Farmers market features Maryland wine and beers

photo by Leila Habib

The Takoma Park Farmers Market is again welcoming a rotating array of vineyards and breweries to its year-round Laurel Avenue market, where they join the standard purveyors of produce, cheese and baked goods Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Milkhouse Brewery, Waredaca Brewing Company, Elk Run Vineyard and Great Shoals Vineyard are participating this year, and one or two of the four set up shop at the market most Sundays.

“It gives the market something new each week, something different, something to talk about,” local market representative Laura Barclay said. “It’s another reason to come to the market. If people aren’t prepared to pick up vegetables, they can fill up their growlers.”

The market, which was founded in 1983, first welcomed vineyards in 2014 and brought in craft breweries the following year, said local market representative Laura Barclay.

Like the other purveyors at the market, the breweries and vineyards must source their main ingredients from within 125 miles of Takoma Park, Barclay said. That means vineyards grow their own grapes and breweries cultivate their own grains on-site.

Photo by Leila Habib

Elk Run Vineyard maintains 25 acres of European grapes for its high-end wines at its Mount Airy, Maryland property, Elk Run wine specialist Bob Cecil said.

Elk Run sells its product at its vineyard and in 600 stores and restaurants statewide, Cecil said. But it branched out to farmers markets around 10 years ago, starting in Cheverly, Maryland, he said.

Now, Takoma Park’s market is one of nine markets in four counties where Cecil and his coworkers showcase their 20 varieties of wine.

The vineyard adopted the strategy, he said, both to make immediate sales and to increase general awareness of the business.

“We’re truly a mom-and-pop shop, so we don’t have money for marketing,” Cecil said. “So here, we can get the word out, and people will come back to buy from us. It’s good for everyone.”

Milkhouse Brewery, also based in Mount Airy, made its farmers market debut a little over a year ago, market specialist Susan Hebble said, for similar reasons.

“We decided the farmers market would be a good place to market the beer, other than just at the brewery,” Susan Hebble said.

Fellow specialist Brad Hebble said Milkhouse’s 2013 opening made it the first farm-based brewery in Maryland.

Founder Tom Barse helped craft Maryland’s 2012 farm brewery law, which enabled farmers to produce and sell beer and hold tastings on their property.

Milkhouse brings its five standard styles, plus growlers and a few reserves, to each market its representatives attend, Brad Hebble said.

He said the market has helped Milkhouse recruit two types of customers: those who buy products from the stall on Sundays, and those who learn about the brewery and come out for special events.

“Some people wouldn’t come out to the brewery normally because of the distance,” he said. “And it’s been fun for people to taste the different styles.”

Photo by Leila Habib

Both Milkhouse and Elk Run allow customers to taste their drinks at the Sunday markets.

“There are always long lines,” Barclay said. “It’s another dimension, another activity that makes the market a fun place to spend time at in Takoma Park.”

For a schedule of breweries and vineyards at the 2017 market, click here.