Naptown Pint: Celebrate Dry 85's new barrel aged exclusive brew in Annapolis

Naptown Pint: Celebrate Dry 85's new barrel aged exclusive brew in Annapolis

Patrick loves to makes fun of me because, as weepy as I get over romantic movies like "Sleepless in Seattle" and "Jurassic Park," there are occasions where I struggle to remember basic relationship milestones — like our wedding anniversary.

Unfortunately, that information is usually pushed out of my brain for more important things, like the dates for the semi-annual sales at Bay Ridge Wine and Spirits, or the "birthdays" or my favorite local watering holes.

For example, did you know that DRY 85 on Main Street celebrated its third year in existence back in January? (If not, now you do!)

I originally intended to share a retrospective at that time, but I'll be honest with you guys: I hated the first draft of what I wrote; it was a flat, half-hearted high-five that didn't really do the place justice. More importantly, it didn't get to the meat of why (a) DRY 85 is still kicking butt three years later, and I still consider that bar to be an extension of my own home —probably much to their dismay.

So, this time, I'm doing it right. And I'm going to start this off by telling you to mark your calendars for March 29 at 6 p.m. sharp.

That's when DRY 85 is kicking off their release party for another barrel-aged exclusive: DC Brau's rare double IPA, Alpha Domina Mellis — featuring four different hop varieties —aged in DRY 85's private Elijah Craig 12-year cask. It's also an opportunity for you to see for yourself why Brian Bolter's beverage program has made such a name for itself on the local Annapolis beer scene — not an easy task.

In fact, when many outsiders peer through the proverbial window of our town by the water, they usually see an appalling lack of "beer culture" and limited tap real estate.

I'll admit I felt that way when I first moved here from Washington, D.C., many moons ago. I was used to options and beer bars and local craft breweries being part of the fabric of a city's character. Where were the brewers and the beer nerds and bar owners that loved them?

Once I began to explore the area, however, I saw that while the beer landscape was much different, Annapolis afforded a unique opportunity you don't find elsewhere.

In Annapolis, bar owners, general managers and beverage directors are challenged to use a smaller number of taps against a historic backdrop to create a more boutique, curated experience for their patrons. An experience that could express a particular point of view, in the right hands, instead of the usual ceremonial shoveling the "latest and greatest" hop explosion in my general direction.

As a result, you not only know the names of local bars, you know their stories; you know the people behind them and what makes them tick. You know the choices they make and why they make them.

So yes, our tap handles may be fewer in number, but the wistful side of me falls in love with the notion that there are distinct, authentic narratives in behind each of these draft lineups, and you don't have to work too hard to uncover them.

DRY 85 has one of those stories.

When DRY 85 first opened in 2014, the beer list was a nice teaser of what was to come. It was a clean, somewhat eclectic list, with smart craft gems like Dogfish Head's American Beauty, as well as selections that made you smile, like Texas' Shiner Holiday Cheer — a winter seasonal. And, as time went on, strong, consistent representation of fantastic Maryland beer became a welcome staple when you pulled up a bar stool at the Prohibition-era haunt.

But then something fun happened: They released an exclusive collaboration bourbon barrel-aged blonde with Burley Oak out of Berlin, Maryland. I can tell you as someone who prefers to respect a blonde ale from a healthy distance in someone else's pint glass, I was floored by how much I loved that beer.

At the time, reassuring promises were given for similar future releases, but after the disappointments of both "Jurassic Park 2" and "Jurassic Park 3," I learned at an early age to never get my hopes up. Thankfully for Annapolis — and my fragile psyche — Bolter held up his end of the bargain. And slowly, more exclusives started to roll in.

Now? It's gotten to the point where I feel spoiled.

Case in point, I dragged a girlfriend to DRY 85 a few weeks back, because I had somehow missed the memo that DRY 85 had not one, not two, but three different private barrel-aged exclusives on tap. They included Flying Dog's K9 winter warmer aged in a private High West barrel, Union's Chessie barley wine aged in a private Four Roses barrel and RAR's First Meal stout in a private Smooth Ambler barrel.

They were all amazing, but Chessie stole my heart that night.

As I sat there on my stool, it hit me: DRY 85 always has a well-chosen craft beer list that I can count on, but Bolter's "slow and steady wins the race" barrel-aging program is something rare. Moreover, it's such an organic extension how they bring together both bourbon drinkers and beer slingers alike under one roof — it's downright poetic.

So, DRY 85, consider this a woefully overdue third birthday card. Thanks for the memories — and the countless bacon brunches, of course. But most of all, thanks for the great beer. It's been a pleasure to watch your barrel-aging program evolve and mature over the past few years, and see it become an integral part of your story and Main Street. It probably goes without saying that I can't wait for more.

(Also, thank you to Billy, the bartender who let me call him "Alex" for three months, because he was too polite to correct me. Why did I decide his name was Alex? I have no idea.)

Finally, to everyone else, I hope to see you on March 29. Unless you hate things like good beer, freedom and happiness. In which case, I'm sorry, and you will be in my thoughts and prayers.

Liz Murphy lives in Annapolis with her husband, Patrick, and their two lazy dogs, Horatio and Nugget. Liz also runs her own Annapolis-based beer blog, Naptown Pint. You can usually find her kicking back a pint (or four) at 1747 Pub off Church Circle. Or you can just set a scotch ale out on your porch, and she'll be there in five minutes. You can reach her at liz@naptownpint.com.

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