Slightly belated, well-reported news already but I wanted to add my thoughts. Its a shame to see Clay Pipe Brewing potentially moving on, but in that weird balancing act of nature as one creature departs an environment another often moves in.
Such is the case with Stillwater Artisinal Ales, masterfully brewed by owner Brian Strumke. I've spoken with Brian a handful of times now and he's a humble, hopeful person. Given that, its no surprise the strength of his relationships in the Maryland beer community and elsewhere. It seems everyone in town knows him, and is happy to say a good word about his new venture and his ales.
Having finally gotten a taste at Max's (pictures part I and part II), I see now why everyone raves. Right now most everything I've seen is in the Belgian style -- thank you Brian for putting forth a fantastic effort in the underutilized Saison market -- but its called Artisinal Ales for a reason. These are well crafted offerings that over time should certainly span a great range of style.
The first such commercially available ale, Stateside Saison, makes clear the mission. It nods to classic construction with 'the finest European malts' but strikes out for a bolder, unique taste with 'fresh aromatic hops from the United States and New Zealand'.
It looks beautiful and drinks sublime, with a certain zest, something sorta peach-y -- Stillwater's website suggests passionfruit -- and still very much in the farmhouse ale genre.
If most of what comes next from Stillwater is as well crafted and plain old tasty as what I've tried so far, we've got yet another excellent brewer in our midst.
For more background there's the Baltimore Sun writeup, Maryland's own Belgian Beer specialist Chuck Cook's writeup, Bella Online and BeerInBaltimore.com as well as Stillwater's blog and Twitter account.