Mike McKelvin sipped his coffee from a paper cup at JeannieBird Baking Co. in Westminster on Friday morning, with plans for his brewery rolled into a long, thin tube in front of him.
If an amendment to the county’s zoning code is accepted Thursday — to allow breweries in not only general industrial zones, but restricted industrial zones as well — he plans to open 1623 Brewing Company’s brewery and taproom in Eldersburg by September.
The 52-year-old Carroll County native handles the business side of the company, and his cousin — co-founder Zac Rissmiller, 38 — is the brewmaster.
The company, named for the 1,623 miles between McKelvin’s home and Rissmiller’s home in Elizabeth, Colorado, already has beers brewing and on sale across Maryland through a contract with DuClaw Brewing Company in Rosedale.
With craft beer a rising trend nationwide and in Carroll County, McKelvin has seen others come before 1623 — Pub Dog Brewing Co. and Johansson’s in Westminster, and Ruhlman Brewing Co. in Hampstead — and is paving the path for more with newcomers like Brewery Fire in Taneytown.
“What I see is there is already the groundwork laid out here for breweries to be successful if we do a really good job educating people,” McKelvin told the Times. “Where ‘farm-to-table’ is such a good restaurant term, it’s the same with beer and it’s the same with wine.”
He said his idea for 1623 Brewing Co. will be more than just a bar — it will be a tourism draw and a place for manufacturing, community gatherings, and testing experimental ideas.
“Zac is an unbelievably talented German beer maker,” he said. “There will be some cause and effect of trying some things that might not work — and some of those beers will never go on sale, but people can try them,” he said.
And for Rissmiller, the brewer, beer is an immersive art experience.
“Imagine a painting for a second: the levels, the depth, the colors, and everything that goes into a painting,” he told the Times in a phone interview from Santa Fe, New Mexico, with his family Friday. “But then let’s also imagine that you can physically touch that painting.
“What does it feel like? Let’s imagine that you can take that painting now, and you can have everything that goes with tasting things, and the sensation that happens with that.
“Let’s imagine you can also hear that painting. In the case of beer, that's the bubbles — the way the can opens, the way you interact with the beer itself. So we’ve now created a painting that involves all of our senses. And that's strictly what I try to do, try to take the beer drinker on a journey that involves every single sense. Then they can look at the painting after they’ve drank the beer, and hopefully we’ve made an impression on them.”
“That's what we strive to do with every beer that we make,” Rissmiller said.
The creation of a hub for community gathering is also a huge part of his mission. He hopes for 1623 Brewing Co. to be a place where people can not only relax and enjoy craft beer, but also a place where flavor tastings and art sessions can be offered — and where kids can do science projects.
McKelvin said the support local brewers have shown him since he started plans for the brewery at Liberty Exchange in Eldersburg has been “unbelievable.”
He met the owners of Brewery Fire, David Palmer and Jesse Johnson, in October and already feels like they are some of his closest friends, he said.
Johnson said it’s about the “rising tide.”
“We want other businesses to do well,” Johnson told the Times before he and Palmer won the 2018 Carroll Biz Challenge. “And we want everything to be symbiotic. We learned — it’s very general — but the rising tide raises all ships.”
George Humbert, brewmaster at Pub Dog in Westminster, also said last month he felt the craft beer community in Maryland is very supportive.
“Craft beer is still right around 10 percent of the total beer market, so we are still relatively small players,” he told the Times. “Anything we can do to help each other and grow and succeed; we all look at it as ‘a rising tide float all boats.’ ”
The brewers are also partnering with other local businesses.
Brewery Fire has linked up with Hahn’s Pork and Beans of Westminster, to nitro brew their coffee, and with Hampstead farm brewer Henry Ruhlman at Ruhlman Brewing Co., to buy hops.
McKelvin said 1623 Brewery Co. hopes to also begin sourcing its ingredients locally.
“We have a very nice relationship with Big Truck Farm in Parkton,” he said. “They have 14 acres of hops planted right now and we plan on sourcing from them.”
Other Carroll farms have also partnered with alcohol producers — like Hickory Hollow Farm, which produces rye for Miscellaneous Distillery in Mount Airy and Sagamore Spirit in Baltimore.
The creators of 1623 Brewing Co. hope to build on existing partnerships and create more — and even expand to Colorado eventually.
“Obviously [some big] farms are good and their economic impact in Carroll County is solidified,” McKelvin said, “but there are some small farms that are struggling, and these are things they could provide to that industry.”