Patent Brewing Company will aim to produce “something different, something new, something good” when it opens in Prince George’s County sometime (hopefully) in fall 2019, according to co-founder Matt Humbard. He’s one of four co-founders along with his wife, Krissi, and Lauren and Matt Geist.
DCBeer’s Mike Stein had the early preview of Patent for the Washington City Paper in September, and you should check that out here for some key background. Stein writes, “[Humbard’s] model of opening first without a brewing system is a unique one. He’ll be buying wort from other breweries in the D.C. area and will be fermenting the sugary liquid into beer at Patent. This strategy is more common for cideries and wineries, taking apple juice or grape must and turning it into an alcoholic beverage on-site.”
I had the chance to interview Humbard about his next foray in the beer world. What follows below is lightly edited for length and clarity.
DCBeer: You're jumping back into the brewery game for the second time. What's your vision for Patent Brewing Company? What will set it apart from other area breweries and other breweries in general?
Aside from our unique brewery model, we are building Patent Brewing Company to be a destination brewery offering a diverse portfolio of beers, with a lean toward the saison style. We describe the business internally and the beer produced as “something different, something new, something good.” We will offer "normal" beers, but our goal is to provide a place that embodies the history and science of beer, creating a truly unique quality experience for our customers.
What is the current financial status of Patent? Are you funded? Seeking funders? You said you're looking for a location in PG County. Why Prince George's?
We believe Prince George’s County is an up-and-coming neighborhood in the greater Washington, DC area. We are all Maryland residents, and it is important to us to give back to our local community. Several cities have already approached us wanting Patent to open in their jurisdiction. We are excited to be a part of this growing scene.
You’ve noted "I hope Patent will be a new voice in the growing and incredible mid-Atlantic beer scene," what do you think that beer scene is missing right now that Patent will fill in?
We believe there is still so much room for growth in the craft beer world. Our unique business model (purchasing wort from existing breweries) is just one way we plan to set ourselves apart from other breweries. In addition, we will be designing beers that are just not available in the current market. We've been researching traditional Belgian and German recipes and brewing techniques as well as older fermented beverages to find inspiration in the history of brewing to bring forward new and different beers for people to enjoy. We hope that people will understand Patent as a place where you can simultaneously get a great pilsner as well as a beer you've never conceived of, but without the gimmick of being weird. All of our beers have a purpose and a history. They are an acknowledgment of a tradition or style or a technique.
You have a pretty interesting model here that you're proposing. How do you run a brewery without a brewhouse?
By purchasing wort from existing breweries, we skip a step in the brewing process. As we are getting off the ground, this allows us to grow into our business. It also allows us to focus on recipe development, fermentation, blending, and packaging. This is where we believe the creativity in beer making comes in. Wort creation is manufacturing, and there is no shortage of great brewers using state-of-the-art equipment to make perfect wort. We can rent that expertise, save the money and time of installing a brewhouse in the short term, and still get to make all the beer we want to make.
Patent isn't just about serving the beer in a taproom. You're also going to be providing a valuable service to breweries. Can you tell us more about that?
We plan to leverage our in-house expertise to develop and roll out quality control and yeast management services to existing breweries in addition to our beers. There may be some other plans in the works here, but Patent will be a multi-faceted business that has the ultimate goal of making better beer and making beer better.
There is a record number of small breweries in the area, and the country for that matter. Most of them are doing very little quality control, and few are doing yeast management. Patent plans to offer breweries a fee-for-service relationship where Patent stores and propagates the yeasts for breweries and performs a series of chemical or genetic analyses on beer. We have already set up a small yeast lab to do rare breeding and a small chemistry lab to extract hop terpenes for more efficient hop utilization.
As these efforts and products come online and breweries can start utilizing these unique organisms or products to improve their own processes, we will release more information. Needless to say, this is an added dimension to our business that makes other breweries in the area excited for us to open.
What are some of the lessons you learned from your first foray into owning a brewery that you'll be folding into this experience with Patent?
Running Handsome Beer Company was like going back to graduate school, but instead of majoring in microbiology or cellular biology, I was majoring in selling beer. The learning curve was steep, but our partners at Legends Distributing taught me more about beer than I thought possible. Handsome Beer Company did not fail as a business. I can proudly state that it was making money when the business ended, and, except for the first year, never posted a loss. It was just not the model of business I wanted to be in, and it had run its course.
I've taken all the business planning, execution, and sales experience from Handsome and folded that into this new business, which is so much stronger a model than the strictly contract distribution model. Handsome also provided me with some solid relationships in the regional beer scene, and we've been really blown away with how excited and welcoming everyone is to hear that our head brewer will be making beer again and it will be available soon. Handsome had its fans, and we hope so will Patent.
Anything else you'd like folks to know?
We couldn't be luckier to have this group of people running this business. Lauren Geist, a talented musician and performer who is focused on using her keen eye for design and artistic abilities to design and create a wonderful customer experience at our location; Matthew Geist, a true beer expert who has sampled thousands of beers from all over the world and is focused on ensuring that the quality of our product is world class; Krissi Humbard, who has worked for almost 20 years in the newspaper industry and uses her knowledge of the area and connections with other local businesses and local government officials to make sure Patent has a place in our community; and myself, a microbiologist trained in process quality, biochemistry, and microbiology who will ensure that the design and executions of the beers will be the best we can produce.
We are so excited to share our dream with you. We look forward to seeing you and raising a glass together in 2019.
Good luck to the Patent team as they progress toward opening. Expect more from us on them in the future!