February is Maryland Craft Beer Lovers Month. It’s also Black History Month. Put those two together, and it seems like the perfect time to feature Charles County’s first brewery and the maker of Charles County’s first official beer—Patuxent Brewing Company.
Founder Davie Feaster began brewing beer at his house in 2014, started selling it at the La Plata Farmers Market, and in August 2019, opened the doors to Patuxent Brewing Company in Waldorf. Today, with a team of five, they’ve put Charles County on the craft brewery map and inspire black youths and others to dream big.
Getting started, Feaster reached out to Ryan Vierheller, founder of Blue Dyer Distilling Co., the county’s first distillery. Vierheller’s business was the first of its kind in Charles County, and he helped Feaster navigate the maze of necessary approvals. “We definitely had our peaks and valleys,” said Eugene Lott, Co-owner and Taproom Manager, “but we eventually saw through it. It was the education more than anything —explaining what we are and what we’re doing. Martin Proulx [Economic Development’s Agriculture Business Development Manager] was instrumental. He definitely helped us out a lot and was one of those who helped us educate others.”
Once they were open, Lott says business took off. Then in March, COVID-19 struck. “We were getting ready for our first distribution, and when COVID came, we were sitting on a bunch of beer and we couldn’t open up the tap room,” said Lott. “We pivoted our business model and created a ‘cans to go’ drive-through.” They also distributed their beer to locations outside Charles County, expanding their reach, and used social media a lot more to advertise. With changes, Lott says, “we actually thrived better than we anticipated during COVID.” They plan to reopen the tap room on February 19.
Patuxent Brewing gives local farms the spent grains left over from brewing, and the farmers use them to make pet treats and animal feed. Tranice Watts, Co-owner and Business Manager, said, “Martin really helped us connect immediately to the farms and the ag scene here so we could partner and help each other out.” They’ve found a way to help the environment and small businesses, such as local farms, by cutting an expense for them.
The business also gives back to the community through programs like Toys for Tots and food drives, and they partner with the NAACP and the S. T. Kendall Lodge. They’ve also started a podcast, Mash UP with PBC, a platform where entrepreneurs can talk about their work.
Inspiring Black Youth and Others to Dream Big
“We are 100% black owned,” said Watts, “but when you come here, when you see the awesome patrons, they’re not just black people. We don’t want you to drink our beer because we’re black; we want you to drink our beer because it’s delicious. Our shared experiences are not defined by our skin tone. We’ve marketed ourselves as not just a black-owned company, but a company that understands the shared experiences that we all have.”
Watts’ advice for youth and entrepreneurs is: Do the research. Don’t give up. “Once you decide on your dreams and goals, execute on it,” she says. “Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Put yourself out there and ask the hard questions.”
She also recommends attending one of Charles County Economic Development’s Business Roundtables and working with the EDD and Small Business Development Center (SBDC) to make connections and access the information entrepreneurs need.
For more information on how the EDD can help your small business, check our Business Support page. Look for an announcement in late February on the Patuxent Brewing Company website or Explore Charles County regarding Charles County’s first official beer.