Baltimore Beer Legend, Thomas “Nelson” Carey III
A true Baltimore boy, Thomas “Nelson” Carey III was raised in the Lake Falls neighborhood. He attended Loyola High School and Loyola College.
He grew up surrounded by talented and animated home cooks who inspired his passion for culinary arts. Nelson embraced the idea that food and drink were at the heart of gatherings bringing friends and families together. After college, he moved to Newport, RI where he began his culinary career at the Mooring Restaurant, and he later worked in New York City. It was in these restaurant settings that he became excited about the art of food and wine pairing.
He returned to his beloved hometown to work for DOPS, Inc., and Bacchus Importers Ltd. His work with top Maryland wholesalers provided him the opportunity to develop his palate for wine, beer, and spirits. Always wanting to know, “how does it work? ” he furthered his knowledge of both the art and science of beverages with a multitude of books and classes. He received certification from the Society of Wine Educators as a Certified Wine Educator. He completed the prestigious Certified Sommelier and Advanced Sommelier certifications from the Court of Master Sommeliers.
As his knowledge grew, so did his reputation as a well-informed educator. While managing North Charles Fine Wine and Spirits, he shared both his passion and expertise with the Baltimore community. His ability to remove the snob factor from beverage education and make it understandable and accessible to everyone made him the popular “go to guy” for wine, beer, and spirits. He always encouraged people to try new varieties and offered insightful pairing suggestions. A conversation with Nelson about beverages was always “equally educational and entertaining.”
When the opportunity arose, he opened The Old Vine where he provided a comprehensive and eclectic range of beverages. At a time when the craft beer industry was taking off, he shared his long-held enthusiasm for the beer with his customers. His keen interest in the science of beer making and support of local Baltimore breweries was infectious. His customers came to him looking for what was new and exciting in beer offerings. He believed that the principles of food and wine pairing applied to beer as well. While he loved a beer with steamed crabs or a hot dog, he also knew that beer could be an interesting ingredient in or delicious pairing with sophisticated fare.
His opening of Grand Cru finally provided him the opportunity to not only stock an extensive selection but also to be present for the patron’s tasting experience. It was important to him that Grand Cru provides a craft beer selection that was as varied and exciting as that of the wine selection. If you walked into Grand Cru with your product, Nelson was enthusiastic to try it. As a staunch supporter of local business, local breweries with the quality product were given prime space among the taps. Nelson would eagerly share tastes of each newcomer with patrons. Grand Cru became known and acclaimed for its beer menu.
His insistence that quality product inspires a customer’s loyalty and furthers their interest in a beverage encouraged the craft community to improve their offerings. He saw local businesses not as competition, but as partners in a larger community who should work collaboratively and learn from each other. He never hesitated to “break the rules” of the traditional business model to create that gathering place that nourished not only its patrons but every company or individual who contributed to its success.
Nelson will always be remembered as the sophisticated geek who generously shared his extensive knowledge of both the art and science of beverages. The passionate business owner who inspired a shared dedication to quality products and a unique customer experience and as an individual who valued food and beverage establishments that invite, house and mingle the best parts of us as individuals and human beings.