Ballantine Beer Leaderboard
Find happy hours and drink specials anywhere you are

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
Beer Review: Ballantine India Pale Ale
7 Tips for a Safer Girls' Night Out
Charm City's 8 Best Venues for Celebrating Baltimore Beer Week
spacer
2 Gingers Below Features
From Around The Web

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:
 
7 Tips for a Safer Girls' Night Out

7 Tips for a Safer Girls' Night Out

Going out in the city should be fun for everyone. Here's a few tips to keep you and your friends safe and having fun this fall....read more ›

by Jessica Klein Oct 13, 2014
Charm City's 8 Best Venues for Celebrating Baltimore Beer Week

Charm City's 8 Best Venues for Celebrating Baltimore Beer Week

Don't know where to go for Baltimore Beer Week? These bars have the best ongoing specials and some of the most unique events....read more ›

by Jennifer Waldera Oct 10, 2014
SPONSORED
Visit Drink Baltimore on Your Phone
Recap of the 2014 Great American Beer Fest (Photos)

Recap of the 2014 Great American Beer Fest (Photos)

Couldn't make it to Denver for this year's Great American Beer Festival? Click through our slideshow to make it feel like you were there....read more ›

by Carrie Dow Oct 9, 2014
Going to Nevada? Check Out the Budweiser of Brothels

Going to Nevada? Check Out the Budweiser of Brothels

Of course Anheuser-Busch sponsors a room at a legal brothel....read more ›

by Ryan Hudak Oct 7, 2014
Samuel Adams' Jim Koch Announces Homebrew Longshot Winners at GABF

Samuel Adams' Jim Koch Announces Homebrew Longshot Winners at GABF

Four home brewers from around the country won a trip to Denver to visit GABF and to learn who the top two home...read more ›

by Carrie Dow Oct 7, 2014
Brewly Noted: Brewing Trends at the 2014 Great American Beer Festival

Brewly Noted: Brewing Trends at the 2014 Great American Beer Festival

We noticed some new trends brewing at this year's Great American Beer Festival. ...read more ›

by Nathan Solheim Oct 6, 2014
Strap on Your Running Shoes for the Inaugural Baltimore Beer Run, Oct. 12

Strap on Your Running Shoes for the Inaugural Baltimore Beer Run, Oct. 12

Beer meets running at the inaugural Baltimore Beer Run on Sunday, October 12....read more ›

by Jennifer Waldera Oct 6, 2014
Baltimore Area 2014 Great American Beer Festival Winners

Baltimore Area 2014 Great American Beer Festival Winners

Maryland brewers took home five medals from this year's Great American Beer Festival. ...read more ›

by Drink Baltimore Oct 6, 2014
Study: Beer Will Make You Smarter, But You'll Need to Drink A Lot of It

Study: Beer Will Make You Smarter, But You'll Need to Drink A Lot of It

Could the nectar of the gods actually make you smarter?...read more ›

by Collin Keefe Oct 3, 2014
SPONSORED
View all Articles

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

Close