(Feb. 13, 2015) Opened on July 2, Assawoman Bay Brewing Co. qualifies as one of the youngest craft breweries on the Eastern Shore.
Age often having no bearing on success, the fledgling company quickly established itself in the region, putting out nearly a dozen beers in a short time and taking home top honors in a national competition.
Located in the 45th Street Village, Brewmaster Jason Weissberg said the concept of the brewery was “in the plans of the ownership of 45th street for many years.”
The first equipment orders for the facility were made roughly two years ago, with Weissberg coming on board last April.
A former home brewer, Weissberg turned pro in 1999 after attending the American Brewer’s Guild in Davis, Calif.
“I worked as an assistant brewer in Colorado for a couple of years and then used those experiences to move around the country and brew on different sizes and different types of breweries, making different types of beer,” he said.
Weissberg landed in Rehoboth, where he became the general manager of Dogfish Head Brewings and Eats, one of the largest and highly regarded craft beer companies in the world.
“After a while I decided it was time for me to return to strictly brewing,” he said. “The timing of me leaving Dogfish and this position opening up was almost perfect. It worked out really well.”
Dogfish Head is known for big, bold flavors and daring concepts, including adapting ingredients unearthed in a 2,700-year-old tomb.
Weissberg, on the other hand, leans a little more on the traditional side of brewing.
“My brewing style would be best described as a healthy respect for traditional brewing styles with a little bit of personality and my own twist on it,” he said.
Assawoman’s debut beer, the 5.25 percent ABV/20 IBU Bayside Blonde pale ale released last summer, balances light malt notes with a refreshing hop bitterness.
“It was really the first beer brewed on this system, a test batch just to see how the system worked,” Weissberg said. “When commissioning a new brewery you have a lot of variables and unknowns. You don’t know what your efficiency is going to be, you don’t know the hop character and what kind of reaction you’re going to get from that and the fermenters and using your water for the first time and how that reacts with your grains.”
Weissberg said the light, no-frills pale ale, helped him determine how his flavors would show through in the new system.
“You don’t want to disguise a lot of things,” he said. “You don’t want to throw too many ingredients into your first batch. You just want to learn how your system works and then you can start adding more and doing more things with it.
Today the brewery offers 10 different styles of beer on tap, ranging from the original brew to the increased spice character of the Bryant’s Folley Belgian Pale, the American-style Isle of Wight Wheat, the malty Angry Clown Brown, the Commodore Decatur’s Black Ale, featuring a roasted malt character on the front of tasting, the German-style Oktoberfest MD marzen and the award-winning Transporter, named the top porter in the winter United States Beer Tasting Championship earlier this year.
“We received two regional awards for the porter and the marzen, and the porter went on to the national round and won the national grand champion for the porter division,” he said. “It’s very exciting for a new brewery to get some really good response. I don’t think the purpose of doing this is to get the awards, but it’s nice to see where your beers measure up to all the other great craft breweries that are out there.”
For now, the tasting room is open for tours and tastings by appointment. Weissberg expects the brewery to keep regular hours during the summer.
Assawoman beers are also available at the 45th Street Tap House, 9th Street Tap House and OC Steamers.
“We’re also hoping to start distributing and getting placement,” Weissberg said. “I would certainly encourage everyone to stop by the brewery, and when you’re out and about at your favorite craft bars to ask for our beers.”
Weissberg said the brewery is also looking into bottling or canning options.
“We’re looking for this spring and summer to be a good kind of breakout year for us,” he said. “We had a really good introduction of our product last summer and now the word is starting to get out about what we’re doing.”
The current crop of 10 beers is likely to become the core lineup, according to Weissberg, although he promised to continue adding new flavors in the future.
“With a 15-barrel system, we’ll continue to grow here,” he said. “With the new year, we’re just trying to bring more great craft beer out on the shore and attract as many people to not just our brewery and tasting room, but the other craft beer bars that we love and continue to support as well.