October 30, 2008


Halloween is obviously Friday. You don't need BBG's advice on this, but be careful, designate a driver etc.

More details to arrive at a later point in time, but The Brewer's Art will have a Holiday Beer Tasting event on December 6 from noon to 4 pm. Also, according to their website the Seven Beauties Rye and Cerberus Tripel are currently the seasonals on tap.

There will be a pair of beer tastings at The Perfect Pour in Columbia. On Friday to celebrate Halloween from 3-8 pm they will pour Coney Island Freaktoberfest, Wychcraft and Rogue Dead Guy Ale. On Saturday from 3-7 pm they'll transition to Thanksgiving and pour Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin and Ace Ciders.

Finally, be sure to check the Halloween beer specials page here at BBG and email in tips if you know of anything else going on. For example, just in the inbox today I've been informed DuClaw will be pouring its "31" spiced Munich Dunkel on Halloween until supplies last.

October 28, 2008

A Maryland Beer Trail?

I just saw this post at Yours For Good Fermentables talking about a visit to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. I gotta say that's a great idea for Kentucky. YFGF also notes that Virginia has a burgeoning wine trail of its own.

I know Maryland doesn't have the greatest beer reputation around, but there are enough interesting breweries and places to simply get great beer that I think it would be worthwhile for the various interests involved (including the state) to maybe sink a few dollars into something that promotes a segment of Maryland business in difficult economic times.

Think about the various buildings on Brewery Hill near downtown Baltimore being restored for other purposes. Think about the rudimentary colonial brewing history that likely happened in the area (perhaps tie that into a place like Ellicott Mills that is such a big period draw). Link that to the present with the growth of the microbrewing phenomena with the late DeGroen's, and longtime Maryland brewing face Hugh Sisson who had Sisson's before establishing Clipper City.

Baltimore and Maryland used to have huge German populations. Imagine what relevant beer tourist-y things could be uncovered digging into that story.

Then package it all together by linking Maryland's many esteemed beer friendly watering holes from the Eastern Shore and Annapolis to Baltimore to the western edge of the state with nods to our neighbors in Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington D.C.

All of this probably at the low cost of a few meetings of interested parties, the expense of putting together some pamphlets and literature to place in hotel lobbies, a simple website, a little advertising in travel magazines and in-flight magazines and local publications like Baltimore Magazine and so on. Mix in a few discounts for those spurred on by this commitment and maybe we're onto something.

One of my frustrations when I moved here in February was that there was no central depository of information and insight into the Maryland beer culture. Lack of information is a barrier to entry for people interested in the beer and beer history of this fine state. Why not removed that barrier?

That's part of the purpose of Baltimore Beer Guy. Selfishly I've accumulated the links and maps on here to keep in one central place for my own purposes, but they're obviously also out there to share with anyone and everyone interested in this niche topic. If a non-native can put this together in a few months, imagine what interested parties could do working together to do something much greater?

October 22, 2008

Brew Review: The Bruery Saison Rue

This is one of those beers my great friend Steve (Summer of Beer) sent me a few weeks back. The Bruery is a Belgian-styled Brewery in Orange County, California that is making some very interesting stuff.

I've previously done a Bruery "parallel tasting" and this adventure is more on my own. Ask requested on the bottle, I poured ever-so-slowly into a tulip glass. It is described as a "Belgian-style ale brewed with rye and Brettanomyces (yeast)".

The first batch of several of the Bruery's beers I guess were overcarbonated, this one included. My hand was steady and my pour slow, but the bubbly stuff still got the best of me. Be forewarned on these at least from the early batches that a lot of impossible to prevent head is coming your way.

After using several top secret measures to get that head down, it's tasting time. I'm not getting a whole lot in the nose although that may have to do with the death of the perilous piles of head. I got too caught up in putting out that fire and forgot to take a few whiffs. Poor form for any beer nut.

Right off the bat I get a taste that reminds me seems like something of a trademark. Hard to describe, but you know it when you taste it from particular brewers. The Bruery has its own unique taste that runs through most of the beers, and this one carries it. Its sort of pleasant and perhaps a bit peachy and light.

I can definitely taste the carbonation here, its sort of bitey on the tongue as I take the first few sips, this beer is also still a bit cool, that seems to wear down most of the time as they warm up.

Color is deep golden, just as described, and with a hef-like cloudiness thanks to it being unfiltered. There's something visually awesome about an unfiltered golden ale, and the Bruery hits it here.

I'm starting to pick up the brett just a bit, as this has some definite sourness and the faintest hint of that really delicious brett aroma that drives me wild in certain beers (think Orval, which no joke I can spend a night joyful just sniffing the bottle).

As saison is a wide-ranging style, this successfully can be classified as one without reminding me in the faintest (as of now) of the classics like a Saison DuPont or an Ommegang.

There's a certain sweet and sour thing going on here, with sweet dominating on some sips, sour tartness on others.

Overall I'm enjoying this. It's not a raver, but its worthy. Like almost everything I've had from the Bruery, this one forces you to slow down and figure it all out. Sometimes I'm in a rush to enjoy what I'm drinking at face value, and this beer puts the brakes on that a bit and says "hold up, you won't enjoy me at that rate, slow down, let me warm up a bit, there ya go, better, huh? Yeah now what about me is it that you like, and it shouldn't be obvious". And yes, I have conversations with all my beer.

