Zac Rissmiller has degrees in engineering, but he calls them “just pieces of paper.”
Instead of putting what he learned in college to work, he pursued his love of brewing. As a survivor of the Columbine High School massacre that left 15 dead in 1999, Rissmiller said life’s too short not to pursue his passion.
“It’s part of my story. It’s what drove me to be a brewer,” said Rissmiller, who was a senior at the time. “I know that every single day that carpet can be yanked out from underneath you.”
After leaving Resolute Brewing Co., which he co-founded in Colorado, Rissmiller’s latest endeavor launches in Maryland today. His new Carroll County-based 1623 Brewing Co. celebrates its official launch this evening with a tasting event at Paradiso Ristorante in Westminster. (He has since split ways with Resolute.)
Rissmiller is still based in Colorado so he hired DuClaw Brewing Co. in Rosedale a few months ago to contract brew using his recipes and techniques, he said.
His cousin and 1623’s co-owner, Michael McKelvin, convinced Rissmiller they could make 1623 work in Maryland, he said.
Two styles of 1623’s beer — a Hefeweizen and India pale ale — will be poured for sampling, Rissmiller said. By next week, six-packs will be available for sale at liquor stores throughout Baltimore and the state, including Cranberry Liquors in Westminster, he said.
1623 plans to open a brewery in Carroll County next spring, Rissmiller said, and the company is currently exploring its options for spaces.
“Hopefully, if everything goes right, we’ll be open in April,” Rissmiller said.
In the meantime, 1623 will continue to contract-brew out of DuClaw, he said. Within a month, 1623 plans to release its pilsner and stout beers, according to Rissmiller.
While Rissmiller loves to brew, he’s also motivated to eventually donate a portion of 1623’s profits to charities, including The Rebels Project, a nonprofit organization of Columbine survivors that helps other survivors of similar traumas manage post-traumatic stress disorder.
“The idea is that’s how you overcome PTSD: You have that healthy outlook on things,” Rissmiller said.