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Leveling the Playing Field

Leveling the Playing Field

I’m sure many of you out there have heard about the designs that Guinness has in regards to building out a brewery in Baltimore County. For those of you who haven’t heard, Diageo, Guinness’ parent company, has announced plans to build a $50 million facility in Relay, a short trip to the Heavy Seas brewery in Halethorp.

The facility, in the short term, will add 70 jobs to the Maryland economy, and in the long term, would bring additional beer tourism to the state.

On the face of it, the idea of another brewery coming to a state that will have more than 80 operational breweries by the end of the summer, and over 90 by the end of next summer, seems like a drop in the keg. Nothing controversial, just more beer being made in Maryland, right?

Except it’s not that easy. It never is.

Diageo is seeking an exception to a state law that limits Maryland breweries to serving no more than 500 barrels of beer per year (among the lowest of any state), festivals and growler sales excluded. The bill that Diageo is pushing would allow the Guinness brewery in Relay to serve up to 5,000 barrels. However, that exception would apply only to Guinness.

The Brewer’s Association of Maryland, on the other hand, is backing a bill that one would think to be an acceptable compromise — HB1420 seeks to modernize the laws governing Maryland’s beer industry, lifting that cap to 4,000 barrels per year.

Under the caps, according to the Brewer’s Association, Maryland’s brewing industry accounted for just under 5,500 jobs, and an economic impact of $651.6 million in revenues to the state, and that doesn’t include tourism dollars. According to the Maryland Office of Tourism, the main drivers of tourism in the state last year were new restaurants, wineries, distilleries, and breweries. The four types of businesses were identified by tourism as the main drivers of increased spending in the state’s $17 billion tourism industry.

With the caps raised on the small breweries that make up the majority of the state’s roughly 80 beer producers, that’s a number that should increase.

If you’re a fan of the industry, and want to see it continue to grow, please contact your local delegates in Districts 3 and 4.


For those of you who might have missed it, Attaboy Beer had their official ribbon cutting ceremony last week, marking the official grand opening close to five weeks after the brewery’s soft opening in late January. The event included local officials and was, of course, replete with all the pomp and circumstance accorded such an event.

As Brian and Carly Ogden officially celebrated their brewery opening last Wednesday with all the muckety mucks, the folks at RockWell Brewing on East Street were prepping for their Thursday opening.

Brewer and co-owner Matt Thrasher is hoping that the prime location will be a boon for the new brewery. Situated in the one-time Nissan dealership complex at the corners of Ninth and East streets, in a building shared with Pit Crew and Quartermaster Cigars, RockWell is right across the parking lot from Family Meal.

If their opening on March 2 was any indication, the crowds will certainly be there. The Frederick beer scene gave RockWell a warm welcome, with patrons to the new brewery excitedly consuming the freshly brewed offerings.

Like other small breweries throughout the county, RockWell will welcome food from outside sources. As such, the brewery offers a menu from Family Meal. Patrons can order from a limited menu from Brian Voltaggio’s diner-inspired restaurant, and expect table-side service from the RockWell staff, who will retrieve the order from the neighboring restaurant.

Perhaps more exciting, from the standpoint of being a beer geek, is the fact that this seems to be the start of Frederick’s own East Frederick Brewing District — a walkable stretch of our fair city that is now the home to three small breweries: Attaboy, Olde Mother and RockWell, and a fourth, Midnight Run, is slated to open in the next 12 to 18 months.

Already 2017 has had quite the start for the area’s beer community. Since the beginning of the year, we have seen the launch of Attaboy, Cushwa (in Washington County), and RockWell. On the docket for April is a new cidery in Middletown, and a few rumors that I’m still working to confirm. It’s an exciting time for brew geeks in Frederick County.

Until next month, stay safe, and drink good beer.


Originally published in the Frederick News Post on March 5, 2017.

About The Author

Kevin Smith

A veteran reporter of more than two decades, Kevin Smith has been covering the Maryland Beer industry since 2005 when he covered the business beat for the Frederick Gazette. Since early 2007, he has covered Maryland for the Mid-Atlantic Brewing News, and penned columns about craft beer for, The Frederick News-Post,, and Maryland Life Magazine. He has also written about the wine industry in the Mid-Atlantic region for The Frederick Gazette, Wine Business Monthly, and Hagerstown Magazine. Kevin currently lives in Western Frederick County with his wife, two daughters, and his goofy dog, Fezzik.

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