Barely seven months after opening, Hysteria Brewing Co. of Columbia is already contemplating an expansion.
“We’re brewing 225 barrels a month, and we’re pushing the limit as far as being able to keep up with demand,” said Hysteria brewer and Sales Director Tyler Kreis.
But even though the Maryland brewing scene itself has been growing by leaps and bounds lately, the owners are taking a cautious approach.
Hysteria’s American Beer Equipment system currently consists of five 20-barrel fermenters and two brite tanks for clarification and carbonation.
Now that Hysteria has modified its fermenters to pull double duty as brite tanks, preliminary plans call for selling one of the dedicated brite tanks and adding a 40-barrel fermenter to help boost volume.
“We experienced a few hiccups with our opening, which set us back a few months,” Kreis said. “The lesson there is that it’s important to plan and grow smart.”
Hysteria distributes draft product throughout the state, with the largest accounts located in Baltimore City.
The limited product that the brewery cans is available only in the taproom for the moment.
“We’re actively looking at a canning line, but won’t put [any] package out until we know it wouldn’t affect draft sales,” Kreis added. “Once we expand and can make more beer, we’ll can and sell to liquor [and beer] stores.”
Hysteria is the second business founded by Jordan Baney, Geoff Lopes and Richard Gue. The trio launched Columbia-based The Vaper’s Knoll, an e-cigarette flavor company, in 2011, growing it from an online retailer to a 10,000-square-foot office and laboratory with 47 employees and a retail store.
Similarly, Hysteria got off to a solid foundation that now employs six full-time employees on the brewing side and a handful of bartenders.
Both Kreis and head brewer Jordan McGraw got their start at DuClaw Brewing Co., of Baltimore.
“Richard was a homebrewer, but none of the partners were familiar with the beer industry, so they reached out to us to help,” said Kreis, whose career includes a turn as the beer buyer for Frisco Taphouse, in Columbia.
Hysteria takes an avant-garde approach to brewing, with the emphasis on bold, flavorful beers that don’t necessarily fit neatly into a style category.
“We’re lucky to have the ability to experiment,” Kreis said. “We brew three core beers that we know are going to sell, and use the money we make from that to have fun with innovation and exploring different ingredients.”
The Hysteria name and brand, in fact, is a nod to the spirit of past inventors who were considered slightly mad for their unconventional ideas as well as their passion to create something new.
A pilot system is used to turn out small batches of experimental beers that customers can rate to help guide future production.
“We like doing things other people aren’t doing,” Kreis explained. “We’ve done things like a peated malt scotch ale, and most recently a barleywine, which is only done by a handful of breweries. It’s not really a fit for smaller bars, but we like producing the styles that got us into craft beer in the first place, and being able to offer them on occasion to the people who appreciate them.”
Hysteria Brewing Co. joined the Howard County Chamber not long after opening last year.
“One of our marketing staff saw it as another way to be more active in the community, and it’s a good fit,” Kreis observed. “We have the capacity to [host events], and we wanted to showcase our business and get people out to see it.”
Hysteria is particularly interested in the alignment it has with the Chamber’s Young Professionals Network (YPN).
“We’re all pretty young at Hysteria, and trying to establish ourselves as well,” Kreis said. “Hosting YPN events gives us all an opportunity to talk and network, to look for and even create jobs.”
Hysteria is still getting to know the Chamber and its programs and committees.
“We just hired a new marketing person, and she’s looking forward to becoming more proactive in our Chamber involvement,” he said.
Not a Bar
The atmosphere at Hysteria is both industrial and comfortable, with clean lines of sight to the brewing activity and equipment set off from the main serving room by nothing more than a chain link fence.
Aside from beer, visitors can’t help but notice a comfortable living room seating area, an assortment of board and table games, and an extensive bring-one-take-one lending library covering nearly an entire side wall.
That certainly hasn’t escaped the notice of the Howard County Library’s Savage Branch, whose Books On Tap book discussion group meets monthly at Hysteria.
Once a month, Third Eye Games of Annapolis also sets up a pop-up whop inside Hysteria, where it demos products and teaches the basics of new games to anybody willing to learn.
“We don’t want to be classified strictly as a bar,” Kreis explained. “It’s our deliberate intention to be a family-friendly, family-oriented establishment that you’d be comfortable taking your children or your dogs to. We just happen to make and sell beer, too. We’re all about bringing people together for an enjoyable time.”