Two Entrepreneurs Race To Operate Baltimore County's First Farm Brewery
Two neighboring farm owners are planning to construct brewing equipment and tasting rooms on their northern Baltimore County properties in the coming months. The first one to cross the finish line will become the county’s first farm brewery.
Les White hopes to have Heart and Solar Brewing’s 10K SF production facility and tasting room under construction by July, and the venture up and running by the end of the year. His $1M investment in the business will include installing solar panels and other environmentally friendly features.
The goal is to produce 200 barrels of German-style lagers and English-inspired ales in the first year, adding 75 to 100 barrels each year thereafter on the 12-acre Parkton farm White purchased last year.
Carey “Che” Carton said he expects to make a similar investment over the long haul to operate Black Locust brewery on his nearby 24-acre farm in Freeland — so close to Heart and Solar that he can see White’s property from his fields. He already grows hops on the farm, which he sells to Frederick’s Flying Dog Brewery and others throughout the state.
He said he anticipates brewing 300 to 500 barrels of IPAs and brown ales in his first year, but would need to grow to a couple of thousand barrels to become profitable.
“It’s a natural addition to our business,” Carton said. Farming has its ebbs and flows depending on the weather. “It’s hard to budget and plan with that, whereas the brewery will allow us to have a more steady income.”
The brewers are hatching their plans even as a bill in the Maryland General Assembly threatens to shorten breweries' hours and prevent them from selling beer that is not brewed on-site. The bill would not affect farm breweries, which require a different liquor license class. Still, both White and Carton said they hoped the bill will be defeated.
“It’s not a good thing for the industry,” Carton said.
The bill is a setback to the state's burgeoning craft brewing industry, which has benefited from years of relaxed rules. Easing regulations has given birth to a number of farm breweries throughout the state, including Red Sherman Farm Brewery in Frederick and Manor Hill Brewing in Ellicott City.
To operate as a farm brewery, the business must grow at least one ingredient on-site. To that end, Heart and Solar will plant hops this spring and eventually have some berry bushes and other fruit trees, White said. Black Locust Hops Farm will remain a working farm, Carton said.
“We intend to be a hops farm with a brewery rather than a brewery with a couple of hops," Carton said.