Be Like Acorn!

Strange times we find ourselves in this year- unprecedented in fact.  Coronavirus, COVID-19, global pandemic or whatever your personal choice of names, we have breached the unknown, and Lord knows we are all trying to survive and adjust.

For many, figuring out how to stay financially afloat is second only to remaining healthy and virus free. When a proliferation of businesses are closed and deemed non-essential it becomes a daunting task.

Meet Acorn- a mighty warrior squirrel that lives in my yard. Wee Acorn has had a rough go of it. A little over three weeks ago- yes back when things were somewhat normal comparatively- I came home from work to find a maple branch had snapped from our tree and landed on poor, unaware Acorn. Needless to say he was completely confused- dazed in fact, just sitting up on his hind legs trying to grasp what had happened. Not wanting to startle him, I observed him before attempting to whisk him off to the vet. He regained some semblance of himself in a few minutes and began searching the ground for food. I thought, “OK, maybe he isn’t as injured as he appears.”

I proceeded to cut up an apple and gently toss cubes in his direction. Initially, fear sent him hobbling straight up the tree before realizing delicious Honey Crisp awaited him (after my departure of course). I fretted over this poor quadruped, but was delighted to see him out and about six days later, eating scattered birdseed.

It was also the time I finally saw the left side of his head and face fully, and it was gut wrenching. He clearly had a fractured skull, missing ear, and wound on his back from where a jutting section of branch made contact. No I am not a vet but apparently I play one on the internet. It was unbelievable that he survived, and frankly I wasn’t sure he was long for this world.

A few days ago I caught sight of Acorn, much healed compared to my previous sightings. He was actively eating at a tree feeder. What was more interesting were the three squirrels Acorn shares a nest with readily giving him a wide berth so he could eat his fill. I was gobsmacked. What a pivotal moment. Each day since, I have witnessed his munching heartily at the feeder, regaining strength.

Acorn recovering day by day. March 28, 2020 M. O’Prey

Why am I sharing Acorn’s story? Because Marylanders need to be like Acorn- resilient against overwhelming odds!

We are all facing an uncertain future. This virus and its fallout present not only life threatening dangers, but the potential destruction of livelihoods, and financial security. That is really scary- particularly for business owners and for those they employ.

Many provisions, exceptions, and strategies have been put in place to try and help consumers and businesses survive this pandemic. Importantly, federal and state tax filing and payment deadlines have been extended. In Maryland, enforcement was suspended on taproom sales, distribution, delivery and carryout of craft alcohol for manufacturers, bars and restaurants.  Licenses of all types will not expires until 30 days after the state of emergency has lifted.

Loans, grants, and incentives were made available at the state level from the Department of Commerce. At the Federal level the $2 trillion stimulus package offered aid to businesses small and large in the form of forgivable loans, tax credits, deferrals, and other programs, along with a stipend for individual taxpayers.

This is a great start, but ultimately is it enough? As we have already witnessed- operationally things have to change for many businesses to survive. Innovation is the key and companies have responded.

Clothing manufacturers like Under Armour are making protective gear known as PPE Personal Protective Equipment. Distilleries like McClintock and Patapsco (and so many more) have converted to making much needed hand sanitizers to supply to hospitals and first responders.

Brandon O’Leary, co-founder of True Respite worked in concert with web developer Brian O’Connor to create biermi– a beer delivery app.

In only two weeks it is becoming a nationwide phenomenon and the go-to for breweries trying to stay alive long enough to come out the other side of social distancing. Beer tenders and your favorite brewery personnel are your smiling beer messengers- so tip well!

Your beloved pubs and restaurants, that might never have delivered are now offering curbside pickup and delivery of not only your favorite foods- but your favorite drinks. If it is a fully-loaded Bloody Mary you crave, it is just one click away.

This new era of marketing and remote service specialization has emerged and crafty, clever entrepreneurs are finding ways through this decidedly difficult time.

It is also up to us to help one another. Together we can find a way to the other side. Buy local, pick up or get delivery, and know that every dollar spent keeps a business open, staff employed, and families fed.

If you have a great idea- don’t sit on it- make it happen. If ever there was a time- it is now!

Defy the odds!

Be resilient!

Overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges…

Be like Acorn!

Brewery Fire

The long awaited opening of Taneytown’s 1st brewery- Brewery Fire has finally arrived.

October 6, 2019

It finally happened! After many hurdles and bumps in the road and a few more yet to overcome, and one full year after winning the 2018 Carroll Biz Challenge, Jesse Johnson and Dave Palmer have opened Brewery Fire in Taneytown on September 27, 2019.

Brewery Fire is currently the third Carroll County brewery but not the last, with three others in planning- Flood Zone, 1623, and Pipe the Side. The Taneytown brewery is ideally situated off of Old Taneytown Road next to Thunderhead Bowl and within view of the roundabout taking advantage of the main thoroughfare and foot traffic. It is a great neighborhood for such a venture, and one that has been much welcomed by the town.

The men behind Brewery Fire certainly enjoy the support of the community. The local business owners understand what a draw the brewery can be in addition to the agro-tourism, the picturesque scenery, charming (real) bed and breakfasts, antique shops, restaurants and bakery I close proximity to the brewery. Local Business leaders understand and completely buy into the philosophy that a rising tide lifts all boats, and by that measure if one succeeds, they all benefit. This also happens to be Jesse and Dave’s philosophy, and they are laser focused on being a positive and most contributory part of Taneytown.  

Brewery Fire has incredible patronage from local residents (of all ages). If you were expecting to find a predominantly millennial crowd- think again.  There is a not a demographic (of legal drinking age) that Brewery Fire has missed in its appeal and the results are impressive- from the groups of senior citizens that are making this their regular go to place, to the discerning style-centric millennials, and of course those in the middling area between the two. The buzz extends well beyond Taneytown to Westminster, Baltimore, Annapolis, and Southern Maryland.

Kirk Seese Mural in the Bier Garden

The brewery is a vivid mix of industrial meets vintage- from Kirk Seese’ 1980’s themed mural (which of course includes The Princess Bride and Indiana Jones) in the bier garden,  and digital beer menu nestled above the taps of the bar. There of course is the taproom which adds to the ambience by adeptly mixing corrugated aluminum with beautifully carved wooden countertops created by Makers Woodshop (in nearby Woodstock), with Super Nintendo (yes you too can play), providing the fun and inviting atmosphere for everyone. Makers Woodshop is also going to use Brewery Fire as a place to showcase some of their work- a terrific partnership and a win for everyone!

Make no mistake-the beer is the main event. The “Executor” West Coast IPA exactly what it should be- they did not miss a thing. The Red Ale “Start Now” was named after a favorite and inspiring Comptroller of Maryland employee, and one that most in the industry knows well- Lou Berman. His years of experience is always an asset, and “Start Now” serves as a lovely and delicious reminder of that expertise. Even before Brewery Fire officially opened Jesse and Dave were working on collaborations with other Carroll County brewers from Pub Dog to 1623. More collaborations are coming because this is a united community of brewers aiding one another to realize their dreams, and all of Maryladn is benefitting

The Executor IPA

Dave and Jesse are still working on a few things to maximize the Brewery Fire experience, but they are finally open and the beer is sublime. Take a drive, enjoy the scenery, and be ready to bring a few crowlers home…because yes it is that good!

Cheers!

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!