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‘For those who ever doubted Baltimore could be cool’: Two city spots among Esquire’s 50th ‘Best Bars in America’

Two popular but relatively new Baltimore establishments — Fadensonnen in Old Goucher and Ministry of Brewing in Upper Fells Point — made Esquire’s 50th annual “Best Bars in America” list, the magazine announced Tuesday.

As more people become vaccinated against COVID-19, the bars are among “the places coast to coast to finally have a proper drink again,” Esquire said in the announcement, released alongside the magazine’s Summer issue.

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Fadensonnen, a beer garden from WC Harlan and Clavel co-owners Lane Harlan and Matthew Pierce, opened its 148-seat open-air courtyard and 35-seat upstairs bar at 3 W. 23rd St. in 2018.

Kevin Sintumuang, Esquire’s culture and lifestyle director, called it an “elegantly rustic courtyard with a multilevel natural-wine, beer, and sake hangout built into an old carriage house by ... purveyors of some of Charm City’s most interesting watering holes.”

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An “artsy, agrarian edge percolates among the bottles and the crowd,” Sintumuang wrote. “For those who ever doubted that Baltimore could be cool, just have a shot here.”

Ministry of Brewing, which opened just before the pandemic in the former St. Michael’s Church (1900 E. Lombard St.), received Baltimore’s other nod in the 2021 version of the annual Best Bar list.

The biergarten at Fadensonnen in Old Goucher.
The biergarten at Fadensonnen in Old Goucher. (Ulysses Mu–oz/Baltimore Sun)

Beyond the atmosphere of the decommissioned church, the brewery’s beer — “classic styles and restrained, creative takes like Lemon Basil Blonde Ale” — earned Sintumuang’s praise.

“Grab a cold one, have a seat at one of the beer-hall-style tables, and admire the paintings of saints beaming from the barrel-vaulted ceiling,” the reviewer wrote. “What are you feeling? Perhaps it’s a greater power. Or maybe it’s just 9.9 Problems, the potent, 9.9 percent ABV stout.”

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The 27 bars on this year’s list “are a reflection of the desire to experience wonder once more — in being introduced to mind-expanding wines and whiskeys, downing pints in old churches, or hunkering in jazzy spaces again — and to be grateful for places that managed to remain intrinsic to the fabric of drinking culture in America,” Sintumuang wrote.

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