OCEAN CITY, Md. (AP) — Two breweries, Backshore Brewing Co. and Ocean City Brewing Co., have found a home in Ocean City while a third, De Lazy Lizard, decided to pack off to Snow Hill after a fire in February badly damaged its building.
If they’re willing to take a road trip, beer aficionados during this summer tourist season will be able to find 10 more locally run breweries across Delmarva.
Is the area’s craft brewery market getting too frothy? Its newest entrant doesn’t think so.
In fact, the way brewmaster Jason Weissberg sees it, Assawoman Bay Brewing Co. and Brewpub occupies its own niche. No other brewery on Delmarva offers the same combination of a full gastropub menu and waterfront views, he said.
Like a true brewmaster, Weissberg declared that his beer will find a reliable base of drinkers on its own.
“People are always looking to expand their palates,” he said. “I equate it to opening a restaurant. If you make a good product and treat your customers right, there’s plenty of room.”
Assawoman Bay Brewing isn’t exactly new.
It opened last July in the 45th Street Shopping Village, a commercial development owned by businessman Avraham Sibony. The brewery was connected by a pair of glass double-doors to the Shallow Waters restaurant. Its beer was available only there and at two sister restaurants in the same shopping plaza, the 45th Street Taphouse and OC Steamers.
It also was poured from taps in the brewery’s “tasting room,” which has no seating and no proper bar. The tasting area shares the same space as the stainless steel tanks and other brewing equipment. The room gets no lack of light from the floor-to-ceiling windows that face the parking lot.
Now, the brewing side of the operation is striking out on its own. The Ocean City Town Council approved the permit Monday sought by the brewery’s parent company, Ocean Tap LLC, to allow it to make beer under its own name. It had been under Shallow Waters, which was shuttered to make way for the brewery’s expansion into a brewpub.
Workers are renovating the former restaurant portion of the complex. Weissberg said he hopes to be ready to open later this month.
The rear of the dining area looks out on the establishment’s namesake: Assawoman Bay. Customers can take further advantage of the view on a deck, which has its own bar.
The goal is to create an atmosphere hospitable to both families and people wanting to catch a game on one of its many flat-screen TVs.
“It’s hard to mingle families and brewpubs, but I think we can achieve it with the menu we have and the atmosphere we establish here,” said Jeff Burton, Ocean Tap’s chief operator.
So far, Weissberg has made 10 different styles of beer and has two more in the works, ranging from a summery pilsner to a dark porter. He is loath to identify any as his “signature” brew. He enjoys being creative with his recipes but not at the expense of taste, he said.
“I want people to sit down and have one and say, `That was pretty good. I’d like another of these,”‘ Weissberg said, adding that many of his beers are lighter to reflect Ocean City’s warmer climate.
The brewmaster is a craft beer veteran. He began making beer at home in 1993. He would go on to quit his job as a restaurant manager in a Colorado ski-resort community and work in breweries. He worked for seven years as the general manager of Dogfish Head in Delaware before leaving to take the Assawoman job.
“I was ready to get back into brewing,” Weissberg said.
For now, he plans to continue offering tastings and filling growlers at the tasting room, as well as selling in bulk to restaurants, now including those outside the shopping plaza. Town officials forbade the brewery from canning and bottling at his current location, but Weissberg hopes to make that part of his business plan in the future.
(Copyright 2015 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)