The Baltimore Liquor Board today approved a new brewery license for Peabody Heights Brewery (401 E. 30th St.,  467-7837, peabodyheightsbrewery.com) with a tasting room, outdoor tables, and live entertainment. Previously, it would host up to 12 events per year under a state permit, but now it'll be able to open for patrons every weekend. I spoke with General Manager Hollis Albert, a Baltimore City native, to talk about his immediate plans at the building that once produced Snapple and RC Cola.
The brewery rests on the site of Old Oriole Park, a wooden baseball stadium which burned to the ground in 1944. "Second base is in the building, and a foul line runs right through my desk," Albert told me as I sat down to sample an Old Oriole Park Bohemian, released last week. It's a 4.5-percent ABV low-hopped beer that includes two-row pale malts. But the rest of the ingredients, he says, "are a secret." It's no secret how Albert wants you to enjoy his new release. "There needs to be an easy drinking beer for eating crabs, and this is it," he says between sips.
Albert doesn't fit the familiar profile of a brewing hobbyist who went into the beer business. Instead, he's a businessman who turned to beer. "I'm a vodka drinker. I'm not a malty-hoppy guy," he states without flinching. "I have a general palate. All of our beers are excellently made, but some just not might be your flavor profile."
Peabody Heights began in 2012 with 6,000-barrel production and expects to hit 25,000 barrels in 2015. The brewery contracts production for local brewers and serves as an incubator for fledgling brands. The 50,000-square-foot facility is mind-bogglingly complex, with 35 different beers brewed under six different brands. And those six brands are only the ones you know about: Full Tilt, Raven, Public Works, Monument City, Fin City, and Mountain State. The brewery also contract brews for smaller entities, and soon, you'll have an opportunity to sample some of the lesser-known beers in the brewery's tasting room.
Walking through the facility with its walls of different labels and boxes ready to be filled with the cornucopia of beers produced here, I almost started stressing out. While it's a beer lover's utopia, it also appears to be a maddening logistical challenge to keep everything organized. If I worked there, I'd be constantly worried about accidentally filling cases of Fin City six-packs into Monument City Rye boxes or putting the wrong labels on a run of beers.
But Albert keeps operations running smoothly, and while he tends to business, the beers are the art of brewmaster Ernie Igot, who spent 21 years at San Miguel Brewing prior to moving to Baltimore.
"He's the real deal," Albert says of Igot. "I don't know how many brewers, in two and a half years, can make three dozen recipes." Igot's clients choose their grain bills before he scales the recipes up to create the beers en masse.
With 20 taps and the six permanent brands brewed on site, Peabody Heights plans to feature a new brand every Saturday, resulting in Baltimore's only rotating brewery tap room. Like magic, you can visit a new brewery every weekend at the same location.
"So every Saturday we'll feature each brand, even some of our contract brewers. It'll be fresh," says Albert. "Every week you can come in and the other brewers will be giving their tours and tapping their beers."
The tasting room, which has a capacity of 300, celebrates its grand opening on June 27, and Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford is scheduled to be there to raise a glass to this ambitious operation.