SOLOMONS ISLAND, MARYLAND
Tucked away on Chesapeake Bay’s marina-bound Back Creek in Solomons Island, Maryland, RUDDY DUCK BREWERY & GRILL opened July ’09. Argentinean co-owner Carlos Yanez and veteran restaurateur Michael Kelley (formerly Tavern On the Green GM) hooked up with brewer Matt Glass to create this bustling family-oriented sportsbar and restaurant. In a freestanding building next to Hilton Garden Inn, the spacious chalet-styled edifice with brown wood trimming and red brick foundation was packed on Saturday evening as the Final Four college basketball tournament played on one of the bar’s three TV’s this last day of March, 2012.
At the wood-furnished 15-seat bar area were several cocktail tables (with engraved golden duck insignias), inlayed Western-styled flat stone partitions, exposed ducts, nautical paraphernalia, beer-listed blackboards and a left side private lounge. Behind the glass-separated white-walled bar, a huge dining area with high ceilings stretched out far and wide. Opposing the bar near the entrance, the copper kettle tanks stored the house beers and an open kitchen served the food.
My wife and I sat in the bar section eating fish tacos and Mediterranean pizza while watching Kentucky down Louisville to advance into the college-basketball finals. The seared sesame crusted tuna and artichoke spinach dip also looked good. A wonderful bottled beer selection included favorites from Dupont, Ommegang, Aventinus and Corsendonk. But I was here to try Ruddy Duck’s offerings.
While astringent lo-cal Rudd Light (with its bland lemon-limed maize parch and popcorn reminder) and gluten-free Biere Nouveau (a light ale placing raw-honeyed sorghum across sourdough wheat acridity and sugar-free gum droplets) were humdrum, the rest of the lineup fared better.
Traditional autumnal choice, Festbier, brought leafy-hopped foliage and spoiled orange tartness to soft-honeyed Vienna malting, finishing with a sourdough splurge. Soft-tongued Helles Blonde Lager had a dry-honeyed citric blotch and wispy banana bubblegum notch.
More distinct were sweet-buttered Imperial Belgian Wit, a pleasing medium-bodied wheat ale affixing clove-coriander spicing to lemon meringue and mandarin orange subtleties, and juniper hop-embittered Imperial IPA, a briskly fruited winner with honey-malted peach, pear, tangerine, pineapple, grapefruit and honeydew sweetness. Midlevel IPA ranked just below these with its dry resinous hop bittering and lemon-sugared grapefruit, mango, peach and melon tropicalia.
For dessert, I quaffed Ruddy Duck’s brown-chocolate-sweetened Oatmeal Stout, where fig-dried soy souring, coffee-roasted oats toasting and lactic alkaline acidity purged the expectant mocha malting.