On the corner of South Broadway in the Fells Point section, MAX’S TAPHOUSE earns the right to be labeled Baltimore’s Best Beer Bar. Boasting 140 rotating drafts, 5 hand-pumped cask stations, 18 TV’s, private rooms and a billiard table, this cozy Irish-styled pub specializes in hard-to-find one-off European beers, respected American micro and nano brews, plus an incredible bottled selection. An elongated wood bar to the right of the entrance gets packed quickly by enthusiastic craft beer imbibers.
On a Friday night in late April ’13, my wife and I grab one of the wooden community tables to quaff a few previously untried offerings. Loud classic rock (Electric Light Orchestra’s “Evil Woman” and Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet”) blasts from the speakers as a large contingent of post-collegiate weekend warriors tip some cocktails while enjoying typical pub food.
For our 2-hour sojourn, I enjoy three different stouts in Charm City’s highly touted watering hole. But first, I grab Full Tilt Baltimore Pale Ale, a local flagship beer offering mild IPA-like pine-needled orange peel bittering to floral grapefruit, apple, peach and pear illusions above a caramel-toasted barleymalt base.
Representing Hawaii, Maui Aloha Baktun Belgian Stout was the least interesting of the stouts, getting a tad musty despite its nutty dark-roasted chocolate opening, bittersweet coffee bean salience, mild espresso dalliance and sugary Belgian yeast influence. Better was Missouri-based Boulevard Coffee Ale, a distinct strong ale blending heavenly Ethiopian Sidamo coffee with dark-grain roasted barleymalts and oats-dried rye breading.
For dessert, Iceland’s remarkable Olvisholt Lava Smoked Stout proved to be uniquely balanced, plying peat-smoked German rauchbier grit to dark chocolate, roasted coffee and fudgy molasses illusions. (Full reviews are in Beer Index).
A friendly neighborhood saloon glorified by its long-time rep as a superior craft beer fortress, Max’s admirably preserves Baltimore’s historic boutique-bound maritime post.