy Neff, and some fast facts on brewing history with yours truly. This is in addition to myriad other topics and a cavalcade of guests making it both fun and informative!
On Sunday March 21, I once again was the lucky recipient of an invite to participate in another women’s collaborative brew day. This grapefruit Hefeweizen was brewed for a Mother’s Day 2021 release at Patuxent Brewing Company in Waldorf Maryland in May. This small group brought together experienced brewers with those dreaming of becoming brewers, along with others in the field. It was an inspired choice for not only the style of beer, but the collection of women. Both ideas were the brainchild of Diane R. (Patuxent Brewing Co. videographer and brewer in training). The day was a captivating mixture of soulful conversation, lighthearted fun, and a splendid feast. A special thank you to Davie Feaster (head brewer) for hosting us and sharing his extraordinary BBQ talents! I look forward to the reunion on Mother’s Day ladies!
On March 22, the latest Revenews podcast hit the airwaves! If you are not familiar with this financial podcast from the Maryland Comptroller’s office, I implore you to tune in. Co-hosts Alan Brody and Samantha Igo keep audiences informed about the latest happenings from the agency with special guests covering a wide array of topics. They keep their listeners engaged with wit, wisdom, and laughter- a must listen! Spoiler alert- I was invited on as a guest (on St. Patrick’s Day none the less) to talk about women in beer and history. It was a perfect combination for the day and as you will hear- we had grand time. Be sure to check it out!
Speaking of things you need to know… did you know that Manor Hill Brewing changed hands shortly before the pandemic? In December of 2019, Rachel Marriner Mull took the reins from her father Randy. Rachel is a power house who happens to be imminently qualified- and she also happens to be crushing it! Rachel is President and CEO of Manor Hill Productions, Manor Hill Farm LLC, and Victoria Restaurant Group as well as the brewery. She is an unstoppable force not only in the industry, but in the state! I am hoping to garner a more in depth interview for an upcoming future article.
Whew! It has been a busy month and rightfully so. Still, I want to leave you with one last thought, or more of a rule of thumb. When you go to a brewery, or a bar, a distillery, or a winery, a sheet metal fabricator or any business at all, remember one thing:
If a women is the brewer, or the welder, or the distiller, the vlogger or the beertender -assume she is there because she knows what she is doing. She is the expert. Don’t look around for a male counterpart. Instead, assume she knows what she is doing- because she does. She shouldn’t have to work ten times harder because she is a she, but she does, and she knows her stuff- you count on it!
A look at what 2021 holds for our breweries in Maryland, and a look back at how they survived 2020.
Well 2020 is in the books and it has been one for the ages! The pandemic indelibly altered an already fluid landscape forcing breweries, wineries and distilleries to make wholesale (pun intended) adjustments to their fundamental operational practices. As closures mounted, business owners scrambled to stay alive amid constantly changing regulations and requirements…
No indoor dining; only 25% capacity indoor dining; 50% capacity indoor dining; outdoor dining only; no outdoor dining; bars that serve food can be open but not bars that don’t serve food, and of course no masks needed (March)… to wear the damn mask (April).
Sometimes it was a local jurisdictional directive- sometimes it was state mandated. Either way this was exhausting and costly.
Added to this mishmash was a growing aluminum shortage and Maryland alcohol manufacturers were in a bit of a pickle to put it mildly. Necessity is the mother of invention, and one thing our craft producers know how to do is innovate. They learned to bend like reeds in a tornado to witness another sunrise, but it wasn’t easy.
The adaptations manifested almost immediately in the form of delivery apps (like Biermi), transitions to primarily wholesale manufacturing, and of course the varied conversion of any available outdoor space for seating to accommodate patrons. For some parking areas worked, for others a spot of grass or sidewalk sufficed, but each space was unique, creative, and socially distanced. More importantly, it helped keep the business alive. Some relief arrived in the form of the Federal Cares Act, small business loans and grants from the state of Maryland, along with a tax forbearance. Local credit unions and banks stepped up to offer favorable grants, loans and forbearances as well to keep the doors open for so many. Most thought it would only be a few months, but it turned into several.
