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.