Like most roads on the journey of life, this adventure has been full of twists and turns. Mary and Randy Marriner, with their two daughters, Rachael and Tori, own Victoria Restaurant Group. They opened Victoria Gastro Pub in November 2007. It would remain the only restaurant operated by the Victoria Restaurant Group until 2017. Manor Hill Tavern in Old Ellicott City would become their second restaurant in February 2017 and will be followed by the third concept, Food Plenty, later in 2017.
The journey toward brewing beer started in earnest in late 2011 when the Marriners sold their home in western Howard County and purchased, a 54 acre working farm in Ellicott City. At the time, there was no home on the new site, just an old block barn and a single wide trailer that housed the farm hand. The farm was half field crops and half beef cattle.
After taking possession, Mary began designing the house and fixing the barn: evicting the raccoon tenants, replacing the leaky roof, putting a new skin of stone and stucco to the grey block building, pouring concrete floors where there had been just dirt, adding wooden garage doors, and re-grading the surrounding land with berms and retaining walls. Construction of their house began shortly thereafter.
The Marriners were seemingly content to maintain the farm and operate Victoria Gastro Pub as they had been, until Mary read an article in Food Arts magazine. The article featured Oskar Blues Brewery in Denver, CO and its owner, Dale Katechis. They learned that he also has a 50 acre farm, half in field crops and half in beef cattle. And his farm is located in between two restaurants. As Mary read on, she kept saying, “This is us, this is us”. Randy responded, “What? We have one restaurant, a 50 acre farm, but no brewery!”
Soon after that conversation, Randy serendipitously discovered that the 2012 Maryland General Assembly recently passed legislation that established ‘Farm Breweries’ who by definition would feature home-grown barley, hops, and/or fruits in their beer. So naturally, in September of 2012, Randy filed for a Farm Brewery license. Unfortunately for the Marriners, it wasn’t as easy as expected. Nearly 18 months of legislative hurdles and permitting obstacles followed. And finally on February 1, 2014, Manor Hill Brewing became official, making it Howard County’s first farm brewery.
Brewing began in small test batches in early 2015, with full-scale production launched in May, 2015. In addition to the beef cattle and fields of planted feed corn, Mary has a garden that produces tomatoes, herbs (basil, rosemary, thyme, chives, etc.), squash and squash blossoms, zucchini, asparagus, blackberries, blueberries, and much more. The crops from Mary’s garden are used at Victoria Gastro Pub as well as ingredients for Manor Hill beers.
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