Wednesday, May 25, 2011

#7 - Maryland, "The Old Line State"

A quick update from my first post about Delaware. A couple weekends ago I was in Delaware and went to Dogfish Head and 16 Mile breweries. The difference between the two could not have been larger. At Dogfish we did a tasting of the four beers they had on tap and watched as one of the dozen or so employees working in the tasting room took 40 or 50 people on the brewery tour. At 16 Mile, three guys own and operate the brewery. One of them gave us essentially a personal tour of the two room building. He walked us through their entire process and then we tasted a few of their beers. I would recommend both places if you are ever in the middle of Delaware without anything to do. Which is to say, anytime you are in the middle of Delaware.

On to Maryland. I grew up in Northern Virginia and so I went into Maryland on a fairly regular basis, mainly to visit my grandma or to go to Orioles games in Baltimore. I used to like the Orioles. But Jeffrey Maier ripped my heart out. It was Game 1 of the 1996 ALCS. Maier was a 12 year old kid (that right there screams "has complete understanding of his surroundings and should be held completely liable for his actions and any of your personal life regrets, for example not ever having a baseball team to root for that was any good") who was in the right field bleachers at Yankee Stadium that night. Derek Jeter hit a pop up to right field, where Maier leaned out over the fence and grabbed the ball before Tony Tarasco could catch it. The umpires ruled it a home run. The Orioles have been terrible ever since and I haven't been able to forget Tony Tarasco's name.

Anyway, I never saw much of a difference between the D.C. suburbs of Maryland and VA. They were both packed with tech/defense/government jobs that drew people from all over the country. It's a pretty diverse area ethnicity wise, but economically, it skews towards the upper middle class. So, when I grew up and realized that the rest of Maryland is pretty blue collar, it was kind of a shock. A large percentage of the people in Maryland live around the Chesapeake Bay and probably like fishing and crabbing. Those are two things you don't learn if you grow up in white collar suburbs of D.C. In addition to the Bay and the western rural areas, there is Baltimore, which is definitely a working class city. There are nice areas to eat and spend time at the Inner Harbor, but if you stray like one block in any direction, you end up in some rough neighborhoods. At least that's what I gather from watching The Wire. I'd never actually choose to hang out in Baltimore. It's a low class dump.

Maryland Beer Stats:
Population: 5,773,552 (42nd largest state)
# of Breweries: 10 (5 more in the planning stages)
# of Brew Pubs: 14
# of Brew-On-Premise: 1
Cities: Baltimore, Annapolis, Frederick, Hagerstown
# of socio-economic comments about Baltimore made above that were intended as a joke: 1.

And yes, I'm just now watching The Wire.

As usual, I used to find breweries in Maryland.

Baltimore-Washington Beer Works, Baltimore. They are in love with Ed Allen Poe. I call him Ed. Just because I think it would piss him off. And then he would respect me for managing to get under his skin. They have one beer, called The Raven. "Raven Beer, the taste is poetic." Somehow that beat out "Raven Beer, the taste reminds you of a morbid short story." It was originally brewed in Germany, but was founded by a Baltimorian. Poe's picture is all over the bottles, caps, and cases. They are distributed in the U.S. and Europe, so if that is specific enough for you to find it, go grab one of their one varieties.

Balwmer Craft Beers, Baltimore. I'm not from Baltimore, so if someone knows Baltimore culture and lingo, please let me know, because these people say "hon" about a thousand times on their website and they also mention "stoop sitting" like everyone does that. Bawlmer was founded in 2007 and they started selling in 2010. They have 2 beers that are available in Baltimore bars and in Ocean City. 

