In recent years, microbreweries have become an increasingly popular venture throughout the United States. But while these new businesses have begun popping up around the state of Maryland, they were curiously absent from Somerset Country, as state legislation made the area the only jurisdiction without the authority to issue microbrewery licenses. However, a recent Senate Bill now permits these businesses in the county, giving Somerset the chance to earn as much as $1,265 in annual revenue per microbrewery in the area. Now, Chesapeake Brewing Co. has become the region’s first business to bring fresh-brewed craft beer to Somerset.
Chesapeake Brewing Co. is owned by David and Carolyn Marquis, who have the perfect background for such a venture: David is not only a former chemistry teacher and beer lover, but the couple also operated a bed and breakfast out of their home for years, called Marquis Manor. Finding their profits disappointing, the couple chose to close the bed and breakfast and renovate another business they operated, called the Blue Crab Cafe, into a craft beer brewery. Now, their Main Street location in Ocean City features a tasting room and adjoining cafe, which offers four styles of beer that can be tasted onsite or taken home in growlers.
After their opening this fall, Chesapeake Brewing Co. has become the first business to give the Lower Shore county a craft beer, giving the area a valuable opportunity to attract visitors and events. To draw attention and drum up support, they have begun networking with several economic development support groups across the state, joined the Ocean City Chamber of Commerce, and are in negotiations to become part of area travel packages. Carolyn Marquis has also started putting the business and technology skills she gained while running their other businesses to work by marketing the company online. If executed properly, this could mean a lot to Chesapeake Brewing Co.’s success: with studies showing that only 30% of companies respond to the feedback their customers give them on social media, this represents an opportunity to shape their business to the needs and desires of the community and the tourists who favor the area. Carolyn Marquis says she hopes to attract many of the 300,000 or more peak-season guests by providing an added incentive to visit the rustic seaside town.
With several events planned for 2015, Chesapeake Brewing Co. has a number of opportunities to connect with consumers on and offline: in the spring, the brewery plans to participate in a Shore Craft Brewing Association event in Ocean City, which pairs a chef with a regional brewery to test food and craft beer combinations. Another Grapes and Hops festival has also been proposed for the spring.
In the months before these events, however, the microbrewery is drawing attention for the ways their beer references Somerset County’s heritage: their four options include Tangier Red Seas, an amber ale named for the nearby Tangier Sound; Crab Shanty, a light pale ale that pairs well with crab cakes; Soul of a Waterman, a double India pale ale that is matched with an oyster-stuffed steak; and Marsh Mud Oyster Stout, a dark option designed to complement the cafe’s seafood offerings. David and Carolyn Marquis hope that this use of small town hospitality and legacy, spread in person and through their marketing efforts, will help boost their community, which was severely damaged by Hurricane Sandy.