After a short hiatus to get some holiday shopping done, we’re back on the Beer Tour with a highly anticipated visit to Burley Oak Brewing Company. Located in Berlin, this brewery provides a special flavor to the Eastern Shore beer scene as well as a unique back story. After all, it’s not on every brewery tour that you are lead past large vats of fermenting liquid by the owner/brew master himself. Every Saturday, Bryan Brushmiller, the man who built Burley Oak from the ground up, directs the tour of his entrepreneurial craft beer venture.
Burley Oak got its true start when Brushmiller unfortunately lost his job. But as they say, when one door closes, another one opens. Brushmiller had already been home-brewing beer for some time when a friend suggested that he take up brewing as his full-time profession. The advice turned out to be golden, eventually giving rise to the widely popular local brewery. Brushmiller commented about owning his own business stating humbly that, “now I just have a bigger garage.”
The name of the brewery came from the original name of the town, which is derived from the Burley Plantation, created in 1677. It is believed that the name Berlin comes from the association with the old tavern Burleigh Inn. It seems fitting then that the original watering hole provided inspiration for the name of the modern brewery. The building that houses Burley Oak was once an early 1900’s cooperage (a place where barrels are made). Now, barrels have been reintroduced to the building for the purpose of aging and adding extra flavor to the brews.
On our tour, Brushmiller began by demonstrating the importance of water in the beer making process; “we use it through all the brew stages, from beginning to cleanup” Brushmiller said. In respect to resources, Burley Oaks seeks to use sustainable practices in its production by using locally grown ingredients. With their winter barley beer, Brushmiller asked local farmers to grow the beer’s barley. This way the farmers were planting crops in the winter months and diversifying their customer base. Burley Oak is also using malt in their brews that hails from a farm located just fifteen minutes down the road, along with hops from Selbyville.
There are many unique flavors constantly being brewed at Burley Oak. For example there is a Saison that is only brewed in the summer that uses a strain of yeast that grows in hot temperatures. For this beer’s production, the air conditioning is turned off and the natural heat from outside allows the beer to ferment. The Saison was also once used by farmers who would ferment the liquid in the top of their farm houses and then provide it to their workers. The Saison was also one of the few edible liquids during this time because there was no water purification.
Other interesting brews include the Hi-Sea Saison that uses whole Egyptian Hibiscus flowers in the brew that gives the beer a pinkish hue. The Hi-Sea is sold during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and $1.00 of every beer is donated to Making Strides Against Breast Cancer. Another unique flavor comes from the Nitro Vinyl and other Nitro beers. Instead of being infused with Carbon Dioxide for carbonation, these beers are infused with Nitrogen to give the beers a creamy texture. Burley Oak also brews their own Root Beer!
We wrapped up our beer tour and headed to historic downtown Berlin for a little holiday shopping, already eager to return to Burley Oak to sample their latest brews and check out their excellent line-up of live music. See you all at the next stop!