It started with a home beer-brewing kit — a gift to contractor Henry Ruhlman from his sons, Matt, Daniel and Michael.
Dad was notoriously difficult to shop for, and since he was always interested in the culinary conception of things like bread and popcorn, the present seemed to fit.
Six years later, that small batch endeavor has turned into a serious business venture for the Ruhlman clan.
The Ruhlman Brewery, located on Creeping Creek Farm in Hampstead, celebrates its two-year anniversary this month.
The site also features a concert area that hosts music every Saturday night, a catch-and-release fishing pond and a 19-hole disc golf course where patrons can enjoy their latest liquid purchase while playing.
It is becoming more of a destination for those driving through the rolling hills of northern Carroll County who have stumbled upon the brewery and more than 1,600 hop plants ready for production once ripe.
The business is growing by the day, as more residents find out about the collection of libations available.
"Being here on my father's farm, I didn't think I'd ever have a brewery," Henry Ruhlman said. "Everybody was very supportive of me."
Henry Ruhlman, who still works full-time at his contracting company, H E Ruhlman Construction Inc., admits he originally didn't know anything about growing hops, or even the differences between types of brews in general.
Working on his father's farm, Henry Ruhlman's job was to tend to the hogs. During the summer, the slop in the pen would ferment in the sun, creating the scent of stale light beer that often turned his stomach.
"My father, when I was growing up, never really drank hardly any beer at all," said his son, Matt, a West Middle School math teacher. "I went to college, and learned about beer. I found out that there are lots of different flavors of beer out there. When I came home, I let my dad try some."
Matt's beer collection and interest in the variety of styles began to rub off on his father. Before long, the smell that once made his father nauseous soon became part of his every day hobby.
"The beer has just been an extension of his other creative talents with food," Matt Ruhlman said, "and it's worked out well."
Today, 12 different beers are sold under the Our Ales umbrella. The company currently sells to eight liquor stores in Carroll County, and 12 bars and restaurants in Washington, D.C. They also sell out of a retail store located on the property.
While his dad sticks to brewing and troubleshooting, Matt's duties include research and development, as well as spreading the word about Carroll County's newest brewer.
The name Our Ales is derived from their pride in the local ingredients they use to brew their beers. "We use our water and our hops," Matt Ruhlman said, "so they are Our Ales."
The company bottles everything from stouts to a lager, as well as a variety of ales and even an India pale ale on occasion. A recent crack at a mint chocolate stout using fresh mint from the garden has also been successful.
The Ruhlmans claim that experimenting with different flavor profiles and combinations has been one of the best parts of the job.
"It's amazing the amount of math and science that goes into brewing," Matt Ruhlman said. "It's truly a science."
The company joins Westminster establishments Johansson's Dining House and Dog Brewing Co. as the only licensed brewers in the county.