Beer is big business and business is booming. In 2014 the total beer market exceeded $100 billion and of that nearly $20 billion was from craft beer alone. The majority of Americans live within 10 miles of a craft brewer. In the state of Maryland, there are 40 breweries, a number that has almost doubled since 2011. Maryland breweries produce well over 200 thousand barrels per year and the economic impact topped 600 million in 2014.
Over the years my palate has matured and I have learned to appreciate quality over quantity. I enjoy trying new beers and really enjoy when local craft brewers tackle traditional brew and nail it. Union Anthem comes to mind. At the beginning, the west coast brewers dominated the scene and their IPA's were off the charts. The folks at Anchor brewing and Sierra Nevada brought back dry hopping and really launched the American Craft Beer Renaissance.
Today, many craft brewers are collaborating instead of fighting. When two rivals can come together and produce a special brew people take notice. But sometimes its not only two brewers who can collaborate on a beer that can benefit both parties.
Jailbreak Brewing is a relatively new company out of Laurel, MD. They came knocking at the Waterfront Hotel a little over a year ago. They sold us on their beer and their vision instantly and oddly enough our bar manager hails from the same small Pennsylvanian town as the CEO.
That connection and our mutual love for craft beer helped launch us intoa new relationship. When Jailbreak asked us if we'd like to collaborate on a beer, I jumped at the chance. I started mulling over different styles that I enjoyed and what would compliment our food. Not long into my pondering I started focusing on a friend of mine who is a home brewer and a particular Black IPA of his that I tried years earlier. Once I settled on the style I started thinking about how we could make it a little different so that it stood out and really paired well with my menu and the atmosphere at the Waterfront. Since we sell a lot of burgers and we smoke a lot of BBQ in house what better way to stand out than to have a Black IPA with ancho peppers to give it some smokiness?
When I emailed Jailbreak to tell them my idea for a beer they told me that they had just finished a pilot batch for a Smoked Black IPA as a possible new beer. I couldn't believe it, what are the chances? The first batch was to heavy on the smoke and they brought us down to the brewery to try the second batch and we both agreed that it needed more smoke. After three test batches everyone was satisfied with the flavor profile and Smoke On The Waterfront was born. To be honest, we had it easy. The crew at Jailbreak did all the heavy lifting on this and we just sat back, threw out some ideas and drank some beer. We launched it at the restaurant during Baltimore Beer Week 2015 and got some great feedback. We are hoping that after the first run of about 30 kegs the demand will be high enough to keep it on tap year round. This run should get us through the end of the year and is only available at the Waterfront Hotel and Jailbreak Brewing Taproom. Regardless of if we can keep it going, what a cool opportunity to have. Cheers.