Shedding a rep of grit and crime, Baltimore’s quality breweries, high-end beer bars, and fresh seafood cuisine have transformed Charm City into a major destination on America’s beer map.
By Celena Cipriaso
Start navigating the Baltimore beer with a taste of Heavy Seas beers, brewed by local stalwart (and B-more’s biggest beer maker) Clipper City Brewing (Halethorpe, hsbeer.com). Visit the brewery for a chance to meet founder Hugh Sisson, a local beer hero who opened Maryland’s first brewpub (the now-defunct Sisson’s), and sample beers like the venerable Loose Cannon, an expertly hopped citrus-pine American IPA you’d do well to find on cask. The British-leaning Pratt Street Ale House (City Center, prattstreetalehouse.com) brews its English-style Oliver’s Ales in-house; choose from several nitro pours and cask-conditioned brews (we like the ESB). The brewpub—Baltimore’s oldest—is also famous for collaborations with local brewers. Up next: a mild Belgian blond collaboration with Stillwater Artisanal Ales for the latest installment of Oliver’s Anglo-Belgian-inspired Channel Crossing Series. DuClaw Brewing’s (Hanover, duclaw.com) charge is to continually flex its brewing muscles; it gets a workout with beers like the hyper-limited-release, barrel-aged Retribution beers, and small-batch Exile Series beers like the creamy Macchiato milk stout. In spring, look for annual releases of Celtic Fury, a mellow Irish stout, and the 14.6%-ABV rye-wheat whopper Repent. In the historic hub of Ellicott City, Ellicott Mills Brewing (Ellicott City, ellicottmillsbrewing.com) is a beer traditionalist’s retreat inside a grand old stone building. Brewing under the Reinheitsgebot—the German law that dictates beer consist only of malt, hops, yeast and water—Ellicott serves Baltimore’s best German-style lagers like the superb Alpenhof Dunkel.
Inside a dapper townhouse, The Brewer’s Art (Mount Vernon, thebrewersart.com) is a revolutionary, charming gastropub that placed Baltimore on the national beer radar. Join the beer geeks and foodies that spend hours delving into complex Belgian-style house brews like the raisiny Resurrection and devouring innovative seasonal dishes like chestnut soup and huckleberry-sauced duck and grits. Max’s Taphouse (Fell’s Point, maxs.com) is a wallet-friendly, 25-year-old Baltimore staple with an ever-evolving selection of 140 drafts, five casks and 1,200 bottles. On weekends, you can party long into the night with a rowdy crowd, or, for a toned-down experience, join beer-educated regulars for the Tuesday night beer socials led by in-house beer expert Casey Hard. To escape the touristy madness of Fell’s Point, head to Hudson Street Stackhouse (Canton, hudsonstreetstackhouse.com), a laid-back neighborhood hideaway for local 9-to-5ers. The thoughtful beer menu highlights owner Dominic DeSantis’ passion for sours, which includes selections like Tilquin Gueuze. Hipsters trek to unhip West Baltimore just to drink at Alewife (West Baltimore, alewifebaltimore.com), a beer mecca inside a renovated 1800s bank building. High ceilings, stained glass windows and chalkboard menus that highlight the bar’s 100 bottles and 40 taps including Saison Dupont and Leipziger Gose. On Friday nights, The Judge’s Bench (Ellicott City, judgesbenchpub.com) transforms from a dark man-cave dive into a local hotspot where blue-collar clientele pack the bar to enjoy live music from local bands, East Coast greats like Allagash and DuClaw on tap, and the third largest selection of single malt whiskies in the state.
Woodberry Kitchen (Clipper Mill, woodberrykitchen.com) raised the bar for the city’s dining scene with its locally sourced, farm-to-table cuisine. Check out the Chesapeake Bay oysters, which go down easy both refreshingly raw or cooked up in a charred tomato sauce with pickled chilies. A prime spot for late-night bar eats, Ale Mary’s (Fell’s Point, alemarys.com) is a beloved neighborhood joint famous for its crispy crab-covered tater tots and hearty Seafood Pot Pie, a heavenly bed of shrimp, crabmeat, scallops and crawfish submerged in garlic mashed potatoes and topped with toasty French puff pastry. Gertrude’s at the Baltimore Museum of Art (Medfield, gertrudesbaltimore.com) provides Baltimore’s most elegant way to nosh on a crab cake: Made with lump portions of crabmeat and broiled to lightly browned perfection, Gertie’s Crab Cake becomes all the more enjoyable when you’ve staked out a table with a view of the sculpture garden. Pub Dog (Federal Hill, pubdog.net) proves Charm City isn’t just about the catch of the day. A Baltimore bar crawl usually begins or ends at this pizza joint with an amped-up slice and $4.50 two-for-one deal house brews. Chow down on the hot-cherry-pepper smattered Atomic Dog pizza and wash it down with the Black Dog Irish Stout.
Only blocks away from Inner Harbor, the luxury of the Tremont Plaza Hotel (Inner Harbor, tremontplazahotel.com) offers more than 300 cavernous rooms and easy access to the picturesque waterfront. Blue Door on Baltimore (Butchers Hill, bluedoorbaltimore.com), a classic B&B in a 1900s renovated Baltimore row house, treats guests to a blend of modern rooms, breakfast cooked to order, private outdoor decks and yoga lessons. Labeled a Historic Hotel of America, the quaint Admiral Fell Inn (Fell’s Point, harbormagic.com) transports guests with 80 stately and antique-furnished rooms that date back to the 1770s. The doting staff will make you feel like royalty at the swanky Renaissance Harborplace Hotel (Inner Harbor, marriott.com); kick off a night on the town with a drink at the hotel’s Ground Floor Café and linger longer for a meal at restaurant/lounge, the Waterfront. •
Baltimore’s Traveling Man: A new wave of beer washes ashore this year from Baltimore’s famed gypsy brewer Brian Strumke of Stillwater Artisanal Ales (instead of maintaining a brewery of his own, he travels the world making Stillwater beers on other brewers’ systems), and come this spring he’ll have his own place to pour it. Of Love & Regret, a bar in East Baltimore’s Brewers Hill neighborhood, will boast 23 taps and more than 100 bottles featuring Strumke’s own beers and selections from his European travels. Swing by for a pint of Stillwater’s latest, like Debauched, a Scandinavian farmhouse ale brewed with whole juniper bushes, smoked malt and Brettanomyces.