In this episode of the UnCapped podcast, host Chris Sands talked with Kevin Hilton, from Lone Oak Brewing Co. in Olney, about the history of the brewery and where it got it name. Unfortunately, two days after the podcast was recorded, the oak tree that gave the brewery its name was knocked down in a storm. Here is an excerpt of their talk.
UnCapped: What title have you given yourself?
Kevin Hilton: They’ve been bestowed upon me, but I would say brewmaster is my No. 1 title. I started as a general manager, but we’ve since filled out our team. So kind of in the brewmaster mold with a little bit of front-of-house input.
UnCapped: When did Lone Oak open?
Hilton: We opened right in the heart of the pandemic, July 2020, but it actually worked out. We’ve got a lot of open space, so people really enjoyed coming out when there wasn’t a whole lot else to do. Obviously, we had struggles, like everyone did through the pandemic.
UnCapped: Like, for one, not being able to buy anything.
Hilton: Right. … We got lucky and beat the pandemic a little bit with our first purchase of picnic tables and furniture and wood in general before the price skyrocketed. We were able to outfit what we needed to and get by. It ended up working out for the ambiance that we have. A lot of time, I’ll tell people when they call, “Don’t expect to get a table. Bring your own stuff. Make a picnic out of it.”
That’s what the farm atmosphere is: come out and make it your own thing. We’re very family-friendly, so we want the dogs, we want the kids. I know other breweries around, especially around Frederick, are not as in tune to that, but we have a ton of room, so we want that atmosphere for families. … We feel like we’re supported by the community, and we would rather have you out and enjoying the atmosphere. We have a lot of live music, trivia and all those other things that keep you engaged. We have a pretty big playground area, too, so it’s almost like we’re a daycare, in a sense, too.
UnCapped: That’s a hot-button issue.
Hilton: Yeah [laughs]. There’s this inner turmoil in the beer industry of “are kids allowed at a brewery or not?” We leaned into it and said, we understand our community, and we’re a little bit more of the family-oriented vibe. We have a Boys & Girls Club right down the street from us, so, soccer tournament gets out, they’re all coming over. There’s no way to avoid that. So: just lean into it and enjoy it.
UnCapped: I think of any type of brewery, farm breweries are able to handle that better than anyone else, especially if you have playgrounds and stuff like that off to the side, to keep kids congregated there.
Hilton: And we do have it kind of tucked away in the corner. It’s not like we have kids running around the taproom.
UnCapped: It is hilarious how heated that debate gets. People are so angry on both sides of the argument.
Hilton: Yeah, we try to live in the middle.
UnCapped: The problem from a brewery’s standpoint is one of the major demographics for craft beer drinkers are people in the family stages of their lives and have kids.
Hilton: Yeah, and the middle of Montgomery County is gonna be your suburbanite population, so that’s what we’ve built our model around. Also, I like to be experimental with our recipes, but if it’s not selling, I’m usually not gonna re-brew it or tweak it for the audience. We have 24 taps, so it’s a lot of brands to keep on, but again, we have to balance the demographics with cool stuff we want to do.
UnCapped: Red Miller [the farm dog] is adorable ... although the kid debate often devolves into the argument of whether dogs should be at breweries, too. But if you have a farm dog, you kind of have to allow dogs.
Hilton: We definitely allow dogs. We want to keep them on leashes. If you’re a good dog parent, you don’t have anything to worry about.
UnCapped: Yeah. I’m not. My dog misbehaves, so I don’t take her to places like that.
UnCapped: I don’t trust that she’s gonna leave people alone.
Hilton: Yeah, my dog is so high-energy when he gets around people, it’s like, yeah, let’s leave him at home.
UnCapped: Were you there from day one?
Hilton: Yes. We broke ground just before February 2020, and that’s when I arrived. We really didn’t have anything on the property at that point, just some infrastructure — a big hole in the ground where the foundation was gonna be, and that’s about it.
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