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Situated inside a red-bricked, green-trimmed mall center, DU CLAW BREWING COMPANY’S inaugural Bel Air pub opened 1996. Locations in Bowie, Hanover, and BWI Airport’s Southwest Terminal came into prominence post-millennium and continue to flourish. As for my three-hour January 2011 Bel Air fling, I examined the efficient soft-hopped alacrity of ten tangibly diverse brews, meeting Du Claw’s owner, Dave Benfield, while enjoying a few untried libations alongside some previously reviewed fare.

The high ceiling interior, centered by a huge wraparound bar, included front and side dining areas with multiple TV’s (and a billiards table to far right). An enclosed front patio near the front entrance suits sunny day feasting. The clean Industrial setting draws sports fans, businessmen, and party people. A separate dining area to the left satisfies families with children and the char-broiled burgers are damn tasty.

Newly discovered gems included peculiar fish-oiled hop-frisked Exile Belgian Pale Ale, with its mild orange-dried date souring receiving latent honey glaze. Red-orange-fruited perfume-wafted nicety, Old Flame Old Ale, enjoined fig-dried crystal-caramel malting to tingly hop spicing. Buttery smooth Serum Double IPA snubbed brisk stylistic bitterness for sugar-spiced peach-apricot-grapefruit tang and pine-combed maple malting.

Chocolate lovers will unite over two wonderful dessert treats. Euphoria Toffee Nut Brown Ale worked toffee sweetness into rye-malted chocolate-browned almond-pecan cluster coupling vanilla, cocoa nibs, crème brulee, and coffee ice cream illusions above astringent hop bitterness. Better still, velvety smooth Black Jack Imperial Stout drenched brown-sugared oatmeal cookie theme with macadamia-hazelnut pleasantries, Blackstrap molasses sapping, black chocolate richness, espresso milking, crème brulee sweetness, and raspberry-blackberry souring.

While previously tendered Venom Pale Ale retained aggressive orange-peeled grapefruit-skinned bark-dried bittering, its supplemental nitro version maintained soft-watered caramel-malted creaminess and delicate spicing for mild grapefruit-juiced Mandarin orange prod. Misfit Red Amber Ale upped the caramel roasting and Bad Moon Porter increased the stove-burnt coffee-roasted creaminess and dark chocolate malting from initial Fells Point sampling. And best selling Bare Ass Blonde Ale developed a lemon-soured floral peach briskness and peppery hop tingle since inceptive ’05 offering.

The following tasting notes were from initial ’05 visit of defunct Fells Point brewery:

Du Claw’s well-detailed brews showed tremendous diversity. Lightweights will adore citric-sweet cereal-grained Bare Ass Blonde Ale, caramelized barley-roasted apple-persimmon-spiced Misfit Red, tangy soft-fruited Ravenwood Kolsch Ale, and blanched Australian-hopped stone-fruited golden lightweight Kangaroo Love Lager.

Ripe quince-peach-melon tang, spiced Bosc pear sugaring and tart lemon-hopped bittering braced Venom Pale Ale.

Robust dessert treat, Bad Moon Porter, weaved roasted coffee and toasted hops around addictive Godiva dark chocolate sweetness.

More sophisticated tastes will lean towards expressive coffee-toned Naked Fish Chocolate Raspberry Stout (sporting a raspberry seed-ripened mocha-sweet hazelnut-walnut confluence). These are only some of the more than dozen selections available at any given time.


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