Maryland Brewers Focus on Education and Promotion

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Brewers Association of Maryland (BAM) held its largest-ever membership meeting in June, with over 65 members and start-ups in attendance. Hosted at Key Brewing, located on the outskirts of Baltimore, I was honored to join the meeting and participate in the lineup of special guests invited to speak to the brewing community.

BAM President Ben Savage, chief marketing officer of Flying Dog Brewery, currently leads the association, with the support of Executive Director Kevin Atticks, through the services of the firm Grow & Fortify (a Baltimore-based advocacy group for food production and agriculture businesses).

With over 60 breweries in the state, Maryland ranks 34th per capita for brewery count. The Maryland beer market still clearly has plenty of room to grow! Membership is now at an all-time high, and brewery member support for the association ranks as one of the highest percentages in the nation.

BAM has held several successful fundraisers, promoting craft beer and educating enthusiasts state wide. The Maryland Craft Beer Fest, held in Frederick in the spring, is one of two major fundraiser festivals each year. A Maryland breweries-only event, 45 breweries (including three breweries not yet open to the public) poured over 200 unique, local craft beers.

A partnership fundraiser with a local community just outside of Washington D.C., Hyattsville Arts & Ales, is scheduled for September 10. Following that, BAM’s second major fundraiser, the Baltimore Craft Beer Fest is set for Saturday, October 22 in downtown Baltimore’s Canton Waterfront Park. Tickets for this fest are on sale now!

A unique feature, growler sales for off-premise consumption, will now be allowed at BAM festivals. They’ll have a refrigerated truck on site for a “beer check station” where attendees can drop off their growlers for storage through the event, to retrieve and enjoy after.

The second month of the year, affectionately known as “FeBREWary,” is a promotional campaign for Maryland craft beer, and orchestrated in partnership with the Maryland Office of Tourism. Governor Larry Hogan signed a proclamation declaring the month of February as “FeBREWary” in celebration of Maryland Craft Beer Lovers Month. Breweries across Maryland have joined together to host special love-themed events, launch new beers and offer unique culinary pairings.

On the education side, BAM’s agricultural resources committee hosted a field day to educate members on growing hops with a visit to two local hop yards. Maryland is one of the few states that offers farm brewery license, which requires the manufacturing brewery to use local Maryland-grown ingredients. New York and Virginia also delineate a license specifically for farm breweries.

Looking forward to the 2017 legislative session, BAM is developing a major overhaul of the state’s brewery laws, with the goal of simplifying licensing and allowing greater flexibility in production, contract brewing and sales. The association is also initiating a project to develop a database outlining the various regulations in each county. This is common in most states and always causes consternation.

On the heels of another great member meeting, BAM’s momentum moving forward is unstoppable. Maryland breweries truly have a fortress of a state association advocating for their interests and advancing the state’s craft beer scene. It will be exciting to watch the progress in the months and years to come.