Terps On Tap
Alums Brew Up Quality Close to Homeby Chris Carroll | illustrations by Gabriela Hernandez
The world of beer is regressing.
For a flood of Terps around the state of Maryland who recently entered the brewing business, the news couldn’t be better.
Allegiance to “megabeer”—an industry term for global conglomerates producing standard-issue fizzy, lightly flavored lagers—is waning. Meanwhile, output by small and independent craft brewers is growing by double digit percentages year by year. They now make 12 percent of the beer sold in the United States, according to the Brewers Association.
It’s partly a result of decades of labor by craft brewers to turn American palettes toward more adventurous, complex flavors—fruity, sour, bitter, malty, estery, piney, grainy, grapefruity, you name it.
But there’s another trend that augurs back to a hazy past, before Prohibition shattered the industry and giant companies took over. Consumers are increasingly bypassing beers brewed six states away in favor of those from just down the road, made by a local brewmaster with whom they can swap homebrewing tips.
“As the general food and restaurant industry has moved toward local products, there seems to be a growing, insatiable demand for locally sourced beer,” says Kevin Atticks of the Brewers Association of Maryland. “When you go out and talk to the communities these Maryland breweries are in…there’s an awful lot of love for local beer.”
Recent changes in Maryland law support the trend by allowing sales directly to consumers—an end run around tough competition with major brewers for liquor store shelf space or access to taps in bars and restaurants. Breweries can now sell up to 500 barrels (15,500 gallons) of beer yearly in taproom pubs, and deliver their own product to restaurants and retailers, avoiding expensive distributor contracts.
A 2012 law authorizing farm-based breweries, which must grow at least one of their ingredients, encourages farmers to try a whole new kind of agriculture.
It adds up to seven Maryland breweries opened by UMD grads since 2011, spread geographically from the D.C. suburbs up to Baltimore, west to Frederick and east to the Delaware line.
Some are well established, while others are just getting rolling. None, however, produces the anonymous suds you’d find at a typical kegger, and none aspires to become a latter-day global beer kingpin.
“Maybe our distribution eventually reaches to up near Baltimore,” says Jim Beeman ’05, part-owner of 7 Locks Brewing in Rockville. “We’re not trying to be big. We want to make the best beer we can for our local clientele and basically be a valuable part of this community.”
BIG CITY BREWS
Terps own and operate two craft breweries in historic areas of Baltimore—one brand new, the other a few years old and popular enough to push the boundaries of the term “microbrewery.” Both want to keep the fun in brewing.
1215 E. Fort Ave., Baltimore
In an old factory just up the street from Fort McHenry on Locust Point, the newest Terp brewery produced two inaugural batches—Wreaking and Havoc, IPAs with differing hop profiles—last October. Co-founders Francis Smith ’14, Tom Foster ’13 and Colin Marshall bonded at Loyola Blakefield High School, and later developed a passion for high-quality beer and homebrewing. Starting in 2014, they contracted with other breweries to produce their recipes. Being able to roll up their sleeves in their own facility (which includes a taproom punctuated by an old smokestack) is great satisfaction, Smith says. “This fits our personalities. It’s about creativity. You don’t have sit at a desk all day—you don’t have to be serious all the time.”
Union Craft Brewing
1700 Union Ave., Baltimore
They were only freshmen, but when Adam Benesch ’98 and fellow Terp Kevin Blodger met in Hagerstown 2, it didn’t take them long to realize they shared a passion for beer—not pound-’em-back industrial brewskis, but serious craft brew. Along with partner Jon Zerivitz, the two made their first batch of Duckpin Pale Ale in Baltimore’s historic Woodberry neighborhood in 2012. Although the accessible Duckpin is the biggest seller, brewmaster Blodger caters to beer geeks as well with varieties like Old Pro, a tart German-style Gose beer enhanced with a dash of salt. Union produced about 10,000 barrels (310,000 gallons) in 2016, making it the biggest Terp-owned brewery. When business gets hectic, Blodger says, “What I tell the guys is, ‘Chill out—we’re just making beer. It’s supposed to be fun.’”
It can be hard to tell where the sprawling outskirts of D.C. end and where those of Baltimore begin. But whatever teams the locals root for, this isn’t some featureless terra incognita—not for beer, anyway.
