Ballantine Beer Leaderboard
2 Gingers Header

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
Stephen Colbert Sells Naming Rights to his Show to Dewar's Scotch
Baltimore's Best Local Beers for Winter
Welcome to the Mile High [Cocktail] Club
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:
 
Welcome to the Mile High [Cocktail] Club

Welcome to the Mile High [Cocktail] Club

The Carry On Cocktail Kit allows you to mix up some better than average in-flight drinks....read more ›

by Nasira B. Latif Dec 15, 2014
The Five Difficult Drinkers on Your Christmas List and How to Shop for Them

The Five Difficult Drinkers on Your Christmas List and How to Shop for Them

Sometimes it's not as easy as picking up a random six pack and jamming it in your friend's stocking. That's wh...read more ›

by Ryan Hudak Dec 15, 2014
Home Bar Project: How to Make a Gold Rush

Home Bar Project: How to Make a Gold Rush

Have you ever dreamed of having an amazing home bar, filled with bottles you actually use and the tools you need to execute a finely crafted cocktail?...read more ›

by The Drink Nation Dec 15, 2014
SPONSORED
Visit Drink Baltimore on Your Phone
Beer Review: Great Divide's Hibernation Ale

Beer Review: Great Divide's Hibernation Ale

Hibernation is a hearty English Style Old Ale that would rouse the most snoozy bear from slumber....read more ›

by Nathan Solheim Dec 12, 2014
A Fiery Look at Japanese Whisky and the Barrel Charring Process

A Fiery Look at Japanese Whisky and the Barrel Charring Process

Japan isn't usually the first thing you think of when you think about whisky, but that could change very soon. ...read more ›

by Kate Monzo Dec 12, 2014
9 Warm Cocktails to Cut Through the Winter Chill

9 Warm Cocktails to Cut Through the Winter Chill

We reveal which bars have some of Baltimore's best hot cocktails, and we even include some recipes. ...read more ›

by Jennifer Waldera Dec 9, 2014
Home Bar Project: How to Make a Whiskey Smash

Home Bar Project: How to Make a Whiskey Smash

Have you ever dreamed of having an amazing home bar, filled with bottles you actually use and the tools you need to execute a finely crafted cocktail?...read more ›

by The Drink Nation Dec 8, 2014
Women's Beer Mile Record Shattered at First Ever Beer Mile World Championships

Women's Beer Mile Record Shattered at First Ever Beer Mile World Championships

Elizabeth Harden set a new women's world record at the first annual Beer Mile World Championships, coming in a...read more ›

by Kate Monzo Dec 8, 2014
Nick Offerman of 'Parks and Recreation' Sings a Ballad Dedicated to Whiskey

Nick Offerman of 'Parks and Recreation' Sings a Ballad Dedicated to Whiskey

Nick Offerman sings a tribute to his 'first true love' whiskey. ...read more ›

by The Drink Nation Dec 4, 2014
5 Cocktails for Repeal Day

5 Cocktails for Repeal Day

What should you drink on December 5 to commemorate the end of the (not so) Noble Experiment? ...read more ›

by The Drink Nation Dec 2, 2014
SPONSORED
View all Articles

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

Close