Some manufacturers were able to not only survive the challenge of 2020 and COVID, but thrive- turning adversity into opportunity. Silver Branch was open only a year when the pandemic hit, upending their first anniversary party and forcing them to invest more quickly in a larger wholesale production operation than anticipated, along with an abundant delivery service. Mully’s Brewery not only endured the pandemic, they thrived even though limited to outdoor only seating. A 1500 sf taproom expansion is now underway at the brewery, offering a hopeful reminder that once vaccines are rolled out people will be back in the taproom once again!
Checkerspot Brewing not only weathered the storm, they soared above it, much like a butterfly. Limited to outdoor seating only (although at the time of this writing Mayor Scott has removed that option) they improvised, and with a little help from the landlord, under the over became the go-to place for socially distanced outdoor seating, complete with big screen televisions to watch the Orioles and Ravens play while sipping on your favorite brew. With demand on the rise, the brewery also invested in a canning line for carryout, wholesale, and delivery. As of winter 2020/2021 they too are in the process of expanding the brewery to accommodate the shift from primarily taproom focused to wholesale operations.
Patuxent Brewing in Charles has also worked tirelessly to meet the demand for their signature brews. Patuxent opened in 2019 as Maryland’s first 100% minority owned brewery. Since that time they have seen such a demand for their beer, it has been a challenge to keep up! Through collaborations and tourism (prior to COVID) they were getting some pretty serious name recognition. COVID has not slowed them down and they have hit the ground running- taking home a few fairly significant awards. In October 2020 they were named the Regional Manufacturing Institutes (RMI) Champion of Manufacturing and the People’s Choice Award winner for Diversity and Inclusion. Accolades did not stop there as the ever tenacious Tranice Watts, along with co-owners Davie Feaster and Gene Lott were not only finalists in the Brewbound Pitch Slam this year, they won $25k as the 8 Trill Pils Minor Craft Beer Business Award winners! This is a must visit brewery folks!
In addition to the savvy business moves made by our Maryland breweries a few new ones were able to open in 2020, including TenEyck, Pherm, Forward, Hopkins and more. Check out the New Breweries page to see who is open.
More good news came in the form of the passed Craft Beverage Modernization Tax Reform Act that was passed by congress in December. This was the next step for fair excise taxes for small craft alcohol producers, and it also came with COVID relief package for these same manufacturers who have suffered under the weight of pandemic restrictions. President Trump signed the bill into law in the waning days of December, securing the future of these industries.
Now, all our producers need is Maryland to come on board to secure the future of Maryland’s craft alcohol manufacturers by making some of the state of emergency changes permanent. Since Governor Hogan declared a state of emergency, breweries, wineries and distilleries have seen a suspension of enforcement on carryout limits, home delivery, shipping and off-premise consumption. These have no doubt helped keep alcohol manufacturers, bars and restaurants in business. With the transition to wholesale local retailers are carrying MORE local craft beer than ever before, which for some package store owners came as a surprise. It was a lesson learned for many that even with a change to more favorable regulations for these manufacturers (or lack of enforcement more appropriately) everyone is still coming out ahead. So why move back to those arbitrary restrictions once COVID has passed?
What will happen after the state of emergency is lifted? There was talk of making these changes permanent through legislation in the upcoming session (2021). Governor Hogan introduced a COVID relief bill in January that does nothing to extend these limits. Was this just a moment in the sun in a year marred by darkness? Or will someone actually go to bat for the craft alcohol manufacturers? After all didn’t they step up when we needed them the most by converting their businesses to manufacture PPE and hand sanitizer to protect us?
If you recall back in summer I likened our breweries to a champion squirrel named Acorn. Suffering terrible injuries from a falling branch he should have perished. Instead I am happy to say he is healed and thriving- not just surviving! A lesson in luck? Perhaps, or just sheer determination winning out against the odds.
A brief examination of several industry topics from TTB violations, aluminum shortages, industry stats and new breweries in Maryland .
Welcome friends, it has been a while and there is much to catch up on.
Ab-Inbev- at it again
Starting with the elephant that is always in the room, Ab-InBev (AB) has committed yet another TTB violation of tied-house regulations. The breakdown of offenses establishes a pretty clear pattern. In exchange for the regular purchase of a determined quantity of Ab-InBev products by a sports venue, to the exclusion of competitor’s products, lucrative sponsorship agreements would remain in place for the participating venue. In case you wondered- yes this is illegal.
