As we enter the next phase of the Pandemic – one marked by social upheaval, an uptick in diagnosed cases of COVID-19 in states that have already re-opened, and a cautious approach to re-opening here in Maryland – Frederick Behind Bars talked to Nick Wilson, co-founder of Olde Mother Brewing Company on North Market Street. Olde Mother’s story is very much like that of the other breweries around the state.
“When this [pandemic] stuff first started coming in, the little bit of water started trickling in, my first thought was ‘how serious is this thing? What does it really mean? and honestly, I had no clue,” explained Wilson. “There was so much information coming out all the time back then in March. It was new information every day. We tried not to dig too deep into any one avenue of information, because we knew the information was going to change. So, we just wanted to stay flexible, and not take hard stances on certain things, and see what the government officials are going to say day to day. Just take it as it comes, and adapt – I think everyone in the United States was adapting in their businesses on a daily basis until” the lock down was announced.
The initial announcement of the statewide lock down added to the uncertainty. “That’s when we were in a state of limbo, “said Wilson. “Do we make beer, do we not make beer? And, ultimately, our thought was, we have a lot of raw materials at hand, that have already been paid for. Let’s brew some beer and use that up – and we figured we would have it” if they were allowed to sell it. With some of the most popular products – IPA’s – being best with limited shelf lives, this uncertainty created other concerns. “We’re still brewing just as much, we haven’t slowed down any production. We didn’t know what was going to happen [when the lock-down order hit] before they deemed the breweries an essential business. The scary part is, and I feel like everyone that is a brewer had to feel this whether they say it or not – we couldn’t just start making the IPA’s because everybody likes them and that’s what you need to make, but nobody knew if we were going to be able to sell them, or if people were going have the money to buy them, and you don’t want those beers going bad they need to be fresh. You want to make sure that you can sell it, or that people can go buy it.”
Without the tasting room, and without restaurants able to sell as much beer on tap, Wilson, and partner Keith Marcoux made the decision to start canning all of their beers, and cut out kegs for the most part. “We’re still canning everything,” said Wilson. For Olde Mother, the shift from kegging to canning, curbside pick-up, and distribution was an easy one. “We already had some roots in place, since we already had a distributor,” so it became more about a shift in amounts – what went to the distributor for sale to retail accounts versus what stayed in house for curbside pick-up and delivery. “As this has gone one – we already had all the plans in place. We just took what we were already doing, and doubled up on canning.”
“I think everybody in our area has supported all of” the local breweries throughout this, said Wilson. “I think people, myself included, if I didn’t have some good beer to sip on while locked at the house, I think I would go crazy.”
This past weekend, with the first stage of re-opening, Olde Mother re-opened their patio, using a reservation system. Wilson said they invited a lot of the regulars to help beta test the system. They did it, he explained, “with people we know that can be a little more lenient and flexible with us” as they work through the bugs in the system.
As we move forward in uncharted waters, the brain-trust at Olde Mother, like the many other Frederick County breweries, is continuing to explore ways to safely bring beer to their customers – whether through curbside pick-up, Biermi, or on their patio.