Friday, March 2, 2012

On Local Beer and Regulations, Part I, The Session #61

Background: The Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic. Each month, a different beer blogger hosts the Session, chooses a topic and creates a round-up listing all of the participants, along with a short pithy critique of each entry. 

There's a lot I could say about locally made beer, but I'm going to focus on the how and why of it, as opposed to the freshness factor (especially for hoppier beers, which is why I think a Heavy Seas Loose Cannon IPA is just about the best thing out there), or keeping more money in the community by supporting local businesses. Instead, I'm going to talk about the regulatory climate, which plays an important role in the distribution of local breweries. We in the DMV are blessed with something like laboratory conditions, thanks to three jurisdictions (the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia) and a wealth of breweries under 18 months old. For this exercise I make the perhaps erroneous assumption that beer entrepreneurs are randomly distributed throughout these locales.

DC: DC Brau, Chocolate City Beer, 3 Stars Brewing*
Maryland: Baying Hound Aleworks, Washingtonian Brewing Company**
Virginia: Port City Brewing, Lost Rhino Brewing Company, Cabinet Artisanal Brewhouse***, Adroit Theory Brewing****

That's nine (9) breweries within thirty (30) miles of Washington, DC, all under two years old. My question is why Maryland isn't as represented as DC or VA? My hypothesis is that the regulatory climate in Maryland, especially in Montgomery County, home of Baying Hound, is a structural impediment to new breweries. The next step is to test it. Suggestions welcome, and the DC part of this puzzle has been discussed before.

* No brewing takes place at 3 Stars, but they have collaborated with other local breweries, such as Baltimore's Oliver Ale and Evolution Craft Brewing Company, from Delmar, DE.
** The first batch of beer did not ferment, and I suspect that this brewery has been shelved.
*** Currently not open to the public, but have plans for a tasting room and regional distribution. Currently brewing for The Farmer's Cabinet in Philadelphia, PA.
**** ETA, early 2013.

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