Combining Contemporary Meals with Historic Ambiance there's more to Brew'd Pub than Great Beer
The centuries-old stone public house that sits prominently at the curve on westbound Old National Pike just before Braddock Heights is casually known by many as John Hagan’s Tavern. It’s been many things over the years, including Hagan’s Tavern, a speakeasy, an antique shop, a private residence and a Civil War military headquarters, to name just a few.
Steve Acup is the most recent restaurateur to take the reins and attempt to bring life back to this historic space, with Brew’d Pub, a family-friendly pub conveniently nestled between Frederick and Middletown. Acup opened Brew’d Pub after spending two years running a successful pizza and ribs business out of a large trailer set up alongside the road in Lucketts, Va. “We were never able to get a building permit,” Acup explains. “The plan was to build a restaurant. Instead, we used those two years to develop recipes and train our staff.”
When the tavern space became available, Acup jumped at the opportunity to turn it into his dream restaurant filled with excellent, local craft beer and upscale pub fare. He appreciates the tavern’s old charm, with original 280-year old wood floors, the big, airy windows and cozy working fireplaces. “The building’s owner wants to keep the murals,” says Steve. “But, otherwise we plan to restore the décor to its original Civil War-era style, moving to period-appropriate accessories.” Acup is also considering one day converting the upstairs space that is currently offices into a private dining room to host special events for up to 20 patrons.
Developing the Menu
Executive Chef John Omenhiser runs the kitchen and has been integral in developing Brew’d Pub’s menu into something with broad appeal and accessibility. A Frederick resident since 1999, Chef Omenhiser has over 25 years of cooking experience in the Washington, D.C., area, including local hotspots Firestones Culinary Tavern, Magoo’s Pub and La Paz Mexican Restaurant.
Having just opened last November, the menu at Brew’d Pub is still being refined but, make no mistake, Chef Omenhiser has already earmarked a few favorites among the restaurant’s patrons. “Baby back ribs are one of our most popular items. We use a wet, sweet BBQ sauce that Steve developed while working out of the trailer,” Chef Omenhiser describes. “I can’t give you any details, but it’s a low-and-slow process and we serve them up in half or whole rack slabs. They just fall off the bone.”
Another popular entrée includes fish tacos ($9.95), made from flat-top grilled cod that’s steamed with beer and coated in a house barbecue rub. The two tacos are served in a soft tortilla with homemade pico de gallo and a spicy sour cream.
No pub can be taken seriously without a good sandwich menu, and Brew’d Pub doesn’t disappoint. Their Reuben ($7.95) is constructed in meticulous form, with layers of corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Russian or Thousand Island dressing placed in exact order per Atop’s instructions.
“We believe it makes a difference, the order in which the sandwich is prepared,” Acup say. “Ours is excellent.”
If you’re looking for the perfect appetizer to go with one of Brew’d Pub’s 16 craft beers on tap, consider the garlic shrimp ($9.95), delivered to the table—or bar—literally sizzling in a miniature cast iron skillet. Brew’d Pub cleverly serves the shrimp with a thinly sliced toasted roll, which acts as the perfect mechanism for sopping up the savory, buttery, garlic-y broth that fills the bottom of the skillet.
Chef Omenhiser offers up several classic dessert items like ice cream and cheesecake, but doesn’t stop there. The sopapillas are a “Chef’s Choice” dessert menu option, pastry filled with sweetened and spiced cream cheese and then deep fried to a crispy golden brown and drizzled with caramel sauce to finish it off. A delicious way to end a meal!
Those that knew Acup when he ran the restaurant out of his large trailer are probably wondering what happened to his wildly popular pizza. “The pizza oven was in the trailer,” Acup explains. “The kitchen here is really small, and we’ll have to retrofit it into the space. Once we get through permits, we’ll just have to find the time to get it installed without interrupting service.” The pizza is coming though, Acup assures us, both a bar-style pizza “tavern-cut thin” and a deep-dish version.
Crafting the Beer
Brew’d Pub would be neither brew’d nor pub unless Acup gave extreme care to placing terrific beer on tap at his bar. Currently, his own in-house brewing is on hold pending licensing, but Acup hopes to begin brewing by summer 2014. Until then, he has gone out of his way to showcase some of the Frederick area’s finest craft beer, and for Acup, the more local it is the better.
“Some of our best beers come from Frey’s Brewing Company out of Mount Airy,” says Acup. “Their Gung-Ho Jo is a favorite stout of ours and our guests. It’s not terribly bitter, and it has a great coffee undertone.” Acup went on to talk about owner Adam Frey, who owns and operates the farmhouse brewery, grows his own hops for the beer, and then sells directly to local restaurants and shops. Acup encourages folks to check out Frey’s website for details about the beer and his Libertytown Hops at www.freysbrewing.com.
Acup also worked with Gary Brooks from Barley and Hops Grill & Microbrewery on the Brew’d Pub set-up and business model, and he keeps at least one of Barley and Hops’ beers on tap all the time. “Gary was extremely helpful, which I appreciated coming to Frederick as a new restaurant owner,” said Acup.
Brew’d Pub has 16 craft beers on tap. Most are local, although Acup is happy to serve a brew from afar, so long as it’s excellent.
There is also a selection of 20 to 30 bottles, both craft brews and standard beers like Miller Lite. They offer up samplers in four- and six-beer flights, or you can order most by the pint. The exception to the pint glass is for stronger brews like the Bonnie and Clyde IPA from Tall Tales Brewing Company in Parsonsburg, Md., which is served in a 12-ounce portion.
Other popular beers on tap include: Red Headed Step Child (Tall Tales Brewing Company), West Coast IPA (Green Flash Brewing Co., San Diego) and Li’bens Milk Stout (Antietam Brewery, Hagerstown). Acup and his team choose the beers on tap during a careful selection process that includes a panel of employee judges and a “thumbs up, thumbs down” vote, which ensures complete taste and quality control. Brew’d Pub also keeps a non-alcoholic draft root beer on tap for the kids to enjoy.
Acup’s belief in promoting and buying from other local businesses doesn’t stop with beer and produce, which is also sourced from the area whenever possible. He is also a big advocate of supporting the local schools, especially Middletown High School’s Boosters, and has also hosted a gathering for FOAM (Frederick’s Original Ale Makers) at Brew’d Pub.
“If I’m going to be successful here in Frederick,” Acup says with a gentle sincerity. “It’s important to get involved with the community and help where we can. I plan to be here a long time.”
Chef Omenhiser’s Thyme Chicken Salad with Apples and Cranberries
3 or 4 cooked chicken pieces, roughly chopped into bite sized pieces
1 large apple, peeled and cubed (The chef recommends the Fuji variety.)
1 cup of fresh or reconstituted dried cranberries
1/2 cup roughly chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon finely chopped, fresh thyme leaves
Fresh-ground black pepper
Mix all ingredients together with enough mayonnaise to make mixture creamy.
Add salt and table pepper to taste.
Can be served as a sandwich, over greens or warmed as a side.