9315 Snowden River Parkway, Columbia
Founder Brian Gaylor ’08 was waiting out a Minneapolis blizzard in a craft beer bar when he and other patrons began chatting about what they’d do if they could quit their jobs and do anything. The homebrewing hobbyist imagined opening a brewery called “Black Flag” to signify a piratical lack of allegiance to any particular style or philosophy in brewing. He wasn’t just talking. The brewery (backed by a number of UMD friends and investors) and suavely decorated taproom (designed by buddy Forrest Popkin ’08 of Bates Architects) opened last summer in a Columbia office park. True to its ethic, the ales recently ranged from fruity pales (try Rainbow Road) to tart farmhouses to a Belgian saison—not to mention Belgian Waffle, blending the saison with a hefty breakfast stout.
12227 Wilkins Ave., Rockville
One of the charms of microbreweries is that customers can usually get a peek at the brewing process. At 7 Locks, where everything is housed in a single large factory room, they can’t avoid it. “When you’re walking to the restroom, you’re also giving yourself a self-guided tour of the brewery,” jokes co-founder Keith Beutel ’05. He and partner Jim Beeman ’05 aimed for Rockville because although Montgomery County is both populous and wealthy, it hasn’t attracted many small brewers. Since 7 Locks opened in fall 2015, locals are increasingly finding their way here for live music or to sample varieties like Rum Rye, a rum barrel-aged, barley wine-style rye ale brewed to 11.5 percent alcohol by volume that avoids cloying sweetness and alcohol fumes while giving a strong whiff of Caribbean spirit.
DOWN ON THE FARM
Sipping a beer on a sunny afternoon in a grassy meadow as farm fields stretch into the distance drives home a basic truth—without agriculture, there’d be no beer. Terps who’ve started farm breweries are working to ensure that’s never the case.
825 Highland Road, Street
Alex Galbreath ’13 followed his father Allen ’78 into farming, but with a cutting-edge twist. After planting a hop garden on their Harford County farm, which has been in the family for nearly a century, they began brewing beers tilted toward the Belgian farmhouse style in 2015 and opened a beer garden outside their 200-year-old barn last spring. It’s all about finding new and profitable ways to keep farming viable in Maryland; the brewery follows earlier initiatives like farm tours for local students and family pumpkin picking in the fall. “I’m pretty sure we’re the only pumpkin patch in Maryland that brews its own beer,” Allen Galbreath says.
Milkhouse Brewery at Stillpoint Farm
8253 Dollyhyde Road, Mount Airy
A lawyer by training but a homebrewer at heart, Tom Barse ’77 was perfectly positioned to help write the legislation that authorized farm breweries in Maryland. He then opened the first one in the state in 2013 amid the rolling hills of Frederick County. Barse, an expert in hops cultivation who previously sold this key ingredient in beer to other breweries, is now planning an “estate” beer with agricultural ingredients grown exclusively on his 47-acre farm. “Maryland brewers are cooperative rather than competitive; we all have a niche,” he says. “Our niche is that we make unfiltered, classic styles of beer using as many local ingredients as we possibly can.”
Red Shedman Farm Brewery and Hop Yard
13601 Glissans Mill Road, Mount Airy
Victor Aellen ’81 was a UMD student when he and his brother planted the vines that would grow to support the family’s Linganore Winery. After graduation, Aellen went on to successive careers in the chemical industry and financial services. But the family farm called. “About every 15 years, I get bored and have to do something else,” he says. Today, after studying under accomplished brewmasters in Grand Rapids, Mich.—which styles itself “Beer City usa”—Aellen runs the brewing process and harvests the hops at the Red Shedman Farm Brewery, which opened alongside the winery in 2014. He meets up every so often with Barse, from nearby Milkhouse Brewery, to share materials, chat and have a sip of a fellow Terp brewer’s latest beer. “We’re definitely friendly competition,” he said. “But we’re not actually competing against each other. Our competition is the big guys.”
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Great article. I've been to 7 Locks Brewing, and they have a really good selection.
I'm a Terp alumni was the cofounder of a brewery in Minneapolis and my own engineering firm Dick Brothers Brewing http://www.dickbrothersbrewing.com/ resurecting a historic beer brand in Illinois.
John Aellen III
Victor's brother John, referenced in the article is also a UMD College Park alum, '76 and lives outside of Annapolis, MD, where he owns and operates a successful insurance agency there.