Holiday gift of a home beer-brewing kit leads to new career


It would be safe to say that Hayes C. Larkins has thrown himself into the beer brewing business.

His wife gave him a home brewing kit for Christmas 1994. Last March, he opened the Home Brew Shop in the Pennsylvania Dutch Farmers' Market in Westminster. And yesterday he became part owner of the old Mount Airy firehouse, soon to be converted into a microbrewery and restaurant.

Mr. Larkins, 66, of Hampstead, his wife, Dora, and Julie and A. Reid Allison III, of Seattle, settled yesterday on the purchase of the Main Street building.

By Oct. 1, in time for Mount Airy's Fall Festival, the partners hope to be selling their custom brews at Mount Airy Brewing Co. and Firehouse Pub and Grill. "It's sort of overwhelming in a sense," Mr. Larkins said of his new business venture. "We've got the mortgage payments and we've set a deadline for ourselves [for the opening]."

The Larkinses and the Allisons paid $390,000 for the old firehouse at 233 Main St., and plan to put about $250,000 worth of renovations into the project, Mr. Larkins said. "We think it's a place people will come to," he said.

Several small breweries have begun operations in Maryland in the past five years, seeking to capitalize on the growing popularity of such nationally prominent microbrewery beers as Samuel Adams and Anchor Steam.

Local microbreweries include Oxford Brewing Co. in Linthicum, Wild Goose Brewery in Cambridge and Frederick Brewing Co.

Planning for Mount Airy Brewing Co. began a year ago, when Mr. Allison, a Seattle lawyer and former Mount Airy resident, signed a sales contract to buy the old firehouse, which has been vacant for the past 2 1/2 years.

Mr. Allison has spent the past year obtaining zoning and liquor license approvals for the microbrewery and securing financing for the project. He learned of Mr. Larkins' interest in custom brewing and contacted him about investing in the project.

Mr. Larkins said he and his wife invested an amount "in the low six figures" in the microbrewery.

The partners are still seeking other investors, he said.

A former criminal justice professor at Baltimore Community College, Mr. Larkins has developed an interest in custom brewing since receiving a home brewing kit as a Christmas present.

And through his travels over the years, Mr. Larkins said he's become a discriminating beer drinker.

"I've drank beer literally all over the world," he said.

At Mount Airy Brewing Co., Mr. Larkins said he would like to offer three signature beers and a seasonal beer on tap regularly.

He's planning to have a pale ale, a red ale and a dark cherry stout.

"It sounds sort of strange, but it tastes good," Mr. Larkins said of the cherry stout. "I've had a number of people compliment me on it."

Under state regulations, microbreweries are permitted to produce 10,000 barrels of beer annually and can sell the beer off-site.

The Firehouse Pub and Grill will be on the second floor of the firehouse building, and the brewing operation will be housed on the first floor, along with a home brew supply shop and a tasting room.

Mr. Larkins will give a tour of the future microbrewery to potential investors and visitors at 3 p.m. Sunday. To sign up for the tour, call 876-8100 or 239-8807.

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