Aled Lang Syne
A turbulent 2016, filled with openings, closings and industry growth, has just wound down, and 2017 has just kicked off. With the way the past 12 months has gone, I couldn’t help but think about the inimitable words of Ferris Bueller: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.”
Lately, Frederick County, and Maryland as a whole, has felt like that. If you blink, you miss something. As we push into the new year, both locally and statewide, we’re looking at more growth.
Before we look forward, let’s take a look back.
Last year kicked off with the completion of the feasibility study for Flying Dog Brewerys’s expansion project by the Frederick airport; the opening of Smoketown Brewing Station in the spring; the announcement of Attaboy Beer coming to Frederick in the summer; in the fall, Olde Mother Brewing celebrating one year in Frederick; and Monocacy Brewing and Barley and Hops brought home some serious hardware from The Great American Beer Festival and the Maryland Comptroller’s Cup respectively. That was just here in Frederick County.
Across the state, we have seen unprecedented growth with multiple openings and breweries celebrating their first year in business. Sure, there were a few closings, like Baying Hound closing its doors in the first quarter of 2016, but we saw plenty of new breweries open their doors, such as Independent in Bel Air, Black Flag and Hysteria in Columbia and Rubber Soul out in Salisbury.
As far as the brewing industry goes in this state, 2016 was a good year filled with growth, awards and a lot of creativity (Evolution made a pretty mean Pecan Pie Imperial Brown). I think it’s safe to say that in 2017 we should be looking at a lot more of the same.
Attaboy Beer is looking to open later this month just off of Carroll Creek, right by McCutcheon’s. So is Cushwa in neighboring Washington County (specifically in Williamsport), supposing everything runs smoothly between now and the end of the month for the two new breweries.
On the heels of these openings, there are a handful of other breweries here in the county shooting to be open this year or next, including Midnight Run Brewing, Rockwell, Idiom and a new venture from the guys at Washington County’s Pleasant Valley Hops. The latter project is a farm brewery that is intended to be here in Frederick County, just west of the city.
Attaboy will be the 12th brewery to open in Frederick County, if you include Steinhardt Brewing, a nano-brewery in Braddock Heights. And that doesn’t include Orchid Cellars, our resident meadery near Middletown, or the Ciderworks at Distillery Lane in Burkittsville.
Sadly, Barnwerk, the Walkersville/Thurmont project, has been scrapped after a series of issues out of their control which made the project economically unfeasible. Still, assuming the various projects work out, we’re looking at 14 breweries here in the county by the first quarter of the year, and as many as 18 by the end of next. It’s positively Ashevillian.
That last caveat is pretty major. Opening a brewery is a hard thing. Equipment is expensive, branding is important, and permitting and licenses are obtained only through a series of gymnastics that are done on the town, county, state and federal levels. But none of this means a thing if the brewers aren’t producing good beer.
So, as we look forward at new openings, I have one piece of advice for the breweries coming: As more of you open, creating more choices for the beer geeks out there, the honeymoon periods are going to shorten. To the best of your ability, make sure your recipes are, at worst, solid, and invest in the equipment that is going to allow you to make consistently good beer. Best of luck to all of you.
One last note: For the literati beer geeks out there looking for some fun later this month, Smoketown Brewing in Brunswick will be hosting Not Quite Burns Night on the 25th, starting at 6:30 p.m. In Burns Night tradition, there will be readings from the Scottish poet to coincide with the release of the brewery’s Scotch Ale. There is no cover, however kilts are encouraged.
Until next month, be safe and drink good beer.