Stillwater Artisanal Ales is opening its own bar in Brewer's Hill this year, and it isn't just lending its name to the effort.
To be called Of Love & Regret, the bar is a creative and business collaboration between Stillwater founder Brian Strumke and Ted Stelzenmuller, chef and co-owner of restaurant Jack's Bistro in Canton. Its opening underscores the success the Baltimore microbrewer has had in the past two years. Strumke said he expects production of Stillwater beers to double to 5,000 barrels in 2012.
"It's the start of a little home base," Strumke says of the bar. An opening is expected sometime this Spring.
Though Strumke won't brew beer at the bar, Of Love & Regret is the first time he has opened a brick and mortar headquarters for his widely-admired beer. For two years, he has been called a gypsy brewer because he doesn't have his own brewery and instead rents space and equipment to brew - mainly at DOG Brewing Co. in Westminster, MD.
Modeled on the City Beer Store in San Francisco, it will be both a pub, on the first floor, and a "provisions" shop, on the second floor, that sells a variety of gourmet products. The plan is one he had two years ago, when he started trademarking Stillwater to include everything from cheeses to coffee and clothing.
"This is going to allow me to execute some of the things that have been in the back of my head for a while," said Strumke, 35.
Two years ago, he didn't know if his gypsy brewing experiment or his artisanal beers would take off, let alone the overall brand. But now, it's clear Stillwater has had a stratospheric run - it doubled production to 2,000 barrels in its second year, and expects to reach 5,000 this year. The beer is now sold in 35 states and 12 countries, Strumke says.
The shop's products build on "what I'm doing already in the beer world - traveling to find the best breweries across the world," he says, and finding collaborators. He doesn't know yet who any of the collaborators will be.
It is certain, though, the bar will sell a clothing line featuring the artwork of Ellicott City tattoo artist Lee Verzosa, whose designs have become synonymous with Stillwater.
On the bar side, Strumke expects to curate a beer list of 23 drafts - the brewer promises it won't be all his product - and between one and two cask-conditioned ales, in addition to an extensive beer list. The pub will also feature a casual dining menu by Stelzenmuller catered around beer flavors and beer pairings.
The bar doesn't mean Stillwater will give up doing events at other venues, Strumke promised, though the bar might get some exclusive brews.
Strumke and Stelzenmuller, fans of each other's work, agreed to open a bar after collaborating on several successful beer dinners. Plans solidified last Fall when the Natty Boh Lounge at Canton Station, located at 1028 S. Conkling, came up for sale.
Renovations started a week ago and is expected to end sometime in the Spring. He described the bar's look as "Old World modernism."
"I want it to feel like you're walking into one of our labels," he says. "Like a feeling of intrigue."
This post has been updated to include an interview with Brian Strumke.