by Leah Michaels
Just inside the tiny historic town of Berlin, Bryan Brushmiller is making a little history of his own. With an idea, a biochemistry degree from Salisbury, a beer making hobby, and no job, Bryan Brushmiller decided to open the first brewery in the town of Berlin.
In December of 2009, Bryan Brushmiller got a pink slip from the construction site development company he had worked for, the Friday before Christmas. The company, like many other companies across the country, went out of business due to the recession.
“After I was let go, I decided I had to take matters into my own hands and start my own business. I researched how to do it and got a lot of help from the Small Business Development Center, and here I am now,” Brushmiller said.
Brushmiller found an old abandoned 6,000 square foot building and decided it was perfect for his brew house. Burley Oak Brewing Company was born. The inspiration for the name came from the town of Berlin and the history of the building. In 1677 a land grant, part of the Burley Plantation, gave a start to the town Berlin, whose own name was said to be derived from a local tavern called the Burleigh Inn. The building that they are renovating to become the brew house was originally a cooperage, a business that made oaks used to ship local produce and seafood to the port of Baltimore.
“It’s coming back around since we are bringing oak barrels back into the hundred year old cooperage,” said Brushmiller.
“Oak” also refers to one of the brewing methods that Brushmiller will be implementing.
“We use a lot of closed fermentation practices which is standard throughout the industry, but being a beer and history geek, the traditional method is to use open fermenters and oak barrels. I think that imparts a lot of different flavors and we are going to utilize that method also,” said Brushmiller.
In the process of building the business, it was important to Brushmiller to keep in mind sustainable and local practices. He renovated an old building instead of building a new one and has used approximately thirty five local contractors in the process. He also receives his hops and other ingredients from local farmers in the area.
“These are probably the most important values for us. We really take pride in the fact that when we open we won’t have a dumpster. Everything will be in recycling bins. Even down to our grain. I get grain from a local farmer and I give grain to a local farmer for his cattle. Nothing is wasted,” said Brushmiller.
Burley Oak wants to make distinctive beers that are unlike others.
“I think a lot of our beers aren’t based on style but on balanced beer that we can utilize from our local surroundings,” said Brushmiller. “My barley farmer also grows indigenous rye, which has a very distinct flavor and spiciness to it. We are trying to replicate how beers were originally made.”
Brushmiller pairs his admiration for traditional brewing methods with the artisanship of craft brewing.
“A lot of artisanship can be found in hand-crafted brewing. We are a small system and we don’t have any mechanical parts. Everything is done by hand, down to the stirring of the mash and the transfers. Even our mash paddle was hand crafted,” said Brushmiller.
Brushmiller and his team worked hard to ensure that the grand opening of his facility was today, just in time for the Governor to tour. The humming of saws and the pounding of hammers could be heard throughout all hours of the days leading up to this momentous occasion, not only for Brushmiller, but for the town of Berlin.
Burley Oak can currently produce 110 barrels a year and employs three workers. Brushmiller hopes to hire more employees in the coming years and be distributing his beer throughout the Mid-Atlantic.
“I think quality is the number one factor in making a truly great beer. Our ingredients are all natural. We don’t use any chemicals or preservatives and we don’t pasteurize our beer,” said Brushmiller.