Another thing I want to point out: while listening to a homebrewing podcast recently, the hosts were discussing how the people at Lost Abbey, Russian River etc. are on a whole nothing "taste" plane, that they were somewhere beyond the nuts and bolts of the craft and untethered in their deep understanding of brewing and creating new tastes from this. I'm not sure the Bruery is at their level, but it says something to see how they've gone about some of their initial beers.

This is ambitious stuff. A tripel with rice and thai basil? An outlier saison with rye and brett? This is some unusual stuff. Yeah it's sort of crazy for crazy's sake, but it works which is the mark of talent and someone finding their way and trying to ascend to new heights.

I've yet to find that Bruery beer that I'm absolutely in love with, but its a young brewery and I like where they're going.

Just Arrived: Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale 2008

The much-anticipated Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale "Christmas" IPA is in Maryland. I was at The Perfect Pour tonight and picked up a six pack. Oddly enough I've never tasted this beer before but have heard rave reviews so it was on my target list.

Good timing, as I was in there to pick up some beers for some guests this weekend.

Firkin Friday at Bel Air DuClaw

DuClaw Brewing Company is hosting another "Firkin Friday", this time at its Bel Air location. They'll be pouring the following cask-conditioned beers:

Alchemy oatmeal stout with molasses and Mad Bishop, their seasonal Oktoberfest beer.

Here's my recent review of a Firkin Friday event. Map out how to get to DuClaw and many other Maryland breweries/brewpubs with Baltimore Beer Guy's Maryland Beer Google Map. I've also created an ever-growing listing of places to find cask conditioned "real ale" on tap/beer engine in Maryland.

Two Important News Items

How important is up to your discretion.

1)As reported at Kasper On Tap, The Wharf Rat/Oliver's is selling its Pratt Street location near the Harbor in downtown Baltimore. It appears they'll continue to brew beers there, and the owner will retain his much smaller location in Fell's Point. It was purchased by a former brewer at Fordham and another businessman who has owned several bars.

2)Old Dominion Brewing, synonymous with Virginia beer, is closing its Ashburn location in 2009 and relocating to Dover, Delaware. Coastal Brewing, the parent company, also controls Fordham Brewing. So, Northern Virginia loses one of its flagship breweries.

The Basics: All Beer Is Ale or Lager

I'm an ale man, as I think most craft beer fans are. That of course puts such tastes in the minority of world beer consumption, which I believe is 90% lager sales (dominated obviously by Bud, Miller, Coors and the like) although there are plenty of tremendous craft lagers out there.

Here's a brief video from Chow.com to set straight those differences between ale and lager.

Canned Beer is Good Beer

At least when it comes from those handcrafting beer with care. Read one of what will be many articles now and in the future about a major part of the craft beer movement going into the future.

There's actually a place in Washington D.C. called The Red Derby I'm planning on checking out at some point that serves nothing but canned beers.

Washington D.C. Beer Map (created by Baltimore Beer Guy)

Whatever Blob's Park Is, It's Coming Back

Says Beer in Baltimore and Mid-Atlantic Brewing News writer Alexander D. Mitchell IV.
Folowing up on several rumors that had been floating about, it appears that Blob's Park, down near Jessup, is being rebuilt for a reopening!
Blob's Park appears to be one of those classic Bavarian/German dance hall plus dining room plus biergarten. I've always liked those kinds of places, so hopefully its reopening is a winner.

Blob's Park website is here, to keep tabs on the renovation and opening. I've also added it to my "Grab a Pint" and "Howard County Beer Map" beer maps linked on the menu at right.

Update: more details from Annapolis' The Capital.

October 21, 2008

Save The Date: Max's Beer Event

Just found this in the comments section at the Baltimore Sun's beer blog, Kasper on Tap:
Thursday, Nov 20, 2008Time:5pm-till
Cost: cash Bar
No entrance feel
Location:main bar downstairs
If you've ever been to Max's events, you know they're pretty special. I'm still giddy from the Belgian Beer event they held all the way back in February. Speaking of ...
Max's Belgian Fest 2009
February 13th - February 15th 2009
Don't miss it (!!!)

October 20, 2008

Beer-y Scary Halloween

This will be the post for all things Halloween and beer.

First item, as seen in the men's room at Frisco Grille: $3 Lagunitas IPA pints on Halloween from 10-close.

DuClaw will be pouring their "31" spiced Munich dunkel on Halloween while supplies last.

At The Wharf Rat (Pratt Street, not Fell's Point location) they'll have a "Beer Geek Night". They'll have two firkins on the bar, one Old Habit ($3) and a TBA. They'll also try to bring in some high end pumpkin beers (Weyerbacher, Dogfish, etc.) ($3). Via: Beer in Baltimore.

Feel free to comment below or email Baltimore Beer Guy with other Halloween/beer news.

Be sure to check out my Downtown Baltimore Beer map, my Grab A Pint beer map, my Howard County Beer map and Washington D.C. beer map to get an idea of places to hang out and have *good* beer this Halloween (safely, of course).

Brewer's Art Latest

Went down to The Brewer's Art a few nights ago, got a growler filled with Resurrection ($12.26 if I remember correctly) and had their latest: 7 Beauties Rye.

That was one strong brew. The dominant flavor was an almost burnt roastisness to go with coffee, with that signature something, hard to describe but classic Brewers Art, in the background. I think it colored the flavor of all the other beers I tried.

Even the next day drinking my growler of Resurrection it didn't taste quite right. Its definitely worth trying but it sort of stuck with me.

Also on tap were the 12 Labors Anniversary (celebrating their 12th anniversary), Ozzy, Resurrection and I think Beacon or another of the standard house brews.

Somewhat unrelated: their rosemary garlic mac-n-cheese (which was great!) is now "chipotle and caramelized onion mac-n-cheese". D'oh. I'll still try it at some point, but that's what it says on the menu.

Free Book Giveaway

Alexander D. Mitchell IV, writer at Mid-Atlantic Brewing News, is giving away two free copies of Charlie Papazian's "The Complete Joy of Home Brewing"

Simply respond to his entry explaining why you are so worthy and he may choose to give you a copy. Maybe I should respond?

Beer and Religion, Forever Linked

USA Today went to last week's Great American beer Festival in Denver and they found religion.

As noted in the article, Russian River has all kinds of religious names to some of its better brews. The Lost Abbey in my old hometown of San Diego is the same. Here in Maryland, the most popular brew at The Brewer's Art is "Resurrection". There's a great little Belgian themed beer bar in Fell's Point called Ale Mary's.

There are many more connections to be discovered.

(Via Chow.com)

Why Do The Big Guys Fail Craft Beer?

Interesting find from the Sun's Kasper on Tap blog. Beer writer Rob Kasper notes:
Meanwhile, the Miller Lite Brewers Collection, an attempt to mix craft and light beers, is all but dead. A spokesman in Milwaukee said the brewers collection -- a blonde ale, a wheat and amber--- had been "suspendend" in August and there are no plans to restart it.
Now, Coors does make the wildly popular "Blue Moon" Belgian wit styled beer, so there's hope for the big guys, but I'm curious what people think about why the macros fail.

I know there are stories out there about the hilariously arrogant attitudes of the large beer producers, and that craft beer drinkers are also notoriously skeptical and perhaps hostile to the big guys. However, the big guys should still be able to push out at least a small handful of broadly accepted craft beers.

In many industries, the phrase "content is king" defines success. I hunch this is the problem with the macros' attempts into micro beer. Look at the generally bland offerings named above -- a blonde, a wheat and an amber. Those are all solid styles but none that are likely to excite the macro crowd or the micro crowd.

If I were at Budweiser and I was serious about making a few new beers, I'd be aiming for that which is not safe. Belgian styles (other than the wit), a variety of porters, an American macro stout on nitro with some unique flavor to differentiate from Guinness but with the same cascading effect. Lambics. You name it, try it. Not everything will sell, but it will look like you're serious and finally acknowledge the value in painfully crafted but flavorful beer.

Now, maybe they've already considered this. Hell, it'd be corporate suicide if they haven't. Maybe the numbers aren't there, as far as their business model and plant is concerned. I don't know. But a lot of beer drinkers are probably curious to find out. Transparency might not be such a harmful thing in this situation, let people know what you've tried and why you've said no to various projects.

Perhaps an effort to go open source, and let a small army of beer drinkers and brewers storm the castle and lend their ideas and expertise about smaller volume business, sustainable brewing, local brewing and so on. Maybe even build partnerships, buy and distribute hops at discounted prices, work with breweries to be less a force of competition driving them out (Wal Mart?) but a way to grow their business in parallel.

Its strange that a few incredibly powerful companies atop the beer industry with all their resources hasn't successfully tapped into the craft beer market yet. That can't last forever, but in the meantime its overdue.

October 17, 2008

This Week's Events

In downtown on Saturday at the Wharf Rat on Pratt Street is the aforementioned Chesapeake Real Ale Festival.

At The Perfect Pour in Columbia there will be a pair of beer tastings. On Friday from 5-8 pm Clipper City will be featured featuring the seasonals Winter Storm and Balto-Marzhon and many more. On Saturday they'll pour German beers from 2-7 pm including Welterburger, Weihenstephaner, Aecht Schlenkerla, Franziskaner and Warsteiner.

On Tuesday of next week (October 21) The Brickskeller in Washington D.C. will host author Brian Yaeger (a fellow USC alum) who wrote "Red White and Brew: American Beer Odyssey". No cover, discussion begins at 7:30 pm and they'll have "greatly reduced prices" on select beers mentioned in his book. The book is obviously available for purchase and autographs.

October 16, 2008

The Chesapeake Real Ale Festival

This looks ten kinds of awesome.

The event celebrating "real ale" (among many other names) will be held at The Wharf Rat (on Pratt Street) in downtown Baltimore from 1-6 pm on Saturday October 18th.

Tickets are $35 in advance, $45 at the door. A ton of breweries will be there offering their crafted selections of real ale.

