Work on brew pub to begin in November

May 05, 1994|By Consella A. Lee | Consella A. Lee,Sun Staff Writer

That hammering and sawing in the building next to the Ram's Head Tavern in Annapolis isn't the beginnings of the brew pub that tavern owners have been talking about for several months, just an expansion.

Work on the brew pub, where customers can take home the tavern's own brew in glass jars called growlers, won't start until November, said general manager Wayne Fertitta Jr. But it should be finished by January, soon enough to make the Ram's Head Annapolis' first brew pub, he said. A microbrewery may come a little later.

The microbrew industry is "the fastest growing segment" of the beer market, said Mike Spaur, editor of the Maryland Beverage Journal in Hanover.

There were 76 licensed breweries in the United States in 1973. In 1993, there were 391, according to the Journal.

"These things have existed in Europe for centuries," said Hugh Sisson, whose family-owned Sisson's pub in Baltimore became the first brew pub in Maryland five years ago. "It's actually bringing back a very old tradition."

Sisson's has become a microbrewery, selling its goods on the retail market.

Mr. Fertitta said that once his tavern's brew pub is established, it may move to operating a microbrewery as well. Starting with a brew pub, he said, is a good way to build name recognition before hitting the retail market.

Mr. Fertitta said the tavern's brew pub initially will offer about five English-style beers on tap.

"We certainly want to be one of the finest brew pubs on the East Coast," said Mr. Fertitta. "And that's going to take a lot of work."

There are dozens of such establishments on the West Coast, he said, "but this area is still fresh."

Last month, the General Assembly adopted a measure that allows microbreweries in Anne Arundel County to sell their beer to customers in glass jars for home consumption, helping the Ram's Head move into the microbrewery business.

Those familiar with the industry said microbreweries account for about 5 percent of the U.S. beer market. In part, the industry's growth is attributed to changes in drinking habits and a desire by customers for the freshest brew available.

"Ten years ago there were maybe eight or 10 of these in the country," said Mr. Sisson. "It's emerging in an enormous way now."

Brew pubs that also operate microbreweries include Sisson's in Baltimore City, the Baltimore Brewing Co. and the Wharf Rat. Microbreweries also are expected in other Baltimore-area counties and on the Eastern Shore.

"I think this microbrewery trend is here to stay," said Mr. Sisson. "I don't think it's a passing fancy. People take a great deal of local pride in these products."

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