I really should have penned this column under the name H.P. Lovedraught. Eh... hindsight is 20/20. And speaking of hindsight, this month I am reflecting on the year we just left behind, as well as the year ahead of us.
2019 was not the easiest of years for Frederick beer. We saw two producers shutter their doors — House Cat back in the spring, and Barley and Hops, a 20-year staple of the local industry, in the fall. It’s the first time in roughly a decade that the local industry has failed to add to its number of breweries.
While the region saw the closing of a brewery for the first time since Flying Dog took over Frederick Brewing Company, it wasn’t a terrible year for the beer scene. Local breweries making quality products continue to draw crowds. We did, in fact, see growth in the region, in spite of the unfortunate circumstances that led to the closings of both House Cat and Barley and Hops.
Since the beginning of last year we’ve seen the opening of Jug Bridge in Olde Mother’s original space; Olde Mother expanded their capacity to host customers; Idiom expanded their tasting room and added a canning line; the re-opening of Frey’s Brewing in Mount Airy with a proper tasting room; Brunswick-based Smoketown Brewing Station took over House Cat’s old space, adding brewing capacity and a presence on Carroll Creek; and Attaboy opened a secondary fermentation facility in their Barrel House.
None of this takes into account the addition of District East, new legislation in Middletown to open the town up to the possibility of hosting a brewery, or Prospect Point Brewing breaking ground on their facility off of Mount Zion Road.
Hopefully, as we move into 2020, local brewers are already getting off to a strong start with the state relaxing the franchise laws that dictate the relationships between wholesalers and brewers. As of the beginning of this year, Maryland breweries need to give distributors and wholesalers only 45 days notice in order to terminate their contract, instead of the 180 days that it had been.
For Frederick, we’re also looking at the possible openings of the aforementioned Prospect Point Brewing, as well as Baile Cask & Kettle, a brewpub planned for Urbana by brothers Christopher and Kerry Keene. Kerry, a long-time homebrewer with FOAM (Frederick’s Original Ale Makers), will be the brewer, and he premiered some of his recipes at the Baltimore Craft Beer Festival back in November. Steinhardt is also looking to expand and will begin the process of moving down to Carroll Creek, near Idiom.
I wish Steinhardt well in this move to an area that some might already consider supersaturated. The small, quarter-mile stretch between Attaboy, and the space that Steinhardt will occupy, will then host Attaboy, Attaboy’s Barrel House, Idiom, Smoketown Creekside, and Steinhardt.
Each of the other breweries there has a distinct personality — in both their beer, and their tasting room. Steinhardt will be faced with the unenviable task of finding their own personality and finding a niche that works for them, something that allows them to live in that crowded bit of creek without directly competing with the neighbors. Personally, I’d like to see them focus on the big Belgian styles like quads and tripels. The Belgian-styles focus would fill a local niche that is still wide open.
As for the other two, Prospect Point and Baile Cask & Kettle, as they aim for openings this year, some of the biggest issues often come closest to the end. Keep an eye on their social media feeds for updates. The closer they are to opening, the more likely they are to run into permitting and inspection issues.
For some, this runs smoothly. For others, it sometimes delays that opening date for up to a year, or even more. So, to them, I wish luck, as they work toward that important opening day.
Next month, unless something comes up, I’m going to look at some of the properties around Frederick that an investor might want to consider, if he or she is considering throwing their hops in the brew kettle.
Until then, be well, drink good beer, and have a great new year!