Craft wineries, breweries and distilleries are a rapidly growing industry and agri-business in the State of Maryland and beyond. Leading the way, Frederick County, Maryland, now boasts more than 30 wineries, breweries and distilleries. Benefited by its rolling, fertile fields and strong agricultural industry and history, Frederick County is an ideal location for cultivating grapes and hops, barley and other grains used for distilling into various spirits.  

In response to this thriving industry and agri-business, Frederick County recently passed regulations to ease the process for farmers to open tasting rooms for their wineries, breweries and distilleries. And going yet a step further in recognizing the importance of this growing industry, Frederick County, through its economic development office, recently published a new guide specifically to assist farmers and other business entrepreneurs hoping to develop a new winery, brewery or distillery in Frederick County. The guide covers topics from the types or classes of breweries, wineries and distilleries permitted under Maryland law, to the local Frederick County regulations applicable to wineries, breweries, distilleries and tasting rooms, as well as information on other helpful resources.

In my earlier articles, "How to Clear the Land Use Hurdle as a Maryland Agri-Business" and "Navigating the Permits Process for your Maryland Agri-Business," I focused on the land use and zoning and permitting issues, respectively, involved in developing a new agri-business in Maryland, including developing a winery, brewery or distillery. Zoning and permitting remain a critical part of the process. The new Frederick County guide includes checklists, zoning use tables showing the uses permitted in various zoning districts, and helpful tips and lists of required approvals and permits an entrepreneur will need to consider and obtain before starting a new winery, brewery or distillery. While the new guide does not supersede or replace the more comprehensive Frederick County Zoning Ordinance or other local development regulations, it is a helpful guide to point the entrepreneur in the right direction to start to obtain information and advice on the process and approvals needed.

The new Frederick County guide provides a helpful reference and "recipe" book to assist in introducing and guiding an entrepreneur through the process. After reviewing the guide, the entrepreneur would be wise to seek the assistance of county staff to answer questions about the process. And it is always wise to seek assistance from knowledgeable professionals, such as local business, real estate and land use attorneys and engineers to assist in further navigating the process and in preparing the plans and obtaining the necessary governmental approvals for your new winery, brewery or distillery. Like any good recipe book, the new Frederick County guide provides both the "ingredients" and the basic instructions; however, making any recipe a success requires a careful "cook" (or in this case, a careful vintner, brewer or distiller) with capable assistance.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.