Tag Archives: BALTIMORE MD

MAX’S TAPHOUSE

   Best Bars: Max's Taphouse - Drink Baltimore - The Best Happy Hours

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND

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.   

www.maxs.com

 

RYLEIGH’S BREWPUB

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND

In the narrow Federal Hill section blocks away from Inner Harbor and across the Street Market area lies tiny neighborhood bar, RYLEIGH’S BREWPUB & RAW BAR (which ceased brewpub operations during ’07). Its black-fronted exterior boasted ‘steak and chop restaurant with fine ales,’ February ’05. Upon entering, rustic red brick archways lead to wooden booth-laden bar on right with additional seating in the back. To the left, glass enclosed brew tanks front the main eating section. On tap, dryly grassy sugar-candied Marble Golden Ale, spicy red-fruited Dizzy Blonde Ale, and soft buttery-floral Ryleigh’s Best Amber Ale were simple lightweights. But bitter-hopped India Revenge Pale Ale and Black Forest cake-like liqueur-splashed Wild Willie’s Oatmeal Stout left better imprint. Recommended for tap beer brewhounds: Thirsty Dog Pub – two doors down.

CAPITOL CITY BREWING

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND

During February ’05, I made a clean sweep of Baltimore’s brewpubs. Though CAPITOL CITY BREWING opened at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor around ‘98, the inaugural brewery in Washington D.C. has been operating since ’92. Two Virginia operations now exist also, but this site closed in ‘07. Located on the second floor of Light Street Pavilion, the Baltimore brewpubs’ glass entrance opened to ‘50s styled ambiance where bright red booths lead to a centralized bar area with copper kettles fronting the cooking area. Above, bright red overhead beams and a catwalk matched the scheme. Outside dining overlooked Inner Harbor and a billiard table adorned the back area.

While tasting plump Babe Ruth Burger, I quaffed dry wheat-husked fizzy-hopped lemongrass-y Capitol Kolsch, Scotch-licked caramel-buttered Amber Waves Ale, red-fruited floral-hopped mocha-hinted Extra Special Bitter, friskily fruit-hopped butterscotch-tinged whiskey-dabbed Duncan’s Scottish Ale, and chocolate-y coffee-roasted cola-hazelnut-hinted Prohibition Porter. Some of these brews are still available at Washington DC’s Capitol City Brewpub.

RED BRICK STATION

RED BRICK STATIONBALTIMORE, MARYLAND

A mere five miles north of Baltimore is the town of White Marsh. In a modern red brick building inside The Avenue mall, RED BRICK STATION RESTAURANT & BREWPUB offered English pub fare, seafood, and firehouse pasta, February ’05. Fire Department memorabilia lined walls near central oak bar, which had endless hanging steins and cornered TV screens. Brew tanks were interspersed at glass frontage and behind bar while outdoor porch area befit summertime.

Opened in ’97, brewer Mike Mc Donald operates an English brick-styled Peter Austin setup, punctuating darker brews with a stiff alcohol reminder. Suiting docile palates were soapy hay-wheat-chaffed Honeygo Lite, soft lemon-spiced corn-husked grassy-hopped wafer-sugared honey-malted Avenue Ale, and red-fruited cereal-grained Something Red. Caramel-malted beechwood-smoked cognac-teased raisin-cherry-currant-dabbed Octopus Pajamas Scottish Ale, piney dry-smoked deep-spiced grapefruit rind-embittered Daily Crisis IPA, and soft dry-bodied black coffee-licorice-deepened Spooners Irish Stout exhibited depth and complexity. Specialty brew, Mc Dunkel Weiss, pleated blackened hops with cask-y banana, rum cake, and bubblegum swirls.

On terse April ’09 stopover, renewed Octopus Pajamas had fleeting peat-smoked malting, capacious Band-aid illusion and spicier tea-like vigor.

At brass-topped central bar, consumed two previously untried soft-watered mocha-centric brews during late-morning January 2011 stopover. Got to talk about latest brew trends (newfangled Black IPA’s; cask-conditioned beers; sour ales) with seasoned brewer, Mike Mc Donald, whose well-rounded libations suited the stylish English pub setting this spacious beer hall oft-times suggests.

Easygoing German-lagered dunkel-styled schwarzbier, DPM Lager, brought up-front cocoa nibs creaminess to walnut-coarsened coffee-burnt respite, chalky chocolate chunking, and tertiary fig-dried acridity, retaining a sharp edge.

