Nov 10, 2010 11:11PM
● By Anonymous
When an apprehensive customer tells Adrian Moritz, owner and brewmaster of Eastern Shore Brewing in St. Michaels, “I don’t like dark beer,” he takes it as an informal challenge, an opportunity to educate the palate of one of his customers.
Such was the case a few months ago when a young woman was sampling Magic—the brewery’s lightest beer, a hefeweizen (made from wheat and malted barley)—named after Moritz’s recently deceased friend’s log canoe. “She told me she wasn’t interested in trying the other beers because she doesn’t like dark beer,” Moritz says, “so we got into a tête-à-tête, and we were actually arguing across the bar about why she wouldn’t try my other beers.” Eventually, he poured a tasting glass of St. Michaels Ale, a full-bodied, amber ale that’s the darkest of the brewery’s staple beers. “She took one sip,” Moritz relates. “Then she looked around and took another. Then she stood up on her bar stool and yelled to the whole brewery: ‘Don’t judge a beer by its color!’”
Beer drinkers are increasingly widening their horizons and realizing the appeal in a meticulously crafted beer. According to Technomic, a research and consulting firm that specializes in food service, boutique beers represented a $3.5 billion segment of the beer industry in 2004, although that figure accounted for only 3.2 percent of nationwide beer consumption. Moreover, boutique beers were the only segment of the domestic brewing industry to experience growth that year. In February 2008, Richard J. Leinenkugel, vice president of sales and marketing at Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company in Wisconsin, told the trade publication Grocery Headquarters that craft-beer industry sales so far that year were up by 20 percent.
A common denominator among these artisans of quality beer is adherence to a local identity. An article in the Journal of Cultural Geography in 2003 argued that microbreweries were central to a movement the author called “neolocalism,” represented today by the locavore movement. At St. Michaels Brewing, for instance, the tables are shrouded in recycled sails, the patio is garnished with spent oyster shells, and the beers carry distinctly nautical names: Knot So Pale Ale, Lighthause Ale, and the aforementioned Magic.
The boutique-beer industry includes brewpubs, craft breweries, and microwbreweries, with varying delineations between the latter two depending on whom you ask. Classification comes down to how many barrels the craft or microbrewery produces each year, but there’s hardly a firm consensus as to what amount constitutes which term. Broadly speaking, microbreweries are smaller than craft breweries, brewpubs serve food as well as beers brewed on the premises—and none of these include Budweiser, Coors, or Miller (though recognizable names like Sierra Nevada, Magic Hat, and even Samuel Adams are often considered craft breweries).
On both sides of the Chesapeake Bay, small towns as well as the larger cities are home to brewpubs, microwbreweries, and craft breweries of varying degrees of popularity and production. The boutique-beer segment is well-represented in our region and ranges from national award-winning craft-brew purveyor Dogfish Head Brewery in Milton, Delaware, to the wildly successful national brewpub, Gordon Biersch, in Annapolis, to fairly new operations such as Evolution Brewing in Delmar, Delaware, and Eastern Shore Brewing in St. Michaels. The segment’s growing popularity has sparked trends in beer-and-food pairing, home brewing, and brewery tours. Here’s a “101 course” on area brewers whose creation of beer is not simply a craft, but a serious form of art.
Eastern Shore Brewing
Location: St. Michaels, Maryland
Brewing since: Labor Day 2008
Annual volume: 600 barrels
Distributed in: 50 bars and 50 retail establishments on the Eastern Shore and in Annapolis.
All the time: Magic (hefeweizen), St. Michaels Ale (amber ale), and Knot So Pale Ale (India Pale Ale, or IPA).
Seasonals: The Moritzes offer two fall seasonals: a pear wheat beer in early fall and an amber ale with a hint of ginger in late fall. They’ll work with Rise Up Coffee on an espresso stout in the winter, and are undecided on what’s to come in the spring. Lighthause Ale is their traditional summer seasonal.
What’s on tap? “Magic is light and great for summer. That’s where I start people out, especially if they say they don’t like dark beers,” Adrian Moritz states. “I explain St. Michaels Ale as a bigger Sam Adams. It’s not the same type of beer, but it’s similar in its malty flavor. Knot So Pale Ale is like a Sierra Nevada on human growth hormones.”
Impact of of the economy: “A lot of urban sophisticates and folks with a refined palate are pulling away from the $20 cosmos or the $14 martinis, but they still get the sense of class if they drink a local craft brew,” he says. “There are wine snobs and there are beer snobs, and I think we’re a growing group.”
