Baltimore Beer Week preview: 10 beers to try before you die

The Baltimore Sun
At Baltimore Beer Week, get adventurous with brews

Attention all creatures of beer habit -- with Baltimore Beer Week kicking off Friday and running through Oct. 19, it's time to branch out from your Bohs and Buds.

We spoke with Baltimore brewers and bar managers and asked them to recommend their favorite specialty, limited-release and one-of-a-kind beers to give Baltimoreans the perfect opportunity to experiment with taste. All will be available during beer week, so go ahead and try something fruity and crisp or dark and earthy for a change.

10. Made Wit Basil at The Point

For anyone planning to feast while drinking, this 4 percent alcohol by volume (ABV) Belgian-style witbier from Jailbreak Brewing Co., characterized by its crisp wheat and citric flavors and a special addition of basil, is a tasteful option.

Patrick Hewes, bar manager at The Point in Fells Point said the chefs are already preparing a menu that pairs this Jailbreak offering with tasty food items for their restaurant event on Oct. 15. It's unfiltered, with a lighter body and brewed with basil, giving it some nice "earthy tones." It's also very "sessionable," Hewes said. Translation: You can have several pints and not worry about it making you too drunk to enjoy a good meal.

9. General Washington's Tavern Porter at The Wharf Rat

This 7 percent ABV cask-conditioned porter caught Wharf Rat Manager Jenn Oliver's attention last year because of its exciting flavor combinations. Made by Yards Brewing Co., it's brewed with chocolate, roasted barley malts and molasses.

Yards' cask-conditioned ales also have much bolder, richer flavors than typical beers, Oliver said.

"It's really different, with a unique blend of flavors," Oliver said. "It's got a rich caramel taste to it. It's very smooth."

Yards is brewing up a special batch of the General Washington for Wharf Rat and Beer Week — with an unknown "secret ingredient."

8. Grapefruit Sculpin at Max's Taphouse

Grapefruit flavors add an exciting kick to this 7 percent ABV IPA brewed by the Ballast Point Brewing Co.

It's a hoppy, slightly spicy, very bitter beer with a touch of grapefruit citrus backbone — and a personal favorite of Max's cellar master Casey Hard.

Hard said the beer doesn't often leave its hometown of San Diego.

"We've never had it here and we've had everything at least once," Hard said. "And it's going to be here and gone probably within the same day."

Hard called the beer "the ultimate of IPAs."

"The taste is bitter, citrus, with a big grapefruit note, but very drinkable," Hard said. "Anyone really into hoppy beers will love this one."

7. Greater Pumpkin at Heavy Seas Alehouse

This limited-release 10 percent ABV pumpkin ale comes highly recommended by Heavy Seas brewmaster Chris Leonard. And we can see why: It's made with bourbon, cinnamon, ginger, allspice and clove, along with British crystal malt, brown sugar and pumpkin flavors.

Unlike other pumpkin ales, this one is not a heavily pumpkin-flavored beer, but more a celebration of a true "fall taste."

"It's got an underlying nuttiness to it as well," Leonard said. "When it all comes together, it starts out sweet but finishes spicy and dry."

It comes out once a year, Leonard said, and is usually gone after October. Leonard said it's a favorite because of its complexity and layers of flavor.

"It's not a one-trick pony," he said. "It's not just pumpkin or just bourbon-barrel. It's just a very satisfying experience as a beer."

6. Aprés Saison at The Brewer's Art

Consider this the unofficial Orioles' post-season beer, a riff on The Brewer's Art's Birdhouse 5 percent ABV Belgian-style pale ale.

Brewer's Art co-owner Tom Creegan said the beer, brewed on site and made with American and citra hops, and its name (a play on "post-season") is an homage to "the guys who have been playing so well this season and will hopefully continue to play well for us."

It has a pretty light body, with some nice orange and grapefruit notes. Crisp and very drinkable, it also pairs well with fall foods.

"The thing is, we're only serving it at our place and we don't have any TVs at Brewer's Art," Creegan said. "So after the game — I guess that's the 'apres' part — when celebrating, people can come by and drink it."

5. Vienna Lager at Cat's Eye Pub

"There are a million different versions of the same beer in Baltimore," said Cat's Eye Pub owner Anthony Cushing. His suggestion? Try something different and tasty that will "really stick with you" — like this 4.9 percent ABV Vienna-style lager from Devils Backbone Brewing Co.

