BERLIN — Small-town brewery Burley Oak has been invited to next month’s Beer Advocate’s Extreme Beerfest in Boston, confirming for owner Bryan Brushmiller his brewery’s outside-the-box approach to crafting beer is on the right track.
With half a dozen beers being showcased at the festival, Brushmiller said that he’s excited for people outside of Delmarva to taste what’s being brewed in Berlin.
“It feels like someone is paying attention to us and it is definitely some validation,” he said.
Burley Oak has always taken an “experimental” approach to brewing, said Brushmiller, which he believes resonates with event organizers.
“Beer Advocate tries to push the envelope of the industry and I think they kind of hooked up with us because we’re trying to do the same thing,” he said. “We don’t want to just make the same boring beer. We’re always trying and we’re always experimenting.”
Having six beers included in the two-day Extreme Beerfest is unbelievable for a brewery like Burley, according to Brushmiller.
“We’re the youngest brewery invited,” he said. “We’re definitely the smallest brewery invited. But it’s cool because they respect what we do.”
Brushmiller said going to Boston will be a dream come true for him and his team of brewers.
“That’s a huge thing to have these six beers and showcase them…it’s like us making an independent film and getting invited to the Oscars,” he said.
Going to Boston will allow Burley to put its “brand on a national level,” added Brushmiller, and will let his team meet and mingle with industry brewing icons.
“We’re being seen by all of the other brewers that we idolize,” he said.
Besides other brewers, Extreme Beerfest will showcase Burley Oak to a huge number of beer drinkers.
“They sold over 2,000 tickets,” said Brushmiller of the festival. “Tickets were sold out in seven minutes.”
Brushmiller compared Burley Oak to a lab where the local community is able to taste test and influence the direction of the beer. Unique components are always a focus, he said, with non-traditional substitutions like orange peel instead of hops or mixing foreign yeasts and hops with local ingredients commonplace.
“We’re always going to try something different,” said Brushmiller.
For example, brewer Shawn Sasscer confirmed that Burley oak will be doing a special Belgian-style line of beers, including making original “Rude Boy” beer with Belgian yeast.
“We’ll kind of do an educational piece for our consumers to see how big of a player the yeast is in the production of beer,” said Sasscer. “It’ll be a completely different beer.”
The flexibility needed to experiment with such a wide and uncommon field of beers comes a lot from the brewery’s small size, said Brushmiller. “Everything here is done on such a small scale. A lot of the beers we make might be one-time only; we might never make them again.”
But more importantly it is the community’s willingness to drink the beer and play the part of the faithful test subject that Brushmiller said allows Burley Oak so much freedom in how it brews.
“The community is what made this place,” he said.
While Extreme Beerfest will put the Burley brand on the national radar, Brushmiller said that it will also bring more attention to Berlin.
“I get to take Berlin, Md. and put it on a national level, a national stage,” he said.
Should the Extreme Beerfest prove to be a launching point for Burley to reach a wider market, Brushmiller promised that Worcester County and especially Berlin will always be the brewery’s top priority.
“You don’t forget the girl who brought you to the dance,” he said.