Antietam Brewery officially opens its new brewery and taproom today in Hagerstown, Maryland, and it’s a true gem. Located inside a fairly standard looking commercial business park building, there is nothing standard about what you’ll find inside.
The brewery formerly operated out of Benny’s Pub in Hagerstown.
Last week, Brewmaster Daniel Maerzluft showed me around the new brewery and taproom, and he beamed with pride for the new facility. Both the brewery set-up and the taproom are first-class. West Virginia beer fans in the Eastern Panhandle, and those driving over I-68/70 to D.C. or Baltimore, owe it to yourself to drop in and check it out.
“We pretty much did the whole build-out ourselves,” Maerzluft said of the 8,000 sq. ft. facility. “We only brought in plumbers and electricians on things that were required to pass inspection. Everything else, we did.”
In the taproom they even made some of the tables and the bar.
Test market shows growth opportunity
Last year, Antietam tested the market for canned products by using a contract brewer in Baltimore to brew and can some of their beer. The products were put into distribution and the market reaction was monitored and analyzed. While the margins on sales were thin, they did learn things that led them to the decision to expand.
“It went quite well, obviously,” said Mearzluft about the test market results.
So the owners pulled together some investments and they build the new brewery. At their original brewery in Benny’s Pub, they had the capacity to do about 700-800 barrels-per-year, with no packaging other than kegging. The new brewery can produce 3,500 bbl/yr with its current equipment and has room to expand to 10,000 bbl/yr.
Antietam’s new setup includes:
- 15-barrel brewhouse,
- 30-barrel hot liquor tank,
- four 30-bbl fermenters,
- one 30-bbl bride tank,
- two 15-bbl fermenters,
- three 7-bbl fermenters,
- one 7-bbl brite tank,
- 7-head canning line (capacity of 35 cans per minute) with a depalletizer,
- keg cleaning and filling systems
- large cold storage room,
- grain silo and high-capacity grain mill.
Inside the taproom
The taproom is gorgeous. The interior has many outstanding design features. Some of these include a large Antietam Brewery logo built into the floor, beautiful wooden slab table tops, the view into the brewery though large windows, the spacious outdoor patio with beer tap fountain, and the rough brick feature wall.
You can purchase pints, to drink there, and cans and growler to take out.
It’s easy on the eyes and is a comfortable place to spend some time exploring the beer list. A kitchen offers a few light dishes and bar snacks. Initially, the taproom will only be open Thursdays through Sundays.
Expanded distribution footprint coming
Maerzluft says the brewery just signed with Backup Beverage, a Maryland distributor that specializes in craft beer. The distributor will sell Antietam brews statewide.
“We’re also looking at going into Virginia and Pennsylvania,” he said.
For out-of-state distribution, they would first focus on the local Four State Region along I-81 from Chambersburg, PA to Winchester, VA, before looking further out. For several years, Antietam has had Eastern Panhandle WV distribution through Martin Distributing in Martinsburg. Maerzluft says Antietam’s next stop in West Virginia distribution would likely be Morgantown.
Same brands, new packaging
Maerzluft said the brewery’s flagship lineup will remain the same, with all being packaged in cans and draft. These include:
- Hager-Weiss Hefeweizen
- Otto’s Orchard (Raspberry & Boysenberry)
- Little Mac IPA
- General’s Golden Ale
- 1605 Irish Red Ale
- Witness Tree Nut Brown Ale
- Lil’ Ben’s Milk Stout (coming this fall in cans)
He will continue making a series of seasonals and one-offs, some being taproom and Benny’s Pub exclusives. Some enter distribution in draft; a couple may be in cans. Some examples of their seasonals include:
- Smash Pilsner,
- Red River IRA,
- Octoberfest Lager,
- Freedom Java Porter,
- Bases Loaded Copper Ale.
With all the investment in production, canning, and new distribution, they needed their cans to draw attention on retailer shelves.
“We did a redesign of all our packaging from what you’re probably familiar with,” he said.
The can labels are brightly colored, with sharp graphics. Each brand’s look is distinct yet identifiable as an Antietam Brewery product. Even the plastic six-pack can carriers are colored-coordinated to the cans.
We’re happy for Antietam Brewery
It is so good to see a brewery located in the Appalachian region of Maryland taking the next step with their sights set on being a regional brewery. I’m so happy for brewer Daniel Maerzluft, who has worked so hard in the trenches for so long. He brews a sterling line of tasty beer, and it will be great to see more West Virginia distribution for them.
Antietam Brewery and Taproom
140 Western Maryland Parkway