Promised offerings:

Barley & Hops: Annapolis Rocks Pale Ale
Brewers Alley: Oatmeal Stout
Brewers Art: Beacon Ale and Seven Beauties Rye
Cape Ann Brewing: Pumpkin Stout
Clipper City: Loose Cannon and Winter Storm
District Chophouse: Bourbon Stout
Dogfish Head: Palo Santa Marron
DuClaw: Alchemy Oatmeal Stout
Flying Dog: Gonzo Imperial Porter
Franklin's: Sierra Madre American Pale and ESB
Growlers: Gaithersburg Nut Brown
Lancaster Brewing: Celtic Rose
Old Dominion: Unfiltered Dry Hopped Ale
Otter Creek: World Tour "Otter Mon" Jamaican Stout
Red Brick Station: Dry hopped Twice Daily Crisis IPA with East Kent Golden and Willamette hops
Rock Bottom (Bethesda): ESB (Extra Scary Beer)
Smuttynose: Old Brown Dog
Troegs: HopBack Amber
Victory Brewing: ESB
Weyerbacher: Old Heathen Imperial Stout
Wharf Rat: Dark Mild, Harvest Ale and Pin of 3 Lions
Wild Goose: IPA
Yards Brewing: General Washington Tavern Porter and Brawler (English ruby mild)

Designated drivers get in free, but won't receive a mug or any of the "many" door prizes.

So uh, have fun if you go and feel free to report back here with details on how things went.

My thanks to Nick Nichols for sending me an email with all the awesome beers that are promised.

October 15, 2008

Maryland's Great American Beer Fest Winners

The Great American Beer Festival was held last weekend in Denver, Colorado. Congratulations to all the Maryland breweries whose entrants won awards in the very prestigious competition!

Clipper City Brewing Co.: Clipper City MarzHon Bronze Vienna-Style Lager
Clipper City Brewing Co.: Clipper City Pale Ale Silver Classic English-Style Pale Ale
Flying Dog Brewery: Old Scratch Amber Lager Silver American-Style Amber Lager
Flying Dog Brewery: Dogtoberfest Gold German-Style Marzen
Rock Bottom Brewery Bethesda: Right on Rye Silver Rye Beer
Rock Bottom brewery Bethesda: Highland Courage Gold Scottish-Style Ale

October 9, 2008

Weyerbacher Night at Frisco Grille Review

As previously mentioned on here, Frisco Grille hosted Weyerbacher beers for its weekly Wednesday pint night. The free pints were gone by the time I arrived around 7:30, but no matter (although they were nice-looking tulip glasses).

Frisco had seven Weyerbacher beers on: the famed Double Simcoe IPA, the Blasphemy (a Belgian style quad), Hops Infusion (an IPA), the Imperial Pumpkin Ale, the Slam Dunkel, the Heresy (a Russian Imperal Stout) and the Merry Monk's Ale (a tripel).

I had a taster of the pumpkin ale which was decent refreshing but not something I'd have a full drink of as I just don't enjoy that type of beer in large amounts. I also had a half pour of the Hops Infusion which was quite good and kicked before the night was over.

My nemesis, the Double Simcoe IPA, was also tried. I enjoyed it much more this time, but its still not a beer I really like or enjoy as famed as it is with the hop heads.

My favorites were definitely the Merry Monks tripel which was refreshing and aromatic and highly enjoyable, and the Slam Dunkel which was on the lighter side for a dunkel and also quite refreshing and a bit sweet.

One real treat was that the brewery rep was there to talk to and also provided several bottles of a yet-unnamed "smoked lager". The Frisco people poured the occasional taster of that for customers and I really enjoyed my sample so be on the lookout for that from Weyerbacher at some point.

This Week's Events

Much more to consider this week ...

The Perfect Pour in Columbia is having several different free beer tastings. Thursday night from 5-8 pm the brewery rep from Weyerbacher (nice guy) will have several offerings including Old Heathen, Merry Monks (a delicious tripel), Blithering Idiot and the famous Double Simcoe IPA.

On Friday they'll pour some buzzed-about Italian craft beers from 5-8 pm with the Legends rep.

On Saturday from 3-7 pm they'll pour some of their fall beers such as Gosser Dark, Flying Fish Oktoberfest, Black Cat and Witches Brew.

DuClaw will host a "Firkin Friday" at their Bowie Town Center location October 10th. They'll pour a double dry hopped Hellrazer pale ale and an Alchemy oatmeal stout. The firkins go fast, so get there early as pouring begins at 5 pm.

The Maryland Brewer's Oktoberfest will be held on Saturday October 11th at the Timonium Fairgrounds. The event will be from noon to 8 pm, with 12 breweries, brats, German food, oompah bands, etc. Admission is $25 on-site as advance tickets have sold out. Designated drivers get in for $10. If you wear German attire they'll provide three extra drink tokens.

Additionally, I have an email from DuClaw saying they'll be there with their staples plus 17 seasonal beers several of which are on their last kegs. They will also have Colossus available, a 21% hybrid brew. If you show up at their booth between 12 and 1230 wearing DuClaw gear they'll give a sneak preview sample of Colossus hours before others get a taste.

