The fact that farmland is being lost in this country to redevelopment should not come as a shock to anyone. New housing developments and shopping centers are springing up and that once verdant farmland is being lost as many farmer’s children look for other opportunities. There is one thing that could save some farms and it is a most unlikely source: Beer.
Barns that are sitting empty are ideal for opening a brewery. Breweries after all can take up a lot of space, especially if someone wants to market their beer to the thirsty public. With a craft brewing revolution sweeping the country it only seems logical. Breweries are popping up all over the place, from old train stations to warehouses to malls. Why should farms be left out?
Having a brewery on a farm only made too much sense and the epicenter of farm brewing is the state of Maryland and Frederick County in particular. In 2012 the Maryland General Assembly, by a unanimous vote, opened up a farm brewer’s license. The farm can grow their own wheat and barley and they can grow their own hops so they can use what they grow to make their own beer. You can’t get much more local than that! The farm breweries are actually required by law to use their own products which is part of the draw. As of this writing Maryland and New York are the only states to license farm brewing.
Many farms have doubled as wineries so beer is the next logical step. Rather than tasting a chardonnay now a visitor can taste a lager. Farmers have been getting creative for years about how to generate extra income with attractions like corn mazes, disc golf and pumpkin picking, why not serve their own beer as well? But the beer does not need to be served just on the farm, in fact few of the farm breweries are open to the public (the permitting process to do so can be quite involved) though some are or will be soon.
With many new beer drinkers looking to try local products it is leading to a devoted fan base. Many beers are available in liquor stores and bars and they are only locally sold, so it is almost like a nice secret. Many of the people who start these operations are doing so in part to keep the land zoned for agricultural use. This may be what can save many farms from being turned down and replaced by asphalt and concrete and that is a good thing. You can probably even eventually have the beer inside the barn!