Following our afternoon stop through Evolution Craft Brewing Co, we moved along the I-50 Ocean Gateway of Maryland’s Eastern Shore to Berlin, which was just named ‘America’s Coolest Small Town’ by Budget Travel. Contributing much to the cool factor of the small town is the presence of Burley Oak Brewing Company. On this busy Friday afternoon we were greeted at the bar by Bill Todd before founder and owner, Bryan Brushmiller, entered the tasting room with a mask. Covered in grain dust, he smiled and said he would be with us as soon as he finished milling grains for tomorrow’s brew. This showed us right away that Bryan is still extremely hands on and he later shared that it just wouldn’t be fun if he wasn’t able to brew every day. The physical labor of milling and mashing in makes his day and puts him in a good mood.
On Monday, 3/24/14 we got back to the grind again when we drove down to Salisbury, MD and spent our afternoon at Evolution Craft Brewing Company. While there, we spoke to founder Tom Knorr and head brewer Geoff DeBisschop who told us that Evolution originally opened up in Delmar, DE in 2009, but since they had 128% growth in their first year, they outgrew the original facility quickly. The location we visited was opened up in April of 2012 in an old ice plant where all of the rooms used to be kept at 15 below zero.
Before leaving the Baltimore area for Maryland’s Eastern Shore, we felt it prudent to pay Clipper City Brewing Company (CCBC) a visit on 3/21/14. If you aren’t familiar with the brewery, perhaps you know the award winning line of beers they produce – Heavy Seas Beer. The Clipper City name comes from the historical construction of fast sailing Clipper ships locally in the Baltimore harbor and the Heavy Seas’ pyrate theme was a natural progression for their higher ABV beers that has since been used to envelope all beers made by CCBC. After all, as the company slogan reminds us: Sailors tell stories…Pyrates make legends. The company was founded in 1995 by Hugh Sisson whom in 1989 operated the first craft brewpub in MD since prohibition, Sisson’s, but wanted to get out of the restaurant business and focus on making quality beer. On this misty afternoon we were able to speak with Heavy Seas Beer Hospitality Manager, Dan Bueter, to discuss and tour the brewery.
On 3/20/14 we made the short drive across northern Maryland to downtown Baltimore, where we spent much of the afternoon at the beautiful George Peabody Library prior to making the short half mile shuffle to The Brewer’s Art, one of Maryland’s first brewpubs which opened for business on Friday September 13, 1996. The Brewer’s Art is integrated into a beautiful space with ornate woodwork and decorative accents the likes not seen in many modern structures. The building was erected at the turn of the previous century and served as the private residence of an investment banker – a man who did not want to lose everything to a fire like the one which had just destroyed downtown Baltimore in 1905, and therefore built one of the first fire-proof structures in area. This was great for protecting his family and belongings but thick steel and concrete proved quite the obstacle in trying to convert the space into the brewpub that it is today. This afternoon, one of the brewpubs original owners, Volker Stewart, agreed to meet with us, tell us The Brewer’s Art story, and show us around his unique facility.
We spent the morning of Wednesday, 3/19/14 at Bluejacket in DC and then fought some brutal traffic as we made our way up to Flying Dog Brewery in Frederick, MD. We met with their director of communications, Erin Weston, who told us that Flying Dog originally started in 1990 as a brewpub in Aspen, CO then became a production brewery in Denver in 1995. After taking note that their facility was in dire need of repair and was too small for them to grow anymore, they made the decision to move their entire operation across the country to Maryland in 2006. There was about a year overlap when they were still brewing in Colorado and had begun brewing in Maryland, and that, coupled with the fact that they were able to mimic water profiles upon the move, lead to a seamless transition.
It ended up only being a 20 minute drive over to our friend Teddy’s place, who is a guy I have known almost my entire life. We grew up in the same neighborhood and used to ride the same school bus as kids. It had been about 12 years since I last saw him, so we spent that first night catching up on things and talking to his girlfriend Kelsey as the snow continued to come down outside. By the time we woke up the next morning, there was over 6 inches of snow outside, so Bluejacket got in touch with us to reschedule our visit to Wednesday (it was Monday). Because of that, we spent the whole day with Teddy and Kelsey working on our laptops, hanging out, playing bananagrams, watching jeopardy, and of course trying out some good beers. We did the same thing there with them the next day, then said our goodbyes Wednesday morning.
Our trip to Bluejacket in DC was pretty sweet, and afterwards we drove up to Frederick, MD to visit with Flying Dog. That night we stayed with Caroline, a woman we got in touch with through Couchsurfing, and her boyfriend Richard. She was super quirky and fun, so we had a good time watching TV and talking about all kinds of things (including the Simpsons, hell yea). In the morning, she fed and caffeinated us and then we took off to head into Baltimore. In Baltimore, we went to an awesome library known as the George Peabody library to get some writing done, and then went to two breweries. The first of which, The Brewer’s Art, offered us tickets to go see the premiere of Brewmore that night, which is a documentary about brewing in Maryland. We went to see it that night and absolutely loved the film which gave us insights into the area that we otherwise would not have got, and after the film they actually announced that we were in the theater, so people came up to us afterwards to ask about our trip.
We spent some time in the lobby drinking local craft beer and talking with people, who told us that a lot of them were going over to Liam Flynn’s to keep the night going. We joined them for about an hour, and then made our way to Jason’s apartment, who is a friend of Sarah, the girl we stayed with in Savannah that is a friend of our friend Alex. So yea, he was the friend of a friend of a friend and opened up his apartment to us. We watched The Wizard that night with him and his roommate, which is such a God awful movie that I couldn’t keep my eyes off of it. I passed out before it ended, and the next morning we went to Max’s Taphouse to try a few good beers, and then made our way to Heavy Seas Beer/ Clipper City Brewing, and then drove across the bridge that connects the western part of Maryland to the Eastern Shore.
Haggis’ dad’s friend Tom and his wife Linda live over in the Eastern Shore, and that is where we spent 2 nights getting caught up on writing. Haggis and Tom are both huge KU fans, so I sat there awkwardly as they watched their team lose to Stanford. Ouch. But on a good note, I finally got completely caught up for the first time since we left, and Brandon almost did as well. We also spent a night hanging out with Kevin, who is going to open up Chester River Brewing Company soon, so he took us over to his future site and we talked about his endeavor. Tom and Linda were overwhelmingly kind to us while we were there and it was hard to leave, but we needed to make our way south to visit 2 breweries that day!
Our first visit that day was to Evolution Craft (which was pretty damn awesome) and then we drove over to Burley Oak in Berlin, MD. We spent most of the night there chillin’ with their staff and listening to live music while a charity event was going on. Our couchsurfing hosts, Sarah and Andrew, met us there as well, so we followed them to their place, stayed the night with them, and they made us coffee the next morning while we got to know them. Once we left, we went back to Burley Oak to help them mash-in a batch of their beer called ‘Merica and then made our way out to see the Atlantic Ocean. It was cold as hell, so we took pictures of the ocean, promptly got back in the van, and crossed the border into Delaware.
Dogfish Head’s brewpub was our first visit of the day, then we went to the production facility where we went on a small, 5-person tour of their impressive facilities. It was not snowing when we got there, but by the time the tour was done there was a solid amount of snow that had fallen, so rather than sleep in the van as we had planned, we camped up in a Hampton Inn last night. That’s where we are now and we’re going to Mispillion River Brewing today! Until next time…