Additionally, they violated tied-house regulations when AB employees enforced a verbal agreement for Concessionaires to grant favorable placement to AB products, to the exclusion of competitor’s products in exchange for fixtures, equipment, service, etc. Yet again this is illegal.
They were in violation for paying retailers for samplings that never took place- yes this was in effect a bribe for favorable product placement. You guessed it- this is illegal. This list does go on, but for the sake of brevity that is probably enough to understand the process.
Conveniently these things were not written down, but these verbal agreements were clearly understood and provided TTB with enough evidence to force their hand.
Marc Sorini of the Brewer’s Association of America offered a nice write up of the resulting Offer in Compromise (OIC) and its potential impact. The $5 million settlement is small potatoes for AB, but historic for the TTB. This did not come as a shock to most craft brewers however, as they knew this game was afoot for quite some time, the trouble was proving it. The OIC did not require AB to admit fault, just pay the fine.
There is still possible redress for states and craft breweries impacted by the alleged violations. We will have to wait and see what, if anything transpires from this. AB did promise to work diligently on training employees not to engage in these sorts of practices in the future… Echoes of past promises continue to hang in the air.
The Can Can
There is another front that leaves American craft breweries in a bit of a pickle in 2020- aluminum. Most may remember the debate in the not-too-distant past as to whether bottles or cans were better. Well if you didn’t know- cans won! No surprise, but alas it has created another issue- demand. According to S&P Global Platt, aluminum demand was on the decline before COVID. Since the pandemic, we have seen a marked increase in aluminum demand specifically for beverages. Craft beer can demand has risen 6.7 % this year, most likely a result of required off-premise consumption. Coupled with a lack of recycling due to COVID concerns, the problem has been compounded as 74% of aluminum cans are made from recycled aluminum cans.[i] Fortunately, we are witnessing a return to recycling, but perhaps not quickly enough.
Earlier this month, Kate Bernot wrote an article in Good Beer Hunting noting the rise in canned wines, and the much maligned and ubiquitous “seltzers” were major contributory factors in the can shortage for breweries.[ii] Whether recycling or seltzer, the issue remains the same- there is a shortage. The law of supply and demand has been pretty clear on this, a shortage equates to a rise in the price of the material. This places breweries squarely between Scylla and Charybdis while in the midst of a pandemic.
One response is it to absorb the increased cost of aluminum in the short term, as production has increased with the easing of COVID restrictions. This is not entirely viable given the difficult financial circumstances most breweries face during this tenuous economic time. Another solution is to pass along the increased cost to the consumer. This is equally troublesome as it may become a test of loyalty for some consumers while pricing out others, resulting in a loss of business. Blaming AB for flooding the market with seltzer still remains an option however, but offers no true plan for overcoming this challenge. For some breweries it is no longer a matter of passing on cost, but a question of actually receiving cans in the first place- regardless of cost. Time will provide greater insight into this most vexing debacle.
Collaborations are king (or Queen depending on your preference) and 2020 has been a banner year for them despite social distancing. The annual Pink Boots collaboration in March fell on International Women’s Day. Myriad breweries with either female owners or employees hosted the collaborations. This year’s theme was an homage to the suffragettes that valiantly and successfully championed women’s right to vote. The 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment requires a centennial celebration of great magnitude, and the end result of this year’s Pink Boots collaboration (with a proprietary Pink Boots bend of hops) was definitely worthy of the occasion.
Brew for BAM was the most recent Maryland wide collaboration. Proceeds from the malty creations will help fund the Association that supports the legislative priorities and hosts events for the breweries. Due to the pandemic they have lost a primary source of revenue generated through the (several) annual events BAM hosts. Each brewery that participated let inspiration take flight, resulting in a wide and wonderful variety of brews, with a few true surprises!
Another nationwide collaboration began at Weathered Souls Brewing in San Antonio, the Black is Beautiful stout. 17 Maryland breweries partook of this unifying collaboration, each adding their own signature flair to the stout. If you haven’t had a chance to yet sample one of these delights- make it a priority!
Look for more historical collaborations coming from yours truly and Judy Neff at Checkerspot Brewing. Next up- an appropriately historic porter!
