We began our love of good beer at Hopkins, back in the early ‘90s. In human terms, that was a generation ago — we each have kids and stepkids of our own attending and looking to attend college. In beer terms, eons have passed. The nascent microbrewery scene has blossomed locally in Baltimore and far and wide across the country into a varied world of brewpubs, craft breweries and highly specialized nano-breweries. Heck, some of our favorite independent breweries are no longer that, as they have been purchased by other breweries or even some of the multinational breweries. Our 30-year journey has been quite the trip.
Sometime early on during our time at Hopkins we recognized that we shared an appreciation of beer. Not just any beer: good beer. At the time this was a novelty shared by a few of our friends, but somehow others were not quite as invested as we were. From that began a friendship that endures today. At the time there were two independent breweries in town. Baltimore Brewing Company (BBC) focused on German lagers and brewing precise, tasty and refreshing beers to be drunk at its German-style beer hall. Sisson’s was the other, located in Federal Hill, producing English-style ales that were served in its upscale (to college kids, at least) Cajun-themed restaurant. That was it.
We considered ourselves “lucky” to have Sierra Nevada on tap at PJ’s and always looked forward to Wednesday when we could score $1 Bass Ales on special at Long John’s Pub. We felt even luckier when the Wharf Rat (since featured on The Wire) began samples of craft beer from across the country, but mostly California and the Pacific Northwest. Three for $3 until 6 p.m., no limit! We were also thrilled to find what seemed at the time to be the motherlode of beer selection at Wells Liquors on York Road.
Somewhere along the way between Calculus, Material Science, Fluid Dynamics, Economics and Political Theory classes, we managed to carve out time to dabble in homebrewing, where we too could attempt to produce the great beers that we were trying at the local breweries. We had some hits and certainly some misses, but we kept trying.
Our senior year — neither of us can quite recount exactly how — we began to write a weekly column in The News-Letter. The column focused on the local beer scene and beer in general. The intent was to share our love for beer and educate those who were not aware of the various styles of beer, the history of beer and all that was happening related to beer in Baltimore. That same year during a trip to an Orioles game, we serendipitously landed jobs at the Maryland Microbrew stand where we sold beer from all of the local breweries.
After college, Adam started working at Hale’s Ales in Seattle. Andrew found an amazing Brewing and Distilling program at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. After Andrew graduated from Heriot-Watt in 1996, Adam followed suit and completed his degree from Heriot-Watt in 1997.
During our time in Scotland, we each were able to find time to travel throughout Europe to visit some of the most iconic breweries and brewing locations in Scotland, the Netherlands, England, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and the Czech Republic.
Once back in the States, we continued our toil brewing for a couple of different breweries. The ‘90s were a bit of an in-between time for craft brewing. After an initial surge there was a pullback on the craft brewing industry, and many breweries ended up having to close their doors.
We both considered opening up a brewery either together or on our own. As we were mulling next steps, Andrew went on to work briefly for Dogfish Head Brewery. He eventually left and started a successful career in information technology, which he continues today. After a few years in the industry, Adam went into teaching while he watched and helped a few friends open up breweries and start a brewing program at a local community college.
Today, all these years later and through several ups and downs, the craft beer scene has simply exploded. In the ‘90s there were just a couple hundred small craft breweries spread across the country. Today there are literally thousands. At last count there were 8,884 active breweries, the most in U.S. history by a long shot.
While the times have changed and the beer scene has evolved, what hasn’t changed is our love of beer. Almost all of the original establishments that helped forge our interests in beer no longer exist. All but a few have closed, sold or rebranded. Long gone are the BBC, Sisson’s, the Wharf Rat, PJ’s, Long John’s and the Maryland Microbrew stand at Oriole Park. While we can only now think back on the fond memories that we shared at these establishments, there are now so many other breweries and beer-related establishments where new memories can be made.
Two of Adam’s favorites breweries are Kulshan Brewing and Wander Brewing, both in Bellingham, Wash., near where he lives. Kulshan was one of the earliest Washington breweries to jump on the new trends and forgo serving food. Instead the brewery encouraged food trucks (still very new at the time) to come and serve food while it simply poured beer. Kulshan was also early to can its beer. Wander followed suit a couple of years later. Both Wander and Kulshan make excellent Hazy IPAs. Wander also makes an incredible session beer. This is a beer lower in alcohol and yet still somehow full of flavor.
Andrew’s favorite regional brewery is Victory Brewing out of Downingtown, Pa., and in particular his favorite beer of theirs is Prima Pilsner. Interestingly enough, the two brewers who started Victory both started their career at the Baltimore Brewing Company where Andrew originally developed his love for Pilsner back while he was studying at Hopkins. He also enjoys visiting all of the local breweries to sample the flavor of the day and particularly enjoys visiting Union Craft Brewing, Waverly Brewing Company and Nepenthe in Hampden when he makes it back to campus.
Outside of sampling the local beers, Andrew continues to brew at home and has just recently established a side gig brewing for the Phoenix Upper Main in Ellicott City, Md. You may have seen it on Gordon Ramsay’s 24 Hours to Hell and Back. If you happen to be in the area, please come by and say hello!
All in all, it has been a wonderful, beverage-filled ride. We are both thankful for the many great education, work and travel-filled beer experiences we’ve had and the innumerable friends we’ve been able to make over the years in the brewing industry. We often think back and wonder what may have been had we taken a greater risk and a deeper dive into starting up our own brewery, but that is now lost to history. That of course does not prevent us from sampling the products of those that have!
For the prospective undergraduate with an interest in beer and the brewing industry, there is no better time than today to be a participant. Beer brewing is an art that is steeped in science. There is a certain reward that comes from creating a beverage that people love and that brings people together. There is no warmer feeling than to hear a beer aficionado compliment a product you have worked so diligently to create. All that said, brewing is hard, laborious work. A good product does not come for free! You must study hard and truly understand the science behind how a beer is made and why you do certain things to render the perfect beer. Only then will you be able to marry the art with science to create great beers.
Even if you do not choose to brew or own a brewery, the industry, with its umpteen breweries, requires a plethora of supporting industries to make it go. Are you interested in farming? You can grow hops or barley. Are you a mechanical engineer? Design a brewery. Are you a biologist? Work or own a yeast supply company. The list goes on and on. The options are endless, and for those that still dream of owning a brewery of their own, if you can stomach the risk and are willing to put in the work, there is still plenty of opportunity out there.
As a close, we wanted to thank The News-Letter for giving two young, eager college kids the opportunity to contribute brewing content to their annals. We’d also like to thank them for thinking that content was good enough to warrant an invite back to contribute to this magazine.