Peabody Heights Brewery
Published: October 16, 2013
At a time when every other brewery in the city is focused on meeting an insatiable cry for more beer, the various parties in Baltimore at Peabody Heights Brewery—Public Works Ale, RavenBeer, and Full Tilt Brewing—are concentrating on establishing themselves firmly in the marketplace.
Patrick Beille, the Frenchman who started Public Works Ale and who manages some of Peabody’s operations, says of the brewery: “We feel good as we are now, and we want a little more stability for a few months or a few years before growing. We don’t have these dreams of expansion. We just want to have the ability to grow our beer.”
That’s not to say they’re not in demand. During an interview in his office at the Charles Village brewery, RavenBeer owner Stephen Demczuk is interrupted by his brewmaster, Ernie Igot, who wants to change the schedule to fit in a batch for an Eastern Shore brewery contracting with Peabody. “I have no kegs of anything,” Demczuk worries. “Everything’s sold.”
Full Tilt, also contracting with Peabody, has experienced the same. Co-owner Nick Fertig says he and his partner Dan Baumiller “just blew through” three-year hop contracts they had placed for their Baltimore Pale Ale, the debut beer from their fledgling brand, which launched in late December 2012.
Fertig and Baumiller can’t sacrifice the steady paychecks they bring in from their day jobs, but their homebrewing has outgrown hobby status. So they translate tried-and-true homebrews to large-scale recipes. They’re starting slowly, conscious as they are of the challenges of the market. “Even if we could, I don’t know that at this point we’d want to risk everything with the possibility that we could fail. As of right now, we’re happy with where we are,” Fertig says. Thus far they’ve released a year-round, Baltimore Pale Ale, and two seasonals, Fleet Street Raspberry Wheat and Patterson Pumpkin, with a third, Berger Cookie Chocolate Stout, on its way. They’d like to develop a “solid catalog of beers” before investing in a brewery of their own.
Demczuk can identify with contractors like Fertig and Baumiller: His lager, The Raven, had been contract-brewed by Heavy Seas since 1998 until 2012, when he and Beille and business manager J. Hollis Albert opened Peabody Heights. Since opening the space, he has added Tell Tale Heart IPA, Pendulum Pilsner, and The Cask to RavenBeer’s lineup.
“I think the Edgar Allan Poe thing is perfect,” Demczuk says of his marketing strategy. “I just need to get out feet on the pavement to knock on doors. You’d be surprised at how many people still don’t know about our beer.” He sees tremendous room for growth just in the Baltimore area. “I would honestly believe that 70 percent of the people who are of drinking age and maybe drink beer have never heard of Raven in Baltimore.”
Patrick Beille, meanwhile, approaches the market somewhat differently. He says his marketing strategy is “an absence of strategy.” His background as a farmer and a restaurant owner in France has imbued him with an attitude that makes him want to work on the bottling line as well as help secure investors in Peabody (he does both).
He is in no rush to add experimental beers to Public Works Ale’s catalog, saying the three in production currently are “plenty for the next few months.” But he’s excited for the future. While he knows and acknowledges that people have been brewing in Baltimore long before him, he feels there is a “new craft movement.” “And I think I will be proud to say later, ‘I was part of that.’”
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