A few months ago my brother and his dame came to Baltimore to visit over Memorial Day weekend. One of the things my brother and I share in common (outside of being sexy as hell) is a great love of beer. With that in mind, I tried to plan a weekend that featured beer and food. As I mentioned before in my Judge's Bench post, Main St in Ellicott City is one of my favorite streets of all time. But as many times as I've been there I had never visited Ellicott Mills Brewing Company. With my brother in town I had the perfect excuse to make the drive over there and finally see what this place is all about.
We spent the earlier half of the day floating down a river and after a long day in the sun we all wanted a good beer. Having never been there I was expecting a beer menu to be on the table listing their different offerings or at the very least a waiter who would be eager to fill us in as to what they brewed. But there was nothing to be found. Eventually, I asked the waiter and he ran over the options but I was a little disappointed that the brewery kind of underplayed the whole brewery thing they have going on. I ended up trying their Boomerang Australian Lager. It was okay. There was a bit of a sour taste coming through that I wasn't expecting in a lager. It actually had me wondering if I had some bad beer, but eventually I got used to it after a few sips and by the end of the night it was my favorite beer they offered. However, the competition wasn't exactly fierce. I also tried their Marzen and Maibock. The marzen was buttery, totally underwhelming and watery. The Maibock was a little better and had a slightly sweet malt presence, but again, it was watery as hell. As far as the beer went that night, we all left wishing it had been a little better.
For an appetizer, my brother and I decided to get a little adventurous and try their Cajun Alligator. The picture above doesn't do justice to the lusciousness that was this alligator. Before you ask, yes, it tastes like chicken....chewy chicken. For me, though, it was all about the Cajun sauce that was spooned all over the alligator, rice, and peppers. It reminded me of a spicy curry. I might not go back for the beer, but I'd definitely go back if the alligator was still on the menu.
When dinner time rolled around two of us left happy and two of us left wishing we'd have ordered something else. My brother, Matt, had the crab and shrimp Etoufee. I knew he enjoyed his dinner when I was taking roll call at the end of the night, because when I asked everyone to give a brief summary of their dinner he couldn't put together a full sentence. He said something to the effect of "sweet.....supple.....large". After I checked to make sure he wasn't mildly retarded I asked him to expand on that eloquent description and he said he loved his dinner because the crab and shrimp were both sweet, large, and there was piece of each in nearly every bite. I'm not a huge fan of seafood, but I do know when I order something like that it's nice when they don't skimp on the good stuff.
His dame, Amy, on the other hand, was not all that impressed with her fried Ravioli. Before I even got her feedback at the end of the meal I had a feeling she wasn't going to like it. When they sat her plate down I remember looking at it and thinking "man, that looks dry". And that was her biggest complaint. The ravioli were dry and the sauce wasn't very good. I didn't taste any of it, but based on the eye test alone this thing was in trouble from the get go.
Deana couldn't decided between seafood or steak. So what did she do? She ordered both and ended up with the Steak and Cake meal. Once again, when the waiter placed her plate in front of her I knew she wasn't going to like the steak. It was this weird looking, fatty, perfect circle, thin piece of oddness. It reminded me of those ham steaks you buy at the grocery store that are already cut for you. I've never seen anything like that in a steak so I kept my mouth shut and hoped she liked it. But like it, she did not. Her crab cake was a little bit better and she gave them props for using mostly crab and not a whole lot of filler.
The last meal of the night was mine. I decided to go with the ribs. When I saw that they were marinated in beer and served with beer BBQ sauce I was sold. How can you go wrong ordering a meal with beer playing such a key role when you're in a brewery? The ribs were delicious. The meat was fall of the bone tender and the sauce was nice and tangy but still very savory. I only ordered half a rack, but a full rack would have been easy to finish.
On the whole, Ellicott Mills Brewing Company was hit and miss. The beer was mediocre at best. And while some of the food was excellent some left a little to be desired. I could see myself going back there if the stars aligned just right one night, but it's hard to convince myself that it would be worth the 30 or 40 minute drive I'd have to make to get there.
Price: Upper end of Average
Recommendation: Visit, but be careful what you order
What to order: Cajun Alligator