If you’ve driven around the local area for any length of time, you know that the fast-moving traffic and in-car distractions can keep you from noticing the vast number of hospitality businesses and small shops along our state and county roads. One hidden facet of this industry, in southern Maryland, is our flourishing craft beer scene. Some places you will blink and miss them; others, you may pass on your way to somewhere else and still not know they’re there.
The brewers of southern Maryland are as diverse as the explosion of geometric coloring on the state flag.
Beer historian, blogger (https://brewedinmaryland.com/) and Baltimore resident Maureen O’Prey has written books on Maryland’s brewing history and sees great promise in southern Maryland’s breweries.
“Southern Maryland is a perfect example of where we could have more,” O’Prey said. “You can look at areas in Frederick, and Washington County and you’ll see that there’s breweries in areas — there’s farm breweries — and people are still traveling to them. It’s not just about the number of people that already live in an area. It’s about making it a destination.”
She went on to explain that Maryland is far behind other states when it comes to access to breweries, based on population.
“We are kind of near the bottom, in the nation, as far as the number of breweries per person and for the beers we drink per capita,” she said, “if you look at the stats from the Brewers Association of America. Everybody’s got their own idea of what they prefer to drink and that’s what allows the opportunity to have so many breweries in the state.”
Grab your pals and other adventurous amigos and you can day trip around our historic counties and enjoy some eclectic brews, friendly taproom hosts and even some tasty eats alongside several dozen cold, fresh-brewed southern Maryland beers.
Patuxent Brewing Co.
Davie Feaster had a dream when he was in high school and he would tell anyone who would listen that he was “going to own my own bar when I grow up.”
He told his friend, Tranice Watts, in welding class that he wanted to open a place that was like the bar in the television show “Cheers.”
Fifteen years later, Feaster became a home brewer, designing and refining brews that his family and friends kept drinking, while leaving their store-bought beers piling up in his house.
“My start came from my house on my kitchen stove,” he said. “I got kicked off the kitchen stove into the garage. Got kicked out of the garage into the building. I noticed that people would bring beer to the cookouts and the beer that they brought would stay at the house and they would drink my beers. And that’s when I knew I was on to something.”
Ten years later with help from Watts, founder and head brewer Feaster opened Patuxent Brewing Co. Feaster is the founder and head b while Watts is now its business manager, but the path to opening the first brewery in Charles County, and the only 100% minority-owned brew house, was not without headaches and setbacks.
“We faced several different obstacles such as trying to explain to the county what we were trying to bring to the county,” Feaster said. “A lot people [when they] think ‘brewery’ they think Budweiser, they think Coors. They think of very large breweries — where we are very small. We’re considered a nano-brewery. Right now, we produce three barrels at a time (31 gallons equals one barrel), but there’s a lot of things I can do that a bigger brewery cannot do — hence, our slogan, ‘We do what the big boys can’t. Because there’s certain hops that are pricey that a big brewery’s not going to touch, where we have the ability to get them in small quantities.”
The brewery and taproom, which is located in Waldorf, features a rotating selection of beers, with 301 Pale Ale being the one constant.
“It’s a great beer that’s in-between a pale ale and an IPA (India Pale Ale), we’re right on that borderline,” he said. “Some of the big boys follow style guidelines; we just want to make good beer,” Feaster said, with a smile.
Gypsy Brewing Co.
A worldwide thirst inspired a well-traveled coastie to settle in Huntingtown and brew up a surfeit of experiences, featuring Old World recipes with small batch attention to detail.
Eric Christensen, a retired member of the U.S. Coast Guard, has protected our sovereignty along countless shore lines, bays and oceans. Each duty station brought new faces and new challenges, but the one constant was his love of home brewing. Eric would explore his home ports for breweries as well as brew clubs.
With nearly 30 years of service, he increased his knowledge, grew his portfolio of recipes and sampled the range of brewing styles everywhere he went. His wife, Heather, has supported and contributed her fine art skills, as well as her love of quality beer, to the home-based business.
The heart of the brew is Eric’s commitment to barrel-aged beer and Maryland grown grains.
“Where we have focused and where our influences are right now, are in the German and Northern European styles,” he said. “Barrel aging is a whole ‘nother game. We do an imperial stout that we put in a tobacco barn distilling rye barrel. We have an annual rye barley wine that we age in a Sagamore rye barrel for a year. We’ve really started to delve into the Norwegian farmhouse yeasts — the kviek. What I’ve got going right now … is our strong Norwegian farmhouse beer called Asgard Funeral,” he explained. “We do a lot with rye. And when we can get Maryland rye that’s especially good because Maryland is rye country.”
These ancient and true brews are lovingly created, aged and bottled, then delivered to the bars, stores and customers, who may order online from the Gypsy website.
