What’s the first thing you do when you move somewhere new? If you’re like me and your priorities are totally in line, you already know which breweries are within the 50-mile radius of your new home, and your first mission is to decide at which places you’ll make yourself a regular.
In September I wrote about the newly-open and soon-to-be-open handful of breweries on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Back then, I didn’t know I’d be moving to Annapolis — the Western Shore of Shore Craft Beer, if you will — in just a few months time. But, I did end up moving. And thanks to that article, I already had a few breweries in mind that I wanted to get down to as soon as time allowed.
The one that first came to mind was Patriot Acres, a new veteran-owned farm brewery in Sudlersville, Md, which I remembered in part because of the 23 alpacas that reside on its property. This partially inspired a day trip I took down to Chestertown, Md. in Kent County, a Saturday that was dedicated to exploring the small, historic downtown, then taking a 13-mile detour east to Sudlersville and ordering an Alpaca Pale Ale at Patriot Acres.
…The working farm is home to 23 alpacas, 150 chickens, ducks and geese, 21 goats, four sheep, three cats, bees and two farm dogs. In 2015, when [owner Brian Truitt] was brainstorming ways to increase foot traffic to the farm and its many alpacas, Maryland’s Class 8 farm brewery license came to mind, and the farm brewery was born.
“I had home brewed years prior, and after discussing the idea with my wife we thought it was something that would be a nice complement to the Alpaca farm,” he said.
Visitors may come to the farm expecting to drink a few beers, but they usually end up seeing and experiencing much more. In addition to all the animals that kids can meet and greet, there’s also activities like corn hole, giant Connect 4 and barrel train rides, not to mention spectacular views of the Eastern Shore farmland. But that’s not to say that the beer is just an afterthought; they’re all brewed with hops and other ingredients grown right on the farm. While the menu rotates, Patriot Acres’ three mainstay beers are a tribute to family and, you guessed it, alpacas.
The first beer they ever brewed, Stormy Stout, is an American stout named after one of the male alpacas, while Cole’s IPA is named after Brian’s son, who helped make the initial batch with his father. The third mainstay, Alpaca Pale Ale, “straddles the fence between the other two.” The family is currently filling their kegs with darker beers as the fall/winter season approaches.
After a successful first visit to one of the breweries near-ish our new home, we were excited for the following weekend when we’d have yet another chance to expand our repertoire. This time, we chose a new brewery that was just a little bit closer to us, but that still required a trek across the Bay Bridge: Cult Classic Brewing.
Founded by brothers Jesse and Brooks McNew, Cult Classic Brewery had its soft opening in early August and has a grand opening slated for sometime this October. Also owners of independent home brew shop Annapolis Home Brew since 1997, Jesse and Brooks are using what they’ve learned from over 20 years in the home brew business to bring the people of Stevensville the beer that they want to drink.
“I always thought it would be great to open a brewery,” Brooks said. Because of Maryland’s restrictive taproom laws of the late 90s, however, a working brewery-and-taproom was nothing but a dream.
“Having visited other breweries in different states where they allowed taprooms, that always seemed like the ideal way to configure the whole thing. You could brew the beer, but you could also engage directly with the public, and that’s what we were doing with the homebrew shop.”
He considers it “20 years of market research.” At Annapolis Home Brew, they brew the beer, give out free samples and then provide customers with the tools and ingredients they need to then make that beer at home. Over the years they’ve taken note of what people like to drink, and have developed a collection of recipes along the way that they’ll put to use in the Cult Classic taproom.
The name “Cult Classic” comes from the brothers’ love for obscure old movies, which inspired the taproom thematically and decor-wise. They’ve found their “cult classic,” or most popular beers thus far, to be their hoppy and hazy IPAs, and were surprised that their strawberry blonde ale seems to be gaining a cult following of its own.
The taproom is a repurposed ACME grocery store, but because of its cult movie theme, it has the aura of an abandoned theater that was given new life. Maybe that’s because of the giant windows behind the bar that show off the gleaming silver tanks within, and nothing else, at least when the lights are off — only darkness, like a theater mid-screening.
That’s what we imagined, but there are other nods to the classic film motif, too: A big screen on the western wall and a ceiling-mounted projector really do turn the taproom into a theater (or a place to watch football in), a popcorn machine and other movie snacks are available to pair with your beer, and blown-up classic movie posters line the walls. It is paradise for any movie lover who moonlights as a craft beer connoisseur, or just any casual enjoyer of movies and beer, which is basically the quintessential American experience.
Now I THINK we’ve covered everything on what I’m just going to refer to as the Western Eastern Shore. It wasn’t a bad first few weekends in our new home, and for that, we have these new breweries to thank. If landlines were still a thing, I’d put them on speed dial.
The more beautiful of these photos were taken by William Strang-Moya.