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What's On Tap? Brewing Up Business in Baltimore.

Stephen Demczuk, Baltimore-Washington Beer Works
Stephen Demczuk, Baltimore-Washington Beer Works
It’s an alluring art. A tasty task.
Jon Zerivitz has been sipping craft beer since his college days at the University of Massachusetts. But now the Timonium resident is turning his passion into a business after quitting his day job as a graphic designer.
He will open Union Craft Brewing in Woodberry this spring, now that he has received nearly $800,000 in funding. The 7,000-square-foot space he has leased on Union Avenue will produce an American pale ale, a German-style beer and seasonal brews.
Zerivitz is one of several Baltimore brewers seizing an opportunity to expand as sales take off.
Several new breweries and beer-themed restaurants are in the works for Greater Baltimore.
The 200-seat Heavy Seas Ale House will open next month in Little Italy, licensing the name of Baltimore's Heavy Seas Brewing. Stephen Demczuk is opening Charm City Brewery in Waverly in May. In Harford County, DuClaw Brewing Co. is expanding. Meanwhile, an Eastern Shore entrepreneur is bringing an old Baltimore favorite, National Premium, back to the market.
Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors maintain their control of radio and television airwaves. But in the blink of an eye, homegrown brewing businesses have taken over taps at your local watering hole.
Sure, wine has gotten some good PR in the past decade thanks to the Mediterranean diet fad and the movie “Sideways.”
But beer still reigns supreme, says David Henkes, vice president at Chicago food consulting firm Technomic Inc.
“At the end of the day, we’re still a beer-drinking country.”
Henkes says that nationally, beer-centric restaurants were the fastest-growing segment last year. Revenue grew 95 percent last year at Celtic-themed sports bar Tilted Kilt. Its White Marsh location offers 24 beers on tap, including Heavy Seas’ brews. Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant, which operates two Maryland locations, saw a 22 percent increase in sales last year.
The big, winking Natty Boh sign in Brewers Hill is a reminder that Baltimore, of course, has a rich history when it comes to producing beer.
And Tim Miller, an Eastern Shore real estate agent and entrepreneur, is capitalizing on that history as he plots the reintroduction of a famous Baltimore beer.
He purchased the trademark for former Baltimore brewer National Brewing Co.’s National Premium at a 2010 auction. Miller will start brewing at Fordham Brewing Co. in Dover, Del., though he says he hopes to produce the brand in Baltimore some day. He says he could produce 100,000 cases in a couple of years.
“National Premium was really one of the first craft beers,” Miller says. “Brewed in small quanities, it was high-end.”
Sales of craft brews – or beer produced in smaller batches were up 15 percent nationally during the first half of 2011 – according to the Brewers Association in Boulder, Colo.
“It sort of playing upon this national trend of people looking for more local, more high-quality, artisanal products where they know where they come from,” Union Craft’s Zerivitz says of craft beers.

“It’s an affordable luxury in a time of recession. Spend a few extra bucks and get a really interesting, fun product rather than a product you may be accustomed to buying.”
Even swanky Baltimore restaurants like Wit & Wisdom carry local craft brews.

“It’s an option that’s just as welcome in the high-end scene as a wine list,” says Justin Dvorkin, owner of the Pratt Street Ale House in Fells Point. He says his Oliver Breweries has been up 15 percent in revenue year-over-year since 2008.
Demczuk's Raven Beer, the flagship beer of Baltimore-Washington Beer Works, has been growing by more than 30 percent in revenue for the last four years. Inside the new 50,000-square-foot place in Waverly, Demczuk hopes to produce 5,000 barrels a year and put six-packs on shelves in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia. He is developing a new line of Edgar Allen Poe-themed beers, including the Cask of Amontillado and Tell Tale Hearty Ale for Charm City Brewery.  
“I could have doubled sales last year if I had the space,” Demczuk says. “There’s just more demand for it.”
Local brewpubs like the Brewer’s Art have thrived because they match food with their own unique homebrewed beer, Brewers Association Director Paul Gaza says.
DuClaw Brewing Co. has been largely successful using the Brewer’s Art model. Though it closed its Fells Point location in 2009, the 15-year-old suds maker and restaurant chain still operates three locations. It has outgrown 10,000 square feet of brewery space in Abingdon and has just signed a contract to start brewing in a vacant 165,000-square-foot building in Havre de Grace, Sales Manager Brad Klipner says.
“It’s pretty amazing,” Klipner says. “They say beer’s recession-proof. People drink when they’re happy, drink when they’re sad. We’re having trouble keeping up with the demand.”
Alex Jackson is a former technology and higher education reporter for the Baltimore Business Journal

Photos by Arianne Teeple

- Stephen Demczuk, Baltimore-Washington Beer Works
- The Raven Lager
- The new home of Baltimore-Washington Beer Works
- Stephen Demczuk, Baltimore-Washington Beer Works
- The Raven Lager. Photo courtesy of Stephen Demczuk
- The Raven Lager Tap. Courtesy photo by Joseph Nash

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