“I realized that when you break out one of your beers and you put it on a table there’s something that happens between you and the person you’re giving it to. It’s not necessarily about the beer it’s about the people,” said Greenspring Brewing founder and head brewer Joe Puttlitz, a New York transplant who makes his home in Chesapeake Beach, with wife, Kerry, and his children.
This revelation led Joe, a novice home brewer, to immerse himself in reading all he could about the art and science of brewing. From books to the internet and many late nights, he spent two months learning about his new hobby, courtesy of his in-law’s gift of a beer kit, years earlier.
“I talked to people about what kind of beer they liked. From there it kind of snowballed,” Puttlitz said. “It’s really that human aspect of beer that kind of drove me in founding the brewery. I wanted to use that human touch as a foundation. I still wanted the spirit of the home brewer, and the spirit of the homebrewer is to share their beer, share those experiences. That’s how I developed as a brewer and that’s the inspiration for the [Greenspring] logo. It’s a door. It represents the door to a home.”
Puttlitz became the first brewer in Calvert County to open a brewery on his property, and he credits. Chesapeake Beach for being accommodating his dream of allowing him to brew from home.
“One of the challenges was how to respect the people around me and have a manufacturing business,” he said. “The response from the community has been great. This community, this county is extremely supportive of breweries. I think they’re excited to have the ones that they have.”
Jubilee Farm Fermentations
After a decade working with large and small breweries on both sides of the Atlantic, United Kingdom transplant Daniel Bedford made his home in St. Mary’s County. While assisting in the winery and tending the vineyard, he worked with a lifelong friend to create a new farm brewery and Jubilee Farm Fermentations became a reality in 2020.
“Our goal was to bring fresh and sessionable farmhouse ale to our community,” Bedford said. “We use our own hops and grain grown here at Jubilee, alongside other ingredients, sourced as locally as possible in the Mid-Atlantic region.”
The beer is sold in returnable 32-ounce bottles and is available at select local farmers markets. The intent to divert from landfill and even avoid recycling through the reuse of glass is important at Jubilee Farm.
“The goal was to be more sustainable than the average brewery,” he said. “We’re trying to encourage a little bit of sustainability in our community, and maybe a few return customers, too.”
Bedford said his brewery’s product is unique.
“‘Farmhouse,’ the way that we like to use [the term], is one that is related to a connection with the land and yeast-forward, yeast-driven beers that also incorporate ingredients grown on the property or grown locally, with a production technique that is a little less refined and a little more rustic,” he said. “You end up with a beer that is bolder and more vibrant in character.”
The undisturbed 130-acre farm is located on Blake Creek, which is a tributary of the Potomac River. The brewery rests in a renovated barn between the water and the hopyard and vineyard. There is ample space for potential expansion of the brewery’s amenities. One of the unique boasts for the farm is that they grow their own hops for use in the brewing process. Many breweries use hops grown in the Pacific Northwest, as well as the historical locations in Germany and England. However, Jubilee Farm has ventured into the challenging and the esoteric realm of raising quality hops for their distinctive beers.
“We ordered 100 rhizomes from Colorado…they are now well-established,” Bedford said. “I read about the research the University of Maryland is doing up there in Greenbelt. Cascade (hops) was a variety that did do well here, in our region. The hops and soft, winter wheat grown on the farm bring a certain amount of terroir to the beer, as their own grapes do to their wine.
Bedford and his partner are also working on expanding the availability of their rustic beers in the intended environment for the enjoyment of their farmhouse ales. They will soon be open for “creekside pickup” of bottles from the farm, and have aspirations of a tasting space in the near future.
As the region opens up from the lockdowns, we are eager that Jubilee Farm will offer visitors a tranquil break from the Beltway lifestyle with a taste of the peaceful life in southern Maryland.
Other breweries in the area include Calvert County-based and well-established Mully’s Brewing (www.mullysbrewery.com), Scorpion Brewing (www.scorpionbrewing.com) as well as the Ruddy Duck Brewery (ruddyduckbrewery.com) in Solomons, which features a restaurant and a food truck.
In St. Mary’s County there’s Breton Bay (bretonbaybrewing.com), which will soon open a new location. There’s also Groovy Gallo Brewing, a new nano-brewery, which is working its way through the red tape of regulation and in Prince George’s County there is Calvert Brewing (www.calvertbrewingcompany.com).
Regarding the future growth of Maryland’s breweries, O’Prey said. “Pre-COVID, I saw what I was hoping to see. There is a palate for every beer and there is a brewery for every palate.”
Whether you travel across town or across state lines, take a little of southern Maryland with you by supporting our many craft breweries.
Written by Diane Reid, Patuxent Brewing Co. content manager, videographer and editor.