xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

Naptown Pint: Jailbreak Brewing Company is going to rock Maryland's craft beer scene

Based in Laurel, Jailbreak is going to be a game-changer for the Maryland craft beer scene.
Based in Laurel, Jailbreak is going to be a game-changer for the Maryland craft beer scene. (By Liz Murphy, Correspondent, Capital Gazette)

More often than not, I try to justify my inability to show up anywhere on time with empty, obnoxious platitudes of "Everything happens for a reason," or "I would have never played bocce with that drunken unicorn philosopher if I had made it to my eye surgery on time."

Ultimately, however, I'm usually late for no good reason other than being a loveable but ridiculous failure most of the time I'm awake.

Advertisement

And this is exactly what happened on Feb. 26 for the Brewers Association of Maryland's Maryland Beer Summit in Annapolis. During the day, the association, along with Maryland brewers, spent the day at the State House, lobbying for various pieces of legislation aimed at making the world a friendlier place for Maryland beer. In the evening, I was invited to attend the reception at Metropolitan Kitchen and Lounge starting at 6 p.m.

I left my office in National Harbor with a kidlike pep in my step - I was jazzed to support Maryland brewers while learning more about the legislative side of the Free State's craft beer industry. As I entered the Beltway heading north toward Route 50, my heart fell.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Typically, I'm lucky when it comes to my commute home, even though the Beltway is where dreams and all feelings of happiness go to die on a regular basis. I was not lucky this day. Instead of zooming back toward Annapolis in "Wolfgang: Prius of Destiny," the interstate was a glorified parking lot. I spent an hour and a half scowling, slinking against the steering wheel in resignation and whining. There was a lot of whining.

When I finally arrived at Metropolitan, all of the presentations were over, and quite a few people had left after what was assuredly a long day. I went through the motions of filling out a nametag, grabbed a pint of St. Michael's Ale from Eastern Shore Brewing and sat down at a vacant table. I was able to chat with a couple of folks who were still hanging around. But for the most part, I was that girl at a party where I didn't know anyone, and everyone else knows each other. It was incredibly awkward.

That is until Heather Newman, soon-to-be community coordinator for Jailbreak Brewing Company, caught my attention. It was a funny coincidence, because she and I had talked very briefly earlier in the day, with plans to connect at some vague point in the future.

Well, it turns out that vague point was right then and there, and it wasn't long before I was chatting up a storm with Heather, Jailbreak brewmaster Ryan Harvey - previously lead brewer at Dogfish Head, assistant brewer Erica Turner, and founders Kasey Turner and Justin Bonner.

Advertisement

I had heard of Jailbreak before. Based in Laurel, it will be Howard County's first production brewery after the county council paved the way for creation of local microbreweries. But that's all I really knew about it.

Well, it only took a few minutes of conversation before they had my undivided attention. They are doing something different with Jailbreak.

"So tell me about the name," I said.

Kasey and Justin took turns talking about their own personal experiences, expressing how they had been feeling trapped in their own lives to some degree. They wanted to be doing something they were passionate about. They wanted to be excited again. They were tired of spending countless hours a week to earn a paycheck only seemed to buy things that contributed further to a feeling of being in a prison.

"Jailbreak is that moment where you literally break free from the trappings of your own life and take a leap of faith into the unknown," Kasey said.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who can relate to this concept of wanting to embrace a life that is based on doing what you love. Unless you're already living your dream as a starfish poet, surfing off the coasts of Bali. In which case, I hate you.

As we talked more, I was moved beyond my usual excitement for all things beer. To be honest, the American craft beer industry is bursting at the seams with more than a handful of folks who don't seem to know what they're doing either from a business perspective or a brewing perspective. Harsh, but true.

But their earnestness is not only sincere, Jailbreak is backed up by the fact that the people behind it are smart. Very smart. The kind of smart that makes you feel a little bit stupid and envious.

Sadly, due to my late arrival, I didn't get to talk their collective ear off nearly as much as I wanted. We made arrangements for Patrick and I to visit ahead of their opening in the coming weeks and said our goodbyes.

Two Saturday mornings ago, we pulled into a parking space at an unassuming office park on Washington Boulevard in Laurel... after we missed it on the first drive-by and had to make a "questionably legal" U-turn. Whoops. We walked up to the modest red brick façade, their clean, industrial logo prominently displayed above the door.

I'm not sure what I expected when I walked in the door. I've been to breweries in office parks before. It's not uncommon, as brewing simply doesn't require the sprawling, rolling hills those who visit wineries are used to. Typically they're intimate and a bit on the unpolished side - but in a good way that speaks to the casual nature of the industry - with lots of wood-paneling and chalkboards.

