Delaware brewery is tapped to keep DeGroen's flowing

February 25, 2005|By Rob Kasper | Rob Kasper,SUN STAFF

Their beer will be born again.

That is what Baltimore Brewing Company stalwarts, who had been savoring what they thought were the final kegs of their favorite local craft brew, learned yesterday.

Theo DeGroen, owner of the troubled Baltimore Brewing Co., said he had struck a deal with Fordham Brewing Co. to brew his Pils, Marzen and Weizen beers. DeGroen, who after a series of production and transportation problems that threatened the brewery's future, said his beers will be brewed at Fordham's Southern Beverage Inc. facility in Dover, Del., and should be available in bottles and kegs locally by the end of next month.

"That is very nice," said Elda Mae "Chip" Gold, a medical office administrator from Brooklyn Park, upon learning that her favorite beer in DeGroen's lineup, Marzen, would be kept flowing.

Bill Muehlhauser, president of Fordham, described the partnership with DeGroen as a "natural fit." Neither brewer, he said, "puts a lot of crazy stuff in beer" and can share many of the same malts and hops. Muehlhauser described his line of beers such as Fordham Copperhead Ale and Fordham Lager as "mainstream" while he said DeGroen makes traditional German beers.

DeGroen, speaking by telephone from his home in Germany, where he had completed a five-year stint with a brewery, said he would continue to commute to the United States as he has in recent years. He said he would be in Delaware in March to oversee the initial batch of DeGroen's. "I have built a reputation for making a good beer, and I want to keep the brands alive," he said.

Since DeGroen opened the Baltimore Brewing Company on Albemarle Street in 1989, its bar and restaurant had attracted a loyal following - including 200 members of a Mug Club who kept their steins behind the bar. Last summer, the brewery had production problems and was unable to supply its beer to stores and taverns. This, coupled with traffic congestion and street closings because of nearby construction, led DeGroen to stop brewing. Last month he announced that once the remaining kegs were drained, the facility would close. This started a keg countdown, which is expected to conclude tonight.

Yesterday, DeGroen said that the brewing side of the Albemarle Street facility would remain dark. But it was possible that the restaurant and bar, scheduled to close when the last keg is drained, could reopen in the summer if he found a partner. "I don't want to be in the restaurant business by myself," he said.

News that their favorite beverage would flow again cheered some area beer enthusiasts.

"This is like sweet music to my ears," Mug Club member Bob Robel said. But Robel was worried that DeGroen's commute from Germany could lead to a repetition of the brewery's production problems of last summer, when he said the beer's flavor and aroma were off.

"DeGroen's is the best when Theo makes it. But there are also a lot of people who were turned off by the "stink" beer, and they'll be very skeptical," Robel said.

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