Cushing said the beer is smooth, lightly hoppy and a little sweet. It's a crisp, caramelized lager made with good amount of barley and bares a "caramel-y aftertaste."

Devil's Backbone is based in Virginia, but just started selling in Baltimore, said Cushing.

"My father lived all over Europe when he was young and always wanted to see more breweries getting into more of the European-style brewing," Cushing said. "You always see a lot of ales and IPAs, but it's nice to see something distinct and new and different."

He said the beer is something his father, who founded the bar in 1975, would be proud to see. And he hopes people take the chance to try this new style of beer in Baltimore.

"It really sets itself apart from the pack," Cushing said. "You can open your palate and really go a different way."

4. E.J.'s Pumpkin Ale at Red Brick Station

Red Brick Station is tapping an actual pumpkin to introduce this White Marsh Brewing Co. 5.5 percent ABV ale.

Made with all natural ingredients including pumpkin and lots of butternut squash, the beer also features a little bit of nutmeg and clove.

"It's very earthy," said Red Brick Station co-owner Bill Blocher. "We brew it like a standard English ale and then roast 200 pounds of butternut squash to add in."

Blocher said he knows other pumpkin beers feature a lot of extracts, but this one has a more genuine pumpkin taste.

"That would definitely be the one I would say people should come try," Blocher said. "We really think it's a fall beer and think it should come out when pumpkins are out."

3. Oude Tart at Victoria's Gastro Pub

Take a walk on the wild side with one of the highest-rated wild beers in the country — this 7.5 percent ABV Flemish-style red ale from The Bruery.

A "wild" ale is characterized by the use of wild yeast used for fermentation. Jason Gotcher, beer and bar manager at Victoria's Gastro Pub in Columbia, said it's a sour beer with a dark, tart, fruity taste and subtle notes of caramel.

He said It's only brewed once a year, in limited amounts.

"A lot of time and attention went into brewing this beer and it definitely shows in the flavor," he said.

2. Gose Gone Wild at Of Love and Regret

"Liquid passion fruit," is how Of Love and Regret co-owner Leigh Travers described the taste of this limited edition 4.3 percent ABV German-style wheat ale made with coriander and salt.

Travers said this beer, made by her business partner, Brian Strumke of Stillwater Artisanal Ales, is a fantastic rendition of a gose, a top-fermented, salty and sour ale.

And with only one batch of this beer ever made, Beer Week may be many people's only chance to try it.

Strumke crafted the beer as part of a "remix" series that he orchestrated with other brewers. They got together and made each other's beers, whichever ones they loved, in their own interpretation. Gose Gone Wild is Stillwater's rendition of Westbrook Brewing Co.'s gose, Travers said.

"He'll never make that particular beer ever again, which is really cool," Travers said. "It's a one off and that's it."

It almost has a tropical taste to it, unlike anything Travers has tasted in beer.

"I just love the essence of it," Travers said. "I think it's an amazing, really cool look at a style of beer from Brian's perspective. He sees beers differently than a lot of people do."

1. Stoop Sitter by Baltimore brewers

And then there's this gem. A truly one-of-kind beer, created by a group of brewers from all around the city, especially for Beer Week.

It's a traditional German-style festbier, made with hops donated from a farm in Frederick, to give it a local flavor.

the Representatives from local breweries including Union Craft Brewing Co., DuClaw Brewing Co., Heavy Seas Beer, White Marsh Brewing Co., The Brewer's Art, and Oliver Breweries came together for this collaborative brew.

Heavy Seas brewmaster Chris Leonard came up with the idea. Originally from Philadelphia, he mentioned to local brewers that he used to work on projects like this for local festivals.

"Chris wrote the preliminary recipe and I kind of tweaked it," said Kevin Blodger, co-founder and head brewer at Union Craft Brewing. "Then on Sept. 12, everyone came here and we brewed it. Everybody brought some beers and we just hung out."

It has a nice hoppy twist that isn't found in most festbiers with a slight sweetness and a nice dry finish.

Leonard said the beer will be available on tap throughout the city for Beer Week and some of the proceeds would be donated to charity in support of Jake's Law, which aims to enact harsher punishments for distracted driving.

"We're hoping this will be the beer people think about when they think about Beer Week," Blodger said.

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