(Before I begin, I have to thank my friends Brendan and Bailey O’Leary at True Respite, Christian Lehew at Frank About Beer, and Thomas Gideon from the podcast Of a Peculiar Character. Conversations with them helped crystallize my thoughts on this subject.)
Wow, in the blink of an eye, another year is gone. It was an eventful year for Maryland breweries. Back in March, we stood up for our rights in Annapolis. In future posts, I intend to discuss the legislation coming in 2019. We also had a ton of very successful beer events (seriously, when is the next Revive?), and the ones coming in 2019 can be seen on the Events page. Finally, we celebrated a lot of new brewery openings. That last bit is what I want to focus on here: Maryland’s newcomers.
Over the course of 2018, Maryland saw 26 new breweries open. Yep, you read that number correctly. Twenty-six.
Like all statistics, the devil is in the details, so let me give you a little of the background math so you understand how painful it is to do this. First off, there are existing locations that added a brewery, like Wet City. They already had a crazy awesome beer bar/restaurant, then added a brewing space. There is 1623, a brand currently brewing out of DuClaw, which is available in stores, but has no brewery to call home (yet). Full Tilt already brewed and canned at Peabody Heights, but finally opened their own space in northern Baltimore. Push, which had its home at Frisco Taphouse, rebranded as Reckless Ale Works. The old Growlers brewery in Gaithersburg re-opened as Greene Growlers, then the brewery portion re-named themselves East Diamond Brewing Co. Finally, there’s Guinness, which some folks wouldn’t count on principle.
All of these are counted among the 27, so now you’ve seen my scary math. Trying to figure out who should count—plus the mixture of anticipation and dread of driving so much—led to some mild insomnia this past year. Just visiting all of these new breweries one time led to my driving over 2,000 miles last year.
Some people ask me where the new breweries are concentrated. The answer this year is: all over. Four breweries opened in Baltimore City alone. Baltimore, Cecil (with its first-ever breweries), and Montgomery counties also added four each. Anne Arundel also gained its first two home-grown, aquatic-themed breweries, Chesepiooc Real Ale Brewery (Odenton) and Crooked Crab (Crofton). Frederick county slowed down a bit this year, with Frederick proper adding Idiom and House Cat. The Eastern Shore also had surprisingly little action except for the Elkton and Chesapeake City regions.
No year would be complete without a dash of drama to round it out. Ocean City Brewing closed their doors and sold their restaurants. Out of the ashes arose the phoenix of Ironweed Ale Werks, only to be snuffed out again several months later by the cold water of business deals gone sour. (I haven’t talked to any representatives from either party, so I am not familiar with the specifics of what went wrong.) Breweries are starting to close a little more frequently nation-wide, with 16 Mile in Delaware being a nearby example of a staple regional producer going under. It will be fascinating to see how this plays out in the microcosm that is Maryland over the coming years.
Such growth always brings out the cynics in the craft beer community. I’ve heard beer nerds here in Maryland throw terms like “market saturation” around for years, yet so far, I’m only seeing evidence of the machine picking up steam. 2019 has already seen Nepenthe (Baltimore) open their doors, and there’s a three-way fight for the second opening between Pooles Island (Middle River), Mobtown (Baltimore) and Frey’s (Mount Airy). More breweries like Brewery Fire (Taneytown) and Ten Eyck (Queenstown) are waiting in the wings.
We are in the middle of a shift towards hyper-local taprooms which demand a bit less capital to remain solvent, and it is my belief that this, paired with loosening self-distribution laws, will leave Maryland with more room for dedicated brewers to move in and set up shop.
But I’m just a dude who enjoys drinking and talking about beer.
New Maryland Breweries in 2018
|Crooked Crab Brewing Company||Anne Arundel|
|Chesepiooc Real Ale Brewery||Anne Arundel|
|1623 Brewing Co.||Baltimore|
|Wet City||Baltimore City|
|Checkerspot Brewing Company||Baltimore City|
|Suspended Brewing Company||Baltimore City|
|Full Tilt Brewing||Baltimore City|
|Maryland Beer Company||Cecil|
|Elk River Brewing Company||Cecil|
|Valhalla Brewing Co.||Cecil|
|Bayheads Brewing Company||Cecil|
|Idiom Brewing Co.||Frederick|
|House Cat Brewing||Frederick|
|Slate Farm Brewery||Harford|
|Reckless Ale Works||Howard|
|Astro Lab Brewing||Montgomery|
|East Diamond Brewing Co.||Montgomery|
|Elder Pine Brewery and Blending Co.||Montgomery|
|True Respite Brewing Company||Montgomery|
|Streetcar 82 Brewing Co.||Prince George’s|
|Cult Classic Brewing Company||Queen Anne’s|
|Patriot Acres Farm Brewery||Queen Anne’s|