A new brewery is coming to South Baltimore near M&T Bank Stadium.
Wife and husband Judy and Rob Neff are partnering with Steve Marsh, formerly of Heavy Seas Beer, to open Checkerspot Brewing Co. The brewery aims to open to the public late this summer.
Judy Neff, who has a doctorate in microbiology, has homebrewed beer for the last 12 years and helped start the Baltimore Beer Babes club. She said she wanted to take her production to the next level.
"Once you get started with beer it sort of takes over," she said.
Judy Neff and Marsh, who started the cask program at Heavy Seas, will brew the beer, while Rob Neff will handle the business, sales and distribution. All three partners will be working at the brewery full time.
The trio started crafting the Checkerspot concept last May and recently signed a lease for a 10,000-square-foot space at 175 W. Ostend St., where they will begin building out the brewery in February. Judy Neff said she expects construction to run through June, with the space opening to the public in August.
Neff said they will look to produce a wide variety of beer styles with a few core offerings, in addition to a rotating selection of styles. At least one cask-conditioned beer — which finishes fermenting in casks — will always be offered, she said.
In its first year, Neff said Checkerspot is aiming to produce 1,000 barrels.
The company is named for the Baltimore checkerspot butterfly, the official state insect.
"We’re really ... trying to sort of tie in the local as well as this appreciation of nature, and bringing nature into the brewery," she said.
The brewery is working to use local ingredients, including hops, honey and fruit, both in its beer and food served from its taproom kitchen. Checkerspot will serve a small selection of lunch and dinner plates, some of which will incorporate beers from the brewery. Marsh will lead the food operations.
The taproom will look to cater to nearby office workers as well as surrounding residents.
"The South Baltimore area is really prime for that, and there’s so much development going on there, and it’s such a strong neighborhood," Neff said. "I really like what Baltimore’s doing, really starting to bring more of an entertainment complex down to that area and sort of have it spread out a little bit more."
Neff said she's been encouraged by the camaraderie within the local beer industry, which she said feels like a small family.
"It really is such a special industry and group of people," she said. "Even though you are technically competition, people don’t behave that way."
And as Checkerspot begins production, she sees room for more.
"I don’t think it’s a bubble," she said. "I think craft beer — good beer — is here to stay. And Baltimore always supports the local guy."