Mt. Airy brewmaster brings his beer to ShamRocked
Athenian philosopher Plato once said, “He was a wise man who invented beer.”
Vic Aellen, the brewmaster and co-founder of Mt. Airy-based Red Shedman, could arguably be considered one of those wise men.
Aellen will be among the beermakers featured at the Quad State Beer Fest: ShamRocked! which is scheduled for Saturday, March 16 from 2 to 7 p.m. at the Washington County Agricultural Education Center in Boonsboro. More than 30 breweries and live music are expected to highlight the annual spring beer festival presented by Antietam Brewery.
According to Aellen, he learned the ways of making beer while living in Michigan.
“My in-laws at the time had a proposition to open up a brew pub in Michigan,” Aellen said. “It was in a little town called Greenville. It was called 57 Brew Pub. I would go to the Waldorf while I was working at the brew pub. I moonlighted at the Waldorf and learned the process. I learned the basics of brewing. I came up with a couple of recipes. But there’s nuances too. You got 100 different types of hops. It’s my job to put all these things together and to design them.”
Aellen spent 14 years in the chemical industry and 16 years financial services before becoming head brewer at Brew Pub 57.
He was originally in the restaurant side of the business, but it didn’t work out.
“I had my feet in the restaurant business, but I didn’t really like it,” Aellen said. “So I said they can handle the restaurant and I’d handle the beer.”
Aellen’s family also owns Linganore Wine Cellars, which led Aellen to move to Mt. Airy and build Red Shedman next door. Shedman began with a small staff, but eventually grew.
“When we started it was just me, and we had a girl who worked for me,” Aellen said. “We were open Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I did most of the brewing for the first 10 months. I hired a homebrewer who wanted to get into the commercial side.”
Aellen continued, “Brewing is about process, if you don’t have a process it’s kind of like driving a car with no wheels on it. We were open for four months and we started canning and distributing. I hired some more staff working upstairs as bartenders, whose job was to continue working on product development. I’ve been in sales for 30 years. Having instant feedback on what the public needs is really important. You need to come up with new ideas of what people are going to be looking for. The craft beer market is kind of fickle.”
For ShamRocked, Aellen plans to bring some of the tastiest beers he has to offer, using real fruit to host an array of flavors.
“We’re going to bring the El Dorado and we’re going to bring a Pineapple Sour,” he said. “The El Dorado I came up with myself. We wanted to do a single hop variety on the pale ale. I saw this continuation of what the other breweries were doing and what the markets were wanting. I took a lookat a lot of different hops that would be cool. The first one is citrusy, and the second one is lemon drop. All the hops are different in their own way. And Jester, that’s a citrusy hop out of England. We wanted to get into the New England hoppy and juicy thing with India Pale Ale (IPA). The Pineapple Sour. ... we’ve been making sours for about a year now, it’s a kettle sour. We use pineapple puree in it. You need to use a lot of puree if you want your flavor to come out. You have to decide what fruits really pop out on a sour net. We did blackberry and it was a hit. Pineapple worked out too. People don’t just want to drink sour beers, they want to drink sour beers with a nuance.”
Aellen is no stranger to ShamRocked, and thrives off the competition. He enjoys seeing the different varieties of beer that one can create. And he’s happy that fellow brewmasters don’t take themselves too seriously.
“We’ve been coming to ShamRocked for the last three years,” he said. “What’s nice about it is you have a really nice assortment of brewers, and really eclectic ideas out there. It’s on the border of imagination and pushing the limits of what you can do with a product that’s just beer. You can get ideas and see whatever is doing in the industry. The brewing community is pretty friendly.”
Top photo: Alex Timbers, left, and Vic Aellen, right, posing in front of the brew kettles at Red Shedman Farm Brewery. (Submitted photo)