When a friend told Brad Siegler and Kim Murray that a brewery in Baltimore was throwing a party for the public Saturday afternoon, distance was not a factor for the Columbia couple.
"It sounded fun," Murray said at the Peabody Heights Brewery in Abell, where beers like Red Cent Amber and Knuckle-Buster IPA flowed freely, as a rock band played and a mobile food truck sold chicken and waffles.
The party was also a coming-out party for the six-month-old brewery and its partners, Stephen Demczuk, J. Hollis Albert and Patrick Beille. They held a similar party late last fall for community leaders in Abell, Charles Village and Waverly, as a way of thanking them for supporting Peabody Heights Brewery in its effort to open in the old Capital Beverage Corp. building, an old soft drink bottling plant.
But Saturday's hastily arranged party was the first for the public, and it won't be the last, Albert said.
"We thought we'd have a series of open houses through the year and have bands and let people take tours," Albert said.
Taped to a table in the front entrance at 401 E. 30th St. was a 1-day special state permit for the event, one of 12 allowed per year.
There are also plans to open a tasting room in July, to let community groups hold their meetings in the building and to make the building a memorial to the former Orioles Park baseball stadium. The brewery sits on the site of the old stadium, which burned in a July 4, 1944 fire.
A photo of the fire and another photo of the stadium in its day are taped to a wall in the 50,000-square-foot building near Greenmount Avenue. The wall eventually will be an homage to Orioles Park and old-style bases will be placed in the approximate spots where they would have been on the site, Albert said. He said home plate was where the Barclay Street sidewalk between 29th and 30th streets is now.
The party, publicized largely on Facebook and in 4,000 emails to friends and supporters, drew a crowd of about 200 people. Selling $25 tickets at the door were American Red Cross volunteers, wearing Red Cross shirts.
They were volunteering in appreciation of the brewery owners, who have donating beer to some of their events. They also hope to hold a Red Cross event in the building in late summer or early fall.
"We wanted to say thank you and see the space," said Kristen Duncan, special events coordinator for the Chesapeake region chapter of the Red Cross.
Albert, Beille and Demczuk teamed up last year with the help of Al Barry, a zoning and land use consultant, to start Peabody Heights Brewery. Albert, 55, previously ran Baltimore Pho, a former Vietnamese restaurant in the Hollins Street Market.
Demczuk, owner of Baltimore Washington Beer Works, was brewing RavenBeer at the Clipper City Brewing Co. in Halethorpe, and was trying to build out the old Haussner's restaurant, for use as a brewery and to expand his production.
The plan fell through because the Haussner's building was aging, and renovation costs were too high. But Albert, who knew Demczuk and was trying to open a brewery of his own, got involved, and found the former Canada Dry, Snapple and RC Cola bottling plant on 30th Street in Abell.
Albert then gained the backing of City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, the Charles Village Civic Association and the Abell Improvement Association, for the first large-scale brewery in the city since the 1970s. Breweries in Baltimore need heavy manufacturing zoning, but the building on 30th Street was zoned for light manufacturing.
Beille, 39, a native of France whose wife is from Baltimore, has since joined them to brew Public Works Ale.
Also brewing craft beer at Peabody Heights is Full Tilt Brewing Co., owned by cousins Nick Fertig and Dan Baumiller, and Mountain State, brewed by Mountain State Brewing Co., of West Virginia.
Peabody Heights Brewery has eight fermentation tanks and has eventual plans for as many as 40, Albert said. He said they brewed about 600 barrels of beer in May.
"We are purely a production brewer of craft beers," Albert said.
"It's been a challenge," said Demczuk, 61, of Charles Village. He said the biggest challenge has been the costly renovation of the space.
"It's a big building," he said. "We did it on a shoestring."
Demczuk said it's too early to tell how successful Peabody Heights Brewery will be — but so far, "We're doing well. We've just got to work out the bugs and get more efficient."
Duncan, of the Red Cross, wishes them the best.
"We love them very much," she said. "They're good to us."
The brewery drew interest on Saturday from patrons of The Book Thing of Baltimore across the street, where people donate books and take other books for free.
"I wanted to see what was going on here," said a Guilford resident, who asked not to be named.
Among those who stopped by was City Councilman Carl Stokes, who represents Charles Village.
"It's a great use and reuse of the property," Stokes said. He said he hopes "it will be a successful business that will grow."
the tasting room, which was open for the day, was crowded with people like Heather Stewart, 42, a pathologist's assistant from Perry Hall. Stewart said she found out about the party on Facebook and took her father, retired engineer Steve Stewart, 66, of Jarrettsville, as a Father's Day present.
They were duly impressed as they stood in the tasting room, which was open for the day.
"My dad and I enjoy going to breweries," Stewart said. "We newer knew this was here."