Smoketown Brewing Station: Looking to the past to chart the future

By Karen Gardner

Smoketown Brewing Station plans to live up to its legacy.

That’s a tall order, considering the Brunswick, Maryland, brewery is located in a former fire hall which once hosted the likes of Patsy Cline, Guy Lombardo and Kix. It was also home to spaghetti dinners and pancake breakfasts, and served as a place for neighbors to meet at local social functions. But ground was broken for a new fire hall in 2011, and when the new structure opened soon after, the 1948 fire hall sat vacant.

David Blackmon, a native of Vermont, and his wife came to Brunswick in 2001. They were living in Albuquerque at the time, and thought Brunswick would be a nice community for their children to grow up in. “Our kids were school-aged, and it was time to move back to the East Coast,” he said. His wife is a teacher at Brunswick Elementary School.

Blackmon renovates old buildings, and he’s renovated many of the buildings that house old homes and businesses in downtown Frederick. A little over five years ago, he decided that the now empty former Brunswick fire hall would make a great venue for a brew pub that features live music. He put his career on hold. He’s now focused on turning the brewpub into a centerpiece of what he hopes will be a downtown Brunswick revitalization.

“It’s been a challenge to bring Brunswick back into the limelight again,” he said. In the 1950s and 1960s, Brunswick hosted country singer Patsy Cline, bandleader Guy Lombardo, guitar legend Roy Clark and jazz legend Duke Ellington among numerous musical luminaries of the time. Even into the 1980s, the popular local band Kix performed in Brunswick after making it big.

Downtown Brunswick needs more restaurants and shops to cater to the downtown residents and the newer residents of the walkable developments that surround the one-time thriving railroad town, he said. “We’re trying to focus on the natural resources that bring people to this town, the Potomac River, the C&O Canal, the Appalachian Trail.” Brunswick has the resources that could bring visitors from Frederick, from nearby Lovettsville, Virginia and other surrounding communities. But it doesn’t have all the services visitors want. Blackmon hopes Smoketown Brewing Station will start a movement to change that.

“I first saw Brunswick coming over the bridge from Virginia,” Blackmon said. “I saw these craggy Victorian homes perched on this beautiful hillside overlooking the river, looking like a quaint New England town.” Blackmon was drawn by the natural beauty of the area, with lush, green mountains ringing the riverside community.

Brunswick was once a thriving railroad community. That’s gone now, but Blackmon thinks the area’s natural resources should be enough to help Brunswick thrive. Cyclists pass through while pedaling the C&O Canal; railroad historians enjoy learning about the city’s railroad past at the Brunswick Museum; boaters enjoy the wide Potomac River, and hikers trek nearby along the Appalachian Trail.

The brew pub features a tap and tasting room with indoor and outdoor seating. Food trucks offer pub fare. Brewmaster Greg Nichols, a retired firefighter, is now creating beer in the one-time fire station. The large brick building, with its cavernous rooms and entertainment hall, offers plenty of space for brewing and storing beer in large tanks.

“We can produce upwards of 50 barrels at a time,” Blackmon said. One barrel is equivalent to a large keg. Eighteen beers are on tap. These range from Berlin Brown Ale, named after for Brunswick’s original name to Potomac IPA, Ashcat Pale Ale, German Crossing Hefe, the summertime Smoketown Shenanigans Shandy and Senior Week Pineapple NEIPA, Walter’s Spirit Porter, named for the building’s resident ghost, and Maple Avenue Porter. Abolitionist IPA is a collaborative partnership with the Mount St. Mary’s University Brewing Club.

“Six months ago, we started canning our beers,” Blackmon said. The beers, including Berlin Brown Ale, Potomac IPA and German Crossing Hefe, are now available in liquor stores throughout Western Maryland. Smoketown beer is also served at many local events, detailed on the brewery’s Facebook page.

Later this summer or early fall, Blackmon hopes the brewery can revive the building’s concert tradition. “We’ve had a huge amount of interest from the musical world,” Blackmon said. He’s hoping to host popular local and regional bands and one-hit wonders. Country, rock, R&B, hair band, jazz and bluegrass bands will be featured. The spacious music hall seats about 300 people.

Although the brewpub can only serve beer made on the premise, the concert venue can feature a full range of beverages. Along with beer, there will be wine, cider and spirits. There is a commercial kitchen, making it appealing for event rentals.

“We draw from Frederick, Baltimore, D.C.,” Blackmon said. “People fall in love with Brunswick.”

Smoketown Brewing Station
223 W. Potomac St.
Brunswick, MD

Closed Mondays and Tuesdays

For more on Smoketown Brewing Station, go to, or go to the brewpub’s Facebook page.

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