Undeniably exceptional dessert beer, Winter Solstice Oatmeal Stout, should be considered any chocolate lovers’ first choice. Soft-toned black chocolate creaming, milky cocoa caress, and distant toffee sweetness contrasted mild wood-burnt pine-tarred hop char. Rich mocha-roasted malting allowed subsidiary crème brulee, crème de cocoa, Madagascar bourbon vanilla, and Turkish coffee illusions to increase abundant chocolate splendor.

www.redbrickstation.com

BREWER’S ART

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND

In the hilly Mount Vernon section of Baltimore, fabulous BREWER’S ART served buoyant handcrafted Belgian-style ales and a great international selection on initial family visitation for dinner, February ‘05.

Its inconspicuous frontage makes it appear as a private residence, but upon entering, first floor bar features beautiful federalist design and mahogany-carved columns leading to upscale dining area and rear copper kettle tanks. Basement level bar recalls ancient dungeons with its dank cement floors, cryptic wine cellar, and fermentation tanks.

Besides the fabulously hand-crafted Brewer’s Art fare, a hand-picked crop of Belgian (Chimay, DeRanke, Dupont, Duvel, Lindeman’s) and German brews (Aecht, Kostritzer, Schneider) crowd the variegated menu.   

Symbolic Abbey-styled dubbel, Resurrection, conceals orange rind bittering below phenol candi-sugared raisin-pureed plum-ripe tangerine-cherry sweetness.

Dry-bodied Proletary Dark Ale gains smoky chocolate roast to resin-hopped raisin-fig finish. Mildly carbonated coriander-clove-speckled nectar-apricot-beckoned Cerberus Tripel proved to be acute crossover.

Lemony banana-bruised peppercorn-etched Ozzy, diacetyl herbal-hopped citron-perfumed House Pale Ale, and bubblegummy banana-pineapple-fronted floral-doused peat-backed La Petroleuse suitably introduce lighter thirsts to richer, fruitier Belgian fare.

During January 2011 dinnertime sojourn with old pal, Dennis Flubacher, sat at graffiti-covered back table in dank catacomb-like cellar consuming terrific upscale cuisine (Duck Condit and Utz Crusted Cod) while quaffing one untried Belgian-inspired libation and two great flagship standards. Dingily appealing dark-lit backroom was perfectly contraire setting for absolutely delightful beer-food pairings.

Mild Belgian-styled pale ale, Zodiac, defined as a ‘session beer,’ integrates herbal chamomile-rosemary conflux, black-peppered hop bittering, earthen barnyard funk, and perfumed spices with sweet crystal malting.

Musk-y fungi-molded orange-peppered La Petroleuse, an uncommon Biere De Garde previously quaffed ’05, saddles creamy caramel malting with hop-spiced dark floral potpourri.

Truly reminiscent of Duvel, also retried Ozzy, a musty herb-fettered black-peppered citric-dried Belgian strong pale ale with candi-sugared apple-peach-pear perk, briny rosemary-sage-thyme lurk, and mild orange compote slurp razing earthen barnyard funk.

www.thebrewersart.com

DU CLAW BREWING COMPANY – FELLS POINT

DU CLAWBALTIMORE, MARYLAND

Note: I initially visited Du Claws’ former Fells Point site, which was closed in 2008 due to a dispute between owner and landlord. However, four great Du Claw pubs remain. The original Bel Air pub was visited January 2010 (see seperate review). Other worthwhile Maryland locations are in Bowie, Hanover, and BWI airport. 

Formerly on a quaint cobblestone road in the Fells Point area, DU CLAW was located inside the bottom floor of a five-story harbor building, visited on February ’05 Baltimore area jaunt. Its oak frontage and large glass windows framed a modern Industrial designed interior countering an Old World neighborhood. A small patio section to the left side existed. Spacious high-ceiling interior features oval central bar with four widescreen TV’s, metal stools at wood tables, and four green-seated booths.

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.

More sophisticated tastes will lean towards expressive coffee-toned Naked Fish Chocolate Raspberry Stout (sporting a raspberry seed-ripened mocha-sweet hazelnut-walnut confluence), as well as tangy quince-peach-pear-melon-ripened lemon-hopped Venom Pale Ale. Robust dessert treat, Bad Moon Porter, weaves roasted coffee and toasted hops around addictive Godiva dark chocolate sweetness. These are only some of the more than dozen selections available at any given time. Though this Bond Street Wharf site opened July ’04, Du Claw’s original brewpub remains in nearby Belair.

www.duclaw.com

PRATT STREET ALE HOUSE (WHARF RAT)

PRATT STREET BREWERYBALTIMORE, MARYLAND

Besides the renowned Baltimore Zoo, Camden Yards, Preakness Racetrack, and newly re-furbished Inner Harbor, this fabulously refurbished city 20 miles north of Washington DC has a commendable, if checkered, brewpub history. Since first visiting, Baltimore’s historic Wharf Rat underwent renovation and reopened in ’09 as Pratt Street Ale House while Capitol City went under and Ryleigh’s became a full-time oyster bar. Also, Maryland’s bottled beer selection remains limited when compared to nearby Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Only a few Blue Ridge and Wild Goose brews were found during ’98 summer stop on the way to historic Williamsburg and Virginia Beach. Further trips reinforced my disgust at state’s antiquated regulatory system concerning beer (though by 2010 that was no longer the case). 

