Brian Strumke of Stillwater Might Brew More Olde Bay Saison

Just don't sell it on eBay
by Drew Lazor on Jan 4, 2012 in Beer
Brian Strumke of Stillwater Might Brew More Olde Bay Saison

For the most recent Baltimore Beer Week, Brian Strumke unveiled what might be the most unabashedly Maryland libation experience to date (save for that weird dream we once had involving Johnny Unitas and Cal Ripken wearing lacrosse gloves and crushing Bohs on the infield at Pimlico): the Stillwater Artisanal Ales founder brewed a hyper-limited run of “Olde Bay Saison,” literally featuring McCormick’s great-on-everything crab seasoning as a chief ingredient.

“I only did one batch, but nailed it on the first try,” says East Baltimore native Strumke, no stranger to unorthodox brewing challenges (see the pho-flavored beer he once crafted for Mekong, a Vietnamese restaurant in Richmond). “The hard part was there’s a lot of salt in Old Bay, so I had to be really gentle.” His steady hands combined Carapils malt, traditional saison yeast, Summit and Hallertau hops and corn (flaked, not on the cob) with the celery salt-heavy spice mix to create a beer that begins as a crisp, balanced farmhouse and finishes with a peculiar cracked-crustacean flourish (about 1000x better than crab juice).

If you snagged a taste, you’re damn lucky – the 101 cheekily-designed bottles, hyped up by beer geeks presale, went fast at Stillwater’s BBW event at Max’s Taphouse. Strumke hawked them for just $5 a pop (limit one per person), along with branded T-shirts. “It’s not about making money,” says the brewer, who donated all proceeds from the beer to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. “I wanted people to come and have fun. Something like that brings a little excitement.”

So how did Strumke react when he began discovering bottles of his Baltimore baby surfacing online for way more than five bucks – including one recent eBay auction demanding a starting bid of $99.99?

On one hand, Strumke takes folks reselling his beers as a compliment. Not every brewery – especially a relatively small operation like Stillwater – puts out product rarefied enough to justify such price jackups. (“Is it flattering? Of course.”) But there’s definitely a line, and it definitely has been crossed, which puts Strumke in a position comparable to bands whose concert tickets are commandeered by scalpers and resold with outlandish markups.

“If it becomes an enterprise, with people profiting off my product for no reason, that’s ridiculous,” says Strumke. “I’m not making those margins on my beer. In fact, I didn’t make anything at all on this beer.”

Secondhand price gouging notwithstanding (“It is what it is”), Strumke’s primary concern is the quality of the beer itself – those who cellar or shelf the beer for too long might be disappointed once they finally pop the top. “When I do these limited releases, I intend them to be drank right away. With Olde Bay Saison, [if you wait too long] it’s not going to be good,” says Strumke, citing inevitable problems like oxidation and hop degradation (an ever-evolving Brett-crazy wild ale this ain’t). “It’s a good beer right now, and I want people to taste it now. The idea is that it’s consumable art, not collectible art.”

Luckily, fans of Stillwater or Old Bay Seasoning might not have to drop a freakish wad of online cash to try a glass of said art for themselves – the beer’s popularity has Strumke thinking he might crank out more in the future, this time officially. “Since it obviously pushed the limit of copyright statutes,” laughs Strumke, “if I did it again, I would definitely contact McCormick’s [to collaborate]. That would be cool. Baltimore would totally embrace it.”
 
Top photo via Stillwater on Facebook; bottom photo by Drew Lazor
Recent Articles
spacer

Feedback

How are we doing? Tell us what you like or don't like and how we can improve. We would love to hear your thoughts!

*Name:
*E-mail:
*Suggestions:
 
Carnival Vista Launches First Brewery on a Ship

Carnival Vista Launches First Brewery on a Ship

Carnival's newest and largest cruise ship, the 3,954 person Carnival Vista, has its own brewery called the Red Frog Pub & Brewery....read more ›

by Alexander Frane May 18, 2016
Head to Wine in the Woods in Columbia, May 21 & 22

Head to Wine in the Woods in Columbia, May 21 & 22

From 11 - 6 PM on Saturday, May 21 and from 11 - 5 PM on Sunday, May 22, oenophiles can gather at Symphony Woods in Columbia to sample and purchase fr...read more ›

by Jennifer Waldera May 16, 2016
Building in Brooklyn to Transform into the Classic Ghostbusters HQ For a Weekend

Building in Brooklyn to Transform into the Classic Ghostbusters HQ For a Weekend

BBQ Films is recreating the Ghostbusters HQ for three nights only in Brooklyn....read more ›

by Alexander Frane May 11, 2016
SPONSORED
Visit Drink Baltimore on Your Phone
Russian River Plans Mega-Brewery in Windsor, CA

Russian River Plans Mega-Brewery in Windsor, CA

Russian River already has a brewpub in downtown Santa Rosa, but now the company is planning to build a new one in Windsor, CA, and it's going to be 85...read more ›

by Alexander Frane May 11, 2016
Watery Beer-Like Beverage Wants to Appeal to the Stupidest Possible Citizens of This Country By Renaming Itself 'America'
by The Drink Nation May 10, 2016
Check Out the Maryland Craft Beer Festival, May 14

Check Out the Maryland Craft Beer Festival, May 14

With over 180 local beers to be sampled, this year’s Maryland Craft Beer Festival, on the corner of S. East and S. Market Street at Carroll Creek Li...read more ›

by Jennifer Waldera May 10, 2016
Head to QG's Bourbon & Bowties Fundraiser, May 12

Head to QG's Bourbon & Bowties Fundraiser, May 12

Sip (or swill) your bourbon in style on Thursday, May 12 from 7 PM - 10 PM at the QG's fundraiser, Bourbon & Bowties, at the Baltimore Museum of Indus...read more ›

by Jennifer Waldera May 10, 2016
Bar Rescue's Jon Taffer Made a Terrible Manhattan on National TV

Bar Rescue's Jon Taffer Made a Terrible Manhattan on National TV

Bar Rescue's Jon Taffer appeared on Meredith Viera's talk show and made a seriously bad Manhattan....read more ›

by Ryan Hudak May 5, 2016
Hop-Con 4.0 Is Like Comic-Con For Stone Brewing: Beer By Wil Wheaton, Aisha Tyler, & More

Hop-Con 4.0 Is Like Comic-Con For Stone Brewing: Beer By Wil Wheaton, Aisha Tyler, & More

Hop-Con 4.0 is the convergence of brewing culture and nerd culture. This day long festival hosted by Stone Bre...read more ›

by Alexander Frane May 4, 2016
Try Rujero, Baltimore's New Bolivian Import

Try Rujero, Baltimore's New Bolivian Import

Try Rujero, Baltimore's new import from Bolivia....read more ›

by Jennifer Waldera May 3, 2016
SPONSORED
View all Articles

Sign up to get weekly drinking news, bar reviews, events and more sent directly to your inbox!

Close