20 YEARS OF TAPPING INTO CRAFT BEER
HEAD DOWNTOWN in Frederick, Maryland and you’ll find a wide range of bars and restaurants, but one key establishment stands out from the rest. Over the past twenty years, Brewer’s Alley has gained a reputation for affordable fine dining in a family-friendly atmosphere.
RENOVATIONS THAT RESPECT HISTORY
The building at 124 N. Market Street first served the community in 1769 as a Town Hall. Later it became the City Opera House. When restaurant owner Phil Bowers chose the location for Brewer’s Alley, preserving the elegance and integrity of the original structure was a top priority.
Over the past twenty years the city of Frederick has grown – and so has the brewery’s needs. Bowers maintained the original priority through the vicennial anniversary renovations with an expansion which includes a new dining terrace and rooftop patio bar.
“The expansion is awesome but it’s possible because we’ve had such a good following from Frederick,” says manager Travis Vaughan. “It’s been four years in the making.”
With 2016 being the brewery’s twenty-year anniversary, Bowers moved forward with plans for the terrace dining section in the parking area formerly roped off for guest musicians. Since opening in mid- July, the new dining section was an immediate hit with customers. Windows facing the alley open for an outdoor feeling that offers protection from the weather.
Guest musicians now play in the terrace, their refrains carrying to the patio above where staff and customers can enjoy them. Their enjoyment of the new areas is a heartfelt return on the hard work and long hours necessary to see the owner’s dream come to life.
When you arrive at the restaurant, the door facing North Market Street, a former emergency exit, is now an aesthetic detail. The actual entrance to Brewer’s Alley is on the right of the building.
Inside the restaurant you’ll see the original brewery door in the bar area, intentionally left in place. “It’s a conversation piece in the main dining area now,” Vaughan mentions with a grin. “Ten years from now when people ask why the door is there, we’ll have a part of our history to share.”
Bowers salvaged many original elements, reclaiming them for the renovations. An example is a trio of stained glass windows first installed in the rear of the building in 1996. Two windows are on display in the new dining area. The brewery will display a third, featuring a king holding a goblet of beer, at a future time. Windows with trailing hops bines came out of the original brewery area. Bowers envisioned this from the start.
“He thought about this for the long term when he started,” Vaughan says about the owner, describing him as a smart guy who makes fact based decisions. “It’s nice to work for someone like that who takes everything into consideration.”
A KEY SUPPORTER OF THE FREDERICK COMMUNITY
This mindset inspires Bowers, a Walkersville, Maryland native, to serve on different community boards to raise awareness about what Frederick has to offer.
Brewer’s Alley is a trailblazer for giving back to the community. The brewery designates a different charity on the first Tuesday of each month to receive twenty percent of the sales for that day.
LOCALLY SOURCED FOR OPTIMAL FLAVOR
The restaurant’s website describes the menu as “quality cuisine in a modernly historic setting”, an accurate phrase when you’re sitting in a centuries-old structure eating house-made orecchiette, pan-seared pork scallopini, or mako shark.
Vaughan states, “Beer goes very well with food. We have food pairings where our brewmaster and the chef make food that match the different beers we offer. They come up with some creative things which is nice.” The chefs have creative license to prepare the style and recipe of their choosing for the daily lunch and dinner specials. Vaughan only has one stipulation – make it tasty. And it is! The chefs prepare items like pasta and pizza dough in-house. The on-site pastry chef also makes all the desserts, including a daily pie, from scratch.
“Allergies are a concern. Being that we have executive chefs, we try to accommodate allergies and keep a gluten-free menu,” Vaughan acknowledges.
Managers and chefs communicate throughout the customer’s dining experience, avoiding cross contamination of ingredients and making sure the appropriate order goes to the correct guest.
“We have five restaurants here in Frederick and a farm in Walkersville. One of our key goals in this restaurant is to use as many ingredients as possible that we grow ourselves.” Vaughan reveals.
Brewer’s Alley uses as many local ingredients as they can for their delectable menu items, including 300-400 pounds of meat from Hoffman’s Butcher Shop in Hagerstown, Maryland for their hamburgers, a fan favorite. The fish changes daily to help maintain their policy of using fresh, local ingredients.
LOCALLY BREWED FOR PREMIUM TASTE
That attention to culinary detail extends beyond the kitchen to the bar area, where a well-versed staff understands the brewmaster’s passion for beer and the brewing process – including a strict growler policy.
Brewer’s Alley sells two types of growlers, the only options for in-house refills at this time. The brewmaster has strong feelings that, good or bad, the brand displayed on the growler should reflect its contents. Customer feedback, however, may cause the brewery to reconsider the policy at a later time.
Locally brewed at nearby Monocacy Brewing Company, both year-round and seasonal blends comprise the beer selections. Year round brews include 1634 Ale, Kölsch, IPA India Pale Ale, Oatmeal Stout, Nut Brown Ale, Hefeweizen, and Dunkelweizen. Seasonal beer flavors include, but aren’t limited to, flavors like Opera House Pale Ale, Three Kings Spiced Ale, and Wedding Alt.
If you have trouble deciding on a favorite beer, you aren’t alone. As brewmaster Tom Flores once shared, “It’s sort of like asking a parent to name their favorite child.”
“There are a lot of seasonal flavors we have to come out with because of things like Oktoberfest. It gives our brewmasters an opportunity to be creative and showcase things that you might not see at other breweries, like a stout that’s spicy instead of sweet. It showcases why we have them on our staff and gives the guest an opportunity to try new things.” Vaughan shares.
He continues, “That’s what craft beer’s all about. It’s not your typical light beer or ale that everybody wants; it’s unique. That’s what everybody loves about it. There’s a lot of great beer in Maryland, but were not competing against another brewery down the street – we’re celebrating craft beer.”
In July Brewer’s Alley had a two-day, twenty year anniversary party. The first day welcomed breweries from as far away as Baltimore but the second was exclusive to breweries in Frederick County, whose blends featured as guest beers on the Brewer’s Alley menu.
KEEP UP WITH BREWER’S ALLEY NEWS AND EVENTS
The restaurant is always looking for dedicated, hardworking people to join the Brewer’s Alley team. An application is available on the website (www.brewers-alley.com/ about/employment) and for more information applicants can contact the restaurant directly at 301-631-0089.
Be sure to follow the Brewer’s Alley Facebook page (www.facebook.com/brewers.alley) to learn daily lunch and dinner specials, what the brewmaster’s tapping, and where to get special blends like their exclusive 20th Anniversary Ale.