For beer lovers on the east side of Baltimore County, finding a pint brewed close to home just got a lot easier.
Long-time Harford County brewery DuClaw Brewing is in the process of moving their brewing and bottling plant from Abingdon to Rosedale, a process they hope will be complete by mid-March, according to owner Dave Benfield.
The move will double the brewery's capacity, moving from a 10,000 square foot facility to a 60,000 square foot facility and allowing them to produce 14,000 barrels of beer in a year, up from 7,000, according to Benfield.
And that's something his company sorely needs. Rapid growth has left them sometimes unable to keep up with the demand for their product.
Wednesday afternoon, Benfield said that four of DuClaw's beers—Hellrazer India Pale Ale, Sweet Baby Jesus Peanut Butter Porter, Serum Double India Pale Ale and Mysterium Beglian Spiced Ale, were completely out.
A brand new, custom-engineered brewing system is at the center of the move. Shipped in from Germany, the system will allow one brewer to create multiple 60-barrel batches of beer at a time.
For those not in the know, a standard keg—the kind you might have seen at a party—is a half-barrel of beer.
"The system is fully automated—it allows one brewer to run three batches of beer," Benfield said.
Benfield hopes the automation will improve both the brewery's efficiency—allowing them to produce twice the amount of beer from only 20 pecent more grain—and the consistency of the product by removing the opportunity for human error in processes like adding hops or yeast to the brews.
"It's safe to say it's one of the most state of the art systems in Maryland, possibly in the mid-Atlantic region," said DuClaw Sales Manager (and Beer in Baltimore blogger) Brad Klipner.
The new brewing system and a new bottling line are just the beginning for the growing company.
"A lot of stuff comes later—we put a lot of money into the brewhouse and the bottling line," Benfield said.
That stuff could include brewery tours, a tasting room, and possible the on-site sale of growlers—a type of carry-out container for draft beer—pending legislation currently in Annapolis, Benfield said.
It also might include a move for one of DuClaw's flagship events—the Real Ale Festival, which the company has held at the Bel Air brewpub for a few years running.
"It's really a great business to have in the area," he said. "We're manufacturing, but we're clean manufacturing—there are no bad byproducts, and we bring visitors to the area."
Although things are looking bright, the decision to leave Harford County—where Benfield lives, grew up and started DuClaw in 1996—wasn't an easy one.
"I'm in Harford County, I grew up in Harford–leaving was a tough thing," Benfield said.
And it wasn't for a lack of trying to stay. When the brewery outgrew their Abingdon location, they first looked to move to a facility in Havre de Grace but Benfield said the deal didn't work out and from that point things moved quickly.
"Baltimore County Economic Development and Governement were great to work with," Benfield said. The decision to move into the space at 8901 Yellow Brick Road was made in only about a month.
The move will make DuClaw Brewing the second manufacturing brewery in Baltimore County, joining Heavy Seas on the westside in the Lansdowne/Arbutus area.
Dan Gundersen, the executive director of Baltimore County's Department of Economic Development said that a small to medium size manufacturer like DuClaw is exactly the sort of business the county is hoping to draw in.
"A company that has a unique product, is growing fast, has a dynamic team, can hire as they grow in a community on the east side where it can accommodate their growth, that’s exactly what we’re looking for," Gundersen said.
He explained that Baltimore County is home to more manufacturers than any other county in Maryland.
"The public has a difficult time understanding, we’re talking about a different kind of manufacturing ... we're not talking about an old-style smokestack operation—we're talking about highly sophisticated, highly automated operations that pay high wages," he said.
"That's the kind of thing that we need to encourage and support, those are going to provide the biggest economic gain for the regional economy."
DuClaw owner Dave Benfield said that over the next year or so, his company will probably add between 25 and 30 new positions.
Moving an operation of DuClaw's size presents some challenges of its own: while Benfield said his brewers plan to start creating new batches of beer by the middle of March, it could be as late as April before beer is bottled at the plant.
It will take two to three weeks to transfer the company's bottling and packaging line from the old Abingdon brewery.
DuClaw's move to Baltimore County is just one of the major developments in the burgeoning craft beer scene around the Baltimore metro area. Recently a new brewery opened in Baltimore's Abell neighborhood, back in August Union Craft Brewing began producing draft beer in Woodberry, and an Essex native launched his own Eastern shore brewery.
If you're new to the craft beer scene, Benfield and Klipner each have a suggestion for your first brew; a DuClaw beer, naturally. Benfield recommended Euphoria, a nut brown ale with note of toffee and almond and Sweet Baby Jesus, a peanut butter porter; Klipner said Misfit Red and Hellrazer IPA are both fan favorites.
"It's all about your own tastes," Benfield said.