I put letters into words into sentences into paragraphs that explode into coherent narratives.
Maryland. The seventh state. That tommy gun shaped piece of land stuck between Virginia and Pennsylvania and Delaware. The state that gives the Chesapeake Bay a big, perpetual hug. The land of a million blue crabs and powdery mountains of Old Bay. Neither North nor South. Rural, urban, disturbingly suburban. My home.
Bryan over at This Is Why I’m Drunk tasked me with creating a collection of Maryland beer to be part of his Six-Pack Project. Most who intimately know Maryland summers think of Corona for their crab or Natty Boh for their, um, masochistic self-loathing rituals, but I have taken it upon myself to show you, visitors of our City by the Ocean, lore-seekers to our myriad Civil War ruins, what beer you should drink when you’re adventuring around the Old Line State.
I also had to beer-spar with Doug at Baltimore Bistros and Beer, in a Maryland, no-holds-barred, beer choosing free-for-all. I’m pretty sure he won, but I did OK. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t understand sports, especially not football. Check out his post for a full(er) description of the Fantasy-Beer draft process.
The other bloggers (who you should definitely go check out, because they are awesome) in this round are:
Lacey @ Once Upon a Stein – New York
Tom @ Queen City Drinks – Ohio
Douglas @ Baltimore Bistros and Beer – Maryland
Grant @ Hop Brained – Illinois
Tom and Carla @ Hoperatives – Kentucky
Max @ The Beginners Brew – California
1. Flying Dog Old Scratch Amber – Frederick, MD
Do you like Yeungling? Do you wish it was something more? Something bold and flavorful and confident in its grain bill? Have no fear, Flying Dog Brewing of Frederick, Maryland has you covered. Old Scratch Amber is everything Yuengs is – amber, light, easy to drink – while also being so many things it’s not – deliciously malty, slightly citrusy in its hoppage, mellow with no sour aftertaste.
Old Scratch isn’t going to send your socks flying from your feet with its taste or hops, but at 5.5% ABV, this is a smooth, refreshing lager, that you should definitely have around for those wild, humid Eastern Shore nights. It’s a perfect BBQ or lounge-on-your-neighbor’s-porch-on-a-perfect-summer-evening beer.
This amber has packed all its crap into boxes and moved full time into my fridge. You can find it pretty much anywhere in MD that carries Flying Dog. Definitely a go-to beer for me. Shit, I’m drinking one while I type this!
2. DuClaw Bare Ass Blonde – Bel Air, MD
No list of Maryland beer would be worth anything without a DuClaw bubbler gracing its bulleted numbers. DuClaw, of Bel Air, just northeast of Baltimore, has a pretty impressive line up that includes some pretty unorthodox beers. A spiced Belgian. A toffee nut brown. The infamous Peanut Butter porter. And then there is this little gem, hiding behind a cheeky name and an understated appearance.
Duclaw is not shy with the malt. Bare Ass blonde is bare in color only; it carries an incredibly decadent malt flavor that comes through in the nose and taste of the beer. Seriously, so grainy. It’s like walking, mouth open, through a field of barley during harvest as a thresher hacks it all up.
This pale blonde ale is like Old Scratch in that it won’t come at you with any aggressive hopping; its Fuggle and Goldings are barely there. But it’s amazingly refreshing for a beer that rocks so much cereal flavor, making it a great beach brew. At 5% ABV you can drink a few and not be worried about being caught with your pants down.
3. Evolution #3 IPA – Salisbury, MD
I went to Salisbury University for my undergrad (SU English majors, holla!), but graduated well before Evolution set up shop a few miles from campus. It’s probably a good thing. A craft brewery basically in my back yard would not have been good for my GPA.
Would have been great for my IPA, though. I first bought Lot #3 on a whim; the green label caught my eye and I like things that are green. Imagine my surprise when I was hit with rapturous wafts of Columbus, Centenial, Cascade, Chinook, Amarillo that are so well balanced in the heart of this golden IPA.
