Raising money for Boston Marathon survivor Erika Brannock and checking out Full Tilt Brewing

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This past weekend I participated in the Erika Brannock Charity Cornhole Tournament. If you are unfamiliar with Erika’s story, she was a spectator at the 2013 Boston Marathon.

Tragically she was critically injured by one of the blasts that day. Luckily she survived, but her injuries were severe, and resulted in the partial amputation of her leg and significant damage to her right leg. She was the last of all the injured spectators after the Boston bombing, spending 50 days in the hospital. This hospital stay, and the upcoming expenses from physical therapy, not to mention lost wages create a huge financial burden. So I was happy to participate and help raise money for Erika.


This event was great, while I didn’t win, my partner and I did manage to put a few wins under our belt before falling out of the tournament.

While we were there we got to have some great beer. Victoria Gastropub, Union Craft Brewing, and Full Tilt Brewing were kind enough to donate beer and items for the silent auction. We also had a few very well made homebrew selections from one of the hosts friends. The only thing that could have made the day better was cooler temperatures and maybe a few more wins.

As I was refilling my beer, I noticed a couple people wearing Full Tilt t-shirts. So as I do, especially when it comes to beer, I approached them and asked if they had any relationship to Full Tilt. They said they did, it was one of the owners, Dan Baumiller and his spouse Lindsay. I then found out that the Full Tilt was to be my next opponent in the tournament. I spoke to Dan at length about his experiences in opening up the brewery, and his homebrewing past. During our talks I convinced him to be a guest speaker at one of my homebrew club meetings.

Over the next few days, Dan and I exchanged emails, and he invited me to his home to hang out while he and his partner Nick Fertig worked on some test batches for upcoming beers. I gladly accepted the offer.

Late afternoon Wednesday I arrive at Dan’s home in Southern Carroll County to find Nick hard at work on his 3rd batch of the day. Dan was still at work, and would arrive a little later.

This is something that doesn’t come across in the stories you read about Samuel Adams or many other breweries. These guys have full-time jobs, and then produce beer in what used to be called their free time.

While Full Tilt is made up of two partners, they really form one full-time employee. This situation is quite complimentary. Dan works traditional 9 to 5, Monday through Friday, while Nick works 12-hour shifts, often on nights and weekends. This enables them to split the duties of running a small business quite well. There is a lot to get done with a start up Craft Brewery. Between time at their Peabody Heights contract brewery making beer, to social appearances, to meeting with business partner and running the normal day to day paperwork of a business. Unfortunately Nick and Dan aren’t usually spotted in the same room because of their work schedule. However that could be a blessing with a fledgling small business, where stress is not unusual, and taking the stress out on your partner is not uncommon.

At first I thought this might be a little awkward since I hadn’t met Nick before. But I knew we had a mutual friend, beer. Nick Fertig comes across like a young Sam Calagione working hard on his test batches. Nick was making two batches at a time today, so he could get as much done as possible on his “day off.” Today he was working on a new stout that has deep local ties. And if it works out like I think it will this will be a beer you will want to get.

A test batch day is common for Dan and Nick. They like to get some ideas on paper, which today means in brewing software, and then brew a few variations on the theme they are going for to see what comes out best. In a couple weeks they will put all of their test batches on tap and have a tasting session to determine a winner.

Nick Fertig checking on his test batch
Nick Fertig checking on his test batch

While there I had the opportunity to taste a few variations of some of their upcoming beers. The stout that they were brewing was the second round of testing, and they had a growler from the first round of testing. It was good, but I knew from the changes they were making this day, the next batch would be even better.

I also got to taste their upcoming Pumpkin Ale. Patterson Pumpkin is a 9% gourd monster packed with all the spices you’d expect. It was very good. So good in fact, I think this will be brought up when people are talking about the best pumpkin beers of the season. I do a pumpkin beer shootout every year, and I will make sure that this is included in this years’ roundup.

Of course while I was there I had some of their flagship Baltimore Pale Ale. I have to be completely honest, when I first tried this a few months ago I wasn’t sold. If memory serves I the first time I had this it was right after drinking a Firestone Walker Double Jack. Drinking beers out of order isn’t the best idea if you want a critical impression. But since then I have had it a few more times, and it has grown on me a lot. I still think the kettle hops are a little overwhelming, but so are the kettle hops in Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, and that was one of the inspirations for the Baltimore Pale Ale.

When you first smell Baltimore Pale Ale you get a nice full hop aroma from the Columbus hops that is inviting. But it is inviting in the way a boxer taunts his opponent with short jabs to draw him in. Because once you are drawn in you get punched in the face with the full force of their bitter hops. But then the punch wears off to leave you with a pleasant yet sharp finish. After about 3 sips you get used to how the punch feels, and can really start to enjoy it. I also found that I enjoyed this beer more when it was a little warmer. When too cold all you get is the big punch with little of the pleasant hoppy aromas and flavors that you should be tasting.

After meeting this duo, I am very impressed, and see a bright future for them. What they have is certainly a Yin-Yang type business relationship. Keep an eye out for their upcoming brews, because if you weren’t sold with Baltimore Pale Ale, you will be with what’s on deck.

Oh, one last thing. The cornhole tournament had a modest $3,000 goal for Erika Brannock. We far surpassed that goal and raised $14,358. While this was a great amount to raise, a lot more is needed. If you would like to donate to Erika Brannock’s recovery, you can through the Erika Brannock Fund.

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