A special mention should also be made that this Thursday, Friday and Saturday is the "Great American Beer Festival" in Denver, Colorado where the nation's elite and lesser-known brewers are pouring and competing for some of the most prestigious awards in the industry. Best of luck to Maryland's entrants.

October 7, 2008

Flying Dog Small Bottle Mixed Pack

Interesting news about Maryland's own Flying Dog I found at the DRAFT Magazine blog. Flying Dog will soon begin selling eight packs of mixed bottles of their "Canis Major" offerings -- mostly higher ABV brews.

The catch?

They'll be in seven-ounce bottles.
what people might not know is that the brewery inherited a little gem of a bottling line designed to package seven-ounce bottles in the move. Not wanting to discard this equipment and certain they could find a use for it, the team worked on a project that would utilize the bottling line. The plan? Make an eight-pack of seven-ounce bottles that will hold two of each of the brewery’s Canis Major series beers: Double Dog Double Pale Ale, Gonzo Imperial Porter, Kerberos Tripel and Horn Dog Barley Wine. One year later the project is complete and Flying Dog is about to unveil a new mix-pack of their high-octane brews.
Sounds fun. Look for those to be available before the Holiday season after a cold open Sept. 15 debut at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver.

Max's Best-Selling Beers

Interesting find, via email from my friend Steve who writes "Summer of Beer".

According to DRAFT Magazine, the following are the five top-selling beers at Max's Taphouse in Fells Point:

1)Brewer's Art Resurrection
2)Franziskaner Hefe-Weizen
3)Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA
4)Heavy Seas Loose Cannon
5)Stella Artois

Things were going smoothly until that last one. Oh well, four out of five ain't bad.

DuClaw New Beer Release: The Mad Bishop

This month's special release beer from DuClaw (four locations in Maryland) is the "Mad Bishop", a German-style Oktoberfest (kinda late, fellas?).

Their Pint Club members get a sneak preview tasting on Monday October 13th. The rest of us can try it on Wednesday October 15th or Thursday October 16th from 6 or 7 p.m. to close at all their locations.

If you are registered on their website you can get a barcode to print out and bring to the release party for various free giveaways and prizes.

Looking ahead, it appears their November and December releases will be the "Devil's Milk" barleywine-style beer and the "Black Jack" imperial stout. Heavy, hearty brews. Yes folks, winter is most definitely coming. Sigh.

Frederick, The Beer Town

Sort of old news, but I recently found this entry on a beer blog called Hop Talk. The June 2007 issue of Beer Advocate Magazine named "Nine Great Beer Towns You Didn't Know Were Great Beer Towns".

No. 4? Frederick, Maryland.

The combined Flying Dog and Wild Goose operations are headquartered there, as well as Brewer's Alley and Barley and Hops. I'm at a loss for what else is out there, but it's nice recognition for Frederick which is just a bit out of the way for most of us in the Baltimore metropolitan area.

I neglected to stop in at Brewers Alley or Barley and Hops in my last visit to Frederick, but I did dine downtown not far from the Alley and had one of their beers at the tapas restaurant. I also visited the Flying Dog Brewery (of which I need to write a review at some point on here). Hopefully those places hint at more "on the way" as far as breweries and brewpubs.

Does anyone know of any other beer stops in Frederick? I don't have a copy of the magazine so I'm not sure what else they mentioned other than those three places.

Cask Condition Beer/Ale In Baltimore and Maryland

I found this thread on ChowHound discussing where to find Cask Conditioned (among many other names ... not sure yet who will win out in the zeitgeist) beer in Baltimore --- and by extension the state of Maryland.

Some obvious names come up: Oliver's/The Wharf Rat (in particular), Max's has a beer engine or two, Frisco Grille has a beer engine that usually has something on, Bertha's carries an in-house "Bertha's Best Bitter" made by Oliver's, Mahaffey's has a beer engine, the recently burned Metropolitan Coffeehouse and Grand Cru which I haven't visited.

Much like the Firkin Friday event at DuClaw (who also produces occasional cask beers but doesn't have a regular cask selection or hand pump), there are Firkin events at Grand Cru according to this thread (every Thursday) and Metropolitan Coffeehouse (if they've returned, their events were last on Thursday nights).

The thread also mentions Red Brick Station which "has [periodic] casks of their beer".

Are there others, because that just about covers it from my experience?

Update: While writing the very next entry, I stumbled across the page for Frederick's "Barley and Hops" and they advertise having cask conditioned beers on sale (I assume seasonally). Nice.

Update: Add Growlers of Gaithersburg, as well. We love our beer engines out here, huh?

Update: Add Johansson's (in Westminster). I just made a trip up there and they had four engines (only one was in use at the time).

Update: Add Brewer's Alley in Frederick. They have at least one beer engine I saw on a recent visit.

October 6, 2008

Rocky Run In Columbia Closes

I totally missed this, which shows you just how often I went to Rocky Run -- never. I had actually put it on a list of fall "to-do's" to at least try their seemingly bland selection of homebrews once and at least vouch that I'd tried them.

Alas, it is not meant to be.

