KevinSmith

Kevin Smith

Due to the somewhat foreseen events of early October, I will finish the Your Brewer Hates the Beer You Love series with next month’s column. This month, I’m addressing a recent seismic shift in Frederick County’s craft beer scene.

Barley and Hops, one of the county’s original big three — B&H, Brewer’s Alley, and Frederick Brewing Company — has shut its doors for good. It’s the second brewery in Frederick County, along with House Cat, to close this year.

I would caution that these closings are not a sign of the craft beer bubble bursting. There are so many other factors at play with both those breweries that have nothing to do with Frederick being a saturated market. I won’t dwell on the poor management choices that led to both of these breweries closing, choices that would have closed any service-industry business. Instead, I intend to honor Barley and Hops’ 20 years as part of the local beer scene. To that end, I have gathered a bunch of B&H’s past brewers together for something of a eulogy.

If nothing else, the brewery was at times an incubator for brewing talent. At other times, it was a stopping point for first-time head brewers who may have cut their teeth elsewhere as assistants. The brewery was a nexus point for Maryland craft brewers. Its brewing traditions and influences can be traced back to Growler’s of Gaithersburg, Flying Dog, and even the Flying Barrel, and reached not only across Maryland, but across the country.

Without further ado, some of the brewers who once boiled on B&H’s copper kettle...

Former Barley and Hops brewer Larry Pomerantz (c. 2010-2015) wanted to talk about the people — the customers and staff that made the place special — but there was too much to say. Instead, he focused on the brewery’s impact.

“That place was a training ground for so many in the business these days,” Pomerantz said. “Of course we all know how brewers there went on to form Austin Beerworks and Vanish, but it also was the first exposure to brewing for two brewers at Monocacy — Garrett Smith and Steve Brockwell both got their starts there. Garrett waited tables and bar tended, and Steve volunteered in the brewery before getting full time work at Flying Dog. Dan Wingard of Upper Stem Brewery, [who is opening a farm brewery] in Washington County, was a long time assistant brewer under Will [Golden] and myself. Additionally, I had student interns who did their hands on work with me that are now brewers at Service Brewing in Georgia, and Intuition Aleworks in Florida.”

For Will Golden (c. 2007-2010), the people are also a big part of what made the place special. But it was also about personal milestones.

“Barley and Hops, despite its many flaws and the terrible location, was a wonderful place to work and create beers,” he said. “I crossed so many milestones in my life while employed by Gary Brooks at Barley and Hops: I got engaged, married, and bought my first house all while working [there]; I feel like it’s where I really cut my teeth on recipe development of my own concepts; this is also the place where ... my business partners, Adam DeBower, and I started talking about starting our own little brewery in Austin Texas.”

Golden remembered the community the brew pub provided.

“Some of my fondest times were spent outside of the brewhouse with the regulars or with my co-workers, who are too numerous to mention,” he said. “Having friends and memories that will last a lifetime is a true gift that Barley and Hops gave me. Some of my true joys in life were being in my fishbowl — the glass-enclosed brewhouse — and watching the teenage drama unfold between the servers. Some of my fondest memories were after-hours bowling, good ol’ fashioned buffoonery at [the now closed] Guido’s, and riding a sled with a keg on it from my house on Seventh Street down Market to [then assistant brewer] John Burroughs’ house on Third Street during a snowstorm. I will miss this place ... every time I return for the holidays.”

The aforementioned Burroughs, now a gypsy brewer working with breweries around the state, started at Barley and Hops in August 2014, hired to be Pomerantz’s assistant brewer. As Burroughs tells it, Pomerantz told him, “the job pays [poorly], I’m going to yell and you might cry.”

Burroughs said that Pomerantz, “was right on two counts; I didn’t cry. Larry is one of my best friends and learning under him was phenomenal. When Larry was leaving to help open Vanish in Leesburg, he started showing more and more about the system. I paused one day and said, ‘wait, you’re leaving? So you’re like the Dread Pirate Roberts and I’m Westley?’

“’Pretty much,’ was his response.”

Burroughs said, “I didn’t want the helm. I told him to find another captain and he hired Eric Gleason. Eric and I continued to work together for four more years and I continued to learn under him and he learned a lot about that [brewing] system from me. We made award-winning beers and friendships [there], and regardless of how it ended, and I wouldn’t trade these experiences for anything. I miss working with Larry and Eric, but we can always brew a collaboration beer together again at one of our respective breweries.”

The latest of the former brewers, Eric Gleason (c. 2015-2019), came in at a time of transition. Ownership was shifting from the original owner, the aforementioned Gary Brooks, and Gleason was given a more liberal hand in determining the direction of the brewery. Gleason implemented a plan to shift the brewery from having a majority of core beers on tap to having a wider variety of offerings including specials, seasonals, and one-offs.

“I had estimated it would take six months to achieve. We did it in just three,” Gleason said.

