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‘I know we can do this’: Trio set to open 1623 Brewing Company in Eldersburg

On Saturday, 1623 Brewing Company in Eldersburg will open its doors to a community the owners say has already welcomed their new brewery/taproom with open arms.

Mike and Sandy McKelvin teamed up with Zac Rissmiller, to start 1623 Brewing Company. They will hold their grand opening this Saturday after a lengthy preparation.

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“It’s been a long time coming, almost three years in the making,” said Rissmiller. “It’s been a long road. We launched in September 2018 a contract brand and at that time, we had other breweries making our beer. So, we’ve been in distribution for the better part of two years.”

Mike McKelvin, who owns the Griffith Brothers construction company, serves as the company’s president. Sandy McKelvin is secretary. Rissmiller, the vice president, has been a brewer for about a decade, winning awards including World Beer Cup medals.

Rissmiller has been working with breweries in Colorado and still lives in Colorado — 1,623 miles from the McKelvins. Hence, the name.

Mike McKelvin pitched the idea to his cousin, Rissmiller, in the summer of 2017, believing that together they could make it happen.

“We had just gotten home from old Westminster Winery with a bunch of friends and we sat around our island in the kitchen and I said, ‘I know we can do this,'” he recalled.

They were able to utilize contract brewing arrangements, which allow breweries in planning to brew their beer under someone else’s license in their facilities but with their own recipes. That’s how 1623 Brewing Company has been able to produce beer. Now, they will be able to brew it in their own facility.

The trio decided to open up shop in Eldersburg because of the positivity from the community.

“We had to have signatures for our liquor license,” said Rissmiller. “We were kind of trying to figure out how we were going to do that, people in the community actually reached out to us before we could even say anything, asking if they could sign for it. So, it was actually very easy, it was very seamless and the community made it that way.

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“We knew we were coming into a great spot right away.”

It hasn’t just been members of the Eldersburg community to express their support but members of the brewing community has as well.

“We’ve asked and been granted to enter into a great, brilliant community here in Maryland and they’ve received us with open arms and unbelievable amounts of support," Mike McKelvin said. “You wouldn’t believe the number of brewers who just jumped out the woodwork. Just about every brewery in the state has said, ‘How can we help you?’”

According to McKelvin, 1623 puts its own spin on a product rooted in tradition.

“The thing I’m most proud of is that the base for all the beers is very, very traditional and then we put a twist on tradition,” he said. “That’s what excites me about what Zac has been doing and what he has won awards for in the past is that we’re very dedicated to style and the tradition of the style and then we add a little twist.”

They weren’t expecting to move into a space as large as they are in now when they first started talking about the idea.

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“It was going to be much smaller than this, probably a quarter of the size when we first started talking about it and now we’re staring at a 30-barrel brew house that will put us inside the top 25 I believe, size-wise, in the state and a very large operation ready to move forward into 2020 and beyond," Mike McKelvin said.

The trio says the business’s backbone lies within family ties — Rissmiller has a 7-year-old daughter and the McKelvins have two daughters in college — and hope it remains that way.

“We spend an unbelievable amount of time as a family together. It’s the number one thing in all of our lives so, even our girls, they enjoy hanging out with us,” said Mike. “This is something that both of them could easily run in the future, long after I’m gone. That’s one of the things that really interested me about the capacity that Maryland has for craft beer. We’re only scratching the surface right now with a bunch of great breweries.”

Rissmiller said 1623 has plans for the future, which are expressed in the company’s logo.

“On our logo, we have three stars that we use," he said. "Those stars represent ... an ellipsis, because we’re always open to whatever the future might bring, but also represent the three owners, me, Mike and Sandy, working together.”

The 1623 Brewing Company grand opening is set for Saturday, Feb. 22, beginning at 11:30 a.m. at 5975 Exchange Drive, Suites H-L, Eldersburg. Business hours are: 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sundays; 2-9 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays (closed Mondays and Tuesdays).

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