Peeling up carpet glue; removing ceiling tiles; adding the address to Google Maps. Submitting federal, state and local brewery license applications, and setting plans to replace the Curves gym aesthetic with warm yet industrial designs.
Those are just a few of the projects 2018 Carroll Biz Challenge winners Dave Palmer and Jesse Johnson of Brewery Fire have been working on since their lease at 4337 Old Taneytown Road in Taneytown was signed in early February.
“I am so excited about our progress,” Johnson said. “It is almost unbelievable that after two years of hard work, our dream has almost come true.”
“Dave and I are still working our day jobs,” he said, “and even though we are doing 30-plus hours of work in a week at the brewery, we have never felt this energized.”
But although the duo behind the new business are expecting to open their doors by June 1, they are releasing a collaboration Belgian-style tripel with Westminster’s Pub Dog Brewing Co. later this month to get their brews flowing.
The vanilla-lavender tripel
Two three-gallon kegs of the new brew — made with vanilla, toasted oak and lavender — will go on tap at Pub Dog on Thursday, March 28, as part of Pub Dog’s “Pet Project” small-batch series.
“Jesse and I had been already kind of brainstorming the new styles we wanted to experiment with,” Palmer said, “and the Belgian tripel was a high-priority item for Jesse. He’s been wanting to tinker with a tripel for a while.
“It’s going to be an interesting beer. I think all of us kind of raised an eyebrow when Jesse said lavender, but he's sort of a flavor mad scientist, so hopefully he found another winner.”
Johnson said he didn’t like Belgian beers until The Union Mills Homestead invited him to be a judge at one of its homebrew competitions last year — but he fell in love with them that day, and he’s been dreaming of crafting one ever since.
“Just like everyone else in the world, I have my best ideas right before I fall asleep,” Johnson said, “and one night I had the idea of lavender and vanilla in a tripel.”
It was brewed in late February, and after fermenting until mid-March it should be ready for testing.
“It’s kind of a big moment for us,” Palmer said. “It’s the first time one of our beers is going to be commercially available as a collaboration.
“It’s not 100 percent ours, but it’s cool we are going to be able to go to one of the only breweries in town and get one of our beers on tap.”
George Humbert, brewmaster at Pub Dog, said the company is happy to work with Brewery Fire because as small brewers, “we are all on the same team.”
Pub Dog moved into its space on New Windsor Road in 2006 — in the former location of Clay Pipe Brewing Company — and has been producing beer with its Maryland Class 5 brewery production license since then.
Until now, Humbert said, there have been three breweries, including Pub Dog, in the county representing each of the different ways the business could be operated. The other two are Johansson’s, the brewery and restaurant in Westminster, and Ruhlman Brewing Co., a farm brewery in Hampstead.
“What’s great about the craft-brewing community, especially in Maryland, is that we are all very communal, and very supportive of one another,” he said. “As a relatively new industry, we’re all sort of fighting a big uphill battle to compete in a marketplace which has been dominated by large international conglomerate breweries.”
Palmer said Pub Dog has helped Brewery Fire a lot behind the scenes — whether by collaborating to brew the small batch beer, or teaching him and Johnson how to operate a forklift so they can accept deliveries.
“In one sense, we are competitors in the marketplace,” Humbert said, “but we really don't look at it that way.”
“Craft beer is still right around 10 percent of the total beer market,” he said, “so we are still relatively small players. Anything we can do to help each other and grow and succeed, we all look at it as: A rising tide float all boats.”
Pub Dog will be open for normal hours, 4 to 8 p.m., on March 28, offering the collaboration beer as well as its other brews.
“There’s no special fanfare, it’s just another night at Pub Dog basically,” Palmer said, “for everyone except me and Jesse.
“For us it’s a huge day,” he said, “but for everyone else, it’s just another time to enjoy a pint at Pub Dog.”