Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Ciao Bella

It's been quite awhile since I've been able to flex my bitter blogger muscle. Unfortunately, the review you're about to read will be full of said flexing.

Our visit started off full of promise as we entered into the small, nicely decorated restaurant. From an atmosphere point of view Ciao Bella is as good as place as any to go for an intimate date. However, the quality of the food and the prices they charge make it very tough for me to recommend a visit. And if I take into consideration the annoyingly long wait (I'll get into more later) I had attempting to pay my bill I can easily say that I won't be visiting Ciao Bella a second time.

We started off our dinner with an appetizer of Shrimp Oregnata. The shrimp tasted just fine, but it came out plated a sloppy mess and to this day I can't understand why they thought 3 shrimp was a good number to serve. If you're a party of 2 or 4 (pretty common sizes)  someone is only getting one or none of the $11 shrimp. It just doesn't make any sense.

For our main course, Deana decided on the Chicken Marsala and I went with Chicken Parmigiana. The Marsala was pretty good. The chicken was tender and while the sauce was flavorful it was a little on the thin side. Looking on the bright side, though, there was plenty of meaty mushrooms which is always key when it comes to a good Marsala. Overall, it was an acceptable dish, but not something I'd run back for.

My Parmigiana, and I say this as a self described Chicken Parm expert, was meh. Yes, I was served an ample amount of chicken. And yes, the sauce was pretty damn good as it was bright with plenty of that acidic tomato taste I love so much. But, the chicken wasn't tender at all and a tough piece of chicken is one of the unforgivable sins a chef can commit when making this dish.

At this point of the night, I was still debating a return trip to Ciao Bella. Despite the food only being okay, I really enjoyed the setting and our waitress was extremely nice. Nice as she was, though, she was terrible at managing her time. At the end of our meal she stopped by to box our food and hand off the check. And then we waited.....and waited.....and waited.....and waited for her to take our money. At least 30 minutes passed and she still hadn't stopped back to take our payment. Eventually, I got so pissed that I took our check up to the hostess and asked her if she could take care of the bill. She gave me a look of annoyance before she handed off our money to someone else who proceeded to take another 5 minutes to get our change back to us. By that time, a return visit to this restaurant had no shot of ever happening. I know people get busy. I know people have bad nights. I get it. With that said, 35 minutes of waiting to pay a bill coupled with mediocre food and a pretty pricey menu isn't a winning combo. If you're visiting Little Italy believe me when I say there are much better options to spend your money on.

Price: A little high given the quality
Recommendation: Little Italy has better options available.
What to Order: ?

Ciao Bella on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Bang Bang Mongolian Grill

Looking for somewhere quick, fun, and delicious to eat? Bang Bang Mongolian Grill might just be your place. This past summer, on nights when I was headed into the city for an O's game and wanted something quick to eat, Bang Bang came through for me quite a few times.

The way this place works is simple. You order the size bowl you want and then go about filling it up with a wide variety of ingredients. There is beef, chicken, pork, seafood, veggies, pick everything that is going in your dish all the way down to the sauce and spices. Once you have your bowl filled up, you select a starch (yakisoba noodles, rice, and a few I can't remember) and hand your bowl over to the cooks as they prepare your meal right in front of you.

Now don't worry about the whole selecting your own spices and sauce thing. If you aren't sure what flavors go well together there are a few recipe suggestions posted on a board in front of you. Every time I've gone, I ended up with some sort of Szechuan Noodle hybrid and loved it.

When people ask me what this place is like I describe it as a Noodles and Co. if you were picking the ingredients. The best part of all is that you get a little bit of a show while they are cooking your food. When it gets really crowded it's kind of fun watching the cooks run around the circle going to town.
I guess the biggest compliment I can pay Bang Bang Mongolian is that I'm more than happy to eat here almost every time Deana suggests it. She is a big fan of Chinese food, while I'm happy if I eat it two times in a year. Lucky for us, we found this place. If you haven't been there, this is a great place to get a quick meal.
 Price: Low end of Average
Recommendation: Hit 'em up
What to Order: Whatever you want, it's build your own style.

Bangbang Mongolian Grill on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Homebrewing: American Cream Ale

Well, it looks like I better get to this post while I still have a beer or two left. I wanted to be sure to give as accurate a depiction of this beer as possible, and what better way to do that than drink some homebrew while I'm writing about it.

My third homebrew was probably the most simple, but it also stands as the favorite in my short homebrewing career. I decided to do an American Cream Ale at the behest of Lady Deana and we're both glad I did. Below is a description of the general guidelines I followed for what I eventually called my "Smooth Creaminal Ale".

  • 3.3 of Light Malt Extract (LME) 
  • 2 lbs of Pilsen Dry Malt Extract (DME)
  • 1 lb of Corn Sugar
  • 1.25 oz of Williamette bittering Hops
  • 1 oz Williamette Hops for aroma
  • Sachet Dry Yeast
Basic Instructions:

  1. Boil 2.5 Gallons of Water. Turn heat off and stir in the LME. Return to Boil
  2. Add bittering hops
  3. After 40 minutes, add DME and Corn Sugar
  4. At 45 minute mark add the aroma hops and boil for 10 more minutes

Taste and Appearance:Smooth Creaminal Ale pours a gorgeous shade of gold with an epically fluffy head. The beer is pretty clean and clear and smells of sweet corn. On a summer day this beer goes down incredibly easy. There is a delicious sweet corn flavor and a velvety mouthfeel that is absolutely addictive. This is one time I'm glad I don't keg my homebrew because I could have really went through this stuff if I had it chilled and ready to go. It's a simple beer, but I think I'll be hard pressed to ever make something that is easier drinking.

Lessons Learned:

I didn't have the ability to at the time, but I've since purchased a second carboy and if I were to make this beer again I would definitely put this in a secondary just to clear it up a bit more and make it even more visually appealing. I also wouldn't drop a box of 12 bombers on the ground next time around. While I was bottle conditioning, I went down in the basement to spin the bottles around to ensure the yeast was awake and doing its job. While doing that I knocked another beer down. Instinctively, I grabbed for the falling bottle and at the same time forgot to hold on to the box I already had in my hands. Boom! I lost a beer or two, but those that survived the fall tended to taste a bit oxidized when I finally got around to drinking them. So, yeah, don't drop your bottles on the ground but do give an American Cream Ale a shot in your homebrew adventures. It's an easy drinker and a definite crowd pleaser.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Red Brick Station

Told ya it wouldn't be as long before my next restaurant review! I'm back and ready to tell you all about Red Brick Station. Of all the restaurants I've ever reviewed, this is by far the one I've visited the most thanks to it's close proximity to my place of employment.

Red Brick is awesome for a few simple reasons.
  1. I can walk there for lunch
  2. They are a brewpub
  3. They have good sandwiches
  4. And they have some of the best happy hour specials around
On Monday you have 1/2 price burgers. Tuesday (my favorite) you get dollar beers. And on Friday you can dine on dollar Roast Beef sandwiches. Beer and Beef on the cheap? Now you understand why I visit so often.

On the beer front, they usually offer 5 staple beers and a seasonal. Their Red, IPA, and Stout are all excellent. If forced to pick a favorite I think I'd have to go with Something Red. This is the beer I compared my first ever homebrew with to make sure it didn't suck.  It's a nice red color full of earthy malt flavor that goes down really smooth without getting in the way of the food.

And speaking of the food, Red Brick Station really excel at sandwiches. I've had the French Dip (pictured below), Cheese steak, Pulled Pork, Monte Cristo, and Rachael and I've never been disappointed once.

Red Brick Station is a great place to visit if you're looking to try a brewpub out for the first time or the fiftieth. The beer is good without being intimidating to a newbie. And the food is good. It's simple, but it's good and it's one of my go to restaurants. Give it a visit!

Price: Average (great happy hour)
Recommendation: Visit ASAP
What to Order: Something Red and a Cheesesteak
Red Brick Station on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Sip and Bite

Wow! I really am behind on my restaurant reviews. There are plenty of excuses, but none of them matter. Sorry, for the massive delay between the last review and this one. I'll do my best to never let that much time pass between one restaurant review and the next. Even though I've added a lot of beer specific posts lately, I don't want anyone to think the Baltimore restaurant scene is no longer part of this site. So, with all the apologies behind us, let's move on to my first ever visit to Sip and Bite 

Our visit took place at the end of a very nice weekend spent with my brother and his lady. They wanted to hit up a Diners Drive-ins and Dives place before they went home and with only breakfast left before they left we headed to Sip and Bite. With their excellent reputation for breakfast it seemed like a natural choice. Fortunately, we got there at the perfect time as we barely had to wait for a seat in the semi-small old school diner/cafe style restaurant. If there was any advice to offer future visitors it's that you should bring your patience in addition to your appetitte. Waiting for a seat in line can take a bit of time, but in the end it's more than worth it.

What you're looking at in the picture above is one of the best breakfast sandwiches I've ever had. If you're getting a late start to your day and you arrive at Sip and Bite when it's not quite breakfast and a little too early for lunch, this is the sandwich for you. Known as the Sip and Bite Supreme Breakfast Sandwich you get a hamburger topped with egg, melty cheese and a nice thick piece of country ham. Delicious doesn't even being to describe it. I think my favorite part of this sandwich is the thick piece of ham they top the sandwich with. It's really juicy and far exceeded the thin piece of lunch meat I was expecting. I also ordered home fries, and they did not disappoint. The potato was crunchy on the outside and creamy on the inside with the perfect amount of onion mixed in.

Watching their Diners Drive-Ins and Dives episode we found out they were famous for their crab cakes. Due to some sort of malfunction I don't do crab, but the rest of my party was quite disappointed that we arrived just a bit too late as they had sold out of cakes earlier that morning. Maybe next time! Fortunatly for us the disappointment was short lived as the omelettes and breakfast wraps we ordered kept everyone more than satisfied.

Sip and Bite has definitely earned a second visit from this blogger. The breakfast is some of the best I've had in a very long time and their offerings are unique and tasty. Other than a crabcake or two for some of my friends, what more could I ask for?

Price: Super Cheap
Recommendation: It needs to be your next visit when looking for breakfast
What to order: Sip and Bite Supreme Breakfast Sandwich

Sip & Bite Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Beer Tastings: Hop City Barking Squirrel Lager

I've been on a hot streak with Lagers lately. Just a week or so ago I had an excellent Black Lager in Union Craft Brewing's Blackwing Lager, and today I picked a winner when I came across Hop City Barking Squirrel Lager at the local distributor.
Barking Squirrel is the flagship beer of Hop City, a brewery located in Ontario, Canada. The beer pours a clear amber color with a head that sticks around for quite some time. Visually, it's really quite beautiful. If I were tasked with finding a picture of the prototypical beer, Barking Squirrel would be in the running.
In addition to the great appearance you're also treated to a beer that stand outs aromatically as well. I couldn't get enough of the delicious malt aroma. Without much effort, you can find yourself in a field full of grains just by taking a little whiff of Barking Squirrel.
But we all know everything boils down to flavor. Well, my friends, Barking Squirrel Lager does not let us down. Initially, you're hit with excellent earthy malt flavors. There is a little sweetness there followed by a subtle toffee or caramel flavor on the finish. All of these flavors are balanced perfectly with the perfect amount of hops. There's also a unique mouthfeel to this beer. Middle of the mouth there is slightly dry feeling, but by the time you've swallowed the beer you're left with a very smooth and refreshing lager.
True, my Canadian beer portfolio is rather small, but I'm going to declare this the best Canadian beer I've ever had. Looks like I've found a new Canadian beer to watch hockey with.....well, if the NHL ever gets their act together.
Style: Lager
ABV: 5.0
IBU: 24

Sriracha Thai Chile Hot Wings

I'm going to venture off the beaten path and offer up a recipe that is a result of what I consider to be my culinary pinnacle up to this point in my life. Yesterday, I went to Noodles and Company to have their Pad Thai for lunch. I was going through my typical Pad Thai process of adding a little Sriracha, Soy Sauce, and lime juice when it dawned on me that those 3 flavors would probably make a pretty dominant wing sauce. Below is the recipe I concocted. I made it for around 18 wings, but it would probably be good for up to 24 or so.

  • 1/2 a bottle of Sriracha Chile Sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons of Soy Sauce
  • 2 Limes juiced
  • 2 Tablespoons of Sugar

Put all of that magic in a sauce pan and let it heat through for however long you feel like. I baked my wings in the oven at 375 for about 40 minutes. When they came out, I poured the sauce over the wings in a mixing bowl and then went to town.

Keep in mind Sriracha is spicier than your typical grocery store hot sauce. It's not flaming hot, but it definitely packs more punch than the minimally spicy vinegar known as Red Hot. To combat the heat, I used this recipe to make homemade Blue Cheese dressing. I highly recommend making your own dressing as Bottled Blue Cheese is similar to bottled lemon juice in that it is one of those things that should never be used due to the god awful flavor it has. I substituted low fat Sour Cream and Mayo to make it slightly healthier and it tasted just fine.

If you're looking for a wing sauce that is a little different from the everyday Buffalo or BBQ flavor I can't recommend this recipe enough. It was delicious. And if you do decide to try it, let me know what you think.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Beer Tastings: DuClaw Mad Bishop

We took a pretty big trip around the fall craft circuit this week. 10 Beers in 5 days is quite a lot so I thought I'd end the journey close to home with one of Maryland's own. Last up this week is DuClaw's Mad Bishop.

DuClaw's take on an Oktoberfest is a Marzen done right. It stays to true to the German style and never goes over the top in regards to the flavor profile.

Appearance wise, we get a medium brown colored beer that is crystal clear thanks to an eight week lagering process. In addition to the quality appearance, the lagering process also helps produce an extremely smooth drinking Oktoberfest. Mad Bishop tastes just like a German Oktoberfest should with a toasted malt presence being at the forefront, but differentiates itself just enough with a delicious crisp caramel flavor on the finish.

Maryland drinkers, if you're out hunting something local and in season this is a beer to find. My only hope is that I come across one more before they are all gone this year.

Style: Marzen
ABV: 5.8
IBU: 24

Beer Tastings: Schlafly Pumpkin Ale

For the 9th Beer Review in 5 days let's talk about Schlafly Pumpkin Ale. Based on my twitter feed this beer has to be one of the most sought after Pumpkin Ale's in the country. EVERYONE seemed to hunting it down anywhere they could. Luckily, I was finally able to find some of my own about 2 weeks ago. Now I understand the hype. This stuff is good. 

Schalfly Pumpkin Ale, as evidenced in the picture, pours a gorgeous golden orange/faint light brown that evokes the colors of fall and pumpkins. The nose on this one is excellent. You get an aroma that might be as close to Pumpkin Pie as you can possibly get in a beer. You have all the smells of a traditional pumpkin pie, but there is also a hint of brown sugar and vanilla that you'd have to be crazy not to love.

Can the taste of Schlafly Pumpkin Ale live up to the spot on appearance and aroma of this beer? You bet it can! All I could think of the entire time I was drinking this beer was "Wow, a pumpkin beer that tastes like pumpkin!" What a novel idea. The fruity pumpkin flavor comes through strong and is spiced perfectly. It's never too sweet or too spicy. It's always just right....just like the third bowl of porridge.

If I were ranking the top Pumpkin Ale's I've ever had, this has to be in the Top 3 along with DFH Punkin' Ale and Heavy Seas The Great Pumpkin. With that kind of endorsement is it even necessary for me to make a recommendation? Go hunt this one down before it's gone till next year.

Style: Pumpkin Ale
ABV: 8.0
IBU: 16

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Beer Tastings: Breckenridge Autumn Ale

Man, talk about dedication! After promising 10 reviews this week I almost shorted you guys one tonight. I hope you appreciate it! Hell, even if you don't I have fun writing these things so que sera. So, on to Breckenridge Autumn Ale? Alrighty then...

Autumn Ale is quality! The end. Just kidding.

Autumn Ale is considered an Old Ale and it pours a dark brown/black color almost of the stout variety. Aromatically, you'll pickup chocolate and coffee notes in addition to a roasted or toasted malt presence.

Surprisingly, not only did Autumn Ale look but it drank a lot like a stout. It was fairly bitter and the over riding taste I could pick up on was a dark chocolate and coffee flavor that I quite liked. This lands in the realm of fall beers with original flavors and it's definitely worth a pickup. It might seem like I'm being lazy or overselling this beer because I don't have a whole to say but that isn't the case at all. No, this isn't a deeply complex beer but that's precisely what makes it so great. It's a straight forward beer that tastes good. Sometimes, that's all you need.

Style: Old Ale
ABV: 6.7
IBU: 21

Beer Tastings: Sam Adams Hazel Brown

Thanks to the Sam Adams Fall Sampler I have yet another one of their offerings to blog about. Today, we're talking about the simple but delicious Hazel Brown.

If I were asked to describe Sam Adams founder Jim Koch in one sentence I would say that he is a master of the well balanced beer. I've had at least 10-15 (maybe more?) of his beers through the years and almost always I'm amazed by the balance he can find in a beer. Hazel Brown is a beer that fits that mold.

This beautiful fall seasonal pours a, you guessed it, deep brown with a little amber/orange hue in there to give it the perfect fall look. Aromatically, this is one of the best smelling beers I've come across. You get toffee, hazelnut, chocolate, caramel, and I'm even finding a cereal smell in there. It smells so good, I honestly can't tell you if I like the smell or the taste better (and that's no knock on the taste).

The flavor profile matches up exactly to the aroma. You get a delicious nutty, carmel flavored beer that could be described as liquid desert. Despite that description Hazel Brown never becomes overly sweet or malty because it's balanced perfectly with Hallertau Mittelfrueh Noble hops and East Kent Goldings.

Sam Adams Hazel Brown is a very approachable beer and it's simply delicious. If I had a fire pit, I'd love to spend a cool night out in front of the fire sipping on this delicious beer all night. Do not pass this beer up.

Style: Brown Ale
ABV: 5.2
IBU: 20

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Beer Tastings: Flying Dog Dogtoberfest

Well, why don't we just hop from one Maryland beer to another? And while we're in season, why not talk about another Fall Beer? Flying Dog Dogtoberfest is today's beer. 
Dogtoberfest is okay. I feel bad just coming out and saying it's nothing better than okay because I really wanted to like this beer. It's a fall beer and it's local. Right off the bat my bias is in full effect and it shouldn't be very hard for me to be excited about this. Unfortunately, Flying Dog just didn't do it for me with this one.
Dogtoberfest pours a crystal clear copper color that really hits home on the fall vibe. But that's about all the excitement I could muster. Tastewise it's just way too sweet up front. They almost save it with a fairly substantial hop finish, but no matter how many times I revisited this one (4 beers) hoping my palate might have adjusted over time, I couldn't get over the initial sweetness. I was looking for a toasted or roasted malt flavor somewhere in there to show that lives up to the Oktoberfest style, but it just never happened for me. It pains me to say it, but if you're asking me for a Fall beer suggestion Dogtoberfest isn't the one. 

Style: Marzen
ABV: 5.3
IBU: 30

Beer Tastings: Union Craft Brewing Blackwing Lager

Finally, I got my hands on a Union Craft Brewing beer after many months of hearing nothing but good things about these guys. And after hearing that they won a gold medal at the GABF a week or so ago I knew I needed to get my act together and hunt some down sooner than later.

Tonight, I got my hands on their Blackwing Lager. I don't know what my expectations were pre-sip, but as soon as the beer touched my tongue I automatically became a fan of Union Craft Brewing and will definitely be making their beer a bigger part of my life. B the site just put out a Top 20 list of Maryland beers and I can say with full confidence that the Blackwing Lager could easily hang with anything in the Top 5. It's that good.

Enough pumping them up, though, let's get on to the taste. The Blackwing Lager lives up to it's name and pours a beautiful black color with a fairly substantial creamy head. The aroma is wonderful. Initially, I thought it smelled a lot like a Stout with roasted coffee coming to the forefront. Not surprisingly, once you're done taking in the color and aroma and finally taste the beer you get a bitter coffee flavor with dark chocolate notes. At times I even thought I was picking up hints of black licorice. And while this beer is full of delicious flavor it lives up to the Lager name and drinks very smoothly.

If you live in the Baltimore area and you see Union on tap, do you yourself a favor and try them out. Considering the Blackwing Lager was a winner and their Gold Medal winning Altbier is already getting national attention I think it's safe to assume that this new brewery is top notch.

Style: Black Lager
ABV: 4.9
IBU: ?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Beer Tastings: Newcastle Werewolf

I wouldn't have guessed it beforehand (and after reading a few other not so thrilled online reviews I'm starting to wonder if my palate was out of sorts that night) but Newcastle Werewolf is easily my favorite fall beer that I've tried for the first time this year (not all time).

On the taste front you get a slightly dry drinking beer with a touch of fruit flavor and delicious chocolate notes. It's completely original from anything else I've tried that would be considered a fall seasonal.

If I'm being honest, I'm not sure I'd classify this beer as a fall beer on a blind taste test (kind of reads more wintery in my mind for whatever that's worth). However, what I found most fun and what really brought Werewolf all together for me was the awesome color it pours. You can't fully appreciate it via the picture above, but Werewolf pours the coolest brownish red tint I've ever seen. It really lived up to the "Blood Red Ale" they post on the label. I hate when I hear them use this word on Food Network, but I found Werewolf to be quite whimsical and I really enjoyed that.

So, there you have it. Newcastle Werewolf is a totally unique fall beer that doesn't seem to take itself too seriously and is something you can really sit back and have fun with. If you see it shelves, be sure to pick this one up. This would be a great gateway beer to get some of your friends to try something other than Miller Lite.

Style: Red Ale
ABV: 5.0
IBU: ?

Beer Tastings: Goose Island Harvest Ale

I promised you five straight days of double beer reviews and I'm going to keep my word. Welcome to day number two. Let's get right into it.

Harvest Ale is Goose Island's fall seasonal. Now, before I get into the review of this beer I want to make sure that I mention that Goose Island is one of my favorite breweries of the past year. Their Honker's Ale and Mild Winter are two of the best beers I've had in recent times. The Harvest Ale, though, is not one of my favorite fall beers.

If someone poured this beer into a pint glass and handed it to me without me knowing what it was I would love it. This beer is flat solid. In fact, it tastes A LOT like Honker's Ale. And while I already mentioned that I love Honker's Ale the fact that Harvest tastes so similar is my biggest problem. I just don't get anything that says "fall beer" to me here. The predominant feature of this beer, both in aroma and flavor, is the Cascade Hops. It's such a strong flavor that almost everything going on with this beer (such as the variety of malts being used) gets overshadowed.

If I'm judging this beer on it's own I would have no choice but to give it high marks. But if I'm placing Harvest Ale within the realm of fall seasonals it falls a bit flat for me. So, do I recommend this one? I don't know. If you're looking for a tasty beer, absolutely, give this one a try. But if it's a top notch fall beer you're after I think I'd look elsewhere.

Style: American Extra Special Bitter
ABV: 5.7
IBU: 35

Monday, October 15, 2012

Beer Tastings: Lakefront Pumpkin Lager

How many fall seasonal beer reviews have I done now? And how many were a Pumpkin Ale? And how many more do I have lined up that are Pumpkin Ales? The answer is a ton. Yes, I love Pumpkin Ale and look forward to them every fall, but it's always nice when you get something slightly different after so much of the same. That's where Lakefront Brewery Pumpkin Lager comes into play. A pumpkin beer that's not an ale? How bout dem pumpkins?

Before we get into the taste, I think the coolest thing about this beer is that the recipe was derived from something Thomas Jefferson brewed at his home in Monticello. If it was good enough for one of the most brilliant minds in US history, hey, it's good enough for me. I like a beer with history.

But on to the taste! Unfortunately, this beer isn't out of this world, but it's solid and I give it bonus points simply for being a pumpkin beer that's not an ale. Aroma wise you smell all of the typical pumpkin spices. However, the initial and most prominent flavor is pumpkin and you only get the cinnamon, nutmeg, etc. flavors on the finish. The spice profile is managed quite nicely as their role in the beer isn't as prominent as you'd think based on the aroma, but you do get a spicy peppercorn kind of bite on the end that's kind pretty interesting.

Would I go out of my way to find this beer? Probably not. It's good, but it's not worth a serious hunt. With that said, if you run across this on your travels it's worth trying for no other reason than it's a pumpkin flavored beer that's not an ale. I know I've mentioned that quite a few times throughout this post, but if you're like me and try fall beers with reckless abandon like I do, a curveball like this never hurts simply mix things up.

Style: Lager
ABV: 6.0
IBU: ?

Beer Tastings: Sam Adams Dunkelweizen

Well, I guess it's time I stop being lazy and start posting on the blog again. I think the last time I put finger to keyboard was well over a month ago. Vacation really took my momentum, but I'm back and back in a big way. The promise I'm making to myself is two beer reviews per day over the next 5 days. And since we're still in the season, most if not all of the reviews will center on fall seasonals. First up is the beer I have within arms reach, Sam Adams Dunkelweizen.

This is the first year I've come across their Dunkelweizen and I'm pretty happy I did. This one in particular came with the Sam Adams fall collection. I haven't seen this beer in 6 packs or single bottles so if you're looking to pick this one up the fall collection seems like your best bet.

The Dunkelweizen is essentially a dark hefeweizen. Hefeweizen is probably my favorite style of beer to drink, but it's not every day you come across dark hefe's. In fact, this might only be my second or third beer in that style. Right away, you'll notice the hefeweizen characteristics in the flavor profile. There is a banana/bubble gum flavor and a little bit of clove but what's nice is that all these flavors are all mellowed out by a nice caramel flavor that results from the toasted malt. In the end, you have a very well balanced beer that drinks incredibly smoothly even though the flavor profile isn't something you come across everyday. If you like fall beers but you're sick of Marzens and Pumpkin Ale's, this beer is worth seeking out.

Style: Dunkelweizen
ABV: 5.1
IBU: 13

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Beer Tastings: Sam Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale

Is it still fall? Good, because I've still got a ton of fall beer reviews to get through.

If you've have had one fall seasonal chances are the beer you've tasted is Sam Adams Oktoberfest. In my mind Oktoberfest is probably the highest distributed fall beer in the country. Unbeknownst to me, they also make a pumpkin beer and I was lucky enough to taste Sam Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale recently.

Harvest Pumpkin Ale pours a nice caramel brown/orange color and leaves you with an ample head that's full of delicious pumpkin and traditional spice aroma. From a taste perspective, Harvest Pumpkin rates as average. Typically, Sam Adams beer always comes off as incredibly well balanced no matter which beer you're talking about. But this Ale is just missing something. You notice a fairly subtle spice flavor initially and a bit of fruit flavor on the finish, but there isn't a whole lot going on middle of the mouth. Oddly enough, the first couple of sips I took I tasted more plum flavor than I did pumpkin.
On the whole, Harvest Pumpkin isn't a bad beer but it's very much middle of the pack when compared to all the other pumpkin beers on the market. If you're picking one Sam Adams seasonal this fall, stick with Oktoberfest.
Style: Pumpkin Ale
ABV: 5.7
IBU:  14

Monday, September 17, 2012

Beer Tastings: Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale

Shall we keep the fall beer reviews rolling? Alright, then, let's get into another one. Today, we're talking about Weyerbacher's Imperial Pumpkin Ale. This is the first year I've had the chance to try this one out and I have a feeling I'll be adding it to the yearly rotation.

The color of Imperial Pumpkin Ale is one of the prettier pours I've made in awhile. It literally looks you are pouring liquid autumn as a medium brown/amber/light orange beer fills into your glass. Visually, you can't ask for much more.

Based off of the Imperial tag in the name I was bracing myself for a beer that might be a little harsh/alcoholy. Happily, I was greeted with a very easy drinking ale and there was none of that heavy alcohol flavor I was expecting. You do, however, find a well balanced mix of the traditional pumpkin ale spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and cardamom). Almost all of the flavor is middle of the mouth as you aren't hit with very much flavor at the beginning and you're left with just a faint pumpkin flavor on the finish.

I could really see myself getting in trouble with this beer. It drinks so smooth, but at 8% ABV it wouldn't be long before I'd be feeling it. Definitely a weekend drinker! If you happen across the Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale this fall, don't be afraid to pick this one up. In a world full of pumpkin beers, this one stands near the top.

Style: Imperial Pumpkin  Ale
ABV: 8.0
IBU:  ?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Heavy Seas Alehouse

A few weeks ago I wrote about the trip we made to Ellicott Mills Brewing Company when my brother and his girlfriend came down to visit. You might remember me mentioning that one of the things we share in common is a love of beer. So, keeping to the beer theme, I decided to take them to the Heavy Seas Alehouse. Once upon a previous visit we did a Heavy Seas Brew tour and over the years we've all developed into big Heavy Seas fans. Our trip to the Alehouse only served to make us bigger fans as we ate like kings.

 We came to the restaurant straight from an O's game on what was probably the first true scorcher of the summer. We were hot and famished so we went a little nuts when it came to appetizers. I decided to order shrimp cocktail and my brother decided to try their cornbread. After taking one peek at the cornbread, I immediately ordered another one so that Deana and I could share as well.

The shrimp cocktail was some of the best I've had. The shrimp were big and meaty and the homemade cocktail sauce made me very happy. But the real star of the appetizer party was the cornbread. It was beyond good. The cornbread itself was warm, sweet, and moist. Left alone, I would have been totally happy. By the time you throw in the crispy bacon, fresh jalapenos, and what they call a pale ale rarebit (essentially cheese sauce) you are in cornbread heaven. I can't say enough good things about this stuff. This was the best cornbread I've ever had.

For dinner, everyone got something a little different. My brother's girlfriend, Amy, ordered the Cavatelli. She had nothing but good things to say about her meal calling it delicious and the pesto extremely fresh. The ricotta cavatelli come with a roasted egglpant, piquillo pepper, and a basil pesto sauce.

