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.