For Gypsy Brew­ing Co., beer sales are al­ways hop­ping

Re­fresh­ing hobby be­comes a new vo­ca­tion

The Enterprise - - Business - By CAROL SMITH csmith@somd­news.com

It was a hobby that turned into a busi­ness for owner Eric Chris­tensen of Gypsy Brew­ing Co. in Calvert County.

Gypsy Brew­ing is a vet­eran-owned, home-based brew­ery that spe­cial­izes in the pro­duc­tion of craft beers made with lo­cally grown and global ingredients. The com­pany’s beers are of­fered by the pint or by the growler at fes­ti­vals and re­tail out­lets in Calvert and Anne Arun­del coun­ties, and is look­ing to ex­pand soon into St. Mary’s and Charles.

Chris­tensen is a re­tired 27-year vet­eran of the U.S. Coast Guard who said his ca­reer in the ser­vice fo­cused on ma­rine safety and ship in­spec­tion.

“Ul­ti­mately, I was in charge of all ves­sel com­pli­ance is­sues for the Coast Guard when I was chief of com­mer­cial ves­sels,” Chris­tensen said. “Then I re­tired as the Coast Guard’s chief trav­el­ing in­spec­tor.”

Chris­tensen said he was sta­tioned on the West Coast in 1993 when he and his wife, Heather Chris­tensen, took their first class that taught them about the ba­sics of brew­ing beer.

“The rest is his­tory, as far as that goes,” Eric Chris­tensen said. “Ev­ery duty sta­tion that we have been as­signed to, I set up a brew­ery.”

“When I was in New York, I set up a home-brew club with the other guys on base, and that worked out re­ally well,” he said. “When I was in An­napo­lis, I was pres­i­dent of The Ale­ing Sailors, which was a lo­cal home-brew club there. Went to Chicago and was pres­i­dent for a lit­tle while with the Head­hunters Home­brew Club out there.”

His pas­sion for the craft also earned Chris­tensen recog­ni­tion at home-brew com­pe­ti­tion events held on lo­cal, re­gional and na­tional lev­els.

“I competed quite a bit in the early days,” he said. “I took a gold medal at the na­tional com­pe­ti­tion for my Steam Beer in 1997 … Cal­i­for­nia Com­mon is the style. At one point in time, I was ranked third in the Midwest for when we were sta­tioned in Chicago.”

Chris­tensen’s Scot­tish Ex­port beer earned the best of show prize in 2012 at the Spirit of Free Beer home-brew com­pe­ti­tion. It was an ac­com­plish­ment that he said opened some doors.

“That’s prob­a­bly the big­gest home-brew com­pe­ti­tion in the Mid-At­lantic, and it’s run by a home-brew club out of North­ern Vir­ginia,” Chris­tensen said. “When I did that, one of the op­por­tu­ni­ties I had was to go and brew with a brewer and brew my win­ning recipe. So, I got an idea of what it took.”

Chris­tensen said he also took home the bronze for his Tripel Bar­rel woodaged beer at last year’s Mary­land Craft Beer Com­pe­ti­tion.

Af­ter years of hon­ing his beer-brew­ing skills and up­ping his in­dus­try knowl­edge, Chris­tensen launched Gypsy Brew­ing on May 1 of last year. Heather Chris­tensen man­ages the com­pany’s so­cial me­dia accounts.

“We came up with the name ‘ Gypsy Brew­ing’ be­cause we would move and we would still brew,” he said. “Gypsy is cer­tainly a no­madic kind of thing.”

Chris­tensen said he set out by sell­ing his beer on tap at the North Beach farm­ers mar­ket and lo­cal fes­ti­vals in the area, then reached out to var­i­ous re­tail lo­ca­tions that could of­fer his beers year round.

“The draft accounts all started around Au­gust when we started see­ing on the hori­zon that the farm­ers mar­ket would even­tu­ally stop,” Chris­tensen said. “So we started look­ing to where we could sell kegs. We’re on draft prob­a­bly seven places be­tween An­napo­lis and Solomons.”

Yo Mamma’s in Prince Fred­er­ick of­fers Gypsy Brew­ing’s beers to pa­trons of the restau­rant. “It’s gone over so well that I keep one of his beers on tap pretty reg­u­larly now,” said Rachel Baker, co-owner of Yo Mamma’s. “Peo­ple love it. It sells re­ally well.”

Dunkirk Wine & Spir­its of­fers growler sales of the brew­ing com­pany’s beers. “When I first got it in, peo­ple that came in and saw it, they had heard of Gypsy,” said Paul Simms, the store’s as­sis­tant man­ager. “Ev­ery sin­gle beer that I sell from Gypsy goes pretty fast once peo­ple see that I have it.”

Go­ing for­ward, Chris­tensen said he looks to ex­pand the sales of his beers through­out South­ern Mary­land, and deeper into Anne Arun­del County as well.

“We’re al­ways on the look­out for bars and restau­rants that want to carry lo­cal beer,” Chris­tensen said. “We like stay­ing lo­cal. And we just want peo­ple to drink lo­cal and drink Gypsy beer.”

STAFF PHOTO BY CAROL SMITH

Owner Eric Chris­tensen launched Gypsy Brew­ing Co. in Calvert County a year ago. The com­pany spe­cial­izes in the pro­duc­tion of craft beers made with lo­cally grown and global ingredients.

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