Deana decided on the Cuban sandwich. I had a little bite of this as well and it was a great sandwich to have on a hot day. The bread was nice and crunchy, meat juicy and tender, and the cheese was super melty. Most importantly for any good cuban sandwich, the pickle tasted great and brought the whole thing together.

My brother and I both went with mussels. This was the first time I had ever ordered mussels. I know it's almost sacrilege on a Baltimore based blog, but I've never been the biggest fan of seafood. I'm doing my best to expand my horizons and I was pleasantly surprised with this dish. The mussels were plump and tender. The sauce they were served in was nice and briny and I really liked the burst of acidity you'd get from the cherry tomatoes that were sprinkled throughout the dish. My only complaint was that they were served without bread to sop up the broth. However, they are served with french fries and I was extremely into those bad boys. I felt like the fries and I were communicating on some kind of romantic level because I couldn't keep my hands off of them.

Beerwise I think we covered the basics with a Loose Cannon, Gold Ale, and Sea Nymph. But what I want to focus on is one of their beer cocktails. It seems like beer cocktails are the new thing in the craft beer world and so I wanted to try my first. I decided on the Sea Shandy which at that time was an ale mixed with basil and strawberry lemonade. Despite the fact that I got made fun of for drinking such a foofy drink, I found it really refreshing. By no means would I order this over a regular Heavy Seas beer, but if you're looking for something different this is definitely something worth giving a shot....especially on a hot day.

Overall, we had a great experience at the Heavy Seas Alehouse. The food was beyond what we were expecting and the beers we already knew were top notch. I couldn't have been happier. But with that said, the prices are bit expensive and could leave a lot of would be Heavy Seas fans on the outside looking in and I think that's a bit of a shame. I'm not saying they should dumb the restaurant down so that it turns into Buffalo Wild Wings, but I'd like to see a menu with a better mix in prices so that more people are willing to walk through the doors and eventually become fans of Heavy Seas.

Price: A little expensive, but not outrageous
Recommendation: Visit ASAP
What to order: Cornbread

Heavy Seas AleHouse on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 10, 2012

Beer Tastings: Spaten Oktoberfest

By the time this post makes its way to the public interwebs, I hope I'll be sipping on a Spaten in Munich itself. So, cheers to me! Hope you're having the time of your life.

Anyway, back to the task at hand. Another fall beer. Another review.

This time we are discussing Spaten Oktoberfest. I love this beer for it's simplicity. Don't get me wrong, I love craft beer and all the twists and turns they can take you on with their new and exotic concoctions. But there is something to be said for the simple and perfect....the beers that have been tried and shown true for 500 years.

Spaten Oktoberfest pours a magnificently gigantic head and smells of roasted malt. The balance in this beer is something to behold.  There is the wonderful aforementioned roasted malt flavor balanced against the perfect amount of hops. The underlying sweetness brings the whole thing together and makes for an incredible beer. And really, when you're looking for a great Oktoberfest beer should you really be looking anywhere other than Munich? This is a fall beer not to be missed.

Style: Marzen
ABV: 5.9
IBU: ?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Stewart's Rootbeer

Hurry up and get to Stewart's Rootbeer in Rosedale! By the time you're done reading this post Stewart's could be closed for the season and you'll be left wanting until March. Don't be a fool like me. Get there, and get there fast. I can't tell you how many times I've driven past this place saying "we need to visit there" only to to speed by again and again.

Today, with only 5 days left before they are closed for the season, I decided I'd better put my money where my mouth is and made my way in for a Rootbeer Float. Served in a frosted mug you get Rootbeer from the tap and two or three scoops of vanilla ice cream. It was so good. The Rootbeer tasted great and I don't know anyone who doesn't love what I call the Rootbeer slush that develops on the ice cream. But as good as the float tastes the best part of the visit for me was the memories it opened up for me. Suddenly, I was 7 years old and in my Grandparents house. Anytime I slept over as a kid I always had some sort of float in this gigantic green plastic cup and it felt really nice to sit there eating this delicious dessert while telling Deana about the fun times I had at my Grandparents.

In addition to the floats there is a full menu of burgers, dogs, chili, soups, and other desserts that I'll be sure to go back for next spring. However, if you read this before September 9th, do yourself a favor and visit for a great float and maybe bring back some memories from long ago.

Price: Cheap
Recommendation: Get there quick!
What to order: Rootbeer Float

Stewart's Rootbeer on Urbanspoon

Beer Tastings: Dogfish Head Punkin Ale

I think the coolest thing about fall seasonal beers is the extra appreciation you have every time you take a sip of one of these short lived beauties. For two or three months you get to go buck wild hunting down and tasting these beers as much as you can and as often as you can. Dogfish Head Punkin Ale is one of those seasonals I can taste in my mind all year long and can't wait to taste for real every fall.

I just got back from Delaware a few days ago and was hoping that while I was on the Dogfish Brewery Tour I would get to taste some. Lucky, I was not, finding none on the tour, and to add salt to the wound I saw that they had some on tap literally two days after I visited their brewpub. Yesterday, however, my urges were satiated when I finally hunted one down at Bobby's Burger Palace in Hanover.

As I said when I checked into this beauty on untappd, this beer is worth it's weight in gold. The taste is incredible. I don't know how they do it, but the flavor they get from their spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar, and all spice) is so well balanced and prominent without ever being cloying. Many times the sharp flavor from these spices takes your taste buds for hostage. Here you just get wonderful flavor and if you close your eyes you almost feel like you're eating the best pumpkin pie you've ever had in your life. If I had to guess, I'd say the brown sugar is what keeps this Ale so well balanced. The extra sweetness and subtle maple flavor does a great job of taking a lot of the bite out of all the other strong spice flavors.

If you don't like beer, try this one out. I guarantee it will make you look at beer in a whole new light. Punkin Ale is that approachable, but it's not so dumbed down that a craft brew veteran won't also be happy. Take my advice and get one ASAP. Punkin Ale is one fall beer you don't want to pass on until September 2013. If the Mayans are right, this is your last chance and it'd be a damn shame for the world to end having never tasted a Punkin Ale.

