13 August 2012

Ruhlman Brewery Opening

"But we're not a farm brewery."

So says brewery owner Henry Ruhlman.  A look about, and the confusion will be quite palpable.
Not a farm brewery, even though it's off the main roads, nestled on a family farm in Carroll County, and they grow their own hops and try to buy locally grown and malted barley?

"We have a Class 5 Brewery license," says Ruhlman Brewery co-owner Henry Ruhlman, the spokesman and tour guide for the family operation.  "Remember, the 'farm brewery' category doesn't become effective until October 1st [in Maryland]."

Like many other farm operations in areas inconveniently close to big-city suburbia, the Ruhlman farm has had to adapt to survive.  The income from corn, berries, or wheat don't keep pace with soaring property values, and on the scenic drive to the Ruhlman farm northwest of Hampstead, atop one of the highest points in the area, one is apt to pass "McMansions"and farms "repurposed" as party/picnic farms for weekend events.

As the Ruhlmans themselves recount the tale:
Norman Ruhlman established the farm in 1970, dividing his time between raising beef cattle, growing fresh food and vegetables for the family table and working construction – and providing for a family of eight. The farmhouse was built in 1890 and there’s a foundation on the property that dates earlier than that.

Brewing beer became a passion for [Norman's son] Henry, about six years ago. “Back in 2010 just before Dad died, we talked to him about using a pasture on the farm to grow hops. I had been brewing small batches for a couple years and was seriously thinking about a brewery. That’s when he said, 'Might as well go ahead. It’s not good for anything else.'"
After Norman's death,  his children decided to retain the farm and make a go of staying in business, changing the business.  Henry decided to construct a brewery on the property, along with a small retail store.  In addition, the farm has another function: a disc golf ("Frisbee golf" to those who disregard trademarks) course has been established across the farm, attracting weekend enthusiasts.  "We're hoping they'll take growlers around the course with them!" Henry said with a smile.
The brewery is a new ten-barrel system, complete with two fermentation vessels and a bottling line.  Thus far, four recipes are being offered: an IPA (of course), a Milk Stout, a Red Ale, and a Tavern Pale Ale.  The IPA exudes the freshness of the hops, but Henry admits that they've had to order in additional hops for now, as not all of their near-acre of hops are producing yet.  The Milk Stout has a good sweet flavor but a seemingly light body--it would seem to suggest that it should see nitro tap duty--while the Red and Pale are still undergoing some refinement.

Ruhlman Brewery has a self-distribution license, and expects to sell its wares in local (Carroll County) outlets shortly; on site is a small retail counter with taps for samples or pints, as well as growlers and six-pack sales.  They also expect to offer one-use recyclable 5-gallon "mini-kegs" for "kegerator" aficionados.

UPDATE: More in a Baltimore Sun article for Tuesday's editions.

1 comment:

JohnM. said...

Great pictures Alex... and an interseting read as well.