Kevin Atticks has been in the drink local business for quite some time, pressing (not literally) Maryland Wine issues in Annapolis as well as locally. Last year he accepted the challenge to run the Brewer’s Association of Maryland (BAM) as the state’s breweries continue to bump up against the intersection of regulation, legislation and promotion. BAM has held its own in Annapolis, where brewers have been proactive and lobbied well for their cause. But Maryland Beer, as a thing, didn’t get much attention.
The thing about monitoring and lobbying Annapolis is that it is even more tedious than it sounds. As critical a job as it is, the drudgery can take the joy out of the other, better parts of the brewing industry. Atticks’ vision for Maryland beer is to help focus the overwhelming local support regionally, coordinating both the economic development aspect of craft beer with the tourism and personal connection each of the Maryland breweries has with its supporters.
Traditionally, if the social and economic side of an industry gains strength, the political aspects follow. No politician is going to make trouble for a brewery or stand by passively as a colleague does when craft beer drinkers are legion.
On the face of it, nothing could be simpler than recruiting Maryland Beer Legionnaires. Eastern Shore Breweries have enthusiastic followings and make beers people feel passionately about, but fan enthusiasm hasn’t yet become state pride. People here don’t feel as passionately about “Western Shore” beers than the breweries made in our own backyard. Tying together strong localized feelings in a way that emphasizes state beer pride requires two things. The first is to up the BAM public outreach game so people know there’s such a thing and that it is not only a lobbying group but an entity actively working for the improvement of beer culture. To this end, you can expect to see more from them boosting BAM as an entity as well as promoting brewery events statewide.
“Everybody I talked to was interested in participating in BAM,”said Atticks. “They thanked me for asking them. They are a very engaged group.”
The second is to recognize that Maryland beer is a beer type. BAM hopes to begin to develop this notion by increased public outreach. BAM will sponsor more events this year and grow them sustainably.
Here on the Eastern Shore we’ve been fortunate to have plenty of town events in support of local beer. In the coming year, though, Atticks wants to start establishing more state beer events on the Eastern Shore. It’s a piece of the puzzle that’s been missing and will be a welcome addition to the region, both because it will boost tourism as well as Maryland Beer awareness. And it works both ways. While events on the Eastern Shore will help boost local awareness of DuClaw (for example), events in Southern Maryland can help boost demand for Eastern Shore beers.
And these are just some of the off-the-cuff ideas Atticks was able to get in motion recently. Building a culture takes time, which is a good thing because, by definition, a culture shouldn’t be artificial. But a sustainable cadre of real people who really like to drink real beer is a shift worth waiting for.