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Local brewery, Fin City, now bottling craft beers

Fin City Brewer Vince Wright, front, stands with fellow brewers at the brewery in Hooper’s Crab House in West Ocean City. (Clara Vaughn)

(Oct. 4, 2013) Fin City, the brewery tucked into the second floor space of Hooper’s Crab House in West Ocean City, will expand beyond serving patrons at the restaurant next week with a move to bottle its craft beers.

The brewery will start its bottle distribution in Maryland with its Jackspot Amber Ale and Pumpkin Ale on Oct. 10, with plans to roll out a seasonal IPA in about a month, brewer Vince Wright said.

“We’ve always talked about distribution. It just happened a lot faster than we expected,” he said.

Fin City began brewing beer less than two years ago, in March 2012, but is still Ocean City’s oldest brewery. With its five-barrel system, it serves around 400 kegs-worth of beer to Hooper’s patrons each year, the restaurant’s Manager Patrick Brady said.

“We couldn’t make it fast enough, and that’s just for the restaurant,” Wright said.

To meet the much bigger demand that comes with bottling and distribution, the venture had to expand.

Research and local brewer connections led Wright to Peabody Heights Brewery in Baltimore, where he’ll make vastly bigger batches of Fin City’s recipes. The partnership at the fully automated brewery bumps productivity to about 80-barrel-sized batches, Wright said.

“Going from five-barrel to 80-barrel is a big jump, but it’s exciting,” he said. “In a little over three days, I can make the same amount as I can in one year (at the smaller Hooper’s brewery).” And with plans to expand into Virginia, Delaware, and eventually throughout the mid-Atlantic region, the Baltimore brewery has the room for further expansion, he said.

Wright’s passion for beer dates back several generations, when his grandfather and great-grandfather brewed during prohibition.

“They passed away before I was even born, but my grandmother told me about it,” he said. “I hesitated (to become a brewer) because I didn’t think I could make a living doing it, so I joined the Navy.”

But in 2008, after his grandmother left him a box of old brewing books, he “finally made the plunge,” and bought a small brewing system, he said.

Shortly after winning a prize for his pumpkin ale in the 25th anniversary Punkin Chunkin contest in Delaware in 2010, he came to Hooper’s annual Brews on the Beach craft beer festival.

“I just came in and saw the open space up there,” Wright said.

He approached Hooper’s staff with the idea to open a brewery in the then-storage area, and “it’s been fast and furious ever since,” Brady said.

“We kept Vince (who also works full-time as a sales manager) rather busy, and this year we’ve kept him even busier,” Brady said.

To market the new bottles, Fin City plans to host release parties at new distributor locations. It has bumped up merchandise production and used social media, where Fin City’s Facebook and Twitter followers have “helped get us where we are,” Wright said.

As far as watching the first Fin City bottles roll out next week, he said, “It’s going to be an awesome feeling seeing the first ones come down the line.”

To learn more about Fin City and its beers, visit www.fincitybrewing.com. Follow the brewery on Facebook at FinCity BrewingCompany or at the Twitter handle @FinCityBrews.

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