Close Menu
Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette


Beer app users vote Burley Oak best in Maryland

(Dec. 10, 2015) If he wanted to, Bryan Brushmiller could rest on his laurels. If he wanted to, he could keep his menu steady, he could have served food in his brewery and he could have stopped tinkering with recipes and Burley Oak would have been just fine.
He doesn’t keep the menu steady, he fought to get a state law changed to allow his brewery to operate as a brewery and he has another new beer, an India Pale Ale named Acapulco Gold, launching this week, made in part with wild yeast, and his fans love him for it.
Beer app Untappd, allows beer enthusiasts to rate the beers they’ve tasted, the venues they’ve tasted them at and to find locations to try new beers. In Maryland, the place to try is Burley Oak, according to a piece published by Yahoo Travel earlier this week.
Using the ratings from Untappd, Yahoo Travel listed the top breweries in each state. The beach areas were well represented, with Burley Oak taking the top spot in Maryland and Dogfish Head winning out in Delaware.
“I want beer fans from Maryland to come and visit, and subject themselves to the esoteric beers we make. I want to further push the industry as a whole,” Brushmiller said. “Maybe you’ve never had a sour beer made with wild yeast. The beers we make push travelers to try things not a lot of other people are making.”
Brushmiller, who earned a biochemistry degree from Salisbury University, was himself pushed into the industry when the company he had been working for closed. He started tinkering with beer in his garage during his newfound free time, and now, he said, “I have a bigger garage. I’m happy to make beer and I’m glad to see I could make a business out of it.”
It is a business he’s not above risking, however. The newest experiments include using wild yeast, along with Burley Oak’s “house blend” to impart different flavors and aromas into the brew. It might not sound too risky, but if the wild yeast cross-contaminates the house strain unchecked, it could have serious consequences.
Brushmiller said he’s aware of the risks involved, but he got into the business to make beer, and views tinkering with recipes, even proven ones, as part of the Burley Oak business.
“I’m making art with chemistry. Chemistry is about constants and variables. Creativity comes with testing the hypothesis ‘is this going to taste good,’” he said.
And at Burley Oak, no one can stop Brushmiller from testing his hypotheses.
“I’m pushing my technical skills. I’m not here to mass-produce — we’re still one of the smallest breweries in the state. Other people can produce in a day what we do in a year,” he said.
Case in point: Burley Oak’s top selling product is a dry hopped sour ale named ‘Sorry Chicky’ and it isn’t for everyone. According to users of, an online community with a predictable focus, Sorry Chicky has either a “rather sour and juicy opening … lemon and lime punch pretty hard … aftertaste consists of a faint lingering tang on the palate” or it “tastes like a warhead wrapped in lemon juice and dragged through battery acid.”
These are the kinds of results Brushmiller said he appreciates.
“These are fans and customers who drink beer. It’s not a popularity contest — people aren’t voting on the styles of beer we put out, they’re looking at the craftsmanship of each and what they thought about them,” he said. “People can say anything they want.”
Burley Oak deliberately makes beers to push the envelope in the accepted styles, and does so in the search for newer, better flavor.
The recognition is nice, he said, but the broader endorsement of how and why he makes beer, and the methods he uses to create new products is what has — and will continue to — drive him.