Small irony, it was on Dobbin Road a very short drive from Frisco Grille and Dog Pub, two favorite hangouts of mine.

A Sampling of Beer In and Around a Ravens Home Game

My family has Ravens season tickets, so the old man and myself inevitably find ourselves with some free time ahead of the game and in search of beer and sometimes a bite to eat. We don't really tailgate, but that affords us the opportunity to explore a bit.

For a while we would meet a friend before the game at the famous Pickles Pub. That's a fun hangout, as you can sit outside and get a beer from inside or at several of the various stations right there. Everything's in cans or bottles, obviously, and you can't expect any exciting craft options. Most of the offerings are the usual Bud/Miller/Coors, Corona stuff, although one of the stands had tall cans of that classic from another era, Pabst Blue Ribbon. It's not the tastiest brew but I'll occasionally have one of those.

This last week we shifted over to Ravens Walk, which is a fun walkway starting just past Camden Yards and heading directly to M&T Bank Stadium's entrance. There's several places to grab a bite to eat (even get fresh shucked oysters!) and grab a beer. We started out at the Greene Turtle stand, and the line took incredibly long. The beer wasn't much better, again Bud/Miller/Coors/Corona although they did have Heineken keg cans.

Just down the way we shifted to Oregon Grill's stand, which had cans of Molson's lager. I'd never had a Molson so that was a bit of a novelty. Not the worst beer either, I was surprised. Another stand adjacent to it had a sign with "craft beer" but I was disappointed to see their idea of craft beer -- on tap, mind you -- was Guinness, Smithwick's and Harp. I wasn't feeling the Irish beer so I passed, but did notice they also had cans of Amstel and bottles of the Sam Adams Oktoberfest seasonal.

I've read in many places of people walking to and from the Harbor and especially Oliver's main Wharf Rat location for some fine British-styled real ales. That's definitely on my list for next time and would be a pretty quick walk from the hotel parking garage we use.

We actually got stuck in traffic leaving the new lot we tried (we'll switch back to the old hotel one block further next time, I'm forgetting the names of both) and simply reparked and headed to the hotel bar. In the bar they had Heineken on tap, as well as Clipper City Pale which was delicious. I stole a look at their bar menu and found several unique beers. I went with a Lindeman's Framboise which was outrageously delicious (beer ... sweet tooth ... oy).

Inside the stadium, if you enter past the Ravens Walk, is an Irish pub. I haven't hit that up yet but it looks fairly promising. Our seats are actually in the club area so we're always flying right by that as we try to get to our seats just before kickoff.

As far as club area beers, the bar immediately behind our section has several generic canned offerings, but also pours a ridiculously fresh Heineken on tap. I usually hate Heineken but this was an amazingly different taste than I'd had from them in cans and bottles. I was shocked.

I've wandered around the entire arc of the club section and mostly it's the usual generic stuff on tap, but at a few stops you can find say, a Leinenkugel wheat, or a Sam Adams seasonal, basically the macro micros.

One additional note: the old man was entertaining at this last game and with the guests we went to the Rusty Scupper about a mile from the stadium. Their bar had several whatever beers on tap, but did include a Scupper amber ale contract brewed by Clipper City. I found it enjoyable and yet another example of a beer to be had as part of the whole fanfare surrounding a Ravens home game.

Feel free to comment about other beer offerings in and around the game below, or in different sections of the stadium.

DuClaw Firkin Friday Review

So I went to DuClaw's "Firkin Friday" event at their Arundel Mills location. In brief, at the event they tap a firkin or a cask or "real ale" kegs of particular beers. The casks hold about 85 pours before kicking, and the event started promptly at 5 p.m.

Parking, as usual, was a hassle but I've got a pair of legs and found a spot a few sections over. Once there I was a few minutes early but was able to actually get a seat at the increasingly crowded bar. Two of the kegs were perched atop a counter behind the bar and another one was on the far side of the bar.

The festivities begin with an employee taking hammer to a spigot that punctures the seal of the keg. A little beer sometimes sneaks out as the spigot seals the opening. After that, it's fun time.

They were offering a (cascade) dry-hopped "Hellrazer" pale ale, a casked "Alchemy" oatmeal stout and a raspberry "Misfit Red". I went with the Hellrazer and the Misfit Red. The misfit had a tremendously fresh and refreshing raspberry taste, but it overpowered the more subtle cask flavors. That would be great with or without a cask and I fought it delicious.

Even better was the Hellrazer. The hop flavors really came through (not enough brewers realize just how good pale ales, IPA's, anything freshly hoppy really, taste) and enhanced their pale ale.

Yes there's a tradeoff in carbonation and a cooler temperature, but casked beers are terrific. I'm glad they're not the dominant style here but as a novelty I think we could afford much more than what's offered. Luckily, Baltimore seems to be a hotbed for serving beer in this style that offers a different flavor profile from how a beer tastes when traditionally served.

Great Tap Handles

The Sun's Kasper On Tap blog makes note of a local craftsman named Mark Supik who creates some really unique tap handles including the Resurrection made for Brewer's Art. He'll have a brief demonstration at his shop (1 N. Haven St.) from noon-1 p.m. on Saturday October 18.

