For anyone who has been following the legislative saga of craft beer in Maryland, you know that it has been a rough couple of years as brewers have fought for more favorable laws that will allow them to grow their businesses. This year the brewers made big strides with the new laws that should help them do just that.
The laws under which Maryland breweries operated drove some breweries to open in states like Delaware, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Even West Virginia brewers, in lobbying for better laws there, didn’t even include Maryland on their promotional materials. But we’re doing much better now, and definitely heading in the right direction.
New Jersey, on the other hand, is becoming the state from which other states are going to start recruiting brewers.
This year the Garden State passed a law prohibiting breweries from hosting food trucks. The measure was pushed by New Jersey’s restaurant association.
This is a desperate piece of legislation that smacks of corporate protectionism. The New Jersey legislature is protecting one industry at the expense of two others.
Personally, I feel as though if you’re a restaurant owner, and you can’t compete against a food truck at a brewery, you probably deserve to go out of business. Seriously, if you hold a full liquor license, and have a full kitchen, and you struggle against a kitchen the size of a large bathroom, and a facility that can only serve the beers they make, you probably shouldn’t be in the industry.
Meanwhile, here in Frederick, we are in the meat of festival season.
I think one of my favorite things about festival season is the chance to sample beers from breweries that are on the verge of opening. The new places that can get a little boost from their presence at festivals like the one on Carroll Creek last month. Festivals and new breweries are sometimes awkward bedfellows. Fwestivals can be a brewery’s best friend, allowing them to reach a lot of people a lot more cheaply than spending on advertising campaigns.
The flipside of that is that it’s expensive to launch a brewery, festivals still do cost money, and if you’re trying to build your custwomer base at your taproom, you need to make sure you have enough product to do so. It’s a bit of a balancing act.
I do, however, think that the festivals have contributed significantly to the overall growth of the industry — raising visibility for many of these small businesses, and attracting new customers from out of state, and from other parts of the state.
Here in Frederick, that has meant the opening of Jug Bridge on East Patrick Street out in Olde Mother’s old facility, and the ramping up of production at Prospect Point Brewing, just off Mount Zion Rd. It means the expansion of breweries like Smoketown working to open a second location where House Cat once stood, and brewers like Steinhardt moving their facility down to the Creek, and expanding production.
All of this is going to result in seven of Frederick’s breweries living on what I’ve taken to calling Frederick’s YEast Side.
Going back to Jug Bridge, they opened their doors the first weekend of June.
The smallest professional brewing facility in Frederick is making solid, traditional brews right now. Solid, well crafted brews, but right now they only have a limited number of offerings. When I was there on the opening weekend, the pale wheat ale, an oatmeal stout, a Kolsch and a session IPA.
There are no big milkshake IPA’s, no sours, and no trendy fruited beers. At least none of those things yet. They’re certainly not Idiom or Attaboy. Not yet.
The brewery is still a work in process. When I was there, only two thirds of their taps were pouring beer, and the tasting room is a little antiseptic, lacking the hominess of Olde Mother’s old tasting room. They could use some decoration.
That said, they’re off to a promising start, and I’m looking forward to watching them grow and develop.
Next month, unless something comes up, Wine Districts, summer destinations, and more great beer.
Until then, be well and drink good beer.