That year’s Comptroller’s Cup competition was an affirmation that Gleason’s changes were good ones. In the wake of the changes, ”we won the Comptroller’s Cup, two Best of Category Beers and a slew of other medals — 21 in all out of 20 entries [including the Cup] ... Along with this came an ... art program for each beer. [The changes were] a radical transformation for a place that had remained basically unchanged since it opened 17 years earlier.”

Pomerantz stressed that while there were certainly problems at Barley and Hops, the brewery will always be an integral piece of craft beer history in both Frederick County and Maryland.

“Important meetings to create the Class 8 Farm Brewery Bill and Frederick Beer Week were held there,” he said. “The place had its trials, but each of us persevered and grew. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger ... without old skool predecessors like B&H, the brewing culture in Frederick wouldn’t exist. Give them their due credit. Give them the respect they deserve. Know their place in history.”

Until next month, raise a glass of your favorite Frederick brew to the dearly departed, be well, have a great Thanksgiving, and drink good beer.

Prost.

(25) comments

fireandfarm

I didn't go there for beer. We only went once, and even though the burgers were good, there was a reason they had all you can eat fries. They tasted like someone just threw them from the freezer to the fryer. Didn't want more, so technically, they had a good idea. Always sad to see a place close, but you have to do it right to compete.

chesapeakecountry

Awesome location and brewing facility. Somebody will snatch this up quick provided it's not way over-priced.

jagman

Too bad what happened to B&H. In the early years it was a fantastic place to eat. The wait staff was excellent in those days as well. I did notice after the ownership change that it just wasn't the same. Have not been back since around 2017.

Now, as for the beer. Very good but never up to the standards of Flying Dog. FD is the best. Plus Steadman's artwork and the references to the late great Dr HST add to the unique nature of the product.

niceund

Great....just finding this out. What to do with $50 in gift certificates!?!?

birdie

I dont think we can talk about House Cat closing and Barley amd Hops in the same article. One around 20 years and was a resturant the other just brewery and open less than a year.

dagriffin

I liked it and sad to see it close, but my biggest complaint was always the noise. Too darn loud. Couldn't hold a conversation comfortably in the dining area. Hopefully, if another restaurant goes in, they can deaden some of that with some carpeting or soft wall finishes and sound attenuation. That's why we stopped going.

public-redux

Noise is my chief complaint about several restaurants and we don't go to those any more unless we know it won't be full.

shiftless88

The owner, or at least one in the recent past, made his conservative ideology clear in public so I avoided it. I don't care if a specific person is liberal or conservative but if they bring their business into it then I will support accordingly.

lewisantq

Shiftless88, I avoided it for the same reason. Bob Lewis

joelp77440

Went there for years. As all the other brew houses opened I kind of faded off my attendance. Went there sometime this year and it really was empty. Food about the same but yea, not what it use to be. RIP B&H.

public-redux

I thought their beer was uninspired years ago and it kept falling farther and farther behind.

ad_s_towel

Who are the current owners that made such poor menu changes and staffing decisions? Did they have government help to buy the business (SBA, MSBDFA, County SBDC/SBLG) and are they going to default on those governmental obligations? The FNP needs to dig into the issues around the new ownership.

Quisling

They changed their menu and started serving food that tasted like Roasthouse Pub, so I never went back.

Roboticbrady

You are mad because they increased the quality of their food?

gabrielshorn2013

So sad to hear about B&H closing. It was a great place to bring friends and colleagues for dinner and beers when they came to town. I never thought it was in a bad location at all. There was always ample parking.

MD1756

If there was always ample parking, then the place fails the parking lot test. Only go to places where the parking lot is good. You'll have to wait longer, but there must be something good there attracting all those customers. An empty or near empty parking lot might mean a shorter wait (assuming the staff are not just sitting around), but there is also probably a good reason the parking lot is near empty (unless the restaurant has a parking lot the size of a car dealership).

matts853

It has plenty of parking.

gabrielshorn2013

MD1756, It was located in the large Riverview Plaza shopping center on RT 355, hence the ample parking. The beer was always good, especially the Schifferstadt Stout, Stonewall's Stogies Smoked Porter, and the Highway To Helles. The food began to be hit-or-miss the last couple of years, but the burgers were usually very good.

Roboticbrady

It wasn't near empty - it's part of a giant out door strip mall so there is plenty of parking. It shares a lot with men's warehouse as well so plenty of overflow.

You have to actually know the context of what you are talking about before making up rules.

sevenstones1000

I’m sorry to hear this restaurant is closing. I very much enjoyed their new menu.

I’m not understanding what led to the closing from this article, but maybe that will be explained later.

Is Unos still open? That is a terrible restaurant.

matts853

Sounds like they had good beer, but poor management.

User1

Don’t forget the “poor” help. Seemed like every time we’ve gone there the servers were all too busy on their phones to help us. Having a good product alone won’t guarantee success. Good spot for a “sports” bar.

sevenstones1000

God, we really don’t need another sports bar.

matts853

The quality of help is a reflection of management. The article even says the managers made poor decisions. I hope a more competent ownership takes over so I can put the place back in the rotation.

gabrielshorn2013

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup] matt!

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