Late last year I spent an evening with the gentlemen who are working to found Rare Creature Brewing Company here in Frederick County.
I spent some time chatting with the partners about location. They expressed understandable concern with opening within city limits and talked about establishing their brewery elsewhere in the county.
Even taking the county’s hard cider makers out of the equation (two of those, and one in planning), the county is now home to 18 breweries/brewing facilities, 12 of which sport a Frederick address. Eleven of those are within city limits, and all are on or east of Market Street. I can see where someone might be concerned about saturation.
But more on the saturation issue later. For now, I want to take a closer look at the location issue.
So, you want to start a brewery? Maybe you have the the knowledge, and the desire, but then you have to raise the capital, buy equipment, find a location, build it out, buy supplies, and the list goes on. It can get to be a pretty expensive process.
It’s part of the reason so few of the breweries in town reside within the bounds of the pricy historic district. Only Olde Mother, and Brewer’s Alley are there. All the rest are in lower rent parts of the city.
This is a common practice for urban breweries around the country. Set up where they can land cheaper deals on the real estate so more money can be put into equipment and product. In many places the breweries have acted as anchors for the redevelopment of these neighborhoods (Great Lakes Brewing and Brooklyn Brewing are prime examples of this).
So, with all this in mind, I want to take a quick look at some of the properties around Frederick that might make for a good brewery…
This might be a funny one to start with, but I want to throw 1440-1450 West Patrick Street out there. This is the Burger King out on the Golden Mile by the Weis. As a restaurant, you’re looking at a place that you know has the commercial water, restrooms and space for a tasting room that a brewery needs. Negatives — it’s a rental, it’s $30 per square foot (although a lot less than in the historic district), the kitchen area will need to be gutted, not a great location for customers to walk to, and the space for brewing is limited.
Still, with Steinhardt moving to Carroll Creek, it would make it one of only three breweries in the county that are west of the city center (along with Smoketown Brewing Station, and Prospect Point).
I’d like to point out something in Middletown, but a restaurant just opened in the single best location for one.
Another great location, if you have the investors, would be the Henry Burkitt House in Burkittsville. While the location sports a price tag of $1.7 million, it would make for a great multi-use space like Springfield Manor Brewery, Winery, and Distillery. The Burkitt House has five out-buildings, including a medium-sized milking barn, sits on over 200 acres of land (which would be great for grapes, hops, and grain production), and has an entrance from Md. 17, which would provide the owners commercial access from a route that would minimize traffic impact in the town, and one could potentially turn the main house into a bed and breakfast.
The recently shuttered Bentz Street Sports Bar, most recently the Blue Side. In spite of the $80 per square foot price tag, would make for a great location. Again, as a restaurant, the water and waste are already there. With the garage door, it will be easy to get equipment in and out, and with the proximity to residences, there’s a large potential customer base in walking distance.
While the price tag is a little high on the location, the west side property is a little bit away from the East Street saturation, and its price tag is offset by its proximity to the higher incomes of those living by Baker Park.
Personally, I still like the idea of the old Carmack-Jays market right on North Market Street. It’s reasonably priced for the location/space, there’s a rear loading dock, and off street parking.
There are several big negatives, not the least of which is that the loading dock is down a narrow alley.
The Antiques by Paul building at the corner of 6th and East is for sale, was previously approved as a catering location, has an approved capacity of 200, and has the water and electric hook-ups for a restaurant. The building is spacious, has its own parking, and is adjacent to one of downtown’s big residential neighborhoods.
Unfortunately, it also comes with a price tag of $5 million, which probably makes it prohibitive, particularly given the proximity to all the other breweries.
There are certainly others that can go on this list — ones that I might have missed north and east of the city, but these are some of my favorites (assuming a brewer isn’t going to build new). Sure, there is a property or two in downtown Middletown, if someone is looking to go small, and potential in places like Thurmont and Emmitsburg, and all are worth looking into if this is something you’re exploring.
If you’re worried about saturation, well, that’s probably next month’s article, barring something seismic happening in the industry. For now, be well, drink good beer, and if you have a chance, get out to tomorrow’s Love Thy Beer event in Silver Spring, and check out Olde Mother’s Cupid’s Curse, the LTB defending champs of the Cupid’s Curse Cup.
Until next month, prost!