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

Harford work group debates ‘most restrictive’ farm brewery regulations in Maryland

In this October file photo, a bartender carries beers to customers relaxing outdoors at Hopkins Farm Brewery, which opened in July 2020 in Harford County. A workgroup re-examining legislation that allows farm breweries in Harford is considering restrictions for future farm brewery operations that would be among the most restrictive in Maryland.
In this October file photo, a bartender carries beers to customers relaxing outdoors at Hopkins Farm Brewery, which opened in July 2020 in Harford County. A workgroup re-examining legislation that allows farm breweries in Harford is considering restrictions for future farm brewery operations that would be among the most restrictive in Maryland. (Amy Davis / Baltimore Sun)

A work group designed to re-examine legislation allowing farm breweries in Harford County debated tight regulations on the enterprises Wednesday, which the head of the Brewers Association of Maryland said would be “the most restrictive standards in the state.”

The group floated the idea of requiring a minimum of 30 acres to establish a farm brewery and for the owner to live on the property. The group also discussed requiring the farm to be owned and operated for three years before the owner can establish a brewery on the land.

Advertisement

No decisions were made by the work group, and any changes will ultimately come from the Harford County Council, which has the authority to modify the existing legislation.

Speaking before the work group, Kevin Atticks, the executive director of the Brewers Association of Maryland, said that only two jurisdictions in Maryland require 25 acres of land to establish a farm brewery, and most require only 10 to 20 acres at minimum. Codifying a minimum of 30 acres for a farm brewery would make Harford the strictest in the state.

Advertisement
Advertisement

But what was most concerning to Atticks was the idea that the farms had to be owned and worked for three years before a brewery could be built. He said he knows several people who are looking to build farm breweries in the state that would be precluded under those rules.

“That basically shuts out any potential for a new farmer,” he said.

Atticks said that large-scale farms are becoming fewer and fewer in the face of development pressure. Jurisdictions in western Maryland have “opened their arms” to farm breweries as a way to keep agriculture viable.

“Harford County may be different,” Atticks said of the notional rules. “But I think it is important to keep in perspective what you have on the table is by far the most restrictive in the state.”

Advertisement

County Councilman Tony Giangiordano also disagreed with the proposed three-year ownership requirement.

On June 8, the county council passed a 120-day moratorium on approval of new farm breweries while the study group examines the current legislation.

The work group was empaneled by County Councilman Robert Wagner to re-examine the 2015 legislation that allows farm breweries in the county. In Wagner’s view, many farm breweries have strayed from the original intent of the legislation — giving farms a supplemental source of income — and eclipsed farms’ regular operations as their biggest money-maker.

The nine-member work group has been meeting since June 23 to consider changes to the legislation. It is composed of representatives of the county council, Harford County Sheriff’s Office, the county’s planning and zoning department, the farming industry and the farm brewery industry.

Wagner, who introduced the moratorium, said he wanted to complete the review quickly to avoid holding up new farm breweries as much as possible. He said he’ll provide a report back to the county council at its Tuesday meeting.

Three farm breweries — Falling Branch Brewery in Street, Slate Farm Brewery in Whiteford and Hopkins Farm Brewery in Level — have been approved since 2016 and are operating in the county. Existing farm breweries would be grandfathered into whatever changes the council makes, Wagner previously said.

AleCraft Brewery in Bel Air had planned to open a farm brewery on Waverly Drive, off Route 1 near Hickory. Brad Streett, the vice president of AleCraft, said the moratorium was introduced the day before the project’s zoning hearing in May. AleCraft withdrew its application the same day the moratorium was introduced, according to a county spokesperson.

Another planned brewery, Duncale Farms on Whitaker Mill Road, was exempted from the moratorium because it had received an agricultural grant from the county in 2019 for the establishment of a farm brewery.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement