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Benny’s Pub begins brewing business in Hagerstown

HAGERSTOWN — At a time when many restaurants are closing their doors, Benny’s Pub in Hagerstown is brewing up new business.

On Tuesday, owner Bill Skomski Sr. hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially open Antietam Brewery inside the Benny’s Pub building at 49 Eastern Blvd. The event culminated with Mayor David S. Gysberts tapping the first keg.

“This has been a dream of mine since 1998 or 1999,” Skomski said in an interview before the ribbon cutting. “This was our vision when we opened the business six years ago … I hope to see the brewery grow to where I have beers in every liquor store in all 50 states.”

Antietam Brewery features three beers — General’s Golden Ale, Pickett’s Porter and Kelly’s Red River IRA (India Red Ale). The names of the beers are inspired by Washington County’s Civil War history. Kelly’s Red River IRA, for example, was named after brothers who fought at the Battle of Antietam on Sept. 17, 1862.

Daniel Maerzluft, a brewmaster with 17 years of experience from Portland, Ore., to Frederick, Md., said Antietam Brewery uses hops and malts from Belgium, England, Germany, New Zealand and the Pacific Northwest.

He said the brewery will start with three “flagship” beers and gradually branch out.

“Every chance we get we’re going to slip in a seasonal,” Maerzluft said.

The craft beers at Antietam Brewery have a higher alcohol content than a lot of popular American beers. The alcohol content of General’s Golden Ale and Pickett’s Porter are just under 5.5 percent. Kelly’s Red River IRA is 7.5 percent.

The price of the beers ranges from $4 to $5 a pint. The beer isn’t sold in bottles, but bartenders will fill half-gallon growlers for customers to take home.

Skomski said equipment for the brewery started to arrive in December. Since then, he and his employees have been spending early mornings and late nights jackhammering the floor and putting the parts into place.

He said Maerzluft will work with Chef Tom Kaufman to pair the new beers with appetizers and entrees.

“We’ve been fortunate to have a great staff, and we have a great chef,” he said. “We’re going to be pairing some great dinners with this beer Daniel is making.”

Skomski said he has hired five new employees to run the brewery side of the operation — bringing his total number of workers to 19.

“We’re hoping to keep business in Hagerstown,” Skomski said. “We want people to come out and enjoy good beer.”