It has been a busy summer.
Getting away from me a little, if I’m to be honest about it. I’m still planning on visiting with the folks over at Wine Districts, once Westview Liquors, about their shift in their business plan, and the expansion of their craft beer selection. But, again, that’s getting pushed back.
In the meantime, there’s some more Frederick-area growth I want to get to, and the problems with opening a new brewery in this town.
Location, location, location. This is a pretty common mantra espoused as a key to business success. It tends to be one of those common talking points that come up when a restaurant closes down. Was it management? Was it the location? Was it the product?
As the Frederick brewing scene continues to grow, this is becoming a more and more important consideration for area brewers.
Historically, location has been less about convenience than finding a place with low overhead. It’s expensive to open a brewery, so many have opened in neighborhoods that your standard restaurateur wouldn’t consider. And in many places, that has made breweries the anchor for redevelopment movements. Brooklyn Brewing in, well, Brooklyn, and Great Lakes Brewing in Cleveland have been the impetus for renaissances in their respective neighborhoods.
In Frederick, Attaboy dropped anchor next to McCutcheon’s. The eastern stretch of Carroll Creek had otherwise lain empty for as long as I can remember. Now, that end of the creek plays home to Attaboy and Idiom. Brunswick’s Smoketown Brewing Station is looking to open the doors of Smoketown on the creek later this summer, and there’s a rumor that another brewery signed a letter of intent for space in the same building that hosts Idiom (I need to confirm that at some point).
If that last point is correct, that will make four craft breweries within 400 meters of each other. Of the 18 breweries currently operating in the county, eight are within Frederick city limits, and all but one of those eight are on Market Street or East Street. The other is on East Patrick Street. Of the others with Frederick addresses, all are south of the city proper.
Why, you might ask, do I bring this up? Well, we still have other breweries in planning working to open their doors. On July 20, I had the pleasure of meeting brewer Devin Huck of Rare Creatures Brewing Company at a fundraiser held at Tried and True Barbers on East Patrick Street.
Rare Creatures is one of those breweries in planning, and has been for a few years now. Huck and his partner have been watching the growth around town, and location is definitely on the mind of Huck and his business partner.
“I think downtown has become saturated,” explained Huck.
He might be right about that, but again, virtually all of the brewing in Frederick is on Market and points East. When considering other locations, Huck identified Middletown as a possible destination for his brewery, but scouting locations is yet to come.
Given the concentration of breweries on the east side of the city, I might be tempted to eye property on the west side of Frederick, possibly out Rosemont Street, South Jefferson or West Patrick, even going so far as to explore properties on the Golden Mile. If the new owners of the Frederick Towne Mall were amicable, and willing to provide favorable terms, I might even consider the old CVS location there.
That said, Middletown isn’t necessarily a bad choice. The town has disposable income, it hosts a mead producer, a cider maker, and some wineries, but the town is without a brewery and it’s easily accessible by the highway.
The negative? There could be a dearth of real estate that lends itself to brewing. Ideally, you would want to be downtown, but the only location I can think of that’s open that is large enough to grow a brewery is the old municipal building right next to a church at the intersection in the heart of town. There might be others, but that’s the only one I can think of off the top of my head.
Again, however, location is somewhat less important with breweries. Ommegang and Hill Farmstead are in the middle of nowhere. Rare Creatures success or failure will not be contingent on where they open, so much as it will be reliant on the quality of the beer that Huck makes.
Based on what I had at the fundraiser — and as long as Huck can continue to replicate his beers with consistency — the brewery has a strong chance at surviving, should they get to the point where they open their doors.
Next month I will finally get to the folks at Wine Districts, and maybe write a little bit about my trip over to Elder Pine.
In the meantime, be well, and drink good beer.