BERLIN — With his one-year anniversary approaching in August, Burley Oak Brewery owner Bryan Brushmiller has some big plans for the summer, including bottling beer, setting up an on-site farmer’s market, and opening a free bicycle library to encourage exploration of the area.
“We just want to get people downtown,” Brushmiller said of the nine bikes currently available.
Unlike anything else the town offers, Brushmiller revealed that the idea to offer visitors free bike rentals came about during a private discussion regarding traffic with Mayor Gee Williams. According to Brushmiller, Williams pointed out that Berlin events are growing rapidly and drawing in more and more guests.
While this is a good thing for Berlin, Brushmiller explained that more visitors means more traffic and anything that can reduce the number of cars on the road could prove a boon for the town. Then there’s the benefit of getting people outside, exercising and touring the area as well, he added.
“We have all of these natural resources around us,” said Brushmiller.
He pointed out that the bikes will also spread business throughout Berlin and should encourage visitors to explore unfamiliar parts of the town, finding new shops and restaurants along the way.
Like the bikes, the goal for having a farmer’s market hosted at Burley Oak is to promote area business owners, in this case farmers and vendors. While Berlin already features a farmer’s market twice a week off Main St., Brushmiller stressed that his idea is not to compete, just to expand.
“We need a farmer’s market when people are off,” he said, explaining that the current markets are held during the week on Wednesdays and Fridays.
Brushmiller’s plan is to offer a weekend market that he hopes will attract a large and eclectic mix of farmers and vendors, all of whom will be able to set up shop around the brewery grounds.
“I want to have a market where you shop and have everything you would at a grocery store,” he said.
Even with the more personal project of bottling and distributing beer, Brushmiller promised that promoting the town is still a focus.
“Our main goal is to have bottles all over the country with ‘Berlin, Md.’ on the label,” he said.
At the current pace, Brushmiller expects Burley Oak brews to be ready for bottling in large, 750 milliliter containers right around the end of August, which would coincide with the brewery’s one-year anniversary.
Currently, Burley Oak is available on tap at almost three dozen different locations around the shore.
“We’re in 32 different bars and restaurants,” said Brushmiller.
One other avenue that Brushmiller said he would like to explore in the brewery’s second year is bringing more music and new bands to the area.
“We’re creating a good music scene here,” he said.
The brewery will be adding an outside deck to its property this summer, which will allow more room for drinking and hosting bands. While Brushmiller promises that there will be a wide variety of music played, he added that, as with everything else, featuring local talent will receive a special emphasis.
All of the summer projects are part of what Brushmiller considers a continuing effort to make the town better by improving the brewery and vice versa.
“We’re just here for the community,” agreed Mike Prestas, a member of the Burley Oak crew. “We have a great business here. It’s a great environment.”
Cody Miller, another member of Burley Oak, said that the past nine months have been “a learning experience” for the fledgling brewery.
“There have definitely been some bumps along the road,” he said.
However, like Prestas, Miller feels that Burley Oak and the town have a mutually beneficial relationship. Also, as a lifelong Berlin resident, Miller claimed that he’s seeing a new trend that didn’t exist when he was a kid.
“The town’s become a younger town … [people] are moving back,” he said.
Brushmiller asserted that he’s seeing the same pattern. Whereas years ago young adults would leave the area to pursue careers elsewhere, Brushmiller believes that Berlin is beginning to offer more opportunities for people just starting out in professional life and is becoming an attractive town to start a business or a family.
“That speaks volumes,” he said.
Town leadership got a special nod from Brushmiller for having a business friendly attitude.
“Berlin is the epitome of how local government should work for its businesses … they have people on the council, and the mayor, who have a vision for the town,” he said.
According to Brushmiller, businesses see that flexibility and commitment from government “on their bottom line” and what helps a Berlin business owner helps everyone in Berlin.
“The town’s going to flourish overall,” he predicted.