Beer versus wine: “Magic is like a pinot grigio. It’s fruity and refreshing,” he says. “St. Michaels Ale is like a syrah. It’s real dry with a lot of body and a lot of spice, but it doesn’t hit you over the head. Knot So Pale Ale—and there’s no direct correlation here—I’d assimilate it to a cabernet sauvignon. It’s huge and powerful. It’s complicated. There’s a huge malt character. Drinking one is epic.”
Get thee to the brewery: The staff of four conducts casual tours of the brewery while patrons enjoy flights of beers in the adjoining tasting room. An informal jam session brings locals to the pub every Thursday night. Adrian and Lori also bring in Choptank Sweets to go along with pint sales during the town’s annual oyster festival, held the first weekend in November, and on three other occasions throughout the year.
Parting words: Moritz says, “Support your local brewery, wherever it is.”
Evolution Craft Brewing Co.
Location: Delmar, Delaware
Brewing since: Spring 2009
Distributed in: As of press time, over 60 bars—from Ocean City to Frederick to Baltimore—with bottle distribution planned for most of Delaware.
All the time: Primal Pale Ale, Exile ESB, and Lucky 7 (as of press time).
On the way: An IPA, a coffee stout using Rise Up’s coffee beans, and one beer per season beginning this fall. Special limited releases are planned, as well.
My enemy's enemy is my friend: “Increased awareness of the segment helps us all,” brewmaster Geoff Debisschop says. “It’s the old ‘rising tide’ theory. It’s the larger breweries that are losing a market share, so I don’t really see other craft breweries from a traditionally competitive viewpoint.”
Starter Course: “Rather than focus on specifics of individual beers, I emphasize keeping an open mind,” he says. “Beer from megabreweries is sort of the white bread of beer, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But if you are interested in some more unique and complex flavors, craft brewers are making beers for you. We’re more like your local bakery, crafting artisanal breads.”
How’d you get here? “I started brewing at a few micros in Connecticut in 1994, before I began studying brewing at the Siebel Institute in Chicago. I then worked at John Harvard’s Brewhouse in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for the last 10 or so years. I was looking for a concept where I could have a lot of impact on the direction of the organization, and this was the right opportunity.”
Get thee to the brewery: Tours are scheduled to begin this month, and anyone can visit the tasting room and purchase 64-ounce growlers. Look for both an outdoor festival at Evolution Brewing this fall and their beers during Baltimore Beer Week (October 8–18).
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
Location: Milton, Delaware
Brewing since: 1995
Type: Craft brewery
Annual volume: 100,000 barrels
Distributed in: 28 states, mostly in the Mid-Atlantic region and along the rest of the Eastern Seaboard.
All the time: 90 Minute IPA, 60 Minute IPA (top seller), Raison D’Etre, Indian Brown Ale, Midas Touch, Palo Santo Marron (unfiltered brown ale), and Shelter Pale Ale (Dogfish Head’s original brew).
Seasonals: Aprihop (spring), Festina Peche (summer), Punkin Ale (fall), Chicory Stout (winter), plus 12 limited-release, small-batch ales throughout the year.
Back to the beginning: Dogfish Head began as a modest brewpub in Rehoboth, Delaware, and grew into the award-winning distributor it is today. The original Rehoboth brewpub is still open and serves multiple brewpub-exclusive beers. Its second-floor distillery makes vodka, rum, and gin.
Food/cheese pairing basics: 90 Minute IPA pairs with pork chops, beef, grilled fish, and Stilton cheese; 60 Minute IPA pairs with spicy foods, pizza, grilled salmon, and vintage cheddar; Raison D’Etre pairs with steak, duck, wine-reduction sauces, and goat or blue cheese; Indian Brown Ale pairs with duck confit, venison, prosciutto, and smoked gouda; Midas Touch pairs with Pan-Asian dishes, curries, and brie; Palo Santo Marron pairs with steak, chorizzo, Cajun cuisine, and farmhouse cheddar; and Shelter Pale Ale pairs with burgers, pizza, mushrooms, hummus, and cheese.
About the brewer: Andy Tveekrem started with Dogfish Head in 2004 after stints at Great Lakes Brewing Company in Cleveland and Frederick Brewing Company in Maryland. He attended Chicago’s Siebel Institute, has published many technical pieces on brewing topics, and is on the editorial review board of Brewpub magazine.
Brewery motto: “Off-centered ales for off-centered people.”
