Rosedale, MD (November 7, 2017)
RavenBeer has moved to Rosedale. Starting on November 30th, 2017, RavenBeer is now brewed at the DuClaw Brewery. For the 47th brewery in the Maryland Brewery Challenge, I met with the RavenBeer owner, Stephen Demczuk and head brewer, Ernie Igot at DuClaw to talk about RavenBeer.
Things couldn’t have started out worse – I locked my keys in the car; I went in the wrong door; plus, Stephen confused me with a guy named Warden who just happened to stop by the brewery at that same moment. Once my Keystone Cop impersonation was over, Stephen and head brewer Ernie Igot were more than gracious. After a just a few minutes with them, I realized I was in the presence of Baltimore craft beer royalty.
Ernie Igot has a long and distinguished brewing career. Ernie, 65 (he actually showed me his Medicare card), has brewed beer at Heavy Seas, Peabody Heights and now DuClaw. Before that, he worked at San Miguel, overseeing 11 other breweries. Four times his brewing has resulted in winning the Maryland Comptroller’s Cup for Loose Cannon (3 times) and Old Oriole Park Bohemian. He remarked that he has worked at 3 different places in the Baltimore area, but always brewed RavenBeer (17 years).
Stephen Demczuk notes that he is the first contract brewery in Maryland and the first American craft brewer to brew in Europe. He contracted Heavy Seas (Hugh Sisson) to make RavenBeer after a lot of haggling with the Maryland state regulators, back in the 90s. RavenBeer’s European start is a fascinating story told on untappd:
“Our beer was first conceived in Luxembourg between founders Stephen Demczuk and Wolfgang Stark. Stephen was in Europe doing research in molecular biology and experienced its beer culture that lead to his mid-career crisis. He started writing about beer, and then tried to open a brewery in Arlon, Belgium but that faltered. He then formed the first beer-of-the-month club in Europe, Beer Around the World. Importing beer into Luxembourg, boxing it up and shipping it within the EU. One supplier of his beers was Wolfgang Stark of Haus de 131 Biere. Wolfgang imported beer from all over the world. He supplied Ngoma from Togo, Flame from New Zealand, and Lapin Kulta from Finland. One day Wolfgang asked Stephen if he would like to make a beer in Germany and using an American marketing theme. It took Stephen just a second to say yes and a day to come up with The Raven. The new company was registered in Baltimore and the new beer was eventually produced in Nagold, Germany and called in honor of Baltimore’s Edgar Allan Poe The Raven Special Lager.”
Mr. Demczuk is one of the original owners of the Baltimore brewery, Peabody Heights, founded in 2012. He later sold his share of Peabody but continued to have RavenBeer brewed there until his recent move to Rosedale.
His traditional, European-style beers, or “Poe inspired craft beers” are:
- Tell Tale Heart IPA
- The Raven Special Lager
- Pendulum Pilsner
- Annabel Lee White
- The Cask Of Amontillado
- Old Oriole Park Bohemian
- The Raven Dark Usher
Much of the RavenBeer artwork is produced by Keven Kallaugher (KAL) whose political cartoons are well known by Baltimore Sun readers. This RavenBeer coaster always gives me a chuckle.
Since the first batch of DuClaw-made RavenBeer was still in the works, Stephen offered a sample of DuClaw’s Dirty Little Freak. It is a stout with tastes of coconut, caramel, and chocolate, all 3 flavors distinctly caressing the tongue.
Ernie Igot thinks the best RavenBeer is The Raven Special Lager. I’ve ordered some from Allview Liquors (thanks, Justin!) to taste for our annual Christmas open house. I’m looking forward to sampling this classic Baltimore beer with European roots.