Style: Brown Ale
IBU:  28

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Boulevard Diner

Like any good Food Network addicted viewer, when I saw Boulevard Diner on Diners Drive-ins and Dives, I immediately added it to my list of must visit restaurants in the Baltimore area. It's not that I take everything they say on that channel as gospel, but if a place has strong enough word of mouth appeal to get on national TV, I have to do my due diligence to find out what's going on. So, that's what I did.

Right or wrong, I typically assume that the dishes they choose to show on TV are the most popular dishes and thus define what the restaurant is all about. Sticking to that assumption, everything we ordered that day was something cooked on the show.

To start with we ordered the Grape Leaves. Quite frankly, I hated them. The meat inside was fine. It was your basic ground meat, rice, and tomato flavors that reminded me of the stuffing I grew up with in stuffed peppers. But the sauce on top was absolutely disgusting. All I could taste was this bottled lemon flavor that comes across as something akin to chemical cleaning product. I was shocked that something so bad could make it's way onto a television show. Deana and I left three of the grape leaves alone after barely being able to stomach one apiece and at that point we had some seriously low expectations for the rest of the meal.

Unfortunately, from Deana's perspective, they only partially rectified the situation. She ordered the Sour Beef for dinner and it was incredibly average. The dumplings were big and the beef was tender, but the sauce was very one note. I took about two bites and after being inundated with vinegar flavor I had enough. I couldn't imagine eating a whole plate of that stuff and we both found ourselves bored with the overall flavor very quickly.

AT this point we had the Grape Leaves which were bad and moved on to average with the Sour Beef. Gradually, we got ourselves into the realm of delicious when we tasted the Meatloaf Tower. The picture above doesn't give an accurate portrayal of just how big the meal is. When they call it a tower, they aren't kidding. You get delicious mashed potatoes, a few pieces of bread, a heaping portion of meatloaf, and onion rings all topped with some delicious thick brown gravy. I loved this meal and that's coming from someone who doesn't even like meatloaf (and no, not yours either!). I have no idea what compelled me to order this that day but I'm glad I did. There is no way I could eat this entire plate in one sitting, but it's something you should order at least once. Even better, ask them to pack half of it to go for lunch the next day and spread the deliciousness out or share it with whoever you're eating with that day.

If you decide to order the Meatloaf Tower (and you should) be sure to save enough room for the Rice Pudding. This stuff is what desert is all about. Creamy, sticky, sweet, cinnamony perfection. I was stuffed to the brim by the time this giant parfait was delivered to us but it tasted so good I was almost sad when the last bite was gone. I can't recommend this dessert enough and it alone is reason enough to visit the Boulevard Diner no matter how far your drive is or how sub par everything else you order may be.

Yeah, our experience that day was hit and miss but when they hit it they juice up like Sammy Sosa and hit it like you've never seen before. Since that day, we've been back and had a couple of hot turkey sandwiches and it's a place we'll find ourselves visiting a few times every year. Add this one to your visit list.

Price: Average
Recommendation: Add this one to the visit list
What to order: Meatloaf Tower and Rice Pudding.

  Boulevard Diner on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 27, 2012

Beer Tastings: Sierra Nevada Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale

Sierra Nevada Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale is one beer (among many) I'm looking forward to picking up this fall. It's been a year since I've had a taste, but from what I can remember this is a beer I always looked forward to simply to mix up the pumpkin overload I (happily) put myself through.

Tumbler is a very malt heavy Brown Ale. It's sweet, but there is an earthiness to it that makes for a very prominent fall vibe in both flavor and presence. One taste of the chocolate and smokey malt flavor can easily place you outside in a yard full of leaves and crisp air no matter what time of year it is. Most importantly, this beer goes down extremely smooth.

You'll see down below that this Brown Ale has a decent IBU presence. While reading other reviews of Tumbler I noticed that a lot of people thought there was a bit too much bitterness for a brown ale. Personally, I didn't think there were enough. You'll have to make that decision for yourself. As for me, I'm counting down the days until I see a 6 pack of these beauties sitting in my local distributor's aisles. Be sure to put this on your fall beer shopping to buy list.

Style: American Brown Ale
ABV: 5.5
IBU:  37

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Homebrewing: Honey Porter

It's about time for another write-up about my homebrewing trails and tribulations This time we'll focus on my second effort, a honey porter that I brewed a few months ago. I'm not going to get into every little detail of the process. If you're interested in that you can refer to my previous homebrewing post as the same basic rules still apply. Today, I'm going to go over the ingredients and how they should be treated. After that I'll get into the good part.....taste.

  • 6 lbs. of Dark Malt Extract
  • 2 lbs. of Minnesota Clover Honey
  • 8 oz of Carapils Specialty Grains
  • 8 oz of Chocolate Malt Specialty Grains
  • 1 oz of Kent Golding bittering hops
  • 1 oz Cascade Hops
  • Premium Dry Yeast
Basic Instructions:
  1. Steep crushed specialty grains for 30 minutes at 155 Degrees
  2. Turn off the heat and add in Malt Extract. Bring it to a boil
  3. Add the Golding hops for 60 minutes
  4. At the 30 minute mark of the boil, add the honey
  5. Last 5 minutes of the boil, add in the Cascade hops
  6. Cool down, add yeast.

Taste and Appearance:

The color is nice dark brown and it pours a creamy head that measures about 2 fingers. For a porter it is surprisingly light and easy to drink. I normally reserve cooler weather to do my porter drinking, but I've had no problem mixing this in throughout the summer. The most prominent flavor is easily the honey. Initially, the sweetness is very subtle and it's not until the finish that the full honey flavor really shines through. At times, this beer has tasted a bit alcoholy, but really that's my only complaint. It could be that I've just been my own worst critic because the overall feedback I've gotten about this beer has been overwhelmingly positive.

