North Baltimore's first brewery is planned in the Abell/Waverly/Chares Village area and community leaders are making sure no beer will be sold on the premises.
"I would hope that we would be brewing within six months," said J. Hollis Albert III, who would be chief executive officer of the planned Charm City Brewing.
Albert, a business consultant and longtime manager in the food and beverage industry, is negotiating to buy the old Capital Beverage Corp. building at 401 East 30th St.
"It's set up as a bottling plant," Albert said. He said it used to be a Canada Dry ginger ale plant.
Albert plans to turn the building into a brewery on behalf of two local brewers — Baltimore-Washington Beer Works, makers of Raven Beer, and Oliver Breweries, owner of the Pratt Street Ale House.
The two breweries are joining forces in an effort to increase the amount of a beer each produces, Albert said.
Baltimore-Washington Beer Works "has a production issue," Albert said. "They just can't get enough beer made."
Beer Works plans to open a microbrewery and restaurant in the old Haussner's restaurant in Highlandtown (famed for its giant ball of string), but microbreweries are limited under state law to making a maximum of 22,500 barrells of beer per year, Albert said.
Beer Works and Oliver began talking about a joint venture that would allow them to increase production by making their beers at one site that distributors could come to, Albert said.
Oliver "wanted to increase capacity, too," he said. "You literally have independent businesses coming together as a business entity to produce beer. We can have one staff handle all of it, so there's cost savings."
Each would still run its own operations, including the ale house in downtown Baltimore, Albert said.
The two breweries might never have come together if the deal to acquire the old Haussner's property had gotten done more quickly, Albert said. But he said those negotiations went on for months and that Haussner's is "a shell," so that renovations would take about a year.
"We need production now," Albert said.
The old Capital Beverage plant on the border of Abell and Waverly, at Barclay and 30th streets, just off Greenmount Avenue, would be strictly a production, bottling and kegging site, but it would not be a retail site such as a microbrewery and restaurant and no beer or food would be served there, Albert said.
A legally binding memorandum of understanding to that effect has been negotiated with area community groups, said Sharon Guida, who chairs the Land Use Committee of the Charles Village Civic Association. The Baltimore City zoning board approved the use of the old Capital Beverage building as a brewery Nov. 22, subject to the submission of a signed MOU between Albert, property owner Jerry Greef, the Abell Improvement Association and the Charles Village Civic Association, Guida said.
The boards of both community groups have given their approval and the MOU was signed Dec. 2, Guida said.
Albert, who met with the Charles Villlage land use committee Nov. 2, said community leaders and elected officials, including City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, were supportive and attended the zoning hearing.
Albert, 53, of Mount Vernon, said he has owned several bars and restaurants, including the old Baltimore Pho, and used to run Operation Energy, which sold heating oil and gas. He said he was city fire commissioner for 10 years under former Baltimore mayor Kurt Schmoke.
According to a synopsis provided by Guida of the plan and community reaction, area residents initially were concerned about noise, smell and business hours, and worried that the plant in its previous incarnation suffered from odor issues.
Albert agreed to open the plant Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday, 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. He also agreed that truck activity, waste pickup and deliveries would be only during business hours, not during the night. He said he expects no more than one delivery or pickup truck a day, at least initially, and that the plant would have only six employees, with no noisy dispoal of glass or use of large trash bins at night.