Maryland breweries are growing and navigating their own course in these uncharted waters. This summer we welcomed the opening of a few new Maryland breweries.
Hopkins Farm Brewery in Harford County opened in July. If you are not familiar, Aaron Hopkins is also the genius behind (the on-site) Chesapeake Malting at Hopkins Farm. They are one of three local malting operations in the Free State and responsible for contributing to many fantastic local brews. A self sufficient farm brew with some quite tasty offerings and plenty of outdoor seating to safely enjoy your brew.
Additionally, the much heralded Ten Eyck Brewery in Queenstown has finally opened its doors! Ten Eyck continued to build its brand while building its brewery through beautifully crafted collaborations with a handful of breweries in the state, including a lovely rye with Checkerspot Brewing. I personally cannot wait to walk through those doors for a Taildragger IPA.
Gateway Brewing in Salisbury, another Eastern Shore creation, is a nanobrewery that opened for tastings last month. Licensing for pint service is pending and anticipated soon.
Last but not least, Richard Carter has made progress on a zoning amendment to Build Rock Hall’s first microbrewery, Delmarva Craft. Updates will be forthcoming.
Statistics and more statistics
Growth is great and the market will shake out those that cannot create products of consistent quality. As I have always said there literally is a beer for every palate and Maryland breweries certainly meet the threshold for diversity of styles, flavors, and preferences. So what is all the hullabaloo about the latest Brewer’s Association of America stats?
The 2019 figures came out by state and Maryland was in the middle- sort of:
33rd for number of breweries per capita (2.5 per 100,000 drinking age adults)
22nd for number of breweries
25nd for economic impact
49th for economic impact per capita
22nd for barrels produced per year
So, how do we unpack this? Well the number of breweries is pretty straight forward- we are a state with 112 breweries. Hard stop.
The number of breweries per capita means that 32 other states have more breweries per 100,000 legal drinking age adults than we do. Can we do better? Absolutely, but let’s keep in mind a little thing called size. Maryland is petite compared to the land mass of some of other our great United States. There are areas of the Free State that are extremely dense in population and some quite sparse. I am not adverse to a brewery on every corner, but is it feasible that a business model like this can survive? Probably not, just as having too many breweries in very rural areas would need to rely mainly upon distribution and tourist traffic to survive, which is difficult during COVID.
This brings us to the number of barrels produced per year- coming in solidly at 22nd. Factor this in with the last number and perhaps it will make a little more sense. Our breweries in Maryland are cranking! We may not have the per capita breweries, but the 112 breweries we do have are really out-producing many other states. Obviously this is fabulously encouraging.
Moving along to the sticky widget that is economic impact. We are smack dab in the middle of the country for economic impact at 25th. What does this mean? In a nutshell our breweries have a nearly $1 billion economic impact (954 million to be precise) on Maryland’s economy. The figure is derived from the total impact of beer brewed by craft brewers as it moves through the three-tier system.[iii] This includes jobs in breweries, jobs created at affiliated industries because of the breweries (distributors, bottle makers, can manufacturers, retail sales people, etc.), and sales of beer, food and merchandise sold in breweries and taprooms. This number is quite impressive and a definitive and substantial increase from just a few years prior.
So how does this jibe with the economic impact per capita? Simple. This correlates directly to our placement in breweries per capita. We are almost dead last in this category. How can that be when our economic impact is clearly more substantial? If we have more breweries per capita, most likely we will have a greater economic impact per capita. For the number of drinking age adults, we could probably do better, but we already out-produce many states with the breweries that we do have.
Another correlation I think is relevant is the change to Maryland’s antiquated franchise and craft brewing laws that only went into effect last July, 2019. Give this number a chance to come up. It probably will based on increased taprooms sales and opportunities for our craft breweries one the pandemic is in our rearview mirror.
Do not forget where we are as far as economic impact on our state- we are faring much better than many of the states that lead us in per capita economic impact. This is not doom and gloom by any means, but a light shining brightly, strengthening in illumination with each passing year.