Victoria Gastro Pub Gets Reviewed

By the Washington Post, of all places. The Sun also reviewed it a few months back.

The Post had sort of a mixed bag review but briefly did compliment the beer selection. I've searched around online and Victoria gets wildly varying reviews. Most of the bad ones do seem to have been in the first couple months upon opening.

Anyway, just thought I would mention that as it's a semi-haunt of mine here in Howard County. I have the occasional frustration about the beer there but they deserve strong praise in putting serious attention and effort into the brews they pour.

Be sure to check out Baltimore Beer Guy's custom-made Howard County Beer Map.

October 3, 2008

Weyerbacher Pint Night at Frisco Grille

The great Frisco Grille in Columbia will host Weyerbacher beers for its weekly Wednesday night pint night this week (October 8). At every pint night, the first featured beer purchased after 7 p.m. earns you a free pint glass from that featured brewery.

Seeing as how I did not enjoy Weyerbacher's Double Simcoe IPA, this will be a redemption moment for them if I can make it. Anyway, they're advertising that brewery rep Bob Fauteux will be there, as well as seven Weyerbacher kegs:

Double Simcoe IPA
Blasphemy (Quad)
Hops Infusion (American IPA)
Imperial Pumpkin Ale
Slam Dunkel
Heresy (Russian Imperial Stout)
Merry Monk's Ale (Tripel)

Looks good, especially if you're a Weyerbacher fan. I rarely see their beer on tap in Maryland, but their bottles are usually available almost everywhere.

Frisco Grille Website
Howard County Beer Map (created by Baltimore Beer Guy)

Also: The Perfect Pour will be doing a Weyerbacher beer tasting on Thursday October 9 from 5-8 p.m. at their store.

October 2, 2008

Brewer's Alley Oktoberfest Beer Dinner

The fine brewery/restaurant out in Frederick is holding an "Oktoberfest" beer dinner on October 14th. They "still have a few seats open" but are filling up fast, so call them for reservations if interested (301-631-0089).

First seating 5:30 in the Booking Room, second seating at 7:30 in the Mayor's Room (2nd floor overlooking downtown Frederick)

$45/person plus 6% tax and 18% gratuity

The menu goes as follows:

Welcome: red wine salt pretzel
Wedding alt

Cold potato soup with truffle oil and applewood smoked ham
Nut brown ale

Raisin-apple free form sausage, scallion potato pancake and apple demi

Roasted flounder strudel: puff pastry stuffed with herb seasoned flounder fillet, served with mustard cream
Scotch ale

Veal schnitzel: herb and panko crusted veal with spinach spaetzles and oatmeal stout demi
Oatmeal stout

Chef Christine's Black Forest cake

Hefe weizen

This sounds interesting, please report back to me if you attend, thanks!

Parallel Tasting: The Bruery Trade Winds Tripel

This is a Belgian-style tripel ale brewed with rice and Thai basil. Iiiiiinteresting. As always my partner in crime is Steve from Summer of Beer who incidentally happened to send me this exact bottle we are tasting on opposite coasts tonight.

We drank it last night so here are my mental notes of the most important details:

Its very much in the tripel style -- aromatic, floral notes in the nose and taste, golden in color (this is a very cloudy golden), sweetness. It was fairly well carbonated and less careful pours were greeted with heavy doses of foam.

The Bruery did something interesting, brewing it with rice and Thai basil. I definitely picked up the Thai basil taste, and it stayed the whole time. That was very interesting, more enjoyable at the start although a bit weird when you're drinking 750ml of it.

It had that classic Belgian yeast must or whatever you want to call it in the nose, which is always intoxicating. In general it just smelled terrific and tasted near-terrific as well. Not a world beater, but a fine and most interesting brew and done well. There's always the danger of making an unpalatable beer when being different but the Bruery succeeded here.

Update: Here's the transcript.

This Week's Events

Not much going on ...

On Saturday in Washington D.C. (well, Arlington Virginia, anyway) is the 9th annual Capital City Oktoberfest. It runs from noon to 7 p.m. and will cost $25. It is being held at Shirlington Village with authentic German food and music.

Check out this link for the extensive list of top-notch breweries scheduled to pour.

At The Perfect Pour, they'll be pouring samples from Utah's Uinta Brewery Friday (October 3) from 5-8 p.m. Susan from the Global Brewers Guild will supervise with the Punk'n, Monkshine, Anniversary, Pale Ale, Rype and more.

On Saturday they'll pour from Japan's Baird Brewery from 3-7 p.m. featuring Angry Boy Brown, Kurofune Porter, Red Rose Amber Ale and Sun Pale Ale.

New beer arrivals include Sierra Nevada 22oz Harvest, Mata Hari and Nogne #100

Aida Bistro's Beer AND Wine Dinner

Aida Bistro in Columbia is billing this as Howard County's first ever Beer AND Wine dinner. It will be held on Thursday October 16 at 6 p.m. Beers will be from Clipper City. The event will cost $70 plus tax and gratuity.

Reserve now (410-953-0500), as space is limited to the first 40 responses.