Fordham Brewing Company/Old Dominion Brewing Company
Location: Dover, Delaware
Brewing since: 1995
Type: Craft brewery
Annual volume: 30,000 barrels (combined)
Distributed in: Nine states, from Pennsylvania to Alabama.
All the time: Copperhead Ale, Light Lager, Helles Lager, and Tavern Ale.
Seasonals: One special release, introduced at all Rams Head Tavern locations, on the first Thursday of each month.
History lesson: Fordham Brewing is older than the state of Maryland. Queen Anne of England chose Benjamin Fordham to establish a brewery trade in 1703. The colonial brewery eventually defaulted but was reestablished in 1995 at the Rams Head Tavern in Annapolis. Success forced the operation to look for more space in 2000, spurring a move to Alexandria, Virginia, and thereafter settling into its current Dover home in 2003.
Who do you belong to? Fordham Brewing is owned by a joint venture called Coastal Brewing Company, which is 51 percent owned by Fordham and 49 percent by Anheuser-Busch. In 2007, Coastal Brewing purchased Old Dominion Brewing Company. Both Fordham and Old Dominion beers are brewed at the Dover location.
Popular pairings: Copperhead Ale (4.7 percent abv) is a Düsseldorf-style altbier with a balanced flavor from caramelized malted barley and lots of hops. It is one of the oldest continuously brewed beer styles in the world, and pairs well with grilled or smoked meats, steamed shrimp, or a slice of pizza. Helles Lager (5.1 percent abv) is the first beer Fordham brewed upon its 1995 reincarnation. It is Bavarian in style, deep gold in color, and packs a complex flavor profile with its four grains and three hop varieties. It pairs well with most seafood, deli sandwiches, or a slab of BBQ ribs.
Get thee to the brewery: Impromptu tours of the brewery are available currently. Scheduled tours and a tasting room are planned for the future.
DuClaw Brewing Company
Location: Four locations, all in Maryland: Baltimore, Bel Air, Bowie, and Hanover.
Brewing since: 1996
Distributed in: Currently only available on tap in the four brewpub locations. Plans for retail distribution are under consideration.
All the time: Alchemy Oatmeal Stout, Bare Ass Blonde Ale, Hellrazor IPA, Kangaroo Love Lager, Misfit Red Amber Ale, and Venom Pale Ale.
Seasonals: 13 Degrees Hefeweizen, Bad Moon Porter, Berserkr Baltic Porter, Black Jack Stout, Blackout Schwarzbier, Celtic Fury Irish Stout, Consecration Brown Ale, Devil’s Milk Barleywine, El Guapo Helles, Euphoria Nut Brown Ale, Funk Wheat, Mad Bishop Oktoberfest, Mayhem Weizenbock, Mysterium Spiced Ale, Naked Fish Chocolate Raspberry Stout, Old Flame Ale, Sawtooth White Ale, Serum IPA, Snake Oil Pilsner, and Twisted Kilt Scotch Ale.
Pairing the staple brews: Brewmaster Jim Wagner says, “Kangaroo Love is a light-bodied lager that is a great introductory beer to the noncraft-beer drinker. Light in body and flavor, yet still a high-quality, all-malt product unlike most megabrews. It goes well with a salad and any other light-flavored dish. Bare Ass Blonde is a step up in body and flavor compared to Kangaroo. It’s a blonde ale that is light in color, medium-bodied, and has a fruity flavor profile. It’s a good all-around beer that goes well with chicken and burgers, and it’s refreshing. Misfit Red is our amber ale with medium body and a light toasted-malt finish. This one goes well with pork and sausage dishes. Venom is a pale ale with plenty of hop flavor and aroma—a craft beer-drinker’s favorite! Venom is good with any dish that has a spicy, bold flavor. Hellrazer is an IPA with plenty of hop bitterness, flavor, and aroma—another craft beer-drinker’s favorite. This beer also holds up well with full-flavored, spicy dishes. And Alchemy is a dark oatmeal stout that utilizes oatmeal in the brewing process to give it a smooth, velvety-mouth feel. This beer also has plenty of roasted flavor and is a great dessert beer, but also complements beef and steak dishes.”
Parting words: “We always have plans for new beers and expect something brand new in the very near future!” Wagner says.
Clipper City Brewing
Location: Baltimore, Maryland
Brewing since: 1995
Type: Craft brewery
Distributed in: The Clipper City and Heavy Seas lines of beer are available in 20 states in the eastern half of the country.
All the time: From Clipper City: Gold Ale, MärzHon, Pale