Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Back to Baltimore

I just got back from Baltimore where I spent the last few days sitting through some oh so thrilling training sessions for work. Luckily I had some time to myself so I could check out a couple spots that I missed out on the last time I was in the Land of Pleasant Living.

As it rained the entire day and traffic built up, Sunday's drive was pretty miserable but was made a little more enjoyable thanks to a stop at State Line Liquors in Elkton, MD. I would highly recommend stopping in there if you're ever in the area, they have a wide selection of fine American and Imported beers that aren't available in the Philly area. I could have spent a lot more time and money in there but  used some restraint, only grabbing some Maui brews for a friend and a few others that caught my eye. I also snagged a sweet Hoptimum poster and since I am pretty easy to please, that made my day.

After checking in and taking in my luxurious view, I hopped back in my car and headed over to The Brewer's Art, a storied brewpub in the Mt. Vernon section of the city. After a brief moment of not realizing how to get into the damn place, I found myself in the underground bar that was surprisingly packed for a Sunday night. There is an upstairs that seemed to be a more formal setting for a sit-down meal but I figured the dark cavernous bar would do just fine. After a quick glance at the all house brewed draft list I went right for the Charm City Sour Cherry Ale. This was a welcome treat after the long trip down, it had a wonderful fresh cherry taste with a subtly tart accompaniment that balanced out the sweetness. For no real reason, I was expecting/hoping that this was going be much more sour but it had a much more reserved approach. I made quick work of this one with a very light body and 4.5% ABV and dug into the house cheeseburger which came with some amazing rosemary garlic fries...get them! For my second beer I went with Ozzy, their very very impressive Belgian golden ale. Whiffs of yeast, some lemon zest, and a bit of barnyard hay. The flavor profile fell in line with the style, a bit fruity with lots of spice rounded out by a light caramel sweetness. Now I understand why everyone told me to go to Brewer's Art, a really great atmosphere with some solid beers and delicious food. The fact that all of their house beers were $5 was also a nice surprise. I wish I had been able to try some more of their brews but it was time to get back to the hotel, Game of Thrones was coming on damn't!

I headed to the Inner Harbor Monday evening after a day of training, strolled around a bit and then made my over to Fell's Point to check out the fairly new Heavy Seas Alehouse. First thing I noticed upon entering was the plethora of exposed brick, a nearly fool-proof way of ensuring I enjoy myself. The bartender was one of the friendliest and attentive I've come across, he went through what they had on tap and told me that he had just tapped two casks about an hour ago one of which was a dry-hopped Dubbel Cannon which was enticing enough for me. I still haven't found a "Belgian IPA" that I really love but am still willing to give them a shot now and again. I ordered up some mussels which are half-off on Mondays (score for me) and while I was waiting for them to come out I noticed none other than Heavy Seas owner Hugh Sisson hanging out with some brewery staff at the end of the bar. Obviously I had to step up, introduce myself, and let him know what I thought of the place. He also brought over their Sales Manager who I had emailed back and forth with through work on a couple occasions, always strange but a pleasure to meet someone you've only ever had online interactions with. He was really glowing with pride as he took me on a tour of the surprisingly spacious alehouse. What he seemed most excited about was the soon-to-be-open beer garden that they are currently working on. Picnic tables, barrels for high tops, and a grille are already set up so it shouldn't be too long before they actually open the doors. Hugh seems like a great guy who enjoys a good time, he was really welcoming and appreciative as well. I was quite glad to have the chance to meet him  and would recommend saying hi if you happen to run into him.

I got going on my mussels and then ordered a pint of Peg Leg which was also on cask and the perfect beer for such a dreary day. This was my first time having this particular beer and really enjoyed it, it was really something with strong chocolate and roasted coffee notes throughout with an appropriately thick, dare I say, luscious body. The bartender slid a small snifter of something in front of me to try which ended up being a chocolate liqueur that is made in house with some Peg Leg which was just delectable. While that sort of thing isn't really my bag, I could see it working wonders with a slice of cheesecake. I fell into a conversation with a guy from Bethlehem who was also in town for some business training, we got to talking about  beer and therefore I ended up sticking around for a couple more pints than expected. Nothing else different sounded too appealing so my new found friend and I finished out the night with a couple Loose Cannons. I walked away a big fan of Heavy Sea's new venture into the bar and restaurant business. With so many other great options in that area I was a little worried about what would set them apart but my fears were promptly squashed so add it to the list of must-stops in Baltimore. I also have to say that the entire staff was some of the friendliest and attentive I've had the pleasure of dealing with. Now I realize that all sounds very nice and cuddly but I really did enjoy myself that much there.

Another successful trip to Baltimore for me and there still a couple other spots that I'd like to check out so I guess I'll have to go back.