Chef's Amuse
Goat cheese and roasted red pepper terrine, andouille and apple savory tart
Beer: Small Craft Warning (Uber Pils)
Wine: Sauvignon Blanc

First Course
Poached white fish with fresh greens and chef's viniagrette
Beer: McHenry Lager
Wine: Gruner Veltliner or Chenin Blanc

Second Course
Bacon wrapped pork tenderloin medallion with butternut squash risotto
Beer: Oxford Organic Amber Ale
Wine: California pinot noir

Third Course
Braised beef short rib bolognese sauce with roasted root vegetables over homemade pappardelle
Beer: Winter Storm dark ale
Wine: Italian Tuscan wine

Chef's Cheese Course
Roaring forties blue cheese
Beer: Below Decks barleywine
Wine: Port

October 1, 2008

Review: Dog Pub (Columbia)

In case you missed the headline, Dog Pub is located in Suburban Columbia, just a few doors down from the great Frisco Grille. It's a little hard to locate the first time, but is right in a beer corridor with Victoria Gastro Pub just up the way on Snowden River Parkway (near the 100) and The Perfect Pour in a shopping center just off 175.

The original Dog Pub is in Federal Hill in downtown Baltimore. I haven't been there, but I did overhear a customer in the Columbia location tonight say "this is much bigger than downtown" as she entered.

The layout is pretty unique. There's not much to see from the outside except the wooden double doors that give no hint at what's inside (which is maybe why I've been so hesitant to come here in the first place?). Once inside it's not like anything I'd expect. There's a sharp turn and then you make a choice: left or right. To the left is a dining area, tables and high-backed booths. To the right is a lonely fireplace and the bar area.

I went to the bar area.

The bar itself is looooooooooooooooooong, running the length of the establishment. There's a huge gap between the bar and the outside wall of the place that is rimmed with a few small bar tables and some kind of shuffleboard game. Just outside is a patio area that welcomes dogs, so bring your pooch if that's your thing. The layout looked more than a little odd and took some getting used to.

As far as food, the menu is straightforward with just a few small appetizers and salads giving way to an extensive list of 10" personal sized thin crust pizzas. They won't exactly be world famous, but I enjoyed the variety of pizza options and what I ate.

More importantly, let's talk beer. They make their own beers, which are listed in sort of a diagonal panel panel above the bar. It's unusual and fun and negates the need to pull out a menu to see what's available. They had one seasonal (an Oktoberfest beer that I had a small sample of ... eh) and then the usual offerings on tap in dog themed names:

IPA (Hoppy Dog), the fruit beers (Peach Dog, Blueberry Dog, Raspberry Dog), an Amber (Amber Dog), a red (Irish Red), a brown (Brown Dog), a stout (Black Dog) a blond (Blond Dog) and an English style beer (Thirsty Ale).

You can also mix various beers in what they call "Mixed Breeds". I passed, but there's several suggested offerings such as a "Reservoir Dog" made of Black Dog and Hoppy Dog. You get the picture.

I tried the Hoppy Dog and the Blond Dog. The Blond was meh, but the Hoppy Dog was surprisingly good. It was refreshing and had a crisp hop bite in the West Coast style.

What's unique here is that they serve the beer in small 8 oz mugs, two at a time. I don't get it, but that's their thing and I'm not one to rock the boat.

They also sell their beers in take-home 750ml bottles with those weird Grolsch-style swing caps. I was half-tempted to grab one of the IPA's -- maybe next time. And that's the thing, there will be a next time. This isn't a great "beer" place and outside of the seasonal their selection won't vary, but there's at least one good beer and several traditional styles to go with a unique bar setup and "hangout" type vibe. Pizza and *good* beer is a classic pairing, one not exercised enough in Baltimore, at least where I've been so far.

If you're 100% agro about perfect beers this isn't your place (I usually am that way), but if you can settle for something different and relaxed that doesn't take itself too seriously with decent food and a few decent beers, this might be something to check out. At worst it's a quick walk to Frisco Grille if Dog Pub doesn't satisfy.

Google Map
Howard County Beer Map (created by Baltimore Beer Guy)

Firkin Friday at DuClaw

This Friday (October 3) will be another "Firkin Friday" at DuClaw's Arundel Mills location. I've never hit up a Firkin Friday -- anywhere -- so this is intriguing. Basically, at these events a brewery taps one or more available "cask" ales for the public.

Here's how they describe it:
A firkin is actually the name of an eleven-gallon keg that holds cask conditioned ale (real ale). There are three main differences between real ale and conventionally dispensed ale. First, real ale is served unfiltered, whereas the yeast in conventionally served ale has been filtered out to give it a "clear" appearance. Second, real ale is served at "cellar" temperature (50-55°F), unlike conventional ale which is served cooler. Finally, real ale is lightly carbonated so it almost appears "flat" compared to a conventional ale. There are approximately 85 pours for each firkin so don't miss out.
Simple stuff, and oh so good.

They'll put the firkins on at 5 p.m. and at just 85 pours will almost assuredly run out in rapid fashion so get there on time.

They'll have the following available:

Dry Hopped Hellrazer Ale (pale ale)
Alchemy Oatmeal Stout
Raspberry Misfit Red