Clipper City Brewing Co., Baltimore. They are probably the second most well-known craft brewery in Maryland. Founded in 1994, they distribute to 19 states and the District. Their name, logo, and motto ("Embrace your inner Pyrate) all reflect the strong Maryland maritime culture.
They have three fleets of beer;
1. Clipper Fleet - Focus on drinkability. Under 6%. 3 year rounds, 1 seasonal.
2. Pyrate fleet - bottle conditioned. 3 year rounds and 4 seasonals. I've had and enjoyed the Loose Cannon IPA.
3. Mutiny fleet - Limited release and unusual styles. Bigger beers that are only available in 22 oz. bottles. I've never had any of them, but the names are good enough for me to want to seek them out; Holy Sheet (a Belgian Abbey Ale) and AARSH (Irish Red). The Hang Ten has my favorite label.
Their attitude as explained on their website is "bold without being reckless" which they pull off pretty well seeing as they walk a fine line of being one of those novelty breweries that makes beer and slaps themed labels and names on them. The difference with them is that I've never been disappointed by the actual beers they make. Plus, one of the brewers is cool by me because he's a music junkie. He says "Beer is like music. You can take what the industry shoves down your throat, or you can seek out for more substance and depth." Well said. Definitely try their beer if you get a chance.

Stillwater Artisinal Ales, Baltimore. They are a gypsy brewery that designs and brew collaborative beers at locations all over the world, but are based in Baltimore. I like their labels. I can't seem to be able to describe them, but I like them. And although I can't really say that I understand the beer names that I saw, I like them as well; "Existent" & "Of Love and Regret." Based on the labels, names, and from reading their blog, I get the feeling that they make beer because they see it as a medium of expression, not just a drink. I have never seen them in the stores, but they mentioned that they are available in 18 states and the District.

Flying Dog, Frederick. Flying Dog is Maryland's largest brewery with the largest distribution, being available in 45 states and 20 countries. They got started in Denver in 1990 and still have offices there but moved their entire production facility to Maryland in 2007. They have 6 year rounds, 4 limited releases, 4 seasonals, and 5 specialty beers. Their motto is "Good People Drink Good Beer". George Stranahan is the founder and he's one of those guys that seems to have a personality bigger than life. You can probably understand a little about him from this quote. "Flying Dog stands for not only extraordinary beer, but also for standing tall, doing great things, and not letting anyone make you eat shit." He was a good friend and neighbor of the writer Hunter S. Thompson ("I'd hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, and insanity to anyone, but they've always worked for me") and Flying Dog makes the Gonzo Imperial Porter in tribute to Thompson. Thompson introduced Stranahan to Ralph Steadman ("Authority is the mask of violence"), who does all the label art for Flying Dog. It's some of the best out there. I've had a bunch of their beers, including a Raging Bitch Belgian IPA last night at dinner. You can find them pretty much anywhere, so pick one up next time you are at the liquor store. A good one now that it is getting hot outside would be the Woody Creek White.

Baying Hound Aleworks, Rockville. Named for the founder's old hound dog, they make 4 full time beers, with 3 more coming soon. I picked one beer to share in honor of the end of days that was predicted for last week, the Marmageddon Porter. It's named after the hound dog and is a smoky dark beer that they say has hints of chocolate hazlenut spread. They distribute to MD and DC and are probably the only full brewery accessible by the DC Metro system. The DC Metro stations, especially the ones in the District, make me feel like I'm either stuck in the future or in the Cold War. Anyone who has ridden it will know what I'm talking about; the huge domed concrete ceilings with the never ending rectangle pattern and the 1000ft escalators. All in all, they are probably a pretty safe place to stay for the duration of the Rapture that is (or isn't according to sane people) currently taking place.

Hook and Ladder, Silver Spring. The founder started H&L in 1999 in San Francisco, but ran out of funds, moved back to Maryland and started up again in 2005. He has been a volunteer fireman for years, and is the captain of the local fire and rescue in Bethesda close to where they are HQ'd. It's been a couple years, but I had their Backdraft Brown when I was first getting into craft beer and I remember liking it. All the beers have fire related names and I am a sucker for rhyming so I like the Ember Amber. I would probably like the taste as well. It's their version of Black and Tan. They can be found in 23 states and they donate "a penny in every pint, quarter in every case" to local burn treatment centers.

Eastern Shore Brewing, St. Michael's. They have 5 beers with 1 more soon to be available. They are distributed all over the Eastern Shore. Opened in 2008 and are kind of small right now but they seem to be growing as they are upgrading some of their brewing equipment. They will probably get a pretty loyal following on the Eastern Shore because I don't think people from there know the rest of the country exists. If anyone from the Eastern Shore that is reading this, email me and I'll buy you a beer any time you come to Philadelphia. Which is in Pennsylvania in case you were unsure. Which is another state.

