At a party in the summer of 2016, friends Mike Tonsmeire and Scott Janish were sharing the fruits of their homebrewing hobby. Impressed by Janish’s India pale ales, Tonsmeire said to let him know if Janish ever wanted to pursue a commercial brewery.
“He said, ‘You know, actually, I have been thinking about it,’” Tonsmeire said.
A year ago, Tonsmeire and Janish formed Sapwood Cellars. After signing a lease in Columbia in December, they plan to open their production facility and taproom to the public this summer, with an eye on June, Tonsmeire said.
At the 7,200-square-foot space — inside one of the office buildings at the Oakland Ridge Center located at 8980 Route 108 — Sapwood Cellars plans to focus on two types of beer: “Hoppy, bright” IPAs and wheat beers, and funkier, bold beers like barrel-aged brews and sours, according to Tonsmeire. The former represents the “sap” and the latter reflects the “wood” of the brand name, he said.
Tonsemeire said there are too many breweries trying to produce every style of beer, and the key would be to find the right balance of variety.
“It’s kind of like restaurants. I’m generally not excited about a restaurant that says ‘We serve every type of cuisine in the entire world,’” he said. “I also don’t need a place that says ‘We only have one thing on the menu.’”
While Tonsmeire lives in Takoma Park and Janish resides in Laurel, they found Columbia — and its growing beer reputation, thanks to nearby brewers Hysteria and Black Flag — an appealing town to call the brand’s home.
“There’s enough [breweries] there now that hopefully folks from Baltimore and D.C. will come out on a Saturday and hit a couple local breweries, and get a few growlers for the week,” said Tonsmeire, who will be co-head brewer with Janish.
Those looking to try Sapwood beer will have to come to the brewery, though Tonsemeire said they would eventually bottle and can beers.
Plans for the 150-person-capacity taproom are still being discussed, but Tonsmeire wants it to be relaxing.
“We’re not looking to throw a raging party in there or anything,” he said.
While he called the opening date of June “a big grain of salt,” given the delays that can occur during permitting and build-out, Tonsmeire is confident Sapwood Cellars will open to the public this summer. A longtime beer fan, he said it feels like a long time finally coming.
“After 10 years of homebrewing, it’s exciting to get to be able to share my beer with more people,” he said. “I’m looking forward to seeing what people think of the stuff, and to start turning beer into my living, and not just something I do in my basement.”