A July look at the industry including the road to recovering from COVID, changed legislation, new trends, new breweries, and speed bumps in the road slowing progress.
As we begin to feel a return to more familiar surroundings, breweries and other Free State craft alcohol producers are working diligently to overcome the summer drought and pick up a head of COVID recovery steam. The good news is they have a few things operating in their favor this year.
This past legislative session we witnessed the application of common sense to craft alcohol laws with regard to continuing the (state of emergency) protocols put in place that allowed these manufacturers to survive COVID. This included an increase from 3,000 bbls to up to 5,000 bbls of beer to be distributed by a class 5 or class 7 brewery holding the proper (class 7) wholesale permit. It also continues the sale and delivery of products by the manufacturers of craft alcohol in Maryland directly to consumers, as well as direct shipping. Additionally, it lifts limits on maximum purchases from distilleries along with the nonsensical guided tour requirement. Apparently however, there was concern by legislators that the entire year of COVID lockdown was not nearly enough of a testing period to fully prove the validity of this “experiment” and they placed a sundown on this legislation, making all of this common sense legislation disappear after December 31, 2022- giving alcohol manufacturers and their guilds roughly 18 months to prove their case.
For many, the use of available outside space was pivotal to survival during COVID and now has become a perpetual addition to their breweries, wineries and distilleries. Some in more urban and industrial areas worked out the conversion of parking areas into semi-permanent seating and entertainment areas for the summer months. Regardless of space, everyone celebrated the re-opening of the indoor facilities they worked so hard to design.
The workarounds of 2020 have given way to new trends like crowlers instead of growlers – a much more convenient process and one I am personally happy to partake in. How many growlers can one person own after all? With the realization that once they were no longer in use, those empty growlers required a lot of storage space I didn’t have- there was no turning back.
Another trend that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon is seltzer. Yes seltzer… the ubiquitous drink that comes in a plethora of fruity, low alcohol flavors. The scorching summer heat has certainly fed their popularity. As the trend continued, even the most adamant breweries chose to provide at least one seltzer option for the converted (or overheated).
Craft non-alcoholic IPA’s have also become something of a trend- at least a mini trend. Most recently, Flying Dog released Deepfake a non-alcoholic IPA with Simcoe, Mosaic and Citra hops to much fanfare. It is a great option for those that love beer but don’t always want the alcohol. This is one trend that is bound to increase in popularity over the next few years.
One thing that most of us are very pleased to see is the return of celebrations- whether it be acknowledging a hard fought milestone for a manufacturer – like a third or tenth anniversary, or the return at least in some form to the festivals. One such example is rapidly approaching. The Brewers Association of Maryland has partnered with Pink Boots of Greater Maryland and Max’s Taphouse for the first annual Maryland Craft Beer Brewers Olympics. The event is being held at the B&O Railroad Museum August 15th from 12:00-4:00. This is a fundraising event for BAM with proceeds being allocated towards the funding and development of Human Resources personnel, education and advancement for a more inclusive industry.
This is great timing as the Maryland craft alcohol scene is continuing to expand from in-planning to grand openings. Pariah Brewing is opening their East Coast brewery in the old Union Craft Brewing space this fall. Reduce, reuse recycle? Sort of. Owners Christa and Brian Mitchell have outgrown their San Diego brewery and decided to get back to their roots by opening a second brewery on Union Avenue in Baltimore- a spot ready made for the 20 bbl brewhouse.
Guilford Hall Brewery recently opened in the old Crown Cork and Seal plant. The brewery boasts seating for 200, with a bar restaurant on the upper level. Martin Coad is the brewmaster concentrating on producing well-crafted German brews including pilseners and lagers, among other Bavarian and Viennese selections.
If either of these things seem a little bit familiar…you are not alone in thinking history is repeating itself. Perhaps DeGroens (Baltimore Brewing Company) and Flying Dog (when they were in Colorado and Maryland) come to mind?
All however, is not sunshine and hops. Some breweries that had big plans have had to put things on hold, in some cases indefinitely. Brad and Eryn Streett were slated to open AleCraft Farm Brewery in Harford County until Councilman Robert Wagner introduced a moratorium on farm breweries in the county days before their zoning hearing. On the surface it appears to be another case of NIMBY (not in my backyard) syndrome that plagues many value-added agriculture businesses, threatening their very existence. Hopefully common sense and diplomatic dialogue will prevail and AleCraft will move forward.
There is lots more to share from pincasts to collaborations that you will not want to miss. Stay tuned and stay hydrated!
A brief 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!
Catching up with Lynn. An honest conversation with Lynn Pronobis of Union Craft Brewing.