DOG Brewing, Westminster. They opened in 2006, and are more of a brewpub. But they bottle and sell their beer in Maryland, so I'm counting them on the list.

National Bohemian, Baltimore. This is Baltimore's old school local beer, since 1885. It's distributed on the East Coast and people from the Baltimore area lovingly call it Natty Boh. Their slogan is "From the Land of Pleasant Living," which must have been coined closer to 1885 than 1985 because let's be real, have you ever been to Baltimore?

There are five breweries currently in the planning stages in Maryland.
Burley Oak Craft Brewery, Berlin.
Mad Hops Brews, Ellicott City. Trying to get into production this year. They do a lot of high hop stuff. Some examples; Dolla-Dolla Pils, More Cowbell Imperial IPA, and In Yo' Face Amber IPA (which is a hybrid that is either a roasty IPA or a hoppy Amber),
Washingtonian's Brewing Co, Fort Washington. Their first beer will be a 8% Belgian Tripel.
Milkhouse Brewery at Stillpoint Farm, Mount Airy. Their first hop harvest was in 2010 and they sold all of their hops to local breweries and home brewers such as Heavy Seas, Flying Dog, and several brew pubs in the area. They also grow grains on the farm and they are planning to be producing their own small batch farmhouse style ales by late summer 2011.
Logan Shaw Brewing, Waldorf. They bought the Wild Goose brand from Flying Dog at the end of 2010 and right now they are contract brewing that brand while they build a full scale production facility in Waldorf.

I'm sure that the 14 brew pubs that I found information about online in Maryland are great places to go and enjoy a well crafted beer, but I didn't really find anything interesting to write about.

I was intrigued however by Flying Barrel, which is a Brew-On-Premise in Frederick. I touched on this concept in my last post about Massachusetts but I didn't really delve into it. Flying Barrel advertises prices of $100 for a 5 gallon brew, $175 for 10 gallons, and $225 for 15 gallons. That seems a little bit pricey if you already have a homebrew kit and you can get a beer recipe and ingredients for $40. But, I can see it being a good way to scale up a recipe that you've already made and liked.

Best Beer Name: AARSH, Heavy Seas. Irish Red for pirates.
Best Label Art: Flying Dog. All of them are good but Road Dog Porter specifically.
Best Beer Concept: In Yo Face Amber IPA, Mad Hops. It's not available yet, but I like a lot of the hybrid IPAs that are starting to be offered from a lot of breweries, so I could see myself liking an Amber IPA.
City that you should visit at least once to see if I have been too hard on it; Baltimore. Honestly, I have enjoyed Baltimore each of the probably 15 times I've been there. And I've probably taken a glance at the skyline every time I've driven past it, which is closer to 100. I can see that as a a Baltimore ad campaign "Every time I go past Baltimore on my way to somewhere more interesting, I look at the city and think 'That's probably not too bad of a place during the day.'"

Road Trips:
Clearly avoid Baltimore. Kidding. There are so many breweries there that you would be doing yourself a disservice if you didn't go. Go to the Inner Harbor and walk around. Catch a game at Oriole Park. It was the first of all of the great ballparks that have popped up in the last 15 years and it's also really easy to get tix now that the O's are awful. Then go a few blocks north to Faidley's for what people say are the world's best crab cakes. After Baltimore make your way either East through Annapolis to the beach, or west through Frederick to the mountains to relax with all of the beer you just bought in Baltimore. Just leave room for a case of Flying Dog.

At this point, everybody knows O.A.R. All Sides and Stories of a Stranger catapulted them into playing venues like MSG. I do like the music that they put out now, but I will always associate with their early 2000s stuff. I started listening to them in high school when someone introduced me to Crazy Game of Poker. But songs like Black Rock, I Feel Home, Get Away, and Conquering Fool were the reason I really loved them. Old school O.A.R. is a mash up of ska rhythms, rock guitar, folk lyrics, and a smooth saxophone. I saw them when I was 17 at the 9:30 club in D.C. with a bunch of my friends, and it still is my favorite concert experience. They are from the Maryland suburbs of D.C. Check out their first two albums; The Wanderer, and Soul's Aflame.

Maryland Brewery Map