Brews around Baltimore
On the road: Brews around Baltimore
When I told my coworkers I was going on vacation to Baltimore, Maryland, they looked at me like I had two heads.
My partner and I were off to visit a good friend who lives there and I had heard the craft beer scene has blossomed. So, I was stoked to dive into Maryland’s famous seafood restaurants and to drink my way around the city. When we weren’t “picking” blue crabs at L.P. Steamers (1100 E Fort Ave, Baltimore) and tossing back $2 “Natty Boh” tallboys, we were touring the city, looking for the best craft beer spots. Here’s a round-up of what we found.
The Owl Bar at The Belvedere Hotel
We popped in for a quick snack right after arriving in the city and were greeted with a great draft list and excellent snack fare. We munched on “sidewinders” (essentially steak fry sized curly fries) with apricot ketchup and bourbon-maple mustard, as well as Chesapeake Poutine (yup - blue crab poutine) while sipping Evolution Craft Brewery (Maryland) “Pine’hop’le” pineapple IPA and a nitro pour of Flying Dog (Maryland) “Bloodline” IPA infused with blood oranges. The Owl Bar, 1 East Chase St., Baltimore
Brew House No. 16
Located in an old firehouse in the Mount Vernon neighborhood, Brew House No. 16 offers a small selection of house-brewed beers, a few guest taps and a full complement of fresh seafood and pub favorites (think American gastropub). While there I had to check out “The High Road,” the house double IPA which I’m told sells out fast. It features Citra, Chinook, Centennial, El Dorado and Columbus hops, with a distinctly West Coast feel. Also on tap: Strawberry Fields, a wheat ale with local strawberries, and Hips on Lips, a Saison brewed with rose hips, created by the winners of the brewery's home-brew competiton. Brew House No. 16, 831 N. Calvert St, Baltimore
The Brewer’s Art
My final stop in the Mount Vernon neighborhood was the famed brewpub “The Brewer’s Art.” Many friends have recommended it, Esquire Magazine consistently includes it on its list of Best Bars in America and many moons ago I was gifted a bottle of its Green Peppercorn Tripel, which I fell in love with. Upon arriving I learned the brewery no longer make that beer, but the draft list was stacked with other Belgian-inspired offerings as well as a Pilsner, a peach sour beer and others. I walked in on the ground floor into its swanky, European bistro-style dining room and wished I hadn’t already eaten dinner. I went down a flight of stairs and I immediately felt at home in the dark subterranean bar. I ordered up a glass of the Belgian-style strong golden ale called “Beazly,” which was previously dubbed “Ozzy” before a cease-and-desist letter from the rock star. Turns out, the beer was named after the bartender who served it to me, who has been at the bar nearly 20 years. Other favorites from my visit were the “Penguin Pils” and “Tartuff Pêche,” a kettle-soured peach spiked brew. The Brewer's Art, 1106 North Charles St., Baltimore
Of Love & Regret, also known as “O.L.A.R.,” is co-owned
Co-owned by Brian Strumke, of Stillwater Artisanal Ales (Maryland) fame, “O.L.A.R.” is a must-stop on Baltimore’s beer trail. The draft collection features a dozen or more Stillwater beers, plus guest beers from the world’s most esoteric and celebrated breweries. Draft highlights for me were Stillwater “Superhop,” which was described as a “neo-tropical IPA” and fell squarely in the Vermont-style IPA flavor range, as well as “Pincha-Discos,” a Stillwater / Jolly Pumpkin (Michigan) collaboration tart saison brewed with Anhui wild limes and rose lemongrass tea. Our group was also pleasantly surprised with the cheeseboard which featured Vermont’s own Jasper Hill Farm “Bayley Hazen Blue” and “Harbison.” The dinner menu is quite eclectic and you’ll find dishes ranging from house barrel-aged pickles to grilled avocado stuffed with blue crab to a vegetarian bahn mí wrap. Of Love & Regret,1028 South Conkling St., Baltimore
Located in Fells Point, Max’s is a Baltimore craft beer icon and boasts 102 taps and five cask engines. Normally I shy away from places that have an excessive amount of taps, because most bars can’t properly manage a list this long and the condition of the beer suffers. Max’s has it down to a science. The list was “a little thin” while I visited as they were getting ready for a big tap takeover event - they still had upwards of 80 beers on tap, though! While I noshed on a spicy shrimp and Mexican Oaxaca cheese quesadilla I got to catch up on some of the Rio Olympics playing on multiple big screen TVs around the bar. Keeping with the theme of Rio, I sampled two sour beers from Brazil’s Way Beer Brewery: “Spontaneous Key Lime” and a collaboration with Stillwater called “Amazon Gose.” Other highlights were Terrapin (Georgia) Watermelon Gose on cask, and Right Proper (Washington D.C.) “White Bicycles,” a Belgian-style witbier brewed with orange zest and fermented with Brettanomyces. Max's Taphouse, 737 South Broadway, Baltimore
Pratt Street Ale House
Home to Oliver Brewing Co., this brewpub in the Inner Harbor features about 18 of its own beers on tap, three of which were nitro pours during my visit, plus four cask engines and guest taps, too. The brewery was founded in 1993 and using a U.K.-fabricated brewhouse, the brewers set out to reproduce England’s finest ales. That tradition is clearly still alive today and I must say that they’ve damn near perfected it! Since English-style was what they hung their hat on, I stuck to the classics. “Coventry Cream,” an English-style Bitter (likely an ESB, based on the strength of 6 percent alcohol) served on nitro was so creamy and so lush that I didn’t want the pint to ever end. Also on nitro was “Bishop’s Breakfast,” a velvety oatmeal stout that made me think, “Guinness, who?” Their cask-conditioned IPA called “Balls to the Walls,” was served with such care that the cascading bubbles built a thick and lasting head like I’ve never seen before. Pratt Street Ale House, 206 West Pratt St., Baltimore
I didn’t make it to Alewife on this trip to Baltimore, but I have previously, and I felt I would be remiss to omit it from this list. With 40 taps stacked with craft beer and a solid menu from Executive Chef Cyrus Keefer, you’ll feel right at home here. Alewife, 21 North Eutaw Baltimore
Jeff S. Baker II is the Curator of the Curriculum for Farrell Distributing. You can find him on Twitter and Instagram @aPhilosophyOf.
Check out Jeff Baker and Jason Strempek talk about beer and related topics at the new podcast, "It's the Beer Talking."
BURLINGTON FREE PRESS