When we opened the doors, Patrick and I were stunned into our very own beer versions of the Doctor Who syndrome known as: "It's bigger on the inside!"

Jailbreak's 10,000-square-foot space commands your attention as soon as you set foot in the door. At first you're left wondering how the exterior masked the vaulted ceilings of their massive tasting room. You forget the ceiling almost immediately, however, as your gaze locks on the back wall, which is essentially one big nine-paneled window allowing you to see their brewing operations beyond. Quite a departure from Dogfish, where the only hints at a brewery beyond their public spaces are their ridiculous number of tanks and a few slivers of window that reveal something is happening behind closed doors.

Then you begin to take in more of your surroundings - the industrial aesthetic of textured wood, metal and leather that somehow doesn't devolve into some sort of steampunk-induced design nightmare. It felt less like a brewery I was designed to "visit" and more like I was being invited into someone's living room, or a clubhouse for those beer nerds.

"So glad you could make it! Be with you in just a second," Kasey said. I had almost forgotten we were there to meet people. I was too busy plotting to pack up all of our belongings and move in.

A few minutes later, Kasey came over, offering us a beer - not theirs, of course, because they had just begun brewing their first batches. With a Bell's Java Stout in hand, we walked back to the heart of Jailbreak - the brewing facilities.

As Kasey took us through the space, I realized two things. First, my initial reaction from the Maryland Beer Summit was right: These guys were really smart, and it showed in small ways like the chemical-resistant flooring they use to the revelation that they are self-financed, with no loans owed to any financial institution.

Advertisement

"Being self-financed makes sense," I said as we stood on an elevated platform, looking out over their fermentation tanks. "What's the point of a true jailbreak if you still have to answer to others?"

Advertisement

"You're right," Kasey said thoughtfully. "I never thought about it that way."

Second, Jailbreak is going to be a game-changer for the Maryland craft beer scene. Part of it has to do with how the team is taking total ownership over every aspect of the business. For example, in addition to being financially independent, they are also self-distributing, instead of relying on a third-party distributor.

They're also breaking away from tradition with the beers they're offering.

As we stood around, sampling their basil wit and double IPA - both only two days old - I asked what I could expect from their core offering of beers.

"Well... we're not doing a core lineup," Justin said matter-of-factly.

They're going to brew what feels right and serve what ends up tasting really good. It's that simple. According to them, it's the best way to remain authentic as a brewery. The one I'm most excited about is a jalapeno IPA they mentioned.

After our tour, we kicked back a few more beers with Justin in their quasi-living room space, complete with a carpet and leather couches and armchairs that dare you to get up once you've settled in.

Justin is the perfect balance to Kasey. Justin, though in no way flighty, experiences the world around him through feelings and emotion. It's about gut and intuition and instinct and passion. Kasey, with a background in information technology, is driven by the same set of core values and passions, but is more process-oriented.

It reminded me a lot of Patrick and myself. I throw myself into ideas and adventures and gut feelings, and sometimes it's up to Patrick to keep me from floating up into the clouds with no way to get down. Though I suspect Justin is much more grounded than myself, heh.

We sat there with Justin for about an hour so talking not only about the brewery, but also about life - where we've been, where we are and where we're going. There were brutally honest moments where we all shared bits of ourselves - dark moments that propelled us forward to who we are today - and lighter moments, joking about how ridiculous some of life's little details are sometimes.

It wasn't the typical, "Let me check out this dope new brewery," conversation. Then again, nothing about this place was typical.

Eventually our time came to an end, and it was such a strange feeling: We didn't want to go. We wanted to stay in this world where people seemed to just get what life was all about and embodied that ambitious face-first dive into the unknown that many will never attempt on their own.

I think that's the point, though: Of course, Jailbreak a business that wants to be sustainable and profitable. Their mission, however, seems to extend beyond what promises to be an exciting, rotating lineup of crafty brews. It's like they're reaching out their hands and asking people to take a leap of faith with them - to have their own jailbreak - even if it's only for a couple of pints.

So yes, I was late to the Maryland Beer Summit. But this time I'm glad I was. I haven't even had one fully-matured beer from these guys, and I know I'm ready for Jailbreak - mine and theirs.

Fun fact: An unknown beer from Jailbreak Brewing Company will be featured on draft at 1747 Pub at Reynold's Tavern for their Maryland Day tap takeover, starting this Friday.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement