This weekend marks the start of a new era in Howard County Maryland. Because this weekend is the grand opening of Jailbreak Brewing Company, the first full production brewery in the county.
This was as inevitable event, as craft beer is popping up everywhere. But I can already tell this isn’t a flash in the pan startup that will fold once things get a little tough. These guys are serious about success, and more importantly are serious about their beer.
When I write about breweries, especially new ones, I hate being so positive all the time. But you know what, when you like somebody, and you like what they are producing I don’t have much of a choice.
I can’t remember when I first started seeing the name Jailbreak Brewing Company pop up, but I quickly jumped on their version of crowd sourcing with their Beta-Taster program. Soon after purchase, I received a message from co-founder Justin Bonner inviting me to his home to pick up the shirt and try some of their beer.
This was a little shocking to me. He is that hands on with the customer, where he wants them to come to his home to taste some test batches? Wow. That impressed me right off the bat.
Then after hanging out with Justin at his home, and tasting their test batches a couple things occurred to me.
They are passionate. They have great business savvy. And while Justin was not a pro brewer, or even much of a home brewer, his palate was impeccable.
On top of all of that Justin is very likable. All of what I just stated may explain why he was able to get established brewer Ryan Harvey to take the reigns as brewmaster. Ryan has an impressive pro brewing resume, most recently with acclaimed brewery Dogfish Head.
His experience with breweries like Dogfish Head means he isn’t afraid of experimentation, and thinking in terms of the final beer, using whatever ingredients will get the taste profile they are targeting.
But a lot about what separates a good brewery and a great brewery are details. That is something that gives Jailbreak Brewing has down. Justin and co-founder Kasey Turner, have really spent a lot of time focusing on every aspect of starting this brewery. From the business plan, brewery, tasting room, and of course the beer. If you doubt what I am saying here, when you visit the tasting room, make sure to check out the restroom. Sounds silly, but it is really cool. There are details even there that many would gloss over and phone it in, but not here.
Speaking of the tasting room, it truly stands head and shoulders above most brewery tasting rooms in the area. In fact for a brewery of this age and size, it is likely one of the best there is period. This is a place where you want to go.
Set in an unassuming business park in North Laurel, there isn’t much of a hint of what awesomeness awaits.
Walking through the front door you are greeted with a beautiful combination of industrial, rustic, and modern. Many natural wood tables occupy most of the room, with a conversation pit area with large leather seating, and a Persian rug that really brings the room together. Really makes you want a White Russian. But since they don’t have those, an awesome beer will do.
Behind the large U shaped bar sits a stone wall framing huge plate glass windows to let you see where the beer you are enjoying was made.
So I guess I should talk about the beer a little.
They have a pretty adventurous line up for just opening. So here’s the lineup as of my most recent visit.
Welcome to Scoville – Jalapeño IPA 6.9% ABV – This is a nice variant on the IPA. If you are person that is turned off by Chili beers, try this. The name might be a little misleading. A scoville is a unit of measure used to represent the amount of heat in a pepper or hot sauce. Jalapeño is pretty low on the scoville scale, and this beer is even lower. There is between little and no heat, but that is a good thing. To me the jalapeño is one of the most flavorful of all the peppers, and that is what really comes through in this beer. The first taste is a big hit of vegetal flavors complimented with the normal attributes of an IPA. But as you drink it, the vegetal flavors become more integrated in the overall flavor, making this a wonderful interpretation of the style.
Made Wit Basil – Basil Wit 4.0% ABV – Weird, right? Maybe. Different would be a better description. This beer is based on a traditional wit, made with the normal ingredients like orange peel and coriander. But then basil is added into the mix. Giving it a refreshing herbal aromatic. This beer is one that would be great on a warm summer’s day, but I really think this beer is made for food. During my visits I’ve yet to be able to pair this with the food that I think will compliment it the best. But I imagine a nice flatbread or focaccia would really pair nicely.
The Kavorka – Cherry Porter 5.5% ABV – This is a well-executed balanced porter. There is a nice roast malt backbone with a combination of sweetness and tartness. There is no hint of the medicinal flavors cherries can often contribute. As it warms the flavors of the cherries become a little more forward, showing off the delicate balance of flavors. This beer is the Ron Burgundy of their lineup, bringing images of rich leather and mahogany to my mind while sampling.
The Decider – Apple Ale 6.0% ABV – This beer is not supposed to be cider like, and I have no idea how it compared with Redd’s Apple Ale, since I refuse to drink that. This beer is more similar to a pumpkin beer than a cider really. Made with fresh apples and spices. It has a refreshing dry finish, and it is very clear fresh apples were used when tasting this.
Enlighteded – Kölsch 5.2% ABV – This is a beer that may be the most traditional of their lineup. That being said, I am not usually much of a kölsch fan, but this was quite nice. This is a beer that I could see myself drinking on a warm evening on my deck. Very delicate, and like the original brewers around Cologne, Germany, it has its own interpretation of the style.
Dusk Til Dawn – Imperial Espresso Stout 10% ABV – This guy is big, and as the name suggests it may have enough caffeine to keep you awake until dawn. But considering the high ABV that’ll be tough to do. This was one of my favorite of their beers. Big espresso taste, complimented with vanilla and chocolate flavors. If they can figure out how to get a little more coffee on the nose, this may become a classic.
Big Punisher – Imperial IPA 8.0% ABV – Saved my favorite for last. This is a Citra hop bomb. If you aren’t familiar with Citra (HBC 394), it is a hop that derives a lot of its flavors from the essential oils in hops. The bulk of which is Myrcene. Not to geek out on hop chemistry too much, but these oils provide the more interesting flavors than just the traditional bitterness you get from many variety of hops. Citra delivers on the low side of Cohumulone, which is where the more harsh bitterness in hops comes from. And it is very high in oil content at about 2.5 mils per 100 grams of dried hops, with up to 65% of that being Myrcene. The Myrcene is what provides that tropical fruit flavor in this beer. Myrcene is also found in very high amounts in tropical fruits like Mangoes for example which has the highest Myrcene content of any fruit. This is a flavor I love, and this delivers it in a big way. So as you can see this beer has a lot of tropical fruit flavors, citrus flavors, and a big malt backbone to support the whole thing. I hear a new version is on the way which will amp up the hops even more. Let’s just say I am excited to try it.
So that is it for their initial offerings. But from what I hear many more varieties are on the way. Including the much anticipated Chocolate Coconut Porter. I had this as a test batch, and it was awesome.
If you get the chance you really should make a trip to Laurel to check this place out. And if you want to make sure you get some food to your liking, check out the hand-picked lineup of food trucks here.
This Friday has some special opportunities for visitors.
Friday April 25th 3-7pm – Growler night. Tasting room will be selling growlers only, and no food trucks. However free growler glass is being offered, and if you already have a Jailbreak growler a 20% discount on fills will be offered. Great deal.
Saturday April 26th Noon-10pm – No growler specials, but you can enjoy Kommie Pig BBQ, and all of the beers in sample size, pint size, and of course 32oz and 64oz growlers.
Sunday April 27th Noon-6pm – Much like Saturday, but will be offering River House Pizza to pair with your Jailbreak Brewing beer.
John Thompson is a beer enthusiast who began evangelizing craft beer a few years ago on his blog thehoplocal.com. John has been homebrewing sporadically for almost 20 years, and also is a Cicerone Certified Beer Server. When not enjoying a cold malty beverage you will find John spending time with his spouse and two young children or working his day job in Financial Services Technology. Make sure to find John on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter @TheHopLocal and Untapped. at : http://untappd.com/user/thehoplocal