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Tomlinson: Say ‘cheers’ to craft beer industry in Carroll County and Maryland

Our county is often recognized for its agriculture and manufacturing, but an up-and-coming industry is quickly coming to a head in Carroll — craft beer breweries.

By 2020, Carroll should have at least seven fully operational breweries producing fresh batches of suds in all corners of the county.

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Maryland is fermenting as a rising powerhouse in the craft beer brewing industry. According to the Brewers Association trade group, as of 2017, breweries in the Free State had an economic impact of over $910 million. Traditionally, Maryland was not always friendly to small-time brewers, but in recent years lawmakers have tapped a series of bills easing restrictions on micro- and medium-sized brewers. Only a few years ago Maryland limited sales for brewery taprooms set at 500 barrels per year. In 2017, the limit was increased to 3,000 barrels and in April 2019, Gov. Larry Hogan signed the Brewery Modernization Act, which increased the sales limit to 5,000 barrels per year. Carroll beer enthusiasts will soon be able to enjoy local craft beer regardless of which part of the county they call home.

In Taneytown, Brewery Fire is actively making fresh beer and hopes to have its tap room, which will include old-school video games, opened by September — pending approval by the county’s Bureau of Permits and Inspections. Currently, Brewery Fire’s beer can be found at several local establishments including Oscar’s Ale House, Bud’s at Silver Run and its next-door neighbor, Thunderhead Bowl & Grill.

For those in the southern end of the county, 1623 Brewing Co. plans to have their brewery and taproom running by this fall in Eldersburg. For years, 1623 has been producing its beer by contracting another Maryland brewery, DuClaw Brewing Co., to brew it. When describing 1623’s style of beer, co-owner Zac Rissmiller told me, “It is a traditional style, yet innovative, but with respect to the past.”

In Carroll’s smallest municipality, Union Bridge, Flood Zone Marketplace & Brewery is preparing to open up in the Town’s old hardware store, in the late fall or winter. In addition to creating delicious craft beers, the new business will also sell local, fresh produce.

On the outskirts of New Windsor, Pub Dog Brewing Company has been making a variety of beers including ales, India pale ales (IPAs), Irish stouts and hard ciders, since 2006 in Carroll County. In 2018, Pub Dog added a tap room that features live music on Thursday evenings and food trucks on Friday evenings.

Over in the North Carroll region, Hampstead is ready for Pipe The Side Brewing Company to start brewing in December and open its tap room in February 2020. Co-owners Carol and Tim Eckels told me that their batches will include local ingredients, or “farm to glass.” Presently, Pipe The Side’s beers can be purchased and sampled at the Hampstead and Sykesville farmers’ markets.

Just outside of Hampstead, the Ruhlman Brewing Co. has been brewing batches at Creeping Creek Farm since 2012. Henry Ruhlman and son Matt offer more than just beer at the family farm. Throughout the year, guests are welcomed to visit the brewery and play on their 19-hole disc golf course.

In the heart of the City of Westminster sits Johansson’s Dining House, Carroll’s original craft brew brewery. “In fact, I believe we were the sixth in the entire state,” owner David Johansson said. For over 20 years, Johansson’s has offered original beers such as Hoodle Head IPA and Honest Ale. At this time, Johansson’s is under renovation, but the restaurant, bar and brewery will all open back up in the fall. Patrons can look forward to an enlarged bar area, 32 draft beers on tap, including six home-brewed beers, and a wood-fired oven to make artisan pizzas.

Our county government and individual municipal governments have also sought to hop up local brewing recently. Brewery Fire’s co-owner, Jesse Johnson, gushed that in Taneytown, “The Mayor and Council laid out the red carpet for us.” This past March, Carroll’s Board of County Commissioners approved a zoning code amendment that allows breweries in industrial zones. Thanks to this change, 1623 Brewery was able to set up shop in Eldersburg’s Liberty Exchange. Rissmiller of 1623 said, “As a brewer for over 10 years, counties can be horrible to work with, but Carroll has been a dream to work with.”

Besides making beer, all of Carroll’s breweries have an interest in giving back to the community. For Rissmiller, he believes that the business is “family-owned but community-driven.” In addition to working with the Rebels Project, an organization that helps survivors of mass shootings started by a group of Columbine High School survivors, including Rissmiller, 1623 is open to working with any and all charities. “Just reach out to us,” Rissmiller said.

Every year, the Ruhlman Brewing Co. hosts the Humane Society of Carroll County’s annual Woofstock fundraiser and since the very first race in 2011, Johansson’s has been hosting the Westminster Celtic Canter Irish 5K. Not to be outdone, Pipe The Side has organized a 1.2K run to raise money for Hampstead’s Little Free Pantry, scheduled for Oct. 5 at Panther Park. “The thing we try to carry forward is that we really embrace community involvement,” said Pipe The Side’s Tim Eckels.

Beer lovers will have several upcoming opportunities to try these local home brews, with the Maryland Microbrewery Festival at the Union Mills Homestead set for Sept. 28 and Carroll County Beer Week scheduled to run from Sept. 23 through 28. All of Carroll County should raise a glass and say cheers, for the growing brewery industry that will benefit the local economy and community.

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