The Brewer’s Art
Published: October 16, 2013
When Oliver Breweries shifts to its new production facility, The Brewer’s Art will be the lone independently owned brewpub in the city. (Gordon Biersch, in Harbor East, is part of a national chain; Dempsey’s in Camden Yards is partially owned by a larger company.) The two-storied Mount Vernon beer haven has been popular since it opened in 1996, and when talking with owner Volker Stewart, that success seems almost effortless: no gimmicks, no marketing strategy, just solid products.
“I guess Baltimore embraced us, and I appreciate that,” Stewart says. His breezy demeanor, even while running around the brewpub before opening, could be considered a reflection (or a cause, perhaps) of that effortlessness.
If Brewer’s Art made an attempt at a marketing angle, it was by virtue of brewing Belgian beers. “The birth of the craziness of the beers we like to do had its roots in the Belgian beer scene.” With DeGroen’s, Sisson’s, and the Wharf Rat putting out German, American, and English styles, respectively, Stewart and his partners “thought, Nobody’s really doing the Belgian thing.”
And that idea, in turn, gave rise to one of the city’s most celebrated beers. “Within a year, the Resurrection was going crazy,” Stewart says.
He often hears people say, “Hey, I don’t really like beer, but I really like this,” and he attributes the beer’s popularity to the fact that it uses “a lot more malt and [is] really yeasty, spice-driven rather than hop-driven.” “I think some of us don’t like hops very much,” Stewart says, lowering his voice and speaking in an almost conspiratorial tone.
Though he says Brewer’s Art makes pretty much whatever beers they want to—not pandering to perceived trends in the beer world—they do what they can to keep up with the demand for Resurrection. The ubiquitous cans of the abbey brown ale, along with Ozzy, are brewed and packaged in southeastern Pennsylvania by Sly Fox Beer.
“They actually built a bigger brewery so they could accommodate our needs as well as their own, which is a great arrangement,” he says. Steve Frazier, the brewmaster at The Brewer’s Art, goes there often and collaborated with Sly Fox to dial in the brewpub’s recipe on a larger system. (All the Baltimore draft Resurrection continues to be brewed in Mount Vernon.)
Stewart says there are no plans to venture into markets too much beyond the ones they’re in now (southeastern and central Pennsylvania, and D.C.). “I don’t think we have any intention of going beyond the mid-Atlantic, even if we went to some giant Pabst contracting thing,” he says. “That’s not appealing to us. Even New Jersey feels a world away to us.”
While Stewart and his two principal partners, Frazier and Tom Creegan, have no intention of opening up a production facility of their own, it’s not to do with the new crop of breweries in the city.
“I think I can safely say that everybody brewing in the city right now is of high-quality product and is also financed appropriately,” he says. “If people are doing it right, there’s a lot of room for growth.”
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