Here is a quick takeaway direct from the BA statisticians on how US craft breweries are situated:
Overall U.S. beer volume sales were down 2% in 2019, whereas craft brewer sales continued to grow at a rate of 4% by volume, reaching 13.6% of the U.S. beer market by volume. Craft production grew the most for taprooms. Retail dollar sales of craft increased 6%, up to $29.3 billion, and now account for more than 25% of the $116.0 billion U.S. beer market. The industry also provided more than 580,000 total jobs, with more than 160,000 jobs directly at breweries and brewpubs, including serving staff at brewpubs.[iv]
The bottom line is our craft breweries are consistently eating away at big beer’s market share (translation- AB-InBev). Perhaps that is what keeps AB execs up at night, and why they continue to see so many tied-house violations.
The update on our hero squirrel Acorn, and how he inspires and emulates our craft alcohol producers during this pandemic.
When I last took pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard as it is in the modern world, I shared the inspirational story of Acorn- a wee squirrel who overcame insurmountable odds to survive a harrowing injury. I equated it to our craft alcohol producers during this pandemic and their fight to come out the other side financially viable. An Acorn update was requested, and I am overjoyed to comply.
I am happy to report that although it was a bit touch and go at points since that posting, Acorn has improved tremendously and is on the mend from the worst aspects of his trauma. The featured Acorn image (above) was taken April 23rd, and if you look closely you will see not only the healing- but the faintest hint of a sweet smile. Make no mistake, he still has some healing to do before calling him 100%. For those of you wondering- yes medical experts have been consulted, and they are pleasantly surprised and equally inspired by this wee hero!
Again, I will draw parallels to our craft alcohol industry in Maryland. It has been a rollercoaster, most notably when the first round of Federal SBA loans were dispersed and Maryland received less than 1% of those monies. Watching small business loans being handed out to publicly-traded multimillion dollar corporations was a slap in the face of our hardworking entrepreneurs. Some of these companies- Shake Shack and Ruth’s Chris to name two- returned the funds after gaining notoriety with a side of public shaming. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin stated that there will be a “clawing back” of the funds from those large companies that received monies intended to save small businesses. Round two of federal SBA funding is underway currently. We shall see how this turns out, and whether or not those promises will be kept.
The upside to all of this is the innovation and fight we continue to see from our Maryland small businesses- and yes I am pointing in large part to the craft alcohol manufacturers. I have watched companies completely overhaul their business plans to survive this pandemic. A prime example of this is Checkerspot Brewing Company. They just added a canning line and are now distributing to retail stores in the Baltimore region. This is a drastic shift from the taproom sales (and select bars/restaurants) centric plan they opened with nearly 2 years ago. They have also begun to sell masks alongside produce baskets, fabulous beer (canned and crowled) and delicious farm fresh cuisine.
As mentioned previously Biermi, the beer delivery app created by the brilliant True Respite team, has catapulted in popularity and use across Maryland and the nation. Over 120 breweries nationwide are using the app to deliver fresh local beer at a time when folks are prohibited or unable (or both) to leave their homes.
In Hagerstown Stone House Urban Winery has become a bit of a social distance tourist destination of sorts. How? Soda Pup- the curbside wine delivery dog! Place your order, indicate what car you will be arriving in, drive up to the winery (don’t exit your vehicle of course) and Soda Pup trots out with wine filled saddle bags to deliver your order. Genuis!
New releases along with collaborations are also still happening (with social distancing in place) between breweries, distilleries and wineries, continuing to temp our taste buds and delight our palates- leaving us yearning for what comes next. Virtual Happy Hours- many hosted by the Brewers Association of Maryland in coordination with the breweries have introduced us to these new brews in an intimate yet social distanced setting, setting a trend that should continue even after the pandemic fades. Hopefully- so many of these innovations we once believed unnecessary will stick around- they are pretty fantastic!
As difficult as times may be right now, remember to to draw on inspiration and keep fighting.
A little news on International Women’s day and the Year of the Woman!
It has been a while since the last post, but hopefully it was worth the wait. Today is International Women’s Day, and it seemed like the most appropriate time to share what is certainly going to be an auspicious Year of the Woman!
2020 (August 18) recognizes the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, and the passage of the 19th Amendment leally granting women in the United States the right to vote. In January, Denizens (a women –owned brewery) honored this milestone with a collaboration of women brewers in Maryland coming together to create a suffragette stout. This delicious chocolate stout honors those women that came before and fought for civil rights we enjoy today. Many collaboration brews are ongoing among women in the brewing industry to create brews that celebrate the Year of the Woman.
