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Frederick’s Monocacy and Brewer’s Alley Launch in DC Next Week, Here Are the Details

Monocacy Brewing Company launches its year-round portfolio in Washington, DC with several special events during the week of August 4, 2014. The upcoming events hosted by ChurchKey, Pizzeria Paradiso Georgetown, Roofer’s Union, and DC Reynolds (check our calendar for details) will showcase a variety of cask-conditioned and draft releases from Monocacy Brewing Company and sister brewpub Brewer’s Alley.

“We’re all excited about expanding our presence in DC,” says Phil Bowers, President. “The feedback we’ve received from the beer drinkers of the District has been awesome and we can’t wait to get them more beer.”

Established in 2012, Monocacy Brewing Company serves as the off-premise brewery for Brewer’s Alley Restaurant and Brewery located in historic Downtown Frederick, Maryland. Brewmaster Tom Flores and his production team have created a portfolio of three year-round releases under the Monocacy Brewing Company label. Kysela Pere et Fils, LLC. will handle the placements for both Monocacy and Brewer's Alley.

Riot Rye Pale Ale, Monocacy Brewing Company’s flagship release, features Maryland grown and malted rye grain and has been available regularly at DC craft beer destination Meridian Pint since early 2013. 

DCBeer had the chance to chat with both Bauckman and Flores via email. Below is a lightly edited transcript of that interview.

DCBeer: What can DC residents expect to see from these breweries? Where and how soon?

Jim Bauckman, Sales and Marketing Director: In the first week of August, residents and visitors to DC can expect to see the year-round and seasonal portfolios from both the Monocacy Brewing Company and Brewer’s Alley brand families popping up on draft lines throughout the District. The year-round styles that we bottle for each brand family (Monocacy Brewing Company: Brewtus Coffee Imperial Stout, HL Rex Session Pale Ale, and Riot Rye Pale Ale/Brewer’s Alley: 1634 Ale, India Pale Ale, and Kölsch-style Ale) will be available at this time as well. Some styles that make up the Brewer’s Alley seasonal portfolio will be available in bottles, too. This includes our September and October releases of Oktoberfest Marzen Lager and Oh My Gourd Pumpkin Ale, respectively.

DCBeer: We've already been seeing Monocacy at venues like Smoke and Barrel and Meridian Pint, does them signing with Kysela just mean that we'll be seeing them at wider venues?

Bauckman: The availability of Monocacy Brewing Company beers at Meridian Pint and Smoke and Barrel blossomed out of a conversation Tom Flores, brewmaster, and I had with Tim Predergast, formerly of Meridian Pint and now with Kysela Pere et Fils, LLC., at the 2012/2013 Holiday Beer event hosted by Bob Tupper and RFD. The passion that Tim has for the art of brewing and serving beer was immediately evident and it was obvious that we had similar views on the state of the growing craft beer industry and the exciting consumer base that we serve. Introducing Riot Rye to the DC market at Meridian Pint and Smoke and Barrel allowed us access to a dense population of great craft beer enthusiasts. The response from these folks was awesome and it has led to a tight-knit and rewarding relationship between Meridian Pint, Smoke and Barrel, and Monocacy Brewing Company.

As the Monocacy Brewing Company and Brewer’s Alley brands become more familiar to beer enthusiasts in the District, we want to make it easy for them to enjoy the liquid that our production team crafts. Working with Kysela Pere et Fils means that our portfolio is part of a well thought out beer program. It also means that, throughout the city, we will have an opportunity to turn more beer drinkers on to great Maryland beer at a variety of great craft beer destinations.

DCBeer: What's the relationship between Monocacy and Brewer's Alley?

Bauckman: Monocacy Brewing Company was born out of necessity. Established in Frederick, Maryland in 1996, Brewer’s Alley Restaurant and Brewery exclusively brewed its beer on-site at our Downtown Frederick brewpub until 2006. To celebrate the tenth anniversary of the company in 2006, Phil Bowers, President of Brewer’s Alley, signed a bottling contract with Frederick Brewing Company, now Flying Dog. In 2011, as demand for the Brewer’s Alley brands grew, a larger brewery property was purchased by Phil Bowers and some key investors. A new brewing system was brought online at this location to begin full-time production of Brewer’s Alley beer in early 2012.

Due to Maryland law, Brewer’s Alley could not hold manufacturing licenses at multiple locations. To account for this, Brewer’s Alley technically entered into a contract brewing relationship with the newly licensed Monocacy Brewing Company. The staff that was producing our Brewer’s Alley brands at the brewpub are the same staff that produce them today, with the addition of two new team members.

