Creative Brewing Collaborations

Learn how DuClaw Brewing Company crafts an endless array of unique brews that live up to its motto: Craft be cherished. Rules be damned.

| Winter 2019

Courtesy DuClaw Brewing Company

When you consider craft brews, your imagination may conjure flavors just beyond the typical stout or pale ale. But what about a donut-inspired sour, or a differently defined IPA? It’s with beers like these that Maryland’s craft brewers surprised me. These creations are likely possible because craft brewing has huge support from Maryland’s state government.

Settled in 1634, and earning statehood in 1788, one of Maryland’s nicknames is the “Free State,” coined in part because the state never passed an enforcement act supporting Prohibition. Even so, franchise laws — on the books since 1974 — had long been thwarting efforts by entrepreneurs working as craft brewers. Recently, the Brewer’s Association of Maryland, comprising more than 80 breweries, campaigned for and helped pass The Brewery Modernization Act of 2019: state legislation that removed outdated laws; redefined the term “small brewer;” changed self-distribution limits, wholesaler contracts, and hours of operation; and increased taproom sales.

Brandon Stanko and DuClaw Brewing Company exemplify the positive effects of advocacy on the part of craft brewers in collaboration with legislators to enact change. Stanko’s story as Head Brewer is tied to legislative change, an adaptive business model, and the opening of an opportunity for him to explore his passion.

The Development of DuClaw

When DuClaw was established in 1996 by Dave Benfield, the beer was sold through a brewpub, and eventually directly through a chain of restaurants. Stanko, then a home-brewer, managed IT for the business. He watched many changes occur for craft brewing and found these changes both “frustrating and awesome.” The frustration has been about legislation, which has shifted slowly over the years.

Courtesy DuClaw Brewing Company

Early on, Maryland craft beer was only sold in taprooms, where it was legal to serve beer if the room was attached to its source brewery. Later, direct sales between a craft brewery and a designated restaurant or chain of restaurants were permitted. Eventually, Benfield opted out of the restaurant business and sold the DuClaw restaurants to focus on distribution, a move which nearly put Stanko out of a job. Stanko explains that, despite the eminent loss of his IT work, he “kept having good conversations with Benfield about craft beer, what’s good for Maryland, and where I thought the industry was going. Next, Benfield asked if I could do IT, but also work in packaging on the back end of the brewing process.” Stanko agreed, and within six months became a brewer. He admits that becoming a professional brewer changed his perspective. “I went from doing 10 gallons a month to doing 1,600 gallons in five hours! Definitely mind-blowing.”



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