Only in the past couple of decades have Baltimore's beer-making roots made a comeback, trading the bygone Canton-based National Brewing Company (proud maker of lawnmower beers like Colt 45 and of course National Bohemian) for smaller-scale independent operations within the city and surrounding areas that have slowly but steadily gained in number and prominence. And while the city proper doesn't offer suitable growing conditions for urban viticulture to be a thing here, you can reach a staggering number of vineyards in under an hour's drive. Ranging from modest wineries operating out of a two-car garage, to larger, well established winemakers with sprawling bucolic acreage and historic mansions in which to showcase their juice, the important thing is that nearly all offer tours and tastings, with an emphasis on the latter.
Peabody Heights Brewery
401 E. 30th St., (410) 467-7837, peabodyheightsbrewery.com
A contract brewer located in the north Baltimore neighborhood of Abell, Peabody Heights brews and bottles for several so-called "co-op" labels including RavenBeer, Public Works Ale, Full Tilt Brewing, Mountain State Brewing Co., and Fin City. Its website doesn't seem to be high on its list of priorities, so try calling to set up a tasting. It helps to know someone who knows someone, but the guys are usually down to talk shop and show off their products even for us regular shmoes.
Union Craft Brewing
1700 Union Ave., (410) 467-0290, unioncraftbrewing.com
In just over two years of operation the prolific Union Craft has racked up over 20 distinct (and many Baltimore-themed) beers, with the fairly ubiquitous Duckpin and Balt Alt leading the way. It's truly a full-service brewery with tours, carry-out cans and growlers, and even happy hour a couple nights a week. No food, but hey, what is beer if not liquid bread?
The Brewer's Art
1106 N. Charles St., (410) 547-6925, thebrewersart.com
Having garnered national recognition as a bar, and thanks to recent publicity stemming from a trademarking row with Ozzy Osbourne, Brewer's is undoubtedly the highest-profile brewery in town. A tight roster of entrenched year-rounds like Beazly (née Ozzy) and Resurrection, and a couple of seasonals, are served in the Mount Vernon mansion that functions as the bar and restaurant (you can also get growlers to go).
Pratt Street Ale House
206 W. Pratt St., (410) 244-8900, prattstreetalehouse.com
Pratt Street's in-house Oliver Breweries is actually the longest-running brewpub in the city. It supplies this restaurant and bar with several house brews that are available only here, in addition to mostly British beers in both standard carbonated and creamy hand-pulled configurations.
Dempsey's Brew Pub and Restaurant
333 W. Camden St., (410) 843-7901, dempseysbaltimore.com
Right across the street from Pratt Street Alehouse but oft-overlooked, most likely due to its location inside Camden Yards, Dempsey's generally doesn't register on the beerdar of local cognoscenti. Nonetheless it makes some decent suds, carries many more, and is open to the public even on non-game days (though not offseason).
Of Love and Regret
1028 S. Conkling St., (410) 327-0760, ofloveandregret.com
This is yet another brewpub done right, this time across from the old National Brewing Company ground (now apartments), and an outlet for gypsy beermaker Stillwater Artisanal Ales, featuring at least 10 of the latter's acclaimed beers on tap.
DuClaw Brewing Company
Various locations, duclaw.com
These folks make a veritable shitload of beers with good local distribution, from high-test double IPA Serum or Devil's Milk barleywine, to grapefruit-flavored Morgazm and the polarizing Sweet Baby Jesus chocolate peanut butter stout. While its Baltimore location is long gone, their suburban outlets (in Bel Air and Hanover) are about a half-hour drive out of town. FYI, these outlets are more restaurants than true breweries, so for a "tasting" you're gonna have to belly up to the bar and shell out, sucka.
3026 Whiteford Road, Pylesville, (410) 879-4007, fiorewinery.com
From his native Italy, Mike Fiore brought a deep tradition of winemaking and a vision for good wines produced in Maryland—and more power to you, brother. Leading that charge is Fiore's excellent Chambourcin—a Syrah-like French-American hybrid grape that was once grown in France, but is now grown almost exclusively in Pennsylvania and Maryland. In addition Fiore produces grappa, the high-alcohol spirit distilled from grape pomace with that distinct kerosene-like burn and mellow, dreamy buzz. The tasting room is open year-round.
Black Ankle Vineyards
14463 Black Ankle Road, Mount Airy, (301) 829-3338, blackankle.com
A decade after its planting, Black Ankle has gradually developed a local reputation as a maker of "good Maryland wine," and take that as you will, but if anything it does speak to folks appreciating to the quality of the three reds (a Syrah and two blends) that it bottles. Tastings are held on weekends, and there is live music, special events, and some local food offerings as well.
15722 Falls Road, Sparks, (410) 472-0703, basignani.com
One of the best known in Baltimore, possibly due to its easy access via I-83, Basignani is tucked away in the woods that line Falls Road in Baltimore County's horse country. Tastings occur almost every day, along with some special events like movie night—check its calendar for details.
12820 Long Green Pike, Hydes, (410) 592-5015, boordy.com
You haven't lived in the Baltimore area if you haven't had a fall hayride topped off with a wine tasting at Boordy. Probably the most active vineyard in terms of events, Boordy also hosts music festivals, theater productions, lectures, and even a farmers market. All this just north of Towson, a short trip around the Beltway from the city.