FeBREWary brought the annual celebratory month for Maryland crafted beer, and the iconic Cupid’s Curse competition at the Winter Warmer showcase. What a tasty competition it was, on Valentine’s Day nonetheless, with chocolate and cherry creating a heavenly stir.
FeBREWary also saw the third incarnation of the Baltimore Beer Babes Calendar photo shoot, where women from various sectors of the industry in Baltimore came together to raise money for Kennedy Krieger by making a calendar. This annual calendar was the brainchild of Mahaffey’s proprietress Alice Kistner. This year the event was hosted by Checkerspot Brewing Company owner Judy Neff. Calendars will be sold later this spring with many signing opportunities at Mahaffey’s and other locales, with all proceeds sent to Kennedy Krieger.
Now that March has settled in warmly, it was also time to delve deeply into the past for two historical beer recreations with Judy Neff at Checkerspot Brewing. The first is a 200 year old special occasion recipe from a very particular woman brewer named Mary, who thought poorly made beer was pernicious. March was the time of year to brew beer due to climate and conditions necessary. It was a labor of love patience, and arm strength. It will rest for two years before serving. After that, it remains an extremely high quality ale that can be stored for eight years! It’s just that good….
Next up is something that will be celebrated much sooner- on April 7- a legalization brew. This historical gem is a recreation of a beer crafted by an extremely talented Irish Brewer. This triple-hopped Baltimore original was consumed minutes after midnight by H.L. Mencken at the Rennert Hotel, when 3.2% beer was legal for the first time after 13 dry years of the failed experiment known as Prohibition. Although the Women’s Christian Temperance Union led the charge toward Prohibition in the late 19th century, it was also women- many Maryland women- that helped lead us out.
Release parties for both brews will of course be held at Checkerspot with much revelry and lots of historical tidbits to share!
It is International Women’s Day in Year of the Woman after all, and there is much to celebrate and enjoy, so stay tuned!
A reflection on 2019, and a look forward to what is coming in 2020 for the brewing industry in Maryland.
2019 came in with a rush for the craft brewing scene in Maryland. Amid the plethora of new breweries, we welcomed favorable changes in legislation for craft alcohol manufacturers in Maryland and the nation. Sadly, we also witnessed the closure of local breweries and other beloved institutions that helped bring attention to industry in its nascent stage of revitalization.
2018 left us a bit shell shocked legislatively as the muckraking revealed the lopsided, antediluvian alcohol laws and the lengths the entrenched beneficiaries were willing to go to in order to hang on to their empires built upon the backs of craft alcohol manufacturers in Maryland. It was instructive and served as a platform for change in 2019. The close of the 2019 Maryland legislative session witnessed the passage of the Brewery Modernization Act and Beer Franchise Law reform. All in all this was a resounding victory and most craft breweries could breathe a sigh of relief, as profitability would not be nearly as restricted for most with an increase in taproom sales; the elimination of the buy-back proviso; an increase in taproom hours; and increases in both production and self-distribution limits among other favorable changes. Barriers to profitability had been lifted for most, and many brewers that were operating on thin margins could finally rejoice.
For others the joy was somewhat muted, particularly for older breweries stuck with a dunce of a distributor. Although franchise law reform enables breweries to terminate a relationship with a distributor in 45 days without cause for fair market value, the cost of extricating from those franchise contracts is often cost prohibitive, thus they remain in a bad “marriage” indefinitely. For those breweries a bad distributor is already hemorrhaging profits due to the lack of consistent and reliable deliveries, making a payout of “fair market value” a nonstarter. Overall however there was far more to celebrate than decry.
We witnessed the opening of long awaited breweries like Patuxent Brewing- Charles County’s 1st brewery, which opened this June. They are a welcome addition to a community that was incredibly thirsty for quality, locally produced brews. This minority owned Southern Maryland brewery has certainly created a buzz and should be a planned stop for any beer traveler.
In Carroll County Brewery Fire opened to much acclaim from craft beer lovers and an extremely supportive chamber of commerce excited for the increase in beer and agro tourism. 1623 also settled on a location in Eldersburg at the Liberty Exchange, which will contribute to this swell of good beer in Carroll County.
