Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Little Havana

You may have noticed that restaurant reviews have been popping up less and less on Baltimore Bistros and Beer.  As recently as a few weeks ago, I actually stated out loud to my wife that I thought I was done writing about food. It’s not that I don’t like writing about restaurants, but taking pictures and notes in the middle of nearly every meal has become something I look less and less forward to each time we go out.  I didn’t want to put anymore conversations on hold while I did my blogger due diligence, because quite frankly, it’s not an ideal way to enjoy dinner. I’ve got this thing where I like to be in the moment as much as possible and while I’m definitely at one with the food, I’d rather be focusing on the people sitting across from me at the dinner table. 

And then we ate at Little Havana and tried Ropa Vieja. It was fantastic. In fact, it was so tasty that in the middle of eating their Ropa Vieja I decided to compromise with myself. If I went to dinner and had a truly exceptional experience or tasted something that really went above and beyond the norm, I came to the conclusion that it’s only right that information finds its way on to my blog. The whole point of this blog (from a food/restaurant POV) is to help give people an idea of what’s good around Baltimore and have them try new things and so that's what exactly I'm going to continue to do (just maybe in a slightly different format).

Little Havana’s Ropa Vieja is one of those food items that deserves your special attention. But does that surprise you? Slow cooked meat is a gift from the gods. If it has to sit around cooking for hours on end before it’s ready to eat you know it’s going to be good.  This version of Ropa Vieja lives up to those expectations.  The tender strands of meat are flavored with tomato and cumin and come across as an alternate to texas style chili with a heavier focus on the tomato flavor and less on the spices. But what really sets this Ropa Vieja apart is the yuca it’s nestled all over. I’m not sure if I've had yuca before, but I loved it on this night. The texture of the melt in your mouth meat and firm but creamy yucca was something to write home about (or blog about).  When the last bite was consumed, sadness poured down over me. 

But the sadness was short lived. After the Ropa Vieja was gone and my carne tacos were inhaled a piece of key lime pie magically appeared in front of me. That pie was some of the best pie I've come across in a restaurant setting. The pie itself had a uniquely creamy texture that can’t be found just anywhere and that alone had me going in for bite after bite despite the fact that I was already stuffed to the gills. And the crust was equally fantastic and almost as half as thick as the pie itself.  Creamy pie, crunchy buttery crust.  It’s not a sentence, but that says it all. Or maybe it doesn't? The flavor of the pie was also stellar. It was tart but not too tart and sweetened just the right amount creating a happy balance between the two dissonant featured flavors.

As the days get colder I can think of few things more ideal to warm me up than a plate of Little Havana’s delicious Ropa Vieja . And if it’s exceptionally cold their Key Lime Pie and the fantasy of eating it on the beach will surely do the trick. Get there soon. Little Havana awaits.

Little Havana Restaurante Y Cantina Cubana on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 7, 2014

Beer is the Gateway, Not the Destination.

One thing I've learned about beer over the past few years is that beer is the gateway not a destination. When I first started getting into this beer thing I used to travel to breweries just to say I've been there. Tasting the beer wasn't good enough for me, I wanted to be able to say "Yeah, I've been to XXX Brewery. You should get there if you have the chance." I found myself victim of the weird competitive pissing contest that develops within certain hobbies. It was never anything I took too seriously, but I'd be lying if I didn't get some sort of satisfaction when I could point out that I had been somewhere that someone hadn't.

And then I learned that beer is beer, stainless steel is stainless steel, and tours of breweries almost always seem to bleed together (a few shining exceptions exist, of course). I wouldn't say they were boring or not worth the trip, but they weren't necessarily making my beer taste any more enjoyable simply because I was drinking them on site.

The reason I travel for beer is because it opens up a gateway to experience everything else. Recently, I took my honeymoon to France and Belgium. Beer is precisely the reason Belgium made it on our itinerary, but it's not the main reason I fell in love with the country. The people, the art, the architecture, the landscape, the culture....beer brought me there, everything else will bring me back. That's why I travel for beer.

This post was inspired by The Session. The Session takes place on the first Friday of every month with bloggers from all across the world getting together to discuss a single topic. This month's Session was hosted by The Roaming Pint.

