The owners of AleCraft Brewery plan to serve beers in their Bel Air taproom in about two weeks, now that the Harford County Liquor Control Board has granted them a license to serve alcohol.
Co-owner Brad Streett told liquor board members last Wednesday that “Dec. 15 would be my ideal” public opening date for the taproom at 319 S. Main St.
Streett, a Pylesville resident, appeared before the board with AleCraft’s two co-owners — his wife, Eryn, and business partner, Ken Roberson, of Jarrettsville — and attorney Robert F. Kahoe Jr., of Bel Air.
AleCraft already has approvals from the Town of Bel Air and the state and federal governments to operate the brewery, according to Streett.
“They can’t serve any alcohol until they get permission from the liquor board,” LCB Administrator Pilar Gracia said.
A number of supporters were in the audience, and they applauded briefly after the board voted 3-0 in favor of a Class DBR license to allow AleCraft to sell beer on site. The license only allows beer sales, no other alcohol, according to the Harford County website.
Commissioner James Welch abstained from voting, and Commissioner Frederic Merchant was absent. Welch said later that he was involved in the leasing of the property to AleCraft.
AleCraft will be the second micro-brewery and taproom in the town of Bel Air. Independent Brewing Co., which is at the opposite end of town at 418 N. Main St., opened in 2015.
AleCraft opened in July 2013 as a seller of home brewing supplies. The business moved from its original location on Office Street in Bel Air to North Bond Street and now to South Main Street as it expands into brewing.
The AleCraft taproom and brewery are in a section of the Preston’s Stationery building on South Main, across from Looney’s Pub. Streett said home brewing supplies will still be sold, with a section of Preston’s set aside for that.
Streett said the brewery is in the portion of the building facing Main Street, and the taproom is accessible via a shared entrance along the building’s side parking lot.
The taproom would have the capacity to seat 45 people, Streett told board members. Food trucks will not be on site, but patrons can eat prepackaged snacks, or they can order food that will be delivered from downtown Bel Air restaurants such as Sean Bolan’s Irish Pub, according to Streett.
Preston’s, which was founded in 1926, remains in operation. Robert Preston, a former Bel Air town commissioner, with his family runs the stationery business founded by his grandfather.
Preston pointed out a sign and photographs of his business in the 1920s as an Aegis reporter visited last Wednesday afternoon. He said the operators of AleCraft plan to include them in their taproom decorations.
“It’s just neat to retain some of the history of Preston’s,” he said. “I’d hate to see it go by the wayside.”
The taproom will be open from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday; the operators plan to open on Mondays in the spring of 2018 “as we get familiar with the new taproom model,” Streett wrote in a follow-up email Thursday.
AleCraft can legally serve up to 2,000 barrels of beer per year to customers in the taproom, according to Streett.
The brewery has the capacity to brew one to 1.5 barrels per batch, or 31 to 45 gallons. The operators can brew multiple batches per day, with a goal of 160 barrels a year for 2018.
“This is a rather small system but [it] does allow us to exercise full creativity and make use of our extensive ingredient library at the home brew shop,” Streett wrote.
He wrote that the 2,000-barrel ceiling for the taproom “is essentially impossible for me to reach with my size system without running it 24/7.”
“We expect to serve nearly all of our beer (160 barrels) in the taproom for 2018,” Strett wrote. “We may have very limited distribution to local Bel Air bars [and] restaurants.”
He stated in an email that he and his partners wanted to stay in downtown Bel Air, which guided their search for a property to lease.
“We've been in the community for four years and have a wonderful customer base,” he wrote.
The Preston’s building stood out for the AleCraft owners, and its location next to Bel Air Liquors and across the street from Looney’s was a plus, according to Streett.
He wrote that “we felt that adding a small taproom wouldn't upset the balance of the neighborhood.”
The Preston’s building also has “plenty of parking,” a loading dock and “a large basement with room for future expansion should we be fortunate enough to experience growth,” according to Streett.
“We're very glad Mr. Preston gave us the opportunity to lease the building,” Streett wrote.