The Beer’s on Fire: Liquor Board Approves Brew House No. 16

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Hummel means "bumblebee" in German - hence the signage of family-owned Brew House No. 16
Above, the owner’s rendering of Brew House No. 16 once it opens with outdoor tables and chairs.

With the Baltimore City Liquor Board’s unanimous approval of the application for Brew House No. 16, Inc. on July 10th, it’s official — a new microbrewery is coming to Mount Vernon. Slated to open in October, Brew House No. 16 will serve Chesapeake-inspired locavore cuisine and craft beer in the red brick engine hall at the corner of Read and Calvert, across from Iggy’s Pizza and down the street from Center Stage. 

The operation takes its name from its new home: “Baltimore City Fire Department, No. 16” is engraved over the massive stone portal.

Ian Hummel, 25, is the force behind Brew House. Hummel’s love for beer drove a long series of home brew experiments in the barn on his family’s farm before he signed up for a six-month course in Berlin, Germany two years ago.

During the same period, his father Harry was wrapping up a 35-year career as a partner at Francis Cauffman Architects and looking to do something new. Having had a runaway success with a sandwich delivery shop during his college days in the 1970s (still run today by the guy he sold it to), Harry had a long-standing yen for the restaurant business. He had also become something of a foodie under the influence of his wife, Jyl, a passionate home cook.

“When Ian  told us he wanted to start a business doing something with beer,” says Harry, “my eyes lit up.” After careful research, Harry and Jyl packed their son off to one of the oldest, most respected brewing technology institutes in the world. Unsurprisingly, the Harvard of beer turned out to be in Germany. 

Upon Ian’s return, preparations for the new business got underway in earnest, beginning with the hunt for the right location.

Architect Harry’s eyes surely lit up again at his first sight of the iconic, beautifully preserved historic building at 831 North Calvert. “Those high, pressed-metal ceilings, tiled walls, and cement floor were sort of wasted on the office cubicles of the real estate company that was the last tenant,” he says. “But for a restaurant, it was perfect.”

Because the Hummels live in Glen Rock, Pennsylvania, a rural community not far from the MD state line (the young brewmaster is currently relocating to Baltimore, with parents not far behind), they needed to hook up with a Baltimore City resident for the liquor license application. This is where University of Baltimore professor and Baltimore Fishbowl columnist Marion Winik came in. 

Before Winik moved to Baltimore in 2009, she lived on a farm neighboring the Hummels’ place in Glen Rock. Her son Vince and Ian went through school together and had remained close. Her involvement quickly became more than perfunctory as she fell under the spell of the firehouse. “I think the UB crowd is going to go crazy for it,” she says. “I plan to hold office hours over there.” As Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations, Winik will also help with media contacts and copywriting. 

Plates of fresh, briny oysters and hot soft pretzels with crab dip served at sidewalk tables with frosty pitchers of ale — crowds of thirsty theatergoers strolling over from Center Stage to hunker down with pints at the bar — people filling growlers to take across the street to Iggy’s — these are the dreams the Hummels have been batting around for months. 

With the first batch of Fire House No. 16 Pale Ale soon going into the brewing vat and the grand opening scheduled for October, they are fast becoming real.

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