Monday, August 11, 2014

One Word of Advice for the Craft Beer Newbie

It's Monday morning, the weekend has plans for the next 5 days, and you're coming down from the high of your first trip to a good beer bar. Sure, there is work to be done, but you can't get the thought of tropical fruit flavored IPA's, tart Berliner Weiss, and Peanut Butter Porters out of your mind. The boss is asking for that report you said you'd have ready for his Monday morning meeting, but you know nothing will get done until you Google "Advice for the Craft Beer Newbie" to learn more about all of the fantastically flavored drinks that rocked your world only two night ago. As fate would have it, you find yourself on this very blog and I'm offering one word of advice to you as you begin your journey into the vast world of beer.

And what is that one word advice I have for you, the craft beer newbie? Well....Craft. But this isn't a word or idea I want you to focus on. Craft is a word you should forget. Craft, in relation to beer, has meant a great many things to a great many people. It could mean a brewery that makes less than 2 million barrels per year (excuse me, 6 million), has recipes that don't include corn (scratch that, corn is just fine), and may or may not be part of a revolution depending on how righteous you want to feel whenever you reach for a beer. It's a word that has meant anything and everything and when that happens you're essentially left with nothing. 

Love beer. Forget the craft. If you really love beer and you plan on making this fermented liquid a part of your life you need to love beer for beer. You should find joy in the history, ingredients, processes, and people that are the world of beer. Or you won't and that's fine as well because it really doesn't matter. Maybe you won't give a damn what Mosiac hops provide in the way of flavor and aroma. And maybe you'll hate sour beers or IPA's and find you're only interested in coffee flavored stouts. That's cool. The point is that beer, boiled down to the basics, is simply an optional drink and you can like as much or as little of that world as you'd like.

Beer is a lot of things but it doesn't (and shouldn't) need to be serious. Don't feel intimated by some silly term like craft that only serves to confuse what really matters. If you're reading this because you're looking to take part in a revolution, looking for an identity, or to be a part of a scene then it's best you just move along. Beer was here long before "craft" and it's going to be here long after the trendy appeal dies down. If you really love this stuff and plan to make it a part of your life, then love beer because it's awesome and forget the fluff that is craft.  

This post is the first part of what will be multiple essays from a variety of Mid-Atlantic bloggers looking to offer one word of advice for those of us who might be new to "craft" beer. Check in with Hipster Brewfus tomorrow to see what he thinks. 

Day 2 - Hipster Brewfus on Patience
Day 3 - Oliver from Literature and Libation with Reciprocate
Day 4 - Andrew of Das Ale Haus says Drink
Day 5 - Bryan from This is Why I'm Drunk on Live.
Day 6 - Josh of Short on Beer wants to take you on a Journey.
Day 7 - Liz from Naptown Pint suggest you Relax.
Day 9 - Brewkeep Radio wants you to focus on you.

Friday, August 1, 2014

The Session #90: Beer Fight Club

It’s Session Time and many a Session has passed since I last participated, but with local blogger Jake from Hipster Brewfus throwing down a challenge like the one detailed below I feel a duty to jump back into the Beer Blogging Friday ring.

Have you ever drank a beer that became a battle, more than an enjoyable experience? Maybe a beer that was far bigger than you had anticipated? Something you felt determined to drink, just so you can say you conquered that son of a bitch, and you are all that is powerful. Or perhaps it is something that is just so bad, all you want to do is slap it around a bit. Or maybe you were on the verge of passing out, but you just wanted that one last beer, and the valiant struggle between taste bud fulfillment and the velvety embrace of sleep that ensued.

Three years ago today my emotional pint glass was filled to the brim as I walked into local landmark Max’s on Broadway full of excitement to try a few unknown beers at their Rare & Obscure Event. Not only was I going to be drinking good beer, but I’d be doing so while rooting the US Men’s National Team on to victory as they took on our rivals from Mexico in the Gold Cup Final. Typically, I steer clear of big weekend crowds at the bar, but the chance to witness Rare US soccer achievements and taste Obscure beer was simply too much for even the most dedicated of hermits to ignore.

At the kickoff I decided to order a De Halve Maan Brugse Zot. It was going to be a long 90 minutes and much like the US team, I wanted to pace myself and make sure I had the energy to go the distance.  Smart decisions are essential both on the pitch and at the bar and early on those decisions were paying off. The US team put the ball in the back net twice and I enjoyed the simple pleasures of a well-made Belgian Golden Ale.

But then something happened. Riding high from the early goal two lead and coming to the end of my first beer I got a little over confident with my second beer order. “I’ll have the Cantillon Rose de Gambrinus”. I had never heard of it, couldn’t pronounce it, and quite honestly had no idea that sour beer was even a thing. Side stepping the crowd I gingerly made my way back to our table and sat down just as Mexico cut into the lead by taking advantage of some poor US defense. “Oh well”, I thought to myself and reached to take my first taste of the Rose de Gambrinus.

