HDNet's 'Drinking Made Easy' bar crawls through Baltimore

When Zane Lamprey travels, his version of sightseeing involves barhopping and trying out the local specialties in beer and cocktails.

Lamprey is the host of "Drinking Made Easy," a travel show on HDNet that does for bar crawls what Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations" did for dining and Brooke Burke's "Wild On!" did for international partying.


In each episode, Lamprey explores the drinking traditions of an American city, and in an episode that airs Wednesday, he finally explores Baltimore, where he visits Abbey Burger Bistro and Mr. Rain's Fun House, among others.

It's the second time in the last year that a travel show has filmed in town — an IFC show, "Young, Broke And Beautiful," about traveling on a budget shot an episode in April that featured musicians Dan Deacon and Ed Schrader.


Lamprey said he came to Baltimore because over the course of two seasons — the show premiered last year — he had already visited major destinations such as New York, New Orleans, and even Maui.

When the producers shot an episode in Washington, "obviously Baltimore made sense next," Lamprey said.

For local residents, "Drinking Made Easy" will offer more a sense of pride than any insight; Lamprey doesn't visit brand-new bars or off-the-beaten-path dives. Instead, he likes to go to bars that will make good television.

"We have to make sure that when we go to these places, there's something to talk about," he said. "The place needs to have specific drinks, a specific culture."

After all, a city has to be summarized in 30 minutes.

In Baltimore, he went to the cocktail bar Bad Decisions and the long-standing Horse You Came In On Saloon, both in Fells Point; Mr. Rain's Fun House at the American Visionary Art Museum; and Abbey Burger Bistro in Federal Hill, where Lamprey had one of its trademark alcoholic milkshakes.

He also visited the little-known Distillery Lane Ciderworks, which produces cider just outside Burkittsville.

"We don't just pick random places," he said. "We picked these places because there was something different about them."

Before shooting in Baltimore, which took place over the summer, Lamprey hadn't spent much time in the city since he was young. He didn't have much of a sense of its drinking traditions or history of brewing.

Natty Boh? "I'd heard of it, but I never had it."

He said he prefers to learn about a city when he shows up; that way, "viewers learn along with me."

So in Baltimore, the bars he visited gave him a crash course on local color.


At the Horse You Came In On Saloon, he was told the story that that it was one of the last bars where Edgar Allan Poe drank at before he died.

At Mr. Rain's Fun House, he sampled the Crushed Velvet, a cocktail made out of absinthe and rosemary-infused cachacha, a popular Brazilian beverage.

At Bad Decisions, Lamprey mixed a cocktail with Sloop Betty, the signature spirit of Maryland's first distillery in 40 years, Blackwater, and tried the ominous-sounding Zombie Island.

Afterward, he tweeted that coming to the bar was one of his better decisions, but "Chugging the Zombie Island cocktail, however, was not."

He did finally try Natty Boh and learned how it was made by the Orioles … or drunk by the Orioles … or something.

"I forget the story because I was drunk," he said.

That, in a nutshell, is the spirit of the show. Lamprey doesn't pretend to be a connoisseur like Bourdain, or a neutral observer like Burke.

"It's a fun show," he said. "We hide the education behind the fun."

The Baltimore episode of "Drinking Made Easy" airs at 8 p.m. Wednesday on HDNet.


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