Earlier this month, local film-maker Nicholas Kovacic unveiled his latest cinematic creation. Entitled "Brewmore Baltimore," this 65 minute documentary chronicles the storied history of brewing in Baltimore, Maryland. While working at Humanim -- a non-profit organization now headquartered in the brewhouse of the former American Brewery -- I had the pleasure of helping Nick and his fellow film-makers tell this amazing tale.
When asked about his film, Kovacic noted that he "wanted to make a documentary about Baltimore, not just what you see on the surface, but deep down into the soul of the city. In contemplating his subject, this young director made an interesting discovery. Kovacic shared that he "came to find out that beer and brewing was a booming industry that had been lost for a few decades in Baltimore, and I had to investigate."
Ask anyone about beer in Baltimore and the most likely response is for someone to mention the ubiquitous "Natty Boh!" In reality, the history of Baltimore beer goes far beyond Mr. Boh and his fancy brother Mr. Pilsner. At its peak around 1900, the brewing industry in Baltimore City involved products made and distributed by over 40 distinct breweries. The largest of these brewers were familiar names to thirsty Marylanders for literally decades: National Brewing, Globe Brewing (with its signature Arrow brand beer), American Beer, and Gunther's (original provider of beer for our Baltimore Orioles. As national brewing conglomerates began to dominate the market in the late 60's and early 70's, the city's brewing industry literally dried up.
Thankfully for local beer lovers, the story didn't end that way. Starting in the mid-1980's, a new round of brewers began to spring up, opening microbreweries in neighborhoods across the city. This second wave of beer pioneers included folks like Hugh Sisson (with his Clipper City/Heavy Seas family of beers), Volker Stewart and Brewer's Art, and the founders of Union Craft Brewing.
Kovacic and his crew of film-makers had the distinct benefit of access to a rich amount of original research and historical documentation about their subject. In late 2011, local historian Maureen O'Prey published her own history of brewing in Baltimore. The book covered her subject through a rich array of historical photographs showing the progression of Baltimore brewing from its early days, through the peaks of the mid-twentieth century, to the eventual rebirth experienced presently. Additionally, former Baltimore Sun writer Rob Kasper wrote his own comprehensive history of our city's love affair with everyone's favorite foamy beverage.
When I watched "Brewmore Baltimore" at the premiere earlier this month, I was struck by the contrasting visuals of old and new Baltimore. Kovacic and his team of camerapersons, editors, and production specialists were able to expertly capture the essence of the city's industrial heritage. Beyond this however, the film celebrates the spirit of current entrepreneurs who seek to meld traditions of the past with tastes of the present.
Here in Perry Hall, our very own Red Brick Station is also working to keep the tradition of locally produced beer as strong as ever. Also, local retailers such as Honeygo Wine and Spirits and Swan Song Spirits both stock a wide array of locally-produced beers that are certainly worthy of your consideration. The newest generation of Baltimore brewers have been doing an excellent job of promoting the city's history of producing quality beers for Marylanders to enjoy.
According to Kovacic and his crew, a second screening of "Brewmore Baltimore" will be held later this month. On April 19th, Heavy Seas Brewery will host a screening at their Halethorpe brewery. For additional information, please refer to the screenings page on the Brewmore Baltimore website.