When Stephen Demczuk started brewing RavenBeer nearly 20 years ago, it was hard to imagine the explosive craft beer climate that exists in the United States today. With more than 5,000 craft breweries in the country, 80 open in Maryland, and 50 more in planning, the market is bursting at the seams. And that's exactly why Demczuk is moving his brewing operation from Peabody Heights in Abell to DuClaw Brewing in Rosedale by the end of this year.
"I don't know where the industry is going to end up," he says. "There's no shelf space and we're not drinking more beer. I had to be proactive and make a decision. Merging forces with DuClaw will help drive down costs with packaging production and allow us to work together to co-market each other."
The move is a drastic one for Demczuk, who helped found Peabody Heights as a brewery co-op in 2012 along with his business partners Hollis Albert and Patrick Beille. Raven will go from a small warehouse just north of Waverly with that brewed 12,000 total barrels last year to a massive space in an industrial park in Rosedale that brewed over double that amount.
"DuClaw planned for growth and they have the space," Demczuk says. "They have a modern facility and a lot of positive things going for the brewery itself. For us, it was important to stay in the state and few other breweries in Maryland could handle this."
Though ownership for Peabody Heights was transferred to Richard O'Keefe in 2014, Demczuk says that he'll still feel nostalgic about the place, especially its surrounding neighborhoods and regular patrons.
"Now that we'll be more in a business park, you won't get neighbors from walking across the street to stop in for a beer," he says. "But this will give us another reason to really get to know our pubs in White Marsh and Rosedale."
Though RavenBeer and DuClaw collaborations are certainly a shoe-in for the future, Demczuk says he wants to get settled in first, work out the kinks of operating on different equipment, and make sure his line of seven beers is brewed properly. To help him do so will be brewer Ernie Igot, a legend in the industry, who has been brewing for more than 40 years in the Phillipines, Germany, and closer to home at Heavy Seas and Peabody Heights.
The pair have already discussed what they're going to brew to commemorate Raven's 20th anniversary next year, as well as future plans like a double IPA and an oyster stout. Demczuk says that a grand opening celebration in the Rosedale taproom will probably happen in January or Februrary and that he's excited to share space with his friends at DuClaw.
"We've known each other for 20 years and haven't fought yet," he says with a laugh. "I am looking forward to the future."