The Pit and the Pendulum, The Tell Tale Heart, The Raven, Annabel Lee,… Edgar Allen Poe fans and English literature aficionados might say, “Yeah, I’ve read that”. Meanwhile, I (who never really got into reading Poe) am thinking, “I’ve seen beers with names like that!”
It might not help me pass a literature exam, but it’s not exactly wrong either. Because there is in fact a brewery in the centre of Baltimore dedicated completely to the poet who lived and lies buried in Baltimore. The brewery’s “Poe-etic” history dates back to before RavenBeer even started brewing in the US.
Stephen Demczuk originally started the brewery in Germany with his late German partner, Wolfgang Stark. Their goal was to market their beer with an American theme and offer young Germans returning from world travels something different from the usual beers brewed under Germany’s Purity Law. When Stephen returned to the US, he launched the beer in his home town, Baltimore. It was a perfect match because Baltimore not only has a football team named after Poe’s poem “The Raven” but is completely caught up in the spirit of Poe. Even after moving across the Atlantic, RavenBeer remains deeply connected to its birthplace in southwestern Germany, where they continue to brew some of their beers.
RavenBeer brought their German roots to Baltimore. Edgar Allen Poe is their muse and trademark while European-style beers are their hallmark. As Stephen explains, “Enie, our brewer here, was trained in Berlin, brewed in Bavaria, and spent some time at Bitburg. He likes lagers and pilsners and so do I, especially since there are many ales in the US and only few lagers. It’s very competitive here, so you need to stand out and be different to be noticed. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to do shocking, bizarre beers or antics or try to be hip by brewing the latest beer style that’s in.” RavenBeer’s selling point is not extraordinary creations but rather well-brewed, high-quality beers and a coherent concept. Or, as their slogan says, a taste that is “Poe-etic”.
However, they do make a few exceptions, where they step outside the Euro style. One is their Dark Usher, a dark Kölsch. If you are a little familiar with the story of “The Fall of the House of Usher”, you will recall the dark character of Roderick Usher who lived in a gloomy house. It simply made sense to dedicate a dark beer to him.
That is where the chicken-or-the-egg question comes in. Are the beers designed to fit certain Poe characters and stories? Or does the search for a name start after the beer is brewed? “A little of both”, Stephen explains. “The styles of the E.A. Poe series were planned years ago. Names were decided before we brewed each one since packaging requires months of preparation. For the latest style, Dark Usher, I literally skimmed through a book of Poe’s stories looking for one that fit a Kölsch. When I found the dark character of Roderick Usher, I decided to make the beer dark.”
So far, RavenBeer sells six different beers, all of which have a connection to Edgar Allen Poe. They distribute to Germany through old German connections and to several states in the USA. They are also currently working on bringing their poetic beer to a brand new beer garden in Washington, DC, which will feature concerts and shows. So, there is plenty to discover – for literary types and beer fans alike.
Thanks to Kevin Kallaugher (gallery: pictures 1 to and Gabriella Demczuk (gallery: picture for providing their pictures!