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Alex Galbreath, is spearheading Falling Branch Brewery, Harford County's first farm brewery, which will open the once-a-week beer garden starting May 7 at the Galbreath family farm Hawks Hill Creamery off Highland Road in Street.
Alex Galbreath, is spearheading Falling Branch Brewery, Harford County's first farm brewery, which will open the once-a-week beer garden starting May 7 at the Galbreath family farm Hawks Hill Creamery off Highland Road in Street. (MATT BUTTON | AEGIS STAFF / Baltimore Sun)

After starting what it says was "Harford County's first farm brewery" last fall, the Galbreath family is getting ready to open its Street farm for another new venture in May, an outdoor beer garden.

The Galbreaths, who have also sold ice cream and cheese through their Hawks Hill Creamery off Highland Road since 2004, are being aided in their newest venture by Harford County legislation, passed by the County Council in December, that added "farm brewery" to the county zoning code.

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"This was my son's idea, and we started growing hops four years ago," Allen Galbreath, who owns the farm with his wife, Deborah, explained Monday. "We hope to have people here on the farm one day a week to try out beer here and have a chance to relax and enjoy our farm."

Their son, Alex Galbreath, is spearheading the effort behind Falling Branch Brewery, as it is now called, which will open the once-a-week beer garden starting May 7.

"We are taking a barnyard outside of our 200-year-old barn [for the beer garden]," Alex Galbreath said. "We are building a pallet bar, a 'kegerator' [a refrigerator for kegs] and we will have seating on the old barnyard, which is basically just a concrete pad behind and below the old barn."

Alex Galbreath is primarily brewing Belgian-style farmhouse ales and plans to have 12 beers on tap for the grand opening.

The beer garden will be open from noon to 8 p.m. on Saturdays, and Hawks Hill Creamery, which is normally only open for special events, will offer grilled cheese sandwiches and milkshakes.

"We are so small and we are limited, so we are stockpiling," Galbreath said of the beers, noting the farm will also have picnic tables for people throughout the property and a petting zoo.

He planted his first hops, one of the principal ingredients in beer and ale, in 2013. Both state and county laws require some ingredients to be grown on a farm in order for the brewing of beer to take place there.

The Harford County law, which piggybacks on the state law, added local conditions for on-farm sale and consumption, such as requiring adequate parking, screening from adjoining properties and limiting operations to the hours of 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Harford County Executive Barry Glassman, who backed a state bill to permit on-farm breweries while he was a senator in the Maryland General Assembly, also put forth the county version of the farm brewery law at the end of last year, his first as county executive.

A recent college graduate who works as an environmental scientist during the day, Alex Galbreath believes the farm brewery can be the next transformation for his family's farm, in line with similar ventures that have popped up across the state and region, with widespread government support.

A family in Freeland, which is in Baltimore County near the Pennsylvania line, worked with that county's government to get a bill passed allowing breweries on certain rural farms, according to The Baltimore Sun.

The Galbreaths got a federal license in October for their brewery and began supplying their brews to local restaurants, Alex Galbreath said.

"We are focusing on selling retail on the farm. That's going to be our main focus," Alex Galbreath said.

He has already sold some beer at farmers' markets and to bars or restaurants, but "I am hoping to transition our family's dairy farm into an ag operation focusing on beer and growing the ingredients, the hops, potentially growing the barley on-site."

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The Galbreaths' farm dates to 1924, when Calvin Galbreath founded Highland Heights Farm. At its peak, it had a herd of more than 300 dairy cows. Dairy farming was once Harford County's largest industry, but the number of local farms that still produce milk has plummeted in the past 50 years.

Alex Galbreath said he would like to eventually grow all the ingredients on the farm, which is not possible for now.

As the first venture in Harford County to sell farm-brewed beer to the public, he hopes to attract people from around the county, and perhaps beyond, to experience a slice of farm life.

"Our main focus is Harford County. That is our target audience, but we also want to bring some people from Baltimore and surrounding areas," Galbreath said.

"I think people are really excited for good craft beer popping up," he said about the rise in microbreweries and specialty ales. Gov. Larry Hogan has declared this month FeBREWary to celebrate craft beer events across the state.

"Agriculture is pretty important to the county. There's no other farm breweries at this point and it's kind of important," Galbreath said. "People have been really excited."

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