“Holy god, that’s terrible”, I said.

“They’re still winning 2-1”, Deana my girlfriend at the time replied, assuming I was talking about the game.

“No, taste this” I responded, eager to spread the evil that had just entered my mouth.  Deana took a sip scrunched her face in sour horror and silently handed the glass back shaking her head violently back and forth to let me know she would be have having no more of this Rare & Obscure freak beer.

A little time passed and I went back in for a second taste hoping that my palate might have adjusted enough to make the rest of this beer somewhat enjoyable. But it wasn’t meant to be. Rose de Gambrinus caused shivers, pain face, and much sadness at $12 misspent. This was a sour of proportions I’d never known before and I simply was not worthy. And as fate would have it, neither was the US team as they conceded an equalizer only 5 minutes after the first.

The rest of the night I sat with my glass of Rose de Gambrinus in dismay. Why did a beer like this exist? Why did I, with a list of beers 100 bottles deep, have to stumble across this one? And why was it so off putting to me? Sure, I’ve experienced beers I hadn’t liked before, but none kicked me in the balls like this one had.  I sat there, a beaten man, feeling like a failure for not “getting” what many would consider a gem of a beer. And the US team, well, they provided no solace and took their own beating as they lost a chance at a trophy with a 4-2 loss.

A few weeks later I found myself at another establishment and they just so happened to have a sour beer on tap. A glutton for punishment, I ordered it. Deana sat across from me shocked I’d be willing to put myself through this kind of punishment once again, but I didn’t want my previous experience with sour beer to be my last. The beer was set at our table and I took a sip. “That’s actually not bad”, I said with relief.  By the end of the pint, I found myself actively enjoying a sour beer.

As we drove home that night it hit me that my enjoyment of the second sour beer would never have been possible if I had never experienced my excruciating beer battle with Cantillon Rose de Gambrinus. It made me stronger and took my palate to such an extreme place that almost any sour beer I’ve come in contact with since has paled in comparison. Believe it or not sour beers have become one of the styles I crave the most and every time I take a sip of a sour beer I take a second to both think about Cantillon Rose de Gambrinus, the beer I’ve hated more than any other, and say thank you for making it possible for me to enjoy a myriad of other beer I may never have tried if it weren’t for the ass whipping of a lifetime it gave me three years ago.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Weekend Beerventures from Baltimore Part 3: Monocacy Brewing and Brewers Alley

Part 1 of our Fourth of July Beerventure can be viewed here.
Part 2 of our Fourth of July Beerventure can be viewed here.

We approached the end our Frederick Beerventure with a trip to Monocacy Brewing. Earlier in the spring, while attending the Cask Ale Fest at Pratt Street Alehouse, Deana and I were both quite impressed with the Brewtus Stout Monocacy sent over and we couldn't wait to find out what the rest of their beer portfolio offered.

While seeking out the brewery we ended up driving pastonce or twice due to a lack of signage. Learn from my mistake and trust your GPS. You will end up exactly where you should.  After confirming that we had arrived at the correct destination we entered the tasting room  to a cheerful greeting from the friendly bartender. Being that we arrived shortly after a brewery tour began we were one of only 4 tasters in the room which afforded us the privilege of getting a little more time to pick our bartenders brain for details about the beer.  One thing I learned of particular interest was the fact that Monocacy Brewing and Brewers Alley are one in the same. Apparently, they had to change their name due to some weird legal issues involving moving a brewery more than 1 square mile from the original location.

I wish I would have gotten confirmation while I was there, but from the outside looking in it appears as though Monocacy brand is steered more to “craft beer” offerings whereas the beers brewed under the Brewers Alley  label are much more traditional in style. With that said, all of the beers offered in the taproom are from Monocacy.  The highlights of the day was (not surprisingly) Brewtus, an Imperial Coffee Stout that’s flavored with coffee beans Monocacy gets from a business right across the street from their location. If you like your morning coffee black you'll be happy because that’s exactly how Brewtus comes across. With its bold earthy coffee tones Brewtus leaves no doubt what the star of the show is supposed to be with.

After our tour we thought about killing a little more time with a round of cornhole outside the brewery, but we decided one more trip was in order and headed over to the Brewers Alley Restaurant and Brewpub for an early dinner. Not to pat myself on the back, but I couldn't have asked for a better way to end the day. After all of the hopping around we relished the chance to finally sit down and relax. So, you’ll have to bear with me as I couldn't be bothered to take many pictures of the food at this point.

We started off with Bacon wrapped smoked jalapenos. Dude. This was the best jalapeno focused dish I’ve had in ages. The pepper was fresh, the bacon smokey and crispy, and the chicken and cheese mixture inside added a nice change of pace to the typical jalapeno popper goo usually found on menus.  A cooling cream sauce drizzled on top played the perfect counterpoint to the fairly spicy jalapeno heat.

For our main course we both kept it simple and ordered burgers. Deana went with the house burger known as the Alley Burger and I selected a Weizen Burger. Both were top notch burgers with great grill flavor.  I think I preferred the Weizen burger out of the two but only because the tangy kraut and ham it was topped with made for a somewhat unfamiliar bite when it comes to burgers.

By this point you would think we would've been ready to throw in the towel but when a fresh strawberry pie is available you don’t have a choice but to make room. No description would do justice to the pie, and really, good strawberry shouldn't need one. Flaky crust, fresh berries, whipped cream and your done.

As far as beer was concerned we didn't really go out of our way to try much at the restaurant, but I couldn't help myself when I saw they had a Gose on offer known as Bad Old Man.  It reminded me a lot of a Gose I homebrewed once upon a time as the recipe is much more traditional and not the tart lacto pucker bomb a lot of American interpretations are turning into. If you've found other Gose’s a little off-putting in the past (I love both interpretations) give this one a try. It reminded me much more of a mildly tart and salty Belgian wheat beer and is very approachable for all types of beer drinkers.

With our stomachs full and our minds tired from a full day of touring Frederick we came to the end of our Fourth of July Weekend Beerventure. If you haven’t been to Frederick I highly recommend making a trip. It’s close enough to Baltimore, beautiful and scenic, and full of a wide variety of food and drinking options. Don’t feel like you have to focus only on beer while you’re there because there are also wineries and cideries nearby to help fill your day and keep everyone happy. Frederick, you’re a heck of a place! I’ll be seeing you soon.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Weekend Beerventures from Baltimore Part 2: Milkhouse Brewery at Stillpoint Farm

Part 1 of our Fourth of July Beerventure can be viewed here.

Our Fourth of July continued as I surprised Deana with a beercentric trip to Frederick.  I grabbed my camera and car keys and we set off for Milkhouse Brewery at Stillpoint Farm on one of the most beautiful days of the summer. The sun lit up the surroundings in all its glory and the sky was painted as blue as the 1980's Kansas City Royals uniforms Bo Jackson made me love as a kid.

You won’t find me excited about car rides that last longer than 3 minutes but the ride to Milkhouse Brewery, located on the way to Frederick in Mt Airy, was really something to take in and appreciate. A drive with wide open space, blue skies, lush rolling green hills, and a perfectly photogenic brewery waiting at the top of a hill will tend to help with my aversion to cars.

Considering this was our first experience with Milkhouse’s beers, we decided to familiarize ourselves with their offerings by ordering a sampler. On this particular day the sampler included Dollyhyde Summer Farmhouse Ale, Goldie’s Best Bitter, East Coast Pale Ale, 4th Step IPA, and Coppermine Creek Dry Stout. Occasionally they have a cask on hand that’s included in the sampler but we weren’t so lucky. I guess that means we’ll just have to make another drive to Frederick to get the full experience.  All of the beers were well balanced and tasty, but the standouts were the Bitter and Farmhouse Ale for me and the East Coast Pale Ale for Deana. The fact that Deana picked a Pale Ale as the standout beer in a lineup speaks volumes to the balance that Milkhouse displayed with all of their recipes. The East Coast Pale was a 5% Ale bittered to 38 IBU’s with Cascade hops grown on site at Stillpoint Farm and evoked similarities to a British Style Pale Ale.

Mid-way through the sampler Deana wisely suggested we get something to eat. We had a few more stops planned and with no breakfast in either of our stomachs food was going to be essential. As fate would have it, Milkhouse had us covered with a wide variety of cheeses and crackers available for purchase in the taproom.  Because I'm not the best at pairing beer with food I decided to trust their handy suggested pairing list. Deana ordered a full pint of Pale Ale and I was looking for more Bitter so we went with fantastic garlic cheddar trusting it would pair well with both.

As we lounged on the patio enjoying the beer and our snack something dawned on me. Most people consider beer to be a combination of 4 simple ingredients consisting of water, malt, hops, and yeast. But that overlooks what might be the most important ingredient of all when it comes to enjoying a beer. Place. Place is a special ingredient that not every beer is lucky enough to have and Milkhouse provides it like no other Maryland brewery I've visited can.  With gorgeous hills of green as far as they can see, hops growing nearby, and the big blue sky above I could have spent all day sitting with a beer reminding myself how lucky I was to sip that beer with Deana by my side.  Our trip to Milkhouse Brewery ended far too quickly, but it definitely won’t be our last. I can’t wait to head back in the fall to enjoy the crisp air and changing leaves.

Click to Read Part 3

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Weekend Beerventures from Baltimore Part 1: Union Craft Brewing and Blue Pit BBQ

It’s been awhile since I've had a Weekend Beerventure. I've been looking for a good time to hit the road again and with a 3-Day Independence Day weekend in front of us Deana and I decided to hop in the car and seek out the local suds.

The weekend started off with a trip to Union Craft Brewing. Not really a Beerventure from Baltimore, but it's how the weekend began so that's where we'll start. Depending on your disposition you might see the glass as half full or half empty, but one thing we can all agree on is that your Union growler should always be completely full. That’s especially true when Old Pro Gose is flowing through the tap system. Old Pro is tart, slightly salty, and the most satisfying local beer around during the summer months. If you've yet to get your hands on a pint of Old Pro it sounds like you need to schedule a beerventure of your own and rectify the situation.

With our growler filled to the brim and a couple pints of Union Anthem patriotically chugged Deana decided we needed to kick our Fourth of July celebration into high gear and find some BBQ. While discussing our dinner options the rain was starting to come down hard and since I've been hearing about Blue Pit BBQ located just seconds up the street from Union we decided to race through the rain and head for the BBQ. Only one problem existed with the plan. Blue Pit BBQ isn't scheduled to start serving BBQ until later in the summer. Safe from the rain and surrounded by a myriad of whiskey we decided to stick around anyway. And besides, we weren't completely left without any food options. There was a limited but enticing menu of Binkerts sausages and a cheese plate on offer.  Deana chose a Weisswurst in hopes of reliving our travels in Germany, but we both agreed that I won the Sausage Selection Extravaganza when I decided to try the Debreziner. The word debreziner was new for me, but it’s essentially a delicious mix of pork and beef meat. In other words, it’s a damn fine hot dog. Though, topped with deli mustard and a stunningly intense green atomic relish there is a reason you won’t ever confuse the debreziner at Blue Pit with an everyday hot dog. The atomic relish really lightened up an otherwise salty and savory bite and while freshness isn't a word that always comes to mind when thinking of sausages it makes for one of the more interesting condiments you’ll come across.

Surprisingly (as far as my own preferences are concerned), an expertly crafted Old Fashioned served as the highlight of the night. Blue Pit has a fair amount of craft beer on hand, but since I already visited Union and I was in a whiskey bar it only made sense to order the libation they’re known for. Knowing next to nothing about whiskey I relied on the advice of the bartender as to which variety I should select to create the quintessential Old Fashioned flavor. I went with his recommendation of Elijah Craig and waited anxiously as he went about mixing the classic cocktail. What I received was a sublime amalgamation of smooth vanilla, citrus, and smoke flavors equally doing their part to take some but not all of the whiskey burn away. In no way do I consider myself a whiskey aficionado, but I would definitely order this drink again.

Blue Pit BBQ might not have a fully functioning kitchen just yet but our visit showed enough promise to convince me that there is a lot to look forward to from them in the near future. Be on the lookout for the smoke and the meantime there are worse things you can do besides grabbing a sausage and sipping on premium whiskey.

Click to Read Part 2
Click to Read Part 3

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A Huge Thanks to The Ale House Columbia

There are few times in life when all of the most important people in your life are gathered together to celebrate the marriage of you and the most important person in your world. When those times do come about all we can hope for is that those moments go off without a hitch and that everyone has a good time. 

That’s exactly what happened a little over a month ago when Deana and I started our Wedding Weekend off with a rehearsal dinner at The Ale House Columbia. Grandma’s, Grandpa’s, Sisters, Brothers, Parents, and friends all came together to have a good time, share a great meal, and celebrate the awesome that is Deana and myself. It didn't hurt that Oliver’s Ales are always on tap at Pratt Street’s sister restaurant either. 

The night was fantastic and one I won’t soon forget no matter how much the 10% ABV of Williams Sour Winter tried to convince me otherwise.  Laughs were shared between my brother and me as we traded beer tasting notes. Kisses were shared in between bites of delicious Prime Rib and Crab cakes The Ale House prepared for us. And maybe most enjoyable of all, I got to share my love for craft beer with my Grandpap as I had him try just about every beer that was put in front of me. 

The night was perfect, but it couldn't have been without the superior professionalism the staff displayed all night long. When our party showed up 30 minutes earlier than planned they didn't bat an eye lash. If a glass of wine wasn't enough they were quick to find a bottle. If your Coventry Cream was looking a little low they were right behind you with a Draft Punk. All night long they were on their game and Deana and I can’t thank them enough. 

It was a great meal shared with the most important people in our lives and it went off perfectly thanks to the staff. If you ever find yourself planning a big meal don't hesitate to consider The Ale House. They won’t let you down.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Chaps Pit Beef Revisited

It's been almost two years since my original review of Chaps Pit Beef went up. The post wasn't a bad review, per se, but it definitely wasn't as glowing as it might have been given all of the accolades Chaps has received over the years.

To sum up the original review, I stated that the sandwiches I tried up to that point weren't bad, but that I simply didn't understand why they roused up so much fanfare. And for the longest time my attitude didn't change in regards to Chaps. I never outright stopped visiting them, but it was one of those situations where visits only took place if it was absolutely convenient for me.

But then one day a light bulb switched on for me. I can't say what it was for sure that changed other than to say the meats seemed extra juicy and perfectly smoked. It was almost like visiting a new restaurant despite having been to Chaps numerous times through the years. My change in opinion was so profound that I went from visiting Chaps once or twice year to finding myself fantasizing about trips to Chaps on an almost weekly basis. One week I'd be counting down the minutes until I could sink myself into the overflowing mound of meat appropriately known as The Habbit and the following week I'd be excited to try something new such as a Reuben. Deana and I are now to the point where suggesting Chaps for dinner is met with a "didn't we just eat there".

So, what's the moral of this story? Why did I feel compelled to come full circle and make an amendment to my original review? It's as simple as this. There aren't many people out there who don't already love Chaps, but if you happen to be on the fence like I originally was let this post serve as a reminder to give them another try. They really do put out a product that is high quality and it's only a matter of finding the right menu item for your taste buds before you realize what the rest of us have already learned. Chaps Pit Beef is awesome. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Session Beers and Blogger Meetups

Geez! More than a month has gone by since I last posted. Getting married is time consuming business! I'm still not there yet, but I'm drawing near the finish line and you can expect regular postings in the very near future. While it's true that I've taken a short sabbatical from writing, that hasn't stopped me from taking little trips and discovering the best that Maryland Beer has to offer.

One such trip involved a meetup a few weekends ago with a blogger I've been following since way back before I really knew what proper beer even was. That blogger is pictured above on my right and he is Tom Cizauskas of Yours for Good Fermentables. But Tom isn't just any old blogger. Tom is a guy that has played a substantial role in Maryland's beer scene over the last 20+ years and it was a privilege to pick his brain for a few hours. He's an encyclopedia of local beer knowledge. Oh, and any time you come across Cask Ale locally it's in no small part to the efforts of Tom and the people he's worked with in the past to help pave the way.

While talking with Tom I learned an abundance about local beer history, but something beer related struck me on the ride home after our meeting that had nothing to do with our actual conversation. Our discussion lasted a solid two hours and spanned three or four beers. Not only was driving not an issue, but I realized I was able to give our conversation my full attention and that's something that's not always possible when the ABV of beers are running a little higher than I'd like.

As fate would have it, we met at Pratt Street Alehouse where there were multiple beers weighing in at less than 3.5% ABV on tap. The first beer was the DuClaw collaboration Back to Basix which is fantastic Ale made with Pale Malt and Amarillo hops. At 2.8% it maintains a surprisingly full body but played the part of the perfect session beer as Tom and I discussed Maryland Beer. Also on offer was the 3.2% Spring Session Ale. This beer is made with English Lager Malt, flaked oats and corn,and hopped with Mt Hood and Citra hops. It was the perfect beer to bring along to a conversation as Spring Session Ale was delicious but unobtrusive, just as any quality session beer should be.

One of my biggest hopes for Maryland beer is for low alcohol beers to become more and more prominent across our region. Beer is a social drink no matter the level of alcohol, but the coherency of conversations has an inverse relationship as the ABV creeps higher. High alcohol beers have their place, certainly, but so to do the little but delicious beers like Back to Basix. So, here's to another...and another...and another. Cheers to Session beer! And Cheers to Tom!