With our headquarters in Washington DC and the bulk of our correspondents found near America’s top producing craft beer regions on the coasts, it only makes sense for us to start a new series giving all the states their due, featuring breweries large and small, plus the histories behind them.
For the sake of clarity and with an eye toward avoiding any bias, we’re doing this thing alphabetically. Somehow we’ve managed to tap our twentieth state on the list, The Old Line State, Maryland. One of the original 13 colonies and home to some of the first Army regiments, the state’s nickname was coined by General Washington following the Maryland Line’s stand at the Battle of Long Island. Due to their high quality soldiering and long service, he called them his “Old Line.”
Maryland ranks 19th in total population (roughly 6 million), ranked 5th in density and houses 60 craft breweries as of2015 (an increase of 20 since 2014) who are represented by The Brewers Association of Maryland or BAM. The state ranks 20th in total breweries and 34th in breweries per capita as of 2015, according to the Brewers Association.
As is the case with most states on the east coast, early colonists routinely brewed beer. Yet at the first settlement of St. Mary’s, known as the birthplace of religious freedom in America, we couldn’t find any documentation of brewing.
The first brewery we did find though lies in Baltimore, founded by the Barnitz Family. They’d found success brewing in Germany, then in Pennsylvania before opening the city’s first brewery in 1748.
Baltimore alone, at it’s pre-prohibition peak, featured over 100 breweries in the late 19th century. Some resided in the neighborhood known as Brewer’s Hill including two of the most prolific, Gunther and National. But there was also American, Bauernschmidt, Wiessner’s and Brehm’s that kept the masses hydrated for decades.
As was the case elsewhere, the impact of prohibition was huge, yet following a successful restart Gunther thrived, at their peak producing 800,000 barrels a year in their last year of production in 1959. National found success as well, backed by their iconic Mr. Boh imagery, distributing the nation’s first six-pack in the 40’s, then ultimately closing in 1978 following mergers with Carling and G. Heilmann.
In 1987, brewpubs were illegal, so in order to open Maryland’s first brewpub, Heavy Seas founder Hugh Sisson lobbied for legalization, which passed in 1987. His brewpub, the aptly named Sisson’s, opened in 1989. Now closed, the state’s oldest existing craft brew pub is Oliver Brewing, in Baltimore since 1993.
Originally opened in 1990 in Aspen then Denver, Colorado, Flying Dog Brewing bought Fredrick Brewing in Fredrick, Maryland in 2006, briefly brewing in both states. In 2007, they shuttered the Denver facility, consolidating in Frederick where they now produce over 86,000 barrels annually, making them the largest brewer in the state. And they continue to offer some of the best beer around, having accrued 8 GABF medals as well.
8 More Maryland Breweries We Like and You Should Check Out
Burley Oak (Berlin) – In their 5th year, Burley is bringing it with a wide variety of bottled and canned offerings, totaling over 130 in that short span. With delights as varied as their upcoming dry-hopped Berliner Weisse aged in American Oak Red Wine Barrels (Sorry Chicky) to their “CollabALEration” with Dogfish Head, a Sour Stout with Beach Plums (Pants are Cumbersome), we love their style and know you’ll find something you’ll love here.
DuClaw Brewing (Baltimore, Bel Air, Hanover, Bowie) – Pleasing palates since 1996, DuClaw has been soaring in recent years with 4 locations to sample their brews, including a pub at BWI Airport. Awarded 2 GABF medals over the past 4 years, they’re known for their vibrant artwork, experimental spins (Jalapeno Honey IPA, Coconut Caramel Brown, Chile Beer) and their phenomenal seasonal offerings. A can’t miss in the greater Baltimore Metro region.
Evolution Craft Brewing (Salsbury) – With their focus on “ever-better beer for ever-better food,” Evolution is revolutionizing the local and fresh food pairing game in the Delmarva region since 2009. Partnered with 7 restaurants, their taplist/bottled offerings effortlessly match the unique offerings at each location. Bringing distinct art, apropos seasonal and limited release barrel aged specialties, such as their Migration Series, we can’t say enough about why we could all use some Evolution in our lives.
Heavy Seas Beer/Clipper City Brewing (Baltimore) – The bedrock of Baltimore’s craft brewing revival, Hugh Sisson’s Clipper City Brewing Company (still the legal name) rebranded in 2010 to Heavy Seas due to the success of the specialty series of the same name. One of the largest producers of cask beers in the country, in total they produce roughly 30 year-round, barrel-aged , seasonal and one-off (draft only) offerings. As the second largest brewer in the state, an accomplished winner of 12 GABF medals, plus recent expansions, there’s no doubt that despite their name, Heavy Seas exemplifies smooth sailing.
Jailbreak Brewing (Laurel) – The youngest up-start on this list (2014), Jailbreak has already made a name for themselves by bringing home GABF gold last year for Van Dammit, a Belgian Strong Dark Ale. Brewing up beers “meant to be an escape,” and with “conviction,” Jailbreak has already conjured over 48 different varieties, many uniquely titled, such as Carrot Cake Conpiracy (Field Beer), Gnarles Barley (Barleywine) and Made Wit Basil (Witbier). Found roughly halfway between D.C. and Baltimore, they’re definitely worth the drive.
Realerevival (RaR) Brewing (Cambridge) – Another newer operation, RaR, who’s name sounds like an English casked ale revolution, is focused on just that – naturally fermented ales. With on-premise sales (thus also growler sales) illegal in Dorchester County until August 10 of 2013, they worked with legislators to enable them to open their doors just 5 days after passage. Within that time they’ve created over 35 styles and amassed some of the best rated beers in the state. In fact, they just released their 10 Layers dessert stout, modeled after the Smith Island Cake (the official dessert of Maryland). If you love brilliant American spins on classic English style ales, look no further.
Stillwater Artisanal Ales (Baltimore – Gypsy Brewer) – Utilizing excess brewing capacity at locations around the world, Baltimore based Brian Strumke has been bringing unconventional artisanal concoctions to the masses since 2010. Distributed in 45 states, as well as throughout Asia, South America, Europe and Australia, Strumke quickly achieved notoriety as a brewer (already famous as a DJ/Techno Producer), capturing the #2 slot for “Best New Brewers in the World” on Ratebeer.com. With roughly 121 unique offerings under their belt, some of the coolest label art around and 22 of the top 100 beers in Maryland coming from them, you need to seek out Stillwater if you haven’t already.
Union Craft Brewing (Baltimore) – Up and running in the Spring of 2012, Union is yet another success story coming out of Maryland. In that short span they’ve come out firing with styles as varied as Apricot Sour ales, various barrel aged versions of their Old Pro Gose and a plethora of hopped up styles, including their flagship, Duckpin Pale Ale. And it’s clear they’re doing it right having netted 2 GABF medals in the past 4 years. We see only great things to come for Union.