Lessons Learned:

Unlike my first brew, I didn't make any glaring mistakes that I felt needed correcting. As I get my feet wet in the world of homebrewing, I'm just trying to add a skill or component to my repertoire a brew at a time. The only thing I'd really like to change if I decided to brew this recipe (or any recipe) again would be adding a yeast starter instead of just using the dry stuff. With that said, if you're a new brewer and a fan of porters this is definitely worth a shot.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Exclusive presale access for Anthony Bourdain at Hippodrome

Exclusive presale access for Anthony Bourdain: Guts & Glory at the Hippodrome Theatre on Saturday 11/17! Use code: TONY to get tickets before they go on sale to the general public on Friday. Purchase tickets at or by calling 410-547-SEAT (7328).

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Beer Tastings: Tommyknocker Small Patch Pumpkin Harvest

It's time for another beer tasting. Today, we're going with another fall seasonal, Tommyknocker's Small Patch Pumpkin Ale.

I'm not going to mince words with this one. This is an odd Pumpkin Ale for a variety of reasons. You'll notice in the picture above that the color of this is much darker than the typical pumpkin ale. Usually, you're looking for something a little more orange in color, but this is borderline dark brown.

From a taste point of view Small Patch Pumpkin Ale throws another curveball your way. The pumpkin flavor, at least in regards to my palate, is basically non-existent. When drinking a pumpkin ale a lack of actual pumpkin flavor is pretty disappointing. In it's place is a very prominent molasses/caramel flavor. Now, that flavor has it's place in the world of beer but I'm not sure how it fits into the pumpkin ale realm. Even the traditional spices of cinnamon and nutmeg were underplayed here.

If I were judging this without having any idea what type of beer it was, I probably would have scored this as an above average beer (despite my dislike of molasses). But going in expecting a pumpkin ale and walking away with something completely different, I really don't see myself drinking a Small Patch Pumpkin Ale this fall.

Style: Pumpkin Ale
ABV: 5.0
IBU: 15

Monday, August 13, 2012

Blue Hill Tavern

Typically, when I visit a restaurant I plan to review it can take up to 2 months before I get around to writing about it for a varity of reasons.  We ate at the Blue Hill Tavern this past Saturday and today I'm going to do something a little different. At the advice of Deana, instead of sitting on this one and letting the experience kind of fall back in the mix, I'm going to write about it right away while the visit is still fresh in my mind. The meal was that good and I simply don't want to do this place an injustice by not giving it the best review I can.

Prior to our visit this weekend, I had never heard of Blue Hill Tavern. In fact, I really haven't spent any time at all exploring the Brewers Hill/Canton area of Baltimore they are located in. Based off the "tavern" in the name, I was expecting to go and enjoy some typical pub grub. As soon as I opened the door, though, I knew I was in for something much different. The space was very modern with waterfalls, contemporary art on the walls, and some awesome blue snakeskin leather chairs. The decor is seriously swanky and cool. Normally, that's not my thing but I really liked the look and feel of this place.

To start the night off we decided to try the Fried Pickles. They were excellent. Fried pickle connoisseurs will tell you that a good fried pickle is hard to come by. It's so easy to serve a wet pickle with batter on it that simply won't stick or is bad for a myriad of other reasons. Blue Hill Tavern served a fried pickle to be admired. The batter was light, crunchy, and it adhered to the pickle without falling off. They were served with a chipotle aeoli for dipping and the sauce was awesome. It was  creamy, smokey, a little spicy, and went perfect with the tangy pickles.

For dinner, Deana and I both had our eyes set on the same entree. We both went with the Roasted Chicken dinner that was served with broccoli and macaroni and cheese. This dinner was so good there really is no good place to begin. The broccoli was as good as you're going to find anywhere. It was steamed perfectly. I almost always pass on broccoli when ordering in a restaurant due to the fact that you are usually served a limp green thing smothered in butter. This was far from that. You could tell they took the time to cut the broccoli themselves and serve something really fresh and delicious.

And the you want to know how good the macaroni and cheese was? It was so good Deana decided that she needed to learn how to make homemade mac and cheese. In fact, that's what we ate for dinner tonight. So, Blue Hill Tavern, thank you for being an inspiration! But back to the Blue Hill Mac and Cheese. That stuff was divine. It was creamy, had a nice tang from one of the cheeses, a crunchy top, and just enough spice to it to make it absolutely addictive. I knew I shouldn't eat the entire portion in one sitting but my taste buds said to hell with logic. The Mac and Cheese never stood a chance.

The roasted chicken was truly the best piece of chicken I've ever had in my life. The meat was juicy, the skin was crunchy, and the seasoning was spot on. In all my days I've never tasted a piece of chicken that was seasoned so well. If they can make a piece of chicken that delicious I can only imagine how delicious the rest of the menu is.

More important than the decor or food, Deana and I both picked up on something we've been missing from a lot of our restaurant visits recently. The service was great. They were helpful, patient, informed, and efficient. Before you even knew if you needed something the staff was at your table taking care of you.

As if you can't tell, Blue Hill Tavern is getting the strongest recommendation this blog has ever given. From start to finish this place did everything right. I implore you to do yourself a favor and treat yourself as soon as possible. This place is great.

Price: Pricey
Recommendation: One of Baltimore's Must Visits
What to order: Roasted Chicken

Blue Hill Tavern on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 10, 2012

Beer Tastings: Magic Hat Hex

Continuing on with the Fall beer theme, today we talk about Magic Hat's Hex.

After a two year hiatus, I was able to reacquaint myself with Hex last night. Hex is what Magic Hat refers to as their  "Ourtoberfest". It's an amber ale full of malt flavor that finishes with a bit of a smokey flavor. In their description they also refer to a toffee and caramel presence but I wasn't able to pick up on anything like that. For me, the most distinguishing feature of Hex is the dry mouth feel you experience. The first beer I had I didn't mind it, but by the time I moved on to my second the dryness become a little too much and it was kind of a struggle to put it all down.

On the whole, this is pretty decent Autumn beer. It's not something that I can drink over and over again, but a 6 pack spread throughout the season is definitely worth picking up. Give it a try if you haven't already.

Style: Amber Ale
ABV: 5.4
IBU: 25

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Ellicott Mills Brewing Company

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

Ellicott Mills Brewing Company on Urbanspoon