An April ’03 trip included festive stops at recommended Inner Harbor Scottish brewpub, The Wharf Rat (featuring 18 respectable homemade Oliver beers on-tap), and quaint Fells Point pub Max’s (offering 200 beers on-tap). Best beer selection found at nearby Bowie-based liquor store, Rip’s, where Mc Henry Old Baltimore Style Beer, Lancaster Amish Four Grain Pale Ale, and Pocono Lager and Pale Ale were obtained.

Across Camden Yards, renowned Scottish pub, WHARF RAT (now Pratt Street Ale House), features big parrot promoting Oliver Breweries on exterior side of old green building. Inside, red bricked dining area to left countered bustling right side bar, where wood tables with beer caps encased in glass, beautiful wood bar with three flat-screen TV’s, and light pub fare dotted laudable import selection (Chimay, Duval, Guinness, Liefman’s, Sam Smith) and respectable pub menu.

Darker ales, porter, and stout were approachable crossovers. Dry-hopped brown sugared mocha-fronted prune-backed Oliver Old English Ale, dry cocoa-espresso-lingered licorice-laced Oliver Pagan Porter, and mild black coffee-doused cherry-soured Black Forest cake-finishing Oliver Blackfriar Stout fit the bill.

Lighter fare included phenol hop-frisked citric-tinged Oliver Ironman Pale Ale, crisply grained Oliver Summer Light, and, preferably, biting red-fruited chocolate-soured tea-like Oliver Red Ale. Toffee-caressed Oliver Best Bitter was bettered by floral-hopped chocolate malt-y nut-bottomed Oliver ESB. Soft-watered lightly fruited caramel-teased Oliver Biere de Garde captivated French ale style well.

During April ’09 trip, after reopening as PRATT STREET ALE HOUSE, tried several reputable dark or fruited ales on a beautiful sunny afternoon. Noticeable improvements included convenient wraparound outside deck, roomier right side bar with higher ceiling, and repainted blue and gold exterior. Met long-time English-bred brewer Stephen Jones, whose Enlgish Oliver ales still rock the house. For openers, quaffed sugar-coned ice cream-like Vanilla Ice Wheat Ale, with its vanilla bean astringency retreating to fizzy cherry-strawberry splurge. Hop-charred cocoa-dried brown chocolate-y Mad Monk Dark Ale boasted honeyed molasses depth. Brown sugared banana-raisin-merged anise-hazelnut-tinged 3 Lions Strong Brown Ale outdid thinner, less nutty, more spicy, caramel-chocolate-malted cherry-pureed Old Habit Classic English Brown Ale. Mild espresso-bound coffee-roasted chocolate-powdered Bishop’s Breakfast Oatmeal Stout set up mild dessert treat, Cherry Blossom Ale, with its tart cherry-pureed raspberry-cranberry-strawberry fruiting and floral wisp reinforced by a honey wheat spine.

On April ’13 90-minute stopover, found seven previously untried brews. I start with Led Zeppelin tribute, Valhalla I Am Coming, a smoked red ale saddling beechwood-smoked chipotle peppering with light juniper berry bittering and toasted grain spine.

Nearly as worthy, Modern Life Is Rubbish, a Blur-derived Victorian porter, placed soft-watered coffee roasting next to hop-charred walnut and Blackstrap molasses.

Staying on the dark side, sessionable Meridian #6 Coffee Stout retained an elegant cascading brown head, dry coffee bean bittering and dark nutty aspect. Oliver’s Evol Black Ale, a hybridized collaboration with nearby Evolution Brewery (using saison yeast and based on a Franco-Belgian pale ale), brought Baker’s chocolate, cocoa nibs and caramelized Vieanna malts to dried-fruited torrefied wheat. 

20th anniversary celebrator, Olivers 20, covered fig-sugared red cherry, bruised banana, pineapple and fennel illusions with rum-dried 9% alcohol-burnt astringency.

Even bolder, 10% alcohol English strong ale, Hot Monkey Love, plied clover honey sweetness to cherry-pureed banana and pineapple illusions as well as red-wined vanilla tannins.

Before hitting the road for Ocean City, quaffed Strong Man Pale Ale, a dry-hopped 8% alcohol elixir placing ‘dill, lemon and coconut’ illusions alongside bark-dried grape skin.       

www.prattstreetalehouse.com