A nearly 10,000-square-foot brewery and taproom could be coming to Bethesda.
The idea is to make it into a large community gathering space that hosts events, large groups and serves as a place for friends to gather and sip brews.
The catch? The three founders say they need a small change in state law to allow them to sell beer to-go near a church.
The founders, Brendan and Bailey O’Leary and Evan Partridge, said Tuesday they’ve found an ideal location, but due to its close proximity to a church in downtown Bethesda they haven’t signed the lease yet.
To fix this, they’re working on legislation with county officials to have a bill submitted in the General Assembly next year that would change the distance requirements that prohibit beer sales within 300 feet of a church. The change would allow them to sell growlers and 6-packs to-go at the brewery.
Despite the real estate obstacle, the founders say they’ve settled on Bethesda as the spot for True Respite Brewing Company and hope to open it by 2017. Brendan’s parents live in Loudon County, which is where the co-founders first thought to establish a brewery, but after finding out about updates to local brewery laws, they settled on Bethesda.
“Montgomery County has made great updates to its beer laws,” Brendan O’Leary, 28, said. “They have made it an appealing place to open a brewery. Bethesda right now has a whole lot of culture and energy and it felt like the right spot for a brewery.”
The name comes from the owners’ idea to create a relaxing atmosphere.
“Our destination taproom is meant to be an escape from daily life where you can come relax and enjoy an afternoon with great friends, great beer and great food,” Brendan O’Leary said.
“For me, I love running,” Bailey O’Leary said, “so the true respite for me is going on a good run and then enjoying a beer after.”
Bailey said they hope to attract local running groups and other community groups to host events at their space.
The O’Learys, who now live in Denver, said they were inspired by the brewery scene in Denver, where over 60 locally-owned breweries operate.
“We want to bring that local feeling that Denver has and bring it to Bethesda,” Bailey O’Leary said.
The founders said they’ve already mapped out what the brewery look like. The space will be about 10,000 square feet, with much of that dedicated to taproom and patio space, where people can sip beers and hang out. The brewery itself would be a 20-barrel two-story system capable of producing about 3,000 barrels of beer per year. They plan to offer varieties like a Belgian white, rye IPA, stout and a pale ale; as well as seasonal brews.
For food, they hope to collaborate with local food trucks or possibly establish a relationship with a local restaurateur to sell food at the brewery.
Brendan O’Leary said the location they’re most interested in also has a retail space where a restaurant tenant could operate in a “symbiotic” relationship with the brewery.
Partridge, 28, will be the brewmaster. He studied mechanical engineering at Georgia Tech and then left his engineering gig in January to take an internship at a brewery in Atlanta. That internship turned into a job at the brewery and recently he moved to Chicago to attend the advanced brewery program at the well-known in brewery circles Seibel Institute of Technology.
Brendan and Bailey, 27, also studied at Georgia Tech. Brendan has a degree in chemical engineering and Bailey in environmental engineering. The husband-and-wife met Partridge, however, through a mutual friend after leaving school.
“I was telling my friend Mike about my [brewing] journey and then later on [Mike] was talking to Brendan about his dream to start a brewery and they put two and two together,” Partridge said.
Brendan said he has been home brewing since 2008.
“As a chemical engineer, I love and respect the process,” Brendan O’Leary said.
As soon as they start production, they also plan to self-distribute to local bars and restaurants. The founders credited the recent law changes spearheaded by Denizens Brewing Co. as one of the primary reasons they settled on Bethesda.
“We wanted to make sure we said thank you to Denizens,” Brendan added. “And let them know how much we appreciate what they’ve done for the industry in this area.”
So what’s left to make this a reality?
They need to secure a lease and court investors.
“The only issue that stands between us and brewing in Bethesda is getting funded,” Brendan O’Leary said. He added that they’re right “on the fringe” of getting a round of investment to raise the capital to get the business going.
“January 2017 is a conservative goal,” O’Leary said. “If we have a successful round of investment that certainly can be expedited.”