Meet Lynn Pronobis, chemist, brewer, athlete, friend, and all around extraordinary woman. Lynn began her career at Union Craft as an intern in 2012 while completing her chemistry degree at UMBC. She wasn’t planning on a career in brewing, she actually started out wanting to go to med school to become a heart surgeon. After working at a hospital she gained clarity and realized that it was not the right path for her to lead a happy, healthy life. Next she explored a career in pharma – but soon grew disenchanted with the process and the waste. A career in brewing was never on her radar, but an internship was an integral part of resume building in the waning years of college and a brewery seemed like a great fit where she could apply her acumen in chemistry while gaining valuable experience. To call Lynn a ‘knowledge sponge’ would be an understatement- she has a subconscious drive to learn everything she possibly can, to immerse herself in process and execute her duties swiftly and efficiently, all while finding ways to improve the final results. This is her nature, and she is by nature a scientist.
It was not until her second internship with Union that she realized she was in the right place- perfectly suited for a career where she could meld her scientific background with her need to be challenged both physically and mentally. Union not only provided all of these things- they also provided the team environment she craved. Having played softball for UMBC, Lynn was not only used to the team atmosphere- she required it. Lynn has performed just about every job in the brewery as part of the learning process, and she has grown right alongside the brewery. She is responsible for launching their cask program- which has become an incredible and indelible success. What started as an experiment has turned into an important component of Union’s portfolio.
For Lynn, casks were the perfect platform to figure out how to combine flavors. It is also a place where her rigid scientific training flows seamlessly into art. Lynn will be the first person to tell you that her base of operations – her foundation- is math and science where everything begins. She starts with her end goal and works backwards to attain it. That is not however where it ends. Cask beer is art just as much as it is science and Lynn has found the sweet spot in the give and take between the two. In 2018 she broke her own record by taking over 350 casks to market, something most would have thought implausible in the not too distant past in Maryland. Although many people still don’t understand what casks are, in Baltimore the population of those that do is incredibly rich, according to Lynn.
She has a well-earned reputation for her casks. Many accounts are wary of casks until they find out it is made by Lynn. She instills confidence- they trust it because they trust her. This is what she has been working toward- trying to make her cask program the very best in the state. It hasn’t always been easy however and there is a trail of lessons learned, some surrounding fruit, some surrounding process. Her motivation is strong as she wants to make THE perfect dark sour, a lesser known style and measurably more difficult as a kettle sour. This woman appreciates a challenge! Anyone that has sampled her dark sour and the dark fruit undercurrent that delicately tantalizes the palate knows how very talented she is. Many believe she has already achieved her goal of producing THE perfect dark sour.
Casks are also the vehicle that inspired her recipe writing.
There is a freedom with the cask program- total control over process and
ingredients that she enjoys. There are certain limitations however that are not
present when brewing. One example would include the ability to add and then
remove ingredients after a desired time (which you cannot do from the cask).
After watching Kevin Blodger write recipes for years she gained a tremendous
understanding of the relationship between malts and hops, and how the flavors
interact. Kevin has been a font of knowledge that she has eagerly tapped into.
Lynn has a hand in almost everything happening in the brewery. She is responsible for brewing operations in addition to the barrel ageing and cask programs, distribution oversight, and a host of operational processes. One improvement that she is very proud of is her keg location map. After attending an MBAA seminar on managing a warehouse, she was struck by an idea to improve efficiency. She created a 16 lane layout, complete with coded markings allowing for swift keg access and retrieval for rotation and distribution. This coded language can be seen throughout the brewery from the brew schedule, to the barrel program, to her meticulous recipe notes. My favorite was a cask note marked ‘killed it’, an indicator that a cask turned out exactly as planned. Having tried that particular cask I could not agree more! These are all hallmarks of an orderly, scientific mind.
This mind has served Lynn quite well. She is extremely sharp
with an uncanny ability to see the big picture where many get mired in the
details. She has a maturity well beyond her 29 years which, combined with her
extensive brewing experience has now cast her in the role of learned mentor- be
assured however that her thirst for knowledge is never quenched. Her life
hasn’t always remained as tidy and easily quantifiable as science; in fact
quite often it has been a battle.
A female in a predominantly male industry faces intense scrutiny, and Lynn is no exception. As a gay female this has brought a greater range of challenges and reactions. As a woman, Lynn quickly grew tired of the assumptions that she was either a bartender (because she couldn’t possibly be a brewer), or incompetent because she was a woman, or very young, or both. She only wanted to be looked upon as an equal, and she made certain that she could carry her own weight- literally. When Lynn started at Union she would go in the bathroom and do pushups every day to make sure she could carry full kegs, and move the ladders and other equipment on her own; physically capable of doing everything the men could do. At Union she was treated as an employee, an equal, a member of the team, which was and always is the desired goal.