In early 2015, we plan to reinstall a brewhouse at the Brewer’s Alley brewpub. The equipment is a 3 BBL custom-built Mueller brewhouse with four 3 BBL cylindroconical stainless steel fermentation vessels. This system will both be utilized to introduce new brands to our brewpub guests and ensure seasonal releases get a slight extension on draft at Brewer’s Alley.

DCBeer: Perhaps the best known beer from Monocacy is Riot Rye, which uses rye grown and malted in-house. What does that process look like and why choose to do it yourselves? How much house-grown rye goes into each batch of Riot Rye?

Tom Flores, Brewmaster: Monocacy Brewing Company is in an ongoing relationship with Amber Fields Malting and Brewing (AFMB), a local craft malting operation which began in the year 2000. AFMB grows barley, wheat and rye in Keymar, Frederick County, Maryland. AFMB utilizes home-built pieces of equipment cobbled together from old dairy and farming equipment, which makes for an interesting, yet effective, malthouse. Currently, the batch size for the malting operation is around 200 pounds, but this is going to be scaled up in the very near future with the completion of a germination and kilning vessel capable of a 2,000 pound batch size. This will help immensely in being able to keep up with demand for the Riot Rye Pale Ale, since over 1,000 pounds of malted rye goes into each batch of beer and one batch of malt takes about a week to produce. Currently, we have to wait over a month to build enough malt inventory to brew the next Riot Rye.

The most significant motivation for incorporating locally grown malt from AFMB is the ability which we have to exert direct control over the character and intensity of flavors formed in the malting process. This is a great empowerment when it comes to creating a unique recipe, with flavors unlike any other interpretation of the Rye Pale Ale style. Not only can we manipulate the process of malting, we can also be in a direct dialogue with the grower of the grains, which allows us to discuss cultivation practices, timing of sowing and harvest, inspection of the crop throughout the growing season and other important factors which most small brewers are unable to influence.

DCBeer: What kinds of special projects are in the works for your brewery?

Bauckman: Our head brewer, Todd Perkins, is currently fostering a barrel-aging program at the brewery. The pin cask of Barrel-Aged Brewer’s Alley Oatmeal Stout we are showcasing on August 4 at ChurchKey is representative of this venture. The liquid is a cask-conditioned version, drawn from a single Jack Daniel’s barrel, which will showcase the unique flavor profile of the specific wood in which it was aged. The goal is to introduce a variety of barrel-aged beers utilizing numerous types of spirits barrels.

We are also working on something we’re referring to as the “Blank Slate” series at Monocacy Brewing Company. The mindset is to approach beer styles, either odd experiments or styles that do not currently get produced in our portfolio, and present them to brewery visitors as a limited release. The blank slate mindset means there is no condition set for the project beer, other than a great tasting liquid. From this, we hope to garner a lot of feedback about what the drinkers in the market are seeking in relation to flavor, style, and experience. We are currently pouring Blank Slate 002 – Saison at Monocacy Brewing Company.

DCBeer: What separates Monocacy and Brewer's Alley in a very crowded DC market?

Bauckman: This is a really interesting question because I hadn’t thought of DC as a truly “crowded market.” I guess this question is relevant to the current state of the American craft beer industry and beer market, as a whole. The number of American breweries is growing at a pace that may quickly be approaching unsustainability. What is going to set the market apart in the eyes of the consumer is an understanding of where the brewery’s commitments are in relation to the products they offer.

The creativity and artistic expression of the brewers in this industry offers the craft beer consumer new and growing expectations. Delivering on those expectations by delivering delicious and well-crafted beer is our number one priority. When the proliferation of breweries plateaus in the coming years, the breweries that will sustain the industry are those that have committed to producing the highest quality beer and fostering loyal and honest relationships at the tap and on the shelves.

Brewer’s Alley developed its brand and earned the loyalty of pub visitors over a span of 18 years. The year-round Brewer’s Alley portfolio is a skillful exploration of European-inspired beer styles that are approachable and satisfying to craft drinkers of every ilk. At Monocacy Brewing Company the portfolio is currently lean in scope and embraces a flavor-driven perspective of American craft beer styles. Using the feedback offered to us by the visitors at our tasting room and the drinkers in the market, we are steadily laying a foundation for ardent and rewarding experiences in the coming years. This loyalty is reflected in the relationship we have with Meridian Pint and Smoke and Barrel. The folks who visit those locations and keep ordering Riot Rye are why we are in this business and we look forward to the opportunity to share our beer with more craft beer fans in the District.

Be sure to check out the launch week events next week!

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