Montgomery County saw its share of new breweries with Elder Pine in Gaithersburg and Silver Branch in Silver Spring. These are two can’t miss breweries that could not be more different: Silver Branch for the truly authentic German beers they produce and Elder Pine for the locally-farmed ingredients in lesser known styles. Another Montgomery County staple- Denizens- expanded into Prince George’s County with their new Riverdale Park production brewery and taproom.
Pooles Island opened in Baltimore County, keeping it local and interesting. In addition to the standard fare one would expect they have host of surprises, including Le Blanc Fort- a hybrid beer with Sauvignon Blanc resulting in a crisp, dry, delightful drink.
These were just a handful of the new members joining the 100+ Maryland breweries. 23 more are slated to open in 2020.
Unfortunately, 2019 observed upheaval in the industry as well. Rubber Soul, House Cat Brewing, and Barley and Hops all shuttered their doors this year. For some like House Cat- experimental yeasts led to their undoing, while others suffered from financial woes. Smoketown Brewing in Brunswick was ripe for expansion into Frederick and took advantage of House Cat’s closure by moving into the facility next door to Attaboy and a stone’s throw from Idiom- an ideal location for beer tourists.
For those of us that have been around for a bit, we were left feeling bereft at the loss of Baltimore Beer Week. This annual institution started by Joe Gold, formerly of Heavy Seas Brewery, and Dominic Cantalupo together craft beer lovers to Baltimore for a decade, with engaging events that introduced novices and aficionados alike to the best Maryland had to offer in craft beer. It bolstered the industry at a time it when it was just starting to take off, when folks really weren’t envisioning Maryland as a craft beer destination. In fact, although hard to believe now, in 2008 many were still hesitant to embrace craft beer at all. My how times have changed, and oh how I will miss the beer history walks (and breakfast beers), the passports, and the awesome shirts among the numerous other things that made is so special. The impact of Baltimore Beer Week forever remains. Some of the traditions- including the homebrew extravaganza, the race at Max’s, and a host of other events have been resurrected. The legacy of BBW, and of Dom and Joe and what they created will live on.
The industry has also learned to be incredibly adaptable. Jailbreak in Laurel for example, changed their classification to better serve patrons by opening a kitchen, and serving wine and spirits. Many breweries have included other craft alcohol options in house to reach a wider audience, including Elk River in Cecil Waverly in Baltimore, and Silver Branch in Silver Spring.
Full Tilt opened their new facility in Govans, serving other local craft beers in addition to wine while transitioning production over from Peabody Heights. In recent weeks, they transitioned to both a brand new general manager; Marshall Lilly, and head brewer- Jordan McGraw, formerly of Hysteria in Columbia. They still serve wine, but with the new brewmaster upping their game, they will see quite a bit more demand.
The devastating floods in Ellicott City have taken their toll on the town, and upended plans for many businesses. One creative solution has emerged from the devastation- Ellicott Mills Brewing Company has been purchased by the Phoenix Emporium, providing a secure future for both in what have certainly been trying times for success.
Heavy Seas has rebranded to usher in the new decade and appeal to a larger demographic of craft beer drinkers. They have also introduced a host of new offerings to tempt and tantalize, including a hazy IPA that launches January 10th – Hydra’s Haze.
There is much to look forward to look forward to in 2020. A slew of new brewery openings including Ten Eyck in Queenstown- a woman owned brewery and taproom ( made up of Veterans and First Responders); and Ministry of Brewing- a brewery in the historic St. Michael’s German Catholic Church in Fells Point… and that is just January!
Burnish Beer is slated to open in Salisbury with Randy Mills, former partner and brewmaster of RaR Brewing, at the helm. Sapwood Cellars in Columbia is expanding with three new 20 bbl tanks in 2020 just to meet demand. The Wine Co-op at Union Collective will also open in 2020 leading to a trifecta of craft alcohol manufacturers in one location. More historical recipe recreations are on tap from yours truly in combination with the fabulous Judy Neff and team at Checkerspot.
There is of course much more to say, and a plethora of breweries to cover.
It was a great decade for brewing in Maryland and I can’t wait to see what happens in 2020!