At times being gay was easier for Lynn because she was
looked upon as more of an equal since she wasn’t an option for men, and she
wasn’t going to steal anyone’s girlfriend. It was almost easier to become good
friends with coworkers. Outside of the brewery it was an entirely different
story. Unfortunately sexism is still commonplace, but Lynn’s method of dealing
with it has changed. When men would hit on her she used to attempt to diffuse
the situation by telling them she was gay which often resulted in relentless
badgering about her sexuality. She often received ignorant comments like,
“You just haven’t met
the right guy yet…”
All of this used to make her incredibly angry, but over time
she learned to change the narrative with quick-witted, funny responses like,
“Perhaps YOU just haven’t me the right guy yet!”
There is nothing more powerful than turning the tables by
demonstrating how much you don’t care what others think about you. For Lynn
this was completely liberating. Sometimes, she still finds herself frustrated
but that is when she takes to the forklift – an instant salve. Detaching from
social media also provides respite- although social media has become the main
driver for sales and marketing in this day and age. It is also a place where
unkind thoughts are ubiquitous.
This past year has been perhaps the most frustrating she has experienced. It has been a perfect storm of challenges- one after the other from the aluminum tariffs creating havoc with canning and in particular labelling when trying use alternative cans; the move from the old brewery to the new collective; the government shutdown which backlogged TTB approvals; the closure of a Crown Cork and Seal plant; and the high volume of sales in the taproom at a time when production was limited (due to the host of issues listed). There is a light at the end of this tunnel, but the road is long, and she is pacing herself. The old brewery is still operational at least for the next year, and the 20 bbl system is currently being used as the pilot system. An unusually large pilot system.
At the end of the day there are many things to take away. The first is that Lynn loves what she does- what she produces, and she loves the team that is Union. Her hope is that people take a moment before judging (beer or people for that matter) and think about the process, the various elements that needed to coalesce to make that beer- from the ingredients, to packaging to distribution. She wants people to really take the time to understand the beer. On this front headway is being made, and in part that is due to her ability to talk to people about beer, the style, and the inspiration for it.
The future is looking very bright for Lynn and for Union. In
fact Lynn wants to see Union supplant Natty Boh as the beer synonymous with
Baltimore- a town she will never leave. She also wants to surpass National
Brewing Company’s peak production (yes we are headed for a brewery capable of
producing millions of barrels of beer annually!)
The next time you stop at Union for a pint or a growler take a moment to ask about the style, the process, the inspiration, as you might be pleasantly surprised. Oh and one last thing to remember- if Lynn isn’t smiling it doesn’t mean she is in a bad mood, she’s just plotting the next delightful creation, and one I can’t wait to try!
As many of you already know, the brewing community is one that engages in extensive outreach to help those in need. One of the projects I am honored to be apart of is the Annual Beer Babes Calendar. This incredibly important fundraiser was the brainchild of Alice Kistner- proprietress of Mahaffey’s Pub in Canton. All of the calendar girls are fixtures in the Maryland craft brewing community from brewers to distributors, to bar owners and beertenders, and everything in between and I am blessed and humbled to stand with them and be included in their ranks. All calendar proceeds go to the Kennedy Krieger Institute: Center for Autism and Related Disorders.
Please enjoy these behind the scenes photos from our 2020 calendar shoot at Union Craft Brewery, who graciously hosted us once again. The stylists and make up artists, photographer and videographer all donated their time and costs for this incredible cause. Calendars go on sale April 20 at Mahaffey’s. Mark your calendars!!!
A behind the scenes look at the middle tier with Legend Erin Tyler.
Perhaps too often I profile only one part of the brewing
industry- the breweries. On Saturday I was afforded the opportunity to sit down
with Erin Tyler, General Manager of Legends Limited Distributing to examine the
‘middle tier’ of the industry while enjoying a beer at Mahaffey’s. Erin got her start in the industry on the retail
side working in restaurants. In 2005 she made the transition to the middle tier
at Legends Limited. A naturally
gregarious person that enjoys interacting with people, sales married perfectly
with her background in craft beer, wine and spirits.
Legends Limited was founded by Pat and Sherri Casey in 1994
when they became frustrated by the lack of reputable distributors for their
import alcoholic beverage brands. Yes, to clarify Legends started because of imports-
not because of craft as it hadn’t really taken off at the time. Craft would
soon follow. They opened in the Natty Boh tower at the same time Brimstone Brewing
was in residence. When Erin began at Legends they were extremely small- only nine
employees. With an unprecedented thirst for knowledge and ever inquisitive,
Erin absorbed everything she could from her accounts and the specialists behind
the bar/counter like Casey at Max’s Taphouse, Robert from State Line, and Randy
from Whole Foods. This was invaluable and helped catapult Erin up the ranks at
Legends. As she learned everything she could to maximize her potential, Pat and
Sherri Casey sold Legends to a larger family of distributors in 2009, Sheehan Family
Companies, a distribution company founded in 1898. This coincided with the
rapid proliferation in craft breweries across the country and shifted the focus
to specializing in craft and imports. Legends never distributed macro products
like Budweiser, remaining dedicated to the craft/import side, and this
continued under the new ownership.
