A proverbial toast:
There are good ships, and there are wood ships,
The ships that sail the sea.
But the best ships, are friendships, And may they always be.
Buddies Jake Heimbuch and Jeff Putman, long employed in the inflatable watercraft industry, met years ago at a boat show, found they worked well together, and then, after a short phase of hobbyist experimentation in the ancient art of crafting beer, decided to go into business as partners and open a brewery in Centreville called the Bull & Goat.
Turned out to be a decision worth raising a glass to.
After that first year or so of learning by doing, once Jake and Jeff brewed what they call their first “drinkable” batch, the light and flavorful Frank Amber Ale that they still produce, figuring out a way to sell their beer began to feel like the logical next step.
Encouraged by friends and family, the pair got to work. Brewing equipment is expensive. They put together a budget for a small single-barrel system. Found a spot where they could get started, and maybe if they were lucky, someday expand. There were legalities to consider, regulations and zoning codes and such, but the guys found governmental support for their business plan to be significant and encouraging.
Allies jumped into help. The equipment’s not just costly, it’s heavy, too. Moving and installation, not to mention keeping everything running, can be an all hands on deck operation. To furnish the tap room, a well-wisher donated tables, chairs and couches. Gifts of art and decorations were offered and accepted.
It was in the process of transforming a garage into a functional space for both the brewers and their potential customers that the personalities of the principles developed into the name of their business. Jeff, the elder of the two by more than needs reporting (He was a QACHS classmate of this writer), would advise slowing down, reassessing where they were and where they were headed. Jake would laugh and call him an old goat. Jeff, as old goats are inclined to respond, would say, well, just go ahead and bull your way through then.
The Bull & Goat Brewery’s Grand Opening was held on October 29, 2016. Located at 204 Banjo Lane, the Tap Room was originally open one day a week, with only growlers for sale. Between that and selling from their beer cart at the Centreville Farmers Market, the brewery’s namesakes were, according to Jake, “making just enough money to keep making beer.” Today they make that beer from a seven-barrel system, are open four days a week, and have built an impressive distribution network for local retail sales.
Beer lovers can find Bull & Goat kegs and cans in about a dozen neighborhood liquor stores and some favorite local restaurants the Bay Bridge to Rock Hall. One pale ale, the Ballroom Blitz, is only available in the brewer’s taproom and at Kent Island’s Knoxie’s Table/Chesapeake Bay Beach Club.
Life is too short to drink bad beer.
In a space much expanded from their original 200 square feet, Bull & Goat now typically offers a beer menu with seven standard choices and three rotating seasonals. Two of their most popular are the smooth and balanced 67 IPA and, with its Frankenstein motif, the original Frank Ale. Though the partners share responsibilities of running the business, Jeff is the primary brew master who oversees production.
Part of that division of labor and being involved in every aspect of their enterprise is spent in the front-of-house. There are two employed bartenders, Roland Jennings and Katie Hollis, but because both owners believe it’s important to represent their venture in person, patrons are just as likely to find one of them manning the kegs and high quality classic cocktail station. “We know almost everybody who comes in,” says Jeff, “and if not, we introduce ourselves, ask about what brought them in – we old-school meet people. If you’ve been led to believe that there’s more that separates people than brings them together, you’re wrong. It’s good to be reminded of that”
May the very best of your past be the very worst of your future.
As the Bull & Goat tap room transitions from summertime tiki bar to a Fall Foliage Festival theme, Jake and Jeff are gearing up for autumn with not only their three seasonal beers – a hoppy West Coast IPA, an earthy English ESB, and a blackberry sour – they’re also installing a new highball system that serves up to 12 different cocktail mixes out of two taps – whiskey or vodka – to which such flavors as sangria or ginger can be added.
Speaking of spirits, in 2020 the operation expanded with the opening of Old Courthouse Distilling where the partners have started to make whiskeys, rums, and tequilas. In just three years they’ve expanded from a 12-gallon still to a 100 gallon production capacity. In November, Old Courthouse intends to release a couple hundred bottles of their aged bourbon.
Also, every Thursday from now through November 9, Bull & Goat will host live music featuring popular regional musicians with food available from the locally based Blue Monkey Street Tacos.
And, on Sunday, November 19, in cooperation with the other members of the Queen Anne’s County Brewers Coalition (Big Truck, Cult Classic, Patriot Acres and Ten Eyck), Bull & Goat is participating in The Backyard Brews With Benefits 2. This “Localist Beer Fest,” is a rain or shine indoor/outdoor event to be held at The Kent Island Resort from 11-4. Tickets can be purchased online or at the various participating breweries and each brewery will support a different area charity. Bull & Goat is teaming up with Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center while other recipients of funds will include the American Saltwater Guides Association, the Animal Welfare League, the youth group Giving the Edge Foundation, and PERF, an organization that supports veterans, law enforcement officers, and first responders. There will be music and other live entertainment, food trucks, and a cornhole tournament. Visit your favorite brewery’s website to find out more.
Good beer combined with giving back to the community?
Well, we’ll sure enough drink to that.
Bull & Goat Brewery Tap room is open Wednesday – Friday 3-9 p.m. and Saturday from 2-9. Visit them at 204 Banjo Lane in Centreville and online at bullandgoatbrewery.com.