After years of having to trek to Columbia, Severna Park, or Frederick to equip themselves for cooking up a batch of homebrew, Hampden's Jill Antos and Brian Arnold opened up Baltimore's (at the moment) only beer-making shop. Nepenthe, housed in the Meadow Mill complex that straddles Hampden and Woodberry, is named after a mythical pain-killing drug described in the Odyssey. For Antos and Arnold, the store was the perfect pain-killer.
"We were on the way back from [a brew] store," Arnold recounts, "and [Jill] said, 'I hate this drive, we should just open up our own brew store.'" Antos, sitting next to Arnold behind the counter of Nepenthe, drinking a Victory Summer Love, chimes in, "And then we kind of looked at each other and were like, 'yeah, hey, why not?'" The store opened in mid-February and has been doing steady business since.
Nepenthe will soon present small-apartment-dwellers with an avenue for homebrewing, a time- and space-consuming process. Antos and Arnold are in the final stages of installing an exhaust system and getting zoning licenses to operate the city's only self-brew-on-premise site. Four small stainless steel tanks sit a few feet from a drain in the corner of the store, awaiting batches of rye IPAs, chocolate stouts, raspberry wheats, and whatever else homebrewers dream up.
"We have had a good amount of interest in it," Arnold says. They're still hammering out the logistics of brewing on premise, they say. Members of a couple local homebrew clubs, which are convening in Nepenthe's roomy quarters, have volunteered to man the operation when it gets going.
Fledgling and veteran homebrewers alike will find every resource they need at Nepenthe (which also sells wine- and meade-making supplies). Step-by-step ingredient kits and stovetop equipment are available, as are homebrewing books. A long shelf in the back of the store holds almost 50 varieties of grains, including gluten-free malts and specialty malts like smoked malt, blackprinz, and midnight wheat. Additives range from fruit purees, Irish moss, lactic acid, and others. The shop carries both liquid and dry yeast, in every strain one could hope for. And Nepenthe sells dozens of hops, from Amarillo to Zythos.