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The executor’s song
It was 10 a.m. on a Friday morning and the boardwalk mostly was empty, save for the exercises (bikers, joggers, etc.) and Adam Davis, the head brewer at Backshore Brewing Company. Inside the brewery, Davis was just finishing up his morning. He’d popped by to get some work done early and was heading out for the day. The upside and downside to being responsible for every drop of beer that leaves the brewery is his days are his own and dominated by brewing.
Next door, in the restaurant section of the brew pub, the day shift was well underway. Backshore Brewing is feet from the ocean and, as a result, gets and stays insanely busy in July. There is a backstage quality to being in an empty bar a few hours before opening. People are scurrying to get the place prepped and ready. For Davis, scrubbing is as much a part of his life as brewing. Between him, an enthusiastic bartender who is learning the brewing trade and the owner, Danny Robinson, the brewhouse stays cleaned up and the brewery runs smoothly.
Because he is the one with all the brewing experience, most of the concocting falls on him, a lot of the ideas, though, come from Danny. Specifically, the notion of the Hoop Tea, Backshore’s take on the Twisted Tea/Mike’s Hard Lemonade concept.
Dialing it in
The brewery teased the premise this spring at the Ocean City HRMA. They planned to package them in what appeared to be massive Capri Sun bags. But then summer came and they faced the pleasant problem many of the breweries here face: more people want more of their beer than they can make.
That didn’t mean they couldn’t roll it out, only that they didn’t do it at the scale they had planned to. Mostly it is available at the brewery and, rather than packaging it in the aluminium-finished, containers they went with something a little more practical, a bag in the box. It’s still travel and pack in/pack out friendly and it has the retro look that Backshore has been cultivating anyway.
Davis said that making the Hoop Tea was a lot like making moonshine. Like many brewers he has a science background (he took his biology degree from St. Mary’s College of Maryland), so cooking up the alcohol was easy enough for him. It comes out of the tanks in the neighborhood of 17-18 percent ABV and then gets diluted with the tea and comes in at an easily-drinking 4 percent. Which tea they makes is another question.
As with beers, once they got the recipe right they couldn’t have only a few teas. So there were the two primary bag in box varieties: White Mango and Sweet Lemon, but they’re brewing teas as quickly as they’re brewing beer so there are always different drinks for sale by the point or the growler at the 10th Street location.
Embracing the beach
Increasingly, breweries are self-distributing and Backshore is one of the latest to embrace this approach. The upside is that there is no one but yourself to blame if you can’t get on tap somewhere or your beer isn’t moving. The downside is the reverse, there is no buffer between the people demanding your beer and the people making it.
Davis said that so far things had been going well, even though it is insanely busy. Backshore beers mostly are available in the greater Ocean City area, and for now that’s perfectly fine with them.
Growth can be tricky, especially for the self-distributors, and as they find their way, they continue to plug away at making as distinctive a line of beers as they can.
To that end, they’ve embraced the shandy in a big way this summer. Rather than pre-package them, they literally mix them at the bar. If you’re not familiar a Shandy is a beer mixed with something a little sweeter. Lemonade is among the most well known, but people use all sorts of fruit juices and even sodas.
That’s cool about the Shandy from a craft beer perspective it that it continues to emphasize how important the flavor experience is, and how much more valuable the taste is than the buzz. Craft beer is forever going to be about appreciation and testing the limits.