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April 9, 2010

Introducing Bawlmer Craft Beers, Baltimore's newest brewery

this is the label for Amer's Ale, by Bawlmer Craft Beers

Since Baltimore can never have too many local breweries (and for the past few years hasn't had nearly enough), it is with great pleasure that I share this news:

There's a new brewery in town. It's called Bawlmer Craft Beers, and it's based in the old Crown Cork & Seal building in Highlandtown.

At the moment, Bawlmer has two bottled beers ready to hit bars and liquor stores: Amber's Ale and Formstone Ale.

Bawlmer Craft Beers is the brainchild of John O'Melia, a 46-year-old who lives in Towson. Before getting into the beer business, he worked as a consultant for water treatment engineering.

Sounds like a radical career swap, doesn't it? ...

Actually, making beer and engineering clean water aren't all that different, O'Melia said.

"I decided my skill set was exactly right," he said. "Brewers are glorified janitors. The key is, everything has to be clean, all the time. It's very much like making water."

O'Melia quit consulting three years ago to work on Bawlmer full time. He was a home brewer for years, and got his wholesaler's license last week. He has about 1,000 cases of beer ready to go, which he plans to distribute independently.

The recipes for Formstone and Amber's Ale are O'Melias; he also has a strong dark ale in the works, called Crabby Abbey. All three are high-gravity brews -- Amber's Ale is a little more than six percent alcohol, and Formstone Ale is a little more than seven percent.

"We've got a taste I'm really proud of," he said. "These are beers that have a significant amount of body."

O'Melia is a fan of Belgian ales, and particularly loves American micro brews. He praised Hugh Sisson's Heavy Seas and the Brewer's Art's Resurrection Ale.

"That's a great example of an American micro brewery making some of the best beers in the world," he said of Brewer's Art. "There's no beer in the world where you can say, 'That's a better beer than Resurrection.'"

Currently, Bawlmer has the capacity to make 160 barrels of beer every two weeks (one barrel holds about 31 gallons). I'll keep you posted on where you'll be able to buy the first two brews.

For more on the story, check out Scott Dance's piece in the Baltimore Business Journal and Alexander D. Mitchell IV's piece on Beer in Baltimore.

(Photo courtesy of

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:57 AM | | Comments (21)
Categories: Bars & Clubs


Ugh. More overplayed Baltimore kitsch.

I'll try it. Any word yet about when or where it will be available?

@Owl Meat - have to disagree. I was actually bummed that Clipper City changed their name, and I don't know if "Heavy Seas" is any more marketable than the original name (and have several friends in spirit brand management that agree). I think as long as he sticks to a theme (assuming he makes a HQ brew), he could develop great local brand awareness, and potentially regional brand awareness with the brand. As a homebrewer, I'm psyched for another organic (funding not ingredient) local craft home brew to augment a couple favorites.

And let's be honest, if he makes good beer, it will sharpen everyone else's game.

Now we just need to convince a few watering holes to buy some kegs of this stuff (no mention of kegged beer - is he just selling it retail?)

i am going to have to go with owl meat on this one-- it is just so unoriginal and overplayed. i do love craft beer and wish this company all the luck in the world-- just hire a better marketing and design team! there are lots of ways to say bmore without the word "hon"

Crown Cork & Seal... now there's a name I haven't heard in a long time. My father worked there for years. I'll have to let him know that the building hasn't moved far from the original product.

"i am going to have to go with owl meat on this one-- it is just so unoriginal and overplayed. i do love craft beer and wish this company all the luck in the world-- just hire a better marketing and design team! there are lots of ways to say bmore without the word "hon"

Maybe I'm just not "true blue" Baltimore (even though I grew up here), but my first reaction to the name was that it should have a chair on the label:

That's awesome! From one current home brewer to a former one.. good luck John.

Yeah, much love to homebrewers, microbreweries, etc., but that bottle art & theme has got to go. It seems destined for a Worst Beer Label list.

Owl Meat is 100% right.

That label is borderline insulting. I wouldn't buy anything packaged that way, no matter how good the beer might turn out.

And I, for one, welcome our new Highlandtown Beer overlords!

I can't wait to get me some Bawlmer Beer n' crabs this summer.

Yeah, because the current young professionals who live in / and are from Baltimore, just love to embrace the old "Hon" mentality. It's 2010, please be original when trying to tie yourself to the city. Best of luck here, but poor marketing choice(s).

Are you sure about that Warren?

It seemed to work for Marz-Hon pretty well, and it's a damn shame Hugh killed that label and the McHenry label. I don't think thet news Heavy Seas junk is as appealing when I see it on the shelves. I know it's the same inside, but I'm not as apt to purchase it now.

What's the average attendance for Hon Fest? Are they attracting authentic Hons? No. It is that same youth you speak of.

Craft beer + schlock marketing = FAIL

Best of luck and I hope it's good beer but the name and imagery is a turn off. I suggest Rub-A-Dub Suds

Hon Fest is to Highlandtown as St. Patrick's Day is to Ireland.

Everything about these beers screams "gimmick" to me. The name of the brewery, the "hon" reference, and referring to the amber as a "Baltimore style amber ale" (whatever in the world that is).

Also, the first two beers are an amber and a brown ale? Great. Just what the world needs is yet another amber and brown ale cause, gosh don't you know, we sure don't have enough of them available now.

It's almost as if the brewer is going out of his way to convince me that I need to drink these beers, solely because they're made here in Baltimore, and so drinking these beers will show my loyalty and appreciation of the city.

I can't speak for others, but that's just not a sufficiently good reason to get me buy/try these beers.

I'll be waiting to see where I can pick some up. :-)

That said, they need to hire someone to build them a new website. Their current one scares me.

Unlike the others posting here, I will judge based on what's in the bottle, not what's on it.

Send some to the Laughing Pint, for the Highlandtown locals. Lots of craft beers on tap there. Looking forward to trying it.

Real beer brewed at Cork Crown and Seal. Locals should all be proud!

Scary website indeed, but also just plain bad. The top banner is blurry. There's no color, graphics or design. And what is going on in the background? It looks like a serial killer with bloody hands going through some garbage. Or an alien insect autopsy.

Full disclosure: I am neither a home brewer nor even much of a beer afficianado. (Give me a super-chilled Yuengling any day. Sue me.) I am weighing in only on the branding issue.

I share OMG's disappointment at the "overplayed Baltimore kitsch" and nominate some alternative names for locally brewed beer:


Baltimore has a slew of landmarks and/or cultural icons that merit being immortalized on a beer label. To roll out the hon/behive yet again just seems tired, dull, and lazy.

Oh my! Oh-la-la! This is so perfect with a bottle of beer and a hockey game with your HD Widescreen TV! Oh man! I miss the life of a bum! Hahaha I agree with some of you guys up there, I totally feel you bro! Thanks for the post and for sharing it to us.

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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