BERLIN – Although he might still be as much as two-months shy of his official grand opening, Bryan Brushmiller of Burley Oak Brewery is already making plenty of friends in the neighborhood. When he took delivery of additional brewing equipment this month he asked his across the street neighbors at Croppers Towing if they’d help him unload it. They responded immediately, sending over a forklift and driver to bring Berlin one step closer to becoming the first Eastern Shore town with a full production brewery.
Brushmiller listed his neighbors among an extensive list of friends and aides who have helped make the difficult start up a little bit easier. He also named Del. Norm Conway, Del. Mike McDemottt and state Sen. Jim Mathias as confederates helping to usher through a bill that would allow him the same privileges as Western Shore brewers and Mayor Gee Williams and the town of Berlin, which have also made things a little bit easier as Brushmiller prepares to make his dream happen.
“Everyone from the town has been great,” Brushmiller said, pointing to the enabling legislation the town passed effectively making Berlin more brewer friendly.
The difficulty for now is that under current liquor rules, he’d have to operate the brewery as a restaurant, getting a significant portion of his income from food sales, in order to be able to serve pints in his tap room. Pint sales will be a critical part of his business but opening a restaurant was never part of his plan. For the town’s part, there’s no need to force Brushmiller to compete with the other restaurants, especially since he hopes to eventually have his beers featured there.
“We’re just trying to get it passed and limited to the town of Berlin,” he said of the new licensing legislation.
The town removed the obstacle last month and now Brushmiller is just waiting to see if the state legislative delegation can accomplish the same thing and let him get down brewing beer rather than constantly lobbying for the privilege.
Mathias said his committee heard the bill at the end of last week and could vote on it as early as this week.
“Not to be overconfident but it looks like it’s going to go through,” he said. “There was no opposition at the hearing and not questions…it will be treated like a local bill.”
Mathias added that the same fate was likely for the bill to turn control of the Worcester County Liquor Control Board as well.
In the meanwhile, Brushmiller has begun setting up his tanks and working with his architect to re-conceive the former restaurant equipment warehouse as a rustic brewery. The front part of the structure, he said, will be a taproom, while in the back visitors will be able to see the entire brewing operation through a pane of glass.
Because he’ll be making Belgian-style beer in the traditional way, Brushmiller will have a yeast room in addition to fermentation and tank room.
He debuted several of his test beers at a recent impromptu tasting that certainly secured him his first few customers, but with a little legislative work before too long everyone will get their chance at a preview, and then, finally an opening.