Before commercial brewing, Matt Humbard found success as a microbiologist. He researched antibiotic resistance and breast cancer biomarkers and even saw his work published in publications like Nature, a multidisciplinary science journal.
He brings this unique background to his most recent brewing venture, Patent Brewing Company coming to Prince George’s County. Humbard previously co-founded the now defunct Handsome Beer Company and oversaw nearly every single production run of their beers as a contract brewer.
Jace Gonnerman, beverage director at Meridian Pint, Smoke & Barrel, and Brookland Pint, is eager to see how Patent’s product will differ from Humbard’s past efforts. “Unfortunately in his last project, a lot of his creativity was restrained by circumstances,” he says. “That shouldn’t be the case this time around. This project is about as unique as it gets.”
The brewery name, Patent, reflects Humbard’s intent to stand out. He’s currently looking at properties in Prince George’s County along with three co-founders, wife Krissi Humbard, and Lauren and Matt Geist.” The Humbards live in Hyattsville and the Geists live in Fort Washington and the team anticipates a fall 2019 opening pending unforeseen setbacks.
“We’re looking at spaces now and one of the other advantages of not installing a brewhouse [immediately] is it collapses that timeline,” Humbard says. His model of opening first without a brewing system is a unique one. He’ll be buying wort from other breweries in the D.C. area and will be fermenting the sugary liquid into beer at Patent. This strategy is more common for cideries and wineries, taking apple juice or grape must and turning it into an alcoholic beverage on-site.
“It’s not much different than walking into a brewery and buying a sack of grain. It’s just one step further down the road from that—actually buying the wort,” Humbard explains. He plans to buy the wort from other from local breweries and turn it into beer in his cellar.
Humbard and team are planning a taproom-style model where Patent will serve from six to a dozen of its own beers on draft at any given time in constant rotation. “If I’m in charge of making the beer and fermenting it, there’s no limitation on the type of experimentation we would like to do.”
He’s embracing German and Belgian beer styles. “When you hear about someone purchasing wort and then fermenting it, you think of the Lambic blenders of Belgium” Gonnerman says. Perhaps the most famous example is Gueuzerie Tilquin. This brewery in Belgium’s Senne valley uses wort from highly regarded Lambic brewers like Brussels’ Cantillon.
Another example is the zoigl beer of Germany. Some towns will share a single brewhouse with only one brew kettle, but a variety of beers are produced because families take on their own fermentations at home. Each beer has a different taste even though they came from the same kettle. Patent plans to use unique combinations of organisms and blends of different beers to create a diverse portfolio.
“I’m trying to embrace these ancient Belgian and German cultural pieces,” Humbard says, referring to his use of a variety of yeasts, bacteria, and microorganisms. Humbard talks of making Berliner Weisse, a type of German beer, with lactobacillus and pediococcus. “The difference might be subtle or lost to some people, but it matters to me.” He currently maintains 18 different Kveik blends of yeast from Norway, Lithuania, and Russia, as well as 35 different brettanomyces isolates, and 20 different lactic acid bacteria.
By working with a diverse portfolio of organisms, Humbard is setting himself up to do work currently unseen in the Mid-Atlantic. The majority of commercial beers available throughout the D.C. metro region, and the world, are made with a single strain of yeast. Patent will also manufacture single-yeast beers like a Pilsner and an IPA.
“I’m nervous and excited because I’ve never been happier than when I’m making beer,” Humbard adds. “I just hope that people can feel my enthusiasm for it in what we can offer, and I know we’re doing something strange and different.”
Patent Brewing Company, facebook.com/patentbrewing