This brew is so well done, I’m loathe to describe it, as I’m worried I won’t do it justice. The smell is one that will haunt you in the best way, like the perfume of your date hanging in the air long after she’s gone home. The luxurious head sticks around even after a calm pour, adding a smooth, opulent texture that I can only compare to a freshly buttered croissant. In Paris. While sitting across from a very attractive French person. Who is saying very sexy sounding things you don’t understand.
It’s very good and you should drink it.
4. Heavy Seas Small Craft Warning Uber Pils – Baltimore, MD
Everyone – aside from those punk-ass ninjas – loves pirates. Everyone. They’re jolly and rambunctious and constantly living life to the fullest, even if it means they getting shot by a cannon or eaten by a massive, ornery octopus.
It’s appropriate that Heavy Seas (brewed by Clipper City brewing) is from Baltimore, a city sunken in nautical lore. All of their beers are a play off some sort of pirate theme (like Peg Leg Imperial Stout and Loose Cannon IPA), playful cartoon label art included.
But pirates take their booze seriously. It wards off scurvy and instills confidence where perhaps discretion is a better idea. They go all out. Small Craft Uber Pils is the embodiment of that cannon-balls to the wall mentality. Unlike its pale-golden Czech and German brethren, all content with sort of tasting the same except for a few minor tweaks, Small Craft unfurls its flavors like three sheets in the wind of a coming hurricane. It’s bold and hoppy, but appropriate for the style, reminding me a lot of Victory Prima Pils and Sam Adams Noble pils, just decidedly more…piratical.
Remember, it’s not the size of the pilser in in the glass, it’s the motion of the flavor ocean.
5. Pub Dog Hoppy Dog Ale – Columbia, MD
There is some magical voodoo surrounding pizza and beer. When the spell of salt hits the potion of pale ale, fireballs fly across the room at random and things turn into frogs. That’s science. You can’t argue against science.
Pub Dog is part brewery, part pizzeria. As a result, we can agree that these people know a lot about human psychology, and are fully invested in the business of making people happy. They not only brew and serve their own beer (with plenty of options, to boot!) but they bake and serve hot cheese on top of tomato sauce on top of bread, with additional toppings available as requested. Brilliancy.
Hoppy dog, is as it says, hoppy. It’s bitter and angry about life, vexed that at times it has to be a mere sidekick to a pizza-pie. Don’t be mean to the Hoppy Dog though, he just wants to be a happy dog. He is aggressively full of hop flavor, appropriate for those with heads built and aimed towards enjoying hops. This beer can be hard to find outside of the Federal Hill and Columbia brew pubs, but do you really need another excuse to eat a good pizza and drink good beer?
6. Baying Hound Lord Wimsey Mild Ale – Rockville, MD
I had to include a rookie Maryland brewery. These guys seem to get a bad rap on BeerAdvocate and Ratebeer, but I have yet to be turned off by one of their beers. Sure, they’re not perfect when compared to some of the masters out there, but they are doing some interesting stuff (like not force carbonating and bottle conditioning), are brewing out of Rockville (a place in dire need of a brewery), and have only been brewing since 2010. We all have to start somewhere, right?
I first had Wimsey Mild Ale at an event for the Potomac Riverkeeper, and was pleased at the complexity of the flavors for a pretty standard pale ale. It’s named after the adorable brewery mascot, Wimsey the Bloodhound, who was named after the detective in Dorothy L. Sayer’s mystery lit. I’m a sucker for some anachronistic literature-to-beer allusions.
It tastes like your best friend’s really good homebrew. You know he’s getting good, and you always want to try what he’s brewing next. It’s a caramel colored ale, a little rough round the edges, but strong and exploding with flavor. Despite four types of hops (Nugget, Columbus, Willamette, and Cascade) it’s not too in your face with the alpha acid, and worth a try, if you find yourself stranded and needing refreshment in Montgomery County.