Today Legends has eighty five employees, and distributes
over forty craft beer brands. They landed five Maryland breweries including
Union, RaR, Manor Hill, Oliver Brewing, and Burley Oak. As Erin noted- they are
not brand collectors but work specifically with suppliers that fit well with
their portfolio. The approach is not to sign breweries unless they can market and
place the products with a full devotion of resources. In fact Erin made her
opinion quite clear:
“New breweries should self-distribute to learn the ins and outs of
distribution, before signing with a distributor.”
Sage advice, and unexpected from the distribution side- but
that is what sets Legends apart from other distributors. Their territory covers
all of Maryland and Washington D.C. In
2018 they added 20,000 sf of warehouse space to bring the total to 70, 000 sf
of temperature controlled warehouse, complete with cold boxes for all
kegs. This is one of the most critical
components for breweries when it comes to choosing a distributor- temperature
control to maintain the freshness and quality of the beer. Along with that they
hired a new warehouse manager and operations team to change the layout and
maximize space and efficiency. Legends is truly a ‘partner’ with their
suppliers as they co-op everything: printing (they have an in-house printer),
tap handles, POS, glasses, etc. Erin’s sales team is extremely well trained and
highly respected for their craft beer/wine/spirits knowledge. This is one of the
reasons the relationships Legends maintains with their suppliers is so strong,
and why there is little turn over in her sales team. In addition, the company benefits
are numerous and generous, from the health insurance to the tuition
reimbursement, to the sixteen paid hours of leave for volunteer activities.
This is an family-oriented operation, and that is exactly how Erin describes
her team- a family, and one she is extremely reluctant to ever consider leaving.
Erin is content at Legends, enjoying the challenges brought on a daily basis from trucks breaking down to beer not coming in when a big event is on tap. She never asks her team to do anything she herself would not do, which has her doing a bit of everything- and she revels in this. There is always quite a lot happening, but she never lets her team lose focus- they need to collaborate and work together to make sure that at the end of the day the customers and suppliers are happy. This is the true end game of the middle tier, and Legends has mastered this. The quality of her team is a large part of the success, but so is consumer education (which her team engages in regularly), continuing education for her employees to learn about new products (and the push to work with the growing population of craft distilleries), and a willingness to adapt their models to the ever-changing climate- whether that be changes in consumer buying or changes in legislation. When queried about the slate of proposed alcoholic beverage bills on the table in the legislature her answer was simple- we have adapted before and will do so again whatever may come.
The recent host of craft breweries that have sold to AB-InBev and Constellation, has required a bit of flexibility on Legend’s part to navigate these uncharted waters. A sale of rare, premium spirits a few years ago required an IT intervention to add the extra digit (five instead of four) in the cost line to log the product in the system. No matter the challenges Legends adapts and one thing remains immovable: they strictly adhere to guidelines governing industry practices, and all reps are extremely well versed in each facet. Erin is very proud of this and this is why they have such a stellar reputation in the craft industry. In addition to this being policy- they are experts at understanding the products, retail spaces, availability of shelf space and refrigeration, and the market. They do their homework.
This is really the story of Erin and of Legends and how the
services they provide cannot be replicated. Whether it be a draft technician- a
trade skill that so many people don’t know or utilize anymore, the Micromatic and
other industry training classes employees participate in regularly, the BJCP manual
used to train all salespeople, or the fact that they consider their most
valuable assets at to be human capital…this is a one of a kind operation. Erin
Tyler is also one of a kind. She is the only certified cicerone at her company,
although the parent company has a master cicerone on staff, and provides
funding for employees to complete cicerone certification.
Erin is also one of the very few women in the country heading a distribution house. She states that she has encountered very little pushback, and her breadth of knowledge allays any concerns a supplier or retail establishment could drum up. Her reputation precedes her. She does acknowledge that things might have been different if she had signed with a macro distributor. The different establishments she would have interacted with might have tipped the balance in a less than favorable way for her and her career. Erin sees more diversity in the industry now than ever before, and predicts an expanded presence in all tiers. She actively works to bring women in contact with craft beer as a co-founder of the Baltimore Beer Babes, and has helped introduce consumers from all backgrounds to the wonders of craft beverages. This is the industry, the craft industry (whether beer, wine or spirits) and it is her favorite part of the job, working with people- because as a whole they are really good people. This is also where she reminds me that she met her best friend Alice Kistner, owner of Mahaffey’s because of this industry. Years ago when Erin was just a sales rep and Mahaffey’s was one of her clients (when Wayne still owned it) Alice walked in to apply for a job. That was at the beginning of a wonderful and lifelong friendship that has continued to solidify to this day, and even includes annual tropical vacations.
What does the future hold for Erin and Legends? Personally,
she will finish the MBA she has been pursuing at University of Baltimore, and
travel. Travelling affords time to completely detach (no cell service) and immerse
herself in something entirely new. Croatia was restorative, and stunningly
beautiful, while Estonia revealed a burgeoning craft brewing world filled with unexpected
and delicious IPA’s. Kosovo, Macedonia, and Albania are next on the itinerary. As
for Legends? The focus will shift to a very proactive approach since the last
few years have been reactive with the growth of the market. Spending time on
strategic/long term planning is priority as Erin wants Legends to be the best
specialty beverage distributor in the state in five years. Erin also wants to
be the person behind the great breakthrough in craft beer distribution…stay
tuned. One thing is certain, she is not leaving Legends:
“I can’t imagine
doing anything else- they are my family!”
They are very lucky to have her. Unfailingly Erin operates
in the best interest of her suppliers the way she operates in the best
interests of her employees, reminding me- “without them where would we be?” I
would add to that…without Erin where would Legends be? There is no question
they are far better positioned because of her, as are all of their partners
from suppliers to retail shops.
After nearly three hours spent on the intricacies of the business,
Erin left me with a few golden nuggets to get excited about;
Union Craft Brewing’s release of a new year round IPA- Divine (the name suits it perfectly)
Firestone Walker’s release of Rosalee
Oskar Blues Guns n’ Rosés Ale
Better Wine Company Nitro Rosé in cans
They all sound intriguing! So put on a little David Bowie,
or just watch Labyrinth and take a
sip of that delightful craft beverage and be grateful Erin and Legends are here
in Maryland to deliver it to you- always fresh!
A look back at the Maryland craft brewing industry in 2018, and glimpse of what is to come in 2019.
Welcome to 2019! After a brief hesitation I decided to open the year with a recap of 2018. There was much to celebrate: several new breweries opened in Maryland- many to rave reviews for the high quality brews they were turning out; the rise of the sour to heretofore unseen proportions- with literally a sour in every brew kettle (completely NOT attributable to Budweiser despite claims to the contrary from Ab-InBev); a sharp rise in Veteran owned breweries across the Free State; and a developing appreciation for the NEIPA in nearly every brewery.
Unfortunately accompanying the triumphs came a pall of darkness cast over the brewing industry in Maryland like a malevolent trespasser. Some breweries closed, others read the tea leaves and chose friendlier climes across our borders to craft their beer. There was also much hullabaloo about a ‘contraction’ coming in the craft brewing industry to which I will comment upon later.
Most that have read this blog for the past few years have become well acquainted with the changes taking place in the industry- particularly those in Maryland. This also assumes most are familiar with the battle raging in Annapolis to adjust the antediluvian, obsolete portions of the laws governing craft breweries. Please note that I did not say ‘all’ breweries which is the relevant point here, and an important distinction. I will be the first person to suggest that mega breweries[i] can wreak havoc upon distributors (and retailers) without specific franchise protections in place. History bears witness to this fact. For smaller craft breweries however those protectionist statutes, from franchise laws to taproom sale limits can spell an end to a craft brewery wasting the funds and life blood spilt in the quest to make their dream a reality. Despite the incredibly vocal support of the voters for these statutory changes, and a Comptroller bent on helping the brewers at all costs- the 2018 legislative session devolved into a mud wrestling competition that unmasked the naked, ugly truth of politics, “power is the great aphrodisiac.”[ii] Much of the wrangling taking place had absolutely nothing to do with craft beer and everything to do with a power struggle.
The epicenter of that power struggle was the entitlement of a handful of career politicians in the legislature and the vigorous influence of the distributor’s lobby throughout halls of Annapolis. This push for corrective legislation deteriorated even further when those legislators not only tossed aside proposed legislation without consideration of the benefits to the majority of Marylanders, but chose instead to examine alcohol regulation in the state as a means of stripping it from said Comptroller’s office. That examination has since turned into a procession of neo-prohibitionist troglodytes (with their entourage of acolytes) trying to return us to the dry days of the Volstead Act. Not surprisingly they are accompanied by many of those bloviating self-important legislators that just love to try and manipulate witnesses in an effort to defend their indefensible shenanigans.
In the midst of this stage show behold our champions- Cindy Mullikin (President of the Brewers Association of Maryland) and Hugh Sisson (Founder and proprietor of Clipper City/Heavy Seas) interjecting relevant commentary on behalf of the breweries complete with supporting documentation, statistics, and above all –common sense- something that seems to be missing from many of the actors involved in the hearings. They have represented Maryland craft beer extremely well in the face of these unscrupulous narcissists. The findings of this task force have yet to be released- and honestly I don’t know what they are going to suggest. If pressed I believe they will advocate for at the very least another increase in alcohol taxes, and at the worst- state control of all alcoholic beverage sales, which would be as dismal as one imagines for the industry.
This is where it becomes important to focus on 2019 and what we should be celebrating. The Brewer’s Association of Maryland is doing a fantastic job on behalf of the more than 80 breweries across the state. Every craft brewery regardless of size should be proud they are so well represented- because they are! No matter what the findings of the task force is not law- it is just a recommendation. Those findings would need to be crafted into proposed legislation and taken to the appropriate committee, debated, and voted upon first- before making it to the full house and senate for a vote. Hmmm…It almost sounds as if I still have a bit of faith left in the process…I do. Trust me I am almost as surprised by this revelation as you are! Let me share another brilliant quote from Henry Kissinger, “Ninety percent of the politicians give the other ten percent a bad reputation.” When it comes to craft beer in Maryland these words have never rung more true.
I still believe that most humans will heed the advice of their better angels and make the right choices for all the right reasons. Hopefully this applies to more than the ten percent of the legislature in Maryland. Only time will tell of course.
So, what do we have to celebrate in addition to our great
team at BAM? Well let me start with Patriot Acres, and Checkerspot, and Valhalla,
and Maryland Beer Company, and Cult Classic, and B.C. Brewery, and Inverness, and
House Cat, and True Respite, and Full Tilt (it was a long time coming gentleman),
and Guinness, and oh so many more that I haven’t mentioned. In addition there
are several breweries in planning set to open in 2019 and beyond from Patuxent
to Ten Eyck….
Which brings me back to that contraction… what contraction? Union Craft has expanded (the Collective) right along with Heavy Seas, Frey’s, and B.C. Brewery, and many others. Let us not forget the expansion plans of Dark Cloud Malt House which is yet another reason to fully embrace 2018 as a stellar year- the rise of malt houses once again in our region. It is finally time to reclaim our rich heritage of growing and malting our own grains for Maryland craft breweries. Don’t forget that drinking locally crafted beer made with locally grown malting grains saves the Chesapeake Bay! After the Conowingo Dam debacle that should certainly make malt and the craft brewing industry a priority for everyone in the state. It also serves as a reminder that if you look, there is always a reason to celebrate and support Maryland craft breweries!
I don’t know what will happen in 2019 but I do know Maryland craft beer has not even come close to reaching its zenith. There are many industry-centric bills headed to legislative committees in the Maryland General Assembly beginning on Wednesday January 9th. There is also a wealth of support from voters for this industry that has revitalized Maryland communities and consistently strengthened its powerful voice with action. For now I am enjoying the delicious fruits of our craft brewer’s labor- always mindful of their sacrifices, determination, incredible skill and dedication to this ancient and enduring craft that we love.
P.S. ***Please continue to be a vocal advocate for your
craft breweries and ask your representatives about the industry share with them
how they can help ensure their communities success by supporting craft
[i] My personal definition of ‘mega’ includes any brewery producing over 500,000 bbls annually. Others choose to use the Brewers Association of America definition of craft as any brewery producing more than 6 million bbls annually (along with other caveats).
The 2018 Baltimore Craft Beer Festival has come and gone once again. Earlier in the week the weather looked to be of great concern as a tempest raged Friday night. By Saturday morning the worst of the storm was over, having left a grim reminder of man’s inability to conquer nature. As dawn broke, the clouds parted and the sun peaked through, offering a crisp albeit windy day on the waterfront for craft beer lovers, and their furry friends.
Brad and his 3 year old Leonberger Meike enjoying the festivities.
The check-in line was long, but moved quickly and efficiently uniting festival goers with their wrist bands and glasses in minutes. A cornucopia of Maryland craft breweries were spread across the park with host of styles to sample. Accompanying them were a variety of food trucks offering a little something for everyone. There were a handful of non-craft beer vendors on hand selling nuts, portraits, tchotchkes, and the like, but they were few and far between- this truly was a craft beer festival…not a festival with craft beer. There is a distinct difference between the two. One of the more intriguing vendors included Valencia glass-blowing, a mobile glass blower in the tradition of the Italian glass blowers of Venice, on the island of Murano. The demonstrations were mesmerizing, and the audience rapt. This certainly kept festival goers sampling at that end of the complex, and headed home with hand blown ornaments, vases, and gifts.
Glass blowing demonstration with Founder Phillip Valencia using his mobile furnace.
There were some notable beers to sample while watching the demonstrations like the Brewer’s Art7 Beauties locally sourced with Dark Cloud malt, or Lot 54 a blonde ale from Inverness Brewing, and Cult Classic’s take on a NEIPA using only Mosaic hops. The breweries were well spaced to manage the throngs and close enough to help one another keep the tents on the ground on the extremely windy side of the park. Make no mistake, the gusts did not hinder attendance, and certainly helped to keep the beer cooled.
Volker Stewart founder of The Brewer’s Art toasting 7 Beauties on cask.
Co-Founders Ray and Sandy Frank of the new Baltimore farm brewery Inverness Brewing with Comptroller and Industry Ally Peter Franchot, and Kevin Atticks, Director of the Brewer’s Association of Maryland and Grow & Fortify, toasting another successful year for Maryland Craft Breweries.
On the other side of the complex, festival goers were equally enchanted by the live bands that graced the stage. They weren’t just good- they were fantastic. Get Steady was spot on not only with the musical selection, but the dulcet tones of their lead singer that kept everyone singing along. The majority of brewers were located at this end of the park offering the expected styles, and what I like to call ‘adventure styles’. Most craft beer goers are willing to sample any beer in hopes of discovering something new and wonderful to tempt and tantalize the palate. There was quite a bit to choose from in this regard. A personal favorite came from Waverly Brewing’s own Gregory Lee in the form of Horni-Issac a play on the origins of this delightful ale. Greg got back to his Norse roots embracing a Hornindal yeast which fully complemented the hop profile across the palate in a beautiful marriage of its Norse and English origins.
Roy and Greg of Waverly Brewing in front toasting Horni-Isaac.
No matter where you started, you ended with great craft beer and got to know a collection of newly opened breweries and breweries in planning. I was thrilled to see True Respite, Cult Classic, Balt County Brewing, Checkerspot, Crooked Crab, Brawling Bear, and Inverness Brewing– all newly opened in 2018 pouring at the festival. The breweries in planning included Mobtown, opening in Canton in 2019; Ironweed opening in Ocean City in 2019; and an absolutely delightful surprise- Ten Eyck a completely women owned and operated brewery opening in Queen Anne’s County in 2019.
Bailey and Brendan O’Leary, Co-Founders of True Respite Brewing.
The usual suspects that we all know and love were also in attendance including Union Craft, Heavy Seas, Manor Hill, Jailbreak, Monocacy, Oliver, Flying Dog and a slew of names like Denizens that every beer drinker in Maryland has tasted, and probably has in their beer fridge right now! A complete list of participating breweries is available through the Brewer’s Association of Maryland. Every participating brewery had at least one (if not several) high-quality, well-crafted brews to offer- a promise (of sorts) that a drive to their brewery would not disappoint. They also served as inspiration to the myriad homebrewers contributing to the Nepenthe homebrewing event of just what is possible if you have the drive and the patience to make it happen…. A lesson for us all.
All in all it was a brilliant day on the waterfront sampling Maryland craft beer. It also got me thinking about a few things. Recently I have read articles touting the demise of beer festivals using words like ‘ubiquitous’, and ‘tired’. Hmm… No- not at all. I humbly agree to disagree. Craft beer festival like this one (very well planned and executed) provide the PERFECT place to gain an audience and a consumer base. This is where a beer drinker will be introduced to a new brewery, or an old brewery with a new offering. This is where it begins, or in some cases where the flame is reignited and we fall in love all over again with a brewery or a beer we let slip away for a time. There is no better place to bring the family, the dog, or a friend and spend the day in a scenic park enjoying a brisk fall day discovering what talented artisans we have in our midst.
I often speak of Maryland breweries and how very generous they are when it comes to charitable causes- from cancer to quadrupeds. Philanthropy doesn’t stop at the brewery door however. That generosity extends far beyond the breweries to the distributors, taverns and taphouses across the state that serve local Maryland beer.
Alice Kistner, General Manager of Mahaffey’s Pub organized a brilliant fundraiser for Autism Awareness, a charity near and dear to her heart and that of dedicated employee Doug Mace. She reached across the state to bring together a group of twelve women deeply involved in the craft beer industry in one way or another: homebrewers, commercial brewers, historians, distributors, sales and marketing geniuses, tavern keepers, beertenders, and consumers. Each woman was assigned a month and the result was a 2019 Baltimore Beer Babes calendar shoot that was put together at Union Craft Brewery. Professional stylists, makeup artists, and photographers (yes all ladies) were brought in to help us look our best. I was honored to be included among the ranks of these incredible women.
From Left to Right: Judy Easterbrook Neff -Miss July, Brittany Benewicz- Miss August, Maureen O’Prey- Miss February at Mahaffey’s Calendar Signing/Auction
The calendars were only part of the fundraiser however, and Ms. Kistner went above and beyond for the Kennedy Krieger Center for Autism and Related Disorders. At the calendar release party on Saturday April 7, not only did the calendar girls represent (and sign a lot of calendars) but the gentlemen came out in full form- at auction! An auction was held at Mahaffey’s Pub with a host of men displaying an array of skill sets for everyone to bid on. The special skills ranged from help with child rearing, to homebrewing lessons and fishing trips. There was something for everyone, and that ‘something’ brought in more than $4200 and counting! It was truly an incredible outpouring of support. A donation page was also set up for those that could not attend the festivities. Click here to donate*
In a day and age where disparate perspectives outweigh commonalities and civility, and it seems as if there is a fundraiser for every cause imaginable, Alice Kistner found a way to bring everyone together over great local beer and get them to pay attention to something really important. To once again quote Kevin Blodger of Union Craft Brewing, “Beer unites us all.” No truer words have been spoken, and I must say Maryland beer is a force for good that I am humbled to be a small part of. Events like this planned from the heart are the only way to connect people to a cause, and perhaps the best way to get them to engage and invest!
Take a moment today and grab a glass of locally crafted brew and think about what matters the most… I guarantee Maryland’s beer community has already stepped up to help! Perhaps head on over to Mahaffey’s and pick up a calendar of your own to benefit an incredibly worthy cause!
About the Kennedy Krieger Center for Autism and Related Disorders:
The Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD) at Kennedy Krieger Institute is a multifaceted, interdisciplinary program serving children, families, and professionals in the autism spectrum disorders (ASD) community. CARD combines research, clinical service, a therapeutic day program, and training programs to unlock the potential of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), enrich their life experiences, empower patients, and promote the well-being of families through evidence-based practices. One of our major endeavors is developing effective new models of care for families and providers, whether locally, nationally, or internationally.
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!
To borrow from my friends at Union Craft Brewing, beer unites us all. Take for example the United States Congress. It could not be more divisive, or partisan. It is akin to warring factions from distant galaxies fighting for control of the Universe at all costs. Despite these disparate agendas, they have still found a way to come together over beer. The Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act, better known as CBMTRA has united both factions of our bicameral congress. This legislation, well covered by Tom Cizauskas at Yours For Good Fermentables, is a once in a generation legislative reform act for the United States craft brewing industry that also provides benefit to wineries and distilleries.
Here are the nuts of bolts of what it does for breweries:
Reduces excise taxes from $7 per barrel to $3.50 per barrel for domestic breweries producing less than 60,000 BBLs per annum.
Reduces excise taxes from $18 per barrel to $16 per barrel for domestic breweries producing 60,000 to 2 million BBLs per annum.
It simplifies beer formulation and label approval by expanding the list of ‘common beer ingredients’ (like fruit).
It encourages collaborations by removing regulatory hurdles like enabling tax free transfers, removing restrictions on both inventory and expansion for packaging and storage.
It levels the playing field between domestic and international producers.
It expands TTB program integrity to crack down on those circumventing the rules.
With 54 Senate co-sponsors, and 299 House co-sponsors this Bill had incredible bipartisan support, and was heavily promoted by both the Brewer’s Association of America, the National Beer Wholesalers Association, and the Beer Institute, among several other industry associations. Since the wording of the Bill was exactly the same in both houses of Congress when approved, there is little doubt it will make it through the conference committee and be signed into law in coming weeks. This will be a grand and much needed victory for craft beer manufacturers across the country. Apparently beer was the only thing capable of uniting this most combative 115th Congress.
Perhaps the political factions within the Annapolis State House should take note. If the federal government is willing to sit down and listen to the concerns of craft brewers, and their need for the modernization of existing, incredibly antiquated laws, why shouldn’t the elected representatives serving in Annapolis? Say what you will about swampy, pay to play Washington politics, but nothing holds a candle to Maryland particularly if the Reform on Tap Act of 2018 does not get a FAIR and IMPARTIAL hearing before the legislature this session. Politicians must pay at the polls in 2018 if they do not heed the demands of their constituents (as a whole); not just the select group lining their campaign coffers.
Make your voices heard! Call your representatives and tell them (as a voter) what you require of them. If you have questions ask your local craft brewer, the Brewer’s Association of Maryland, or the Comptroller. Sign the petition HERE to make the Reform on Tap Act of 2018 a crucial component of the 2018 legislative session in Annapolis. Always remember they serve at OUR pleasure.