OCEAN CITY, Md. (AP) — Another craft brewery is coming to Ocean City, this time at the site of a former hardware store and lumber yard.
"We want to be the beer of Ocean City, and it's not just because of the name," said Thom Lord, general manager of OC Brewing Co. "We want to put out a great product. We're proud to be here. We took the name with responsibility."
OC Brewing Co. is set to open May 1 at 56th Street and Coastal Highway. Retail sales and the brewery will be open year-round, while the restaurant and bar will be seasonal, Lord said.
The brewery building, formerly the Ocean City branch of The Adkins Co. hardware store, is longer than a football field. Its total square footage is about 18,000 square feet, including about 7,500 square feet of front-of-house restaurant, bar and retail area. They're on a 10-year lease to rent the space, which includes 78 parking spots, Lord said.
The bar, still under construction, is 50 feet long. Behind the bar, through three giant square windows, patrons will be able to see the bar's "bright tanks," which essentially are giant beer kegs. There will be eight of these tanks, holding up to 300,000 gallons of beer apiece, and they will feed directly to the bar. In the back-of-house, there will be 14 vats where the beer will be brewed.
Lord said they already have dozens of beer kegs, embossed with the company name, ready to go.
"The problem a lot of smaller breweries run into is actually storage," he said. "When you're brewing beer, it's fine when in it's the fermenter. When you have to move that beer, you have to put it in kegs or somewhere else, or else you can't make any more beer."
It's not uncommon for startup breweries to purchase used or hand-me-down equipment. Not this place. They have brand new kegs and vats and coolers, all in shimmering stainless steel. Lord declined to say what the company's startup costs are, only saying it was a "major investment."
OC Brewing Co. joins a handful of other local breweries that have popped up in recent years on the Lower Shore, including Evolution (or Evo for short) in Salisbury, Burley Oak in Berlin, Tall Tales in Parsonsburg and Backshore (formerly Shorebilly) in downtown Ocean City. Hooper's Restaurant and De Lazy Lizard restaurants also brew their own beer.
A brewer's main ingredient is barley, and that needs to be housed in a grain silo. However, some neighbors of OC Brewing Co. did not want a 30-foot-tall gleaming silver silo erected outside the building. Town officials wanted it installed indoors, but that's not possible because it's combustible. For now, Lord says they're still trying to find a place to keep the silo that will prove a fair compromise.
Other concerns of truck traffic may be unfounded, Lord said, because there will likely only be weekly truck pickups of beer. "There will be less truck traffic here than when it was a lumber yard," he said.
Company owner Joshua Shores, 39, grew up in Towson and spent summers in Ocean City with his family. He's been an entrepreneur since then, and has a background is in sales and marketing. He said he wanted to build a business in the resort, and when the old Adkins lumber building came available, "I jumped on it." They now have a 10-year lease to the property.
OC Brewing Co. eventually will have eight to 20 craft beers on draft, to appeal to every taste, from dark porters to a light beer. They've hired brewmaster Mark Fesche, who has helped establish breweries in Oregon, Delaware, Pennsylvania and North Carolina, Shores said. Cans and bottles will be for sale at the brewery.
Down the line, OC Brewing Co. plans to sell beer through a distributor, but Shores says that's about a year away.
"The craft beer business is wild because you can create just about anything, any flavor, so there's always a challenge," he said.
Shores hopes to have the brewery up and running by March 17. Seasonally, they may have as many as 100 people working there. In the offseason, that number is closer to 25, according to Shores.
Johnny Hofman runs Johnny's Pizza Pub next door at 56th Street. He's supportive of his new neighbor — he says both Lord and Shoals at some point both used to work with him — and calls the midtown area of Ocean City between 45th and 62nd streets "The Golden Mile" for its abundance of bars and restaurants.
"They're going to be awesome," Hofman said of the new brewery. "They got a real sharp staff here. It's going to be top-run. It's even more state-of-the-art than even Evo. They got some of the best brewmeisters in the country coming in here.
"It's just a real good spot. If you're a craft beer drinker, this little pocket, this one mile, has more taps and varieties of different beers than anywhere that I personally know of."
And of course, Hofman says he'll have OC Brewing Co. drafts beers flowing at his restaurant.
"We're going to be their first customer," he said.
Information from: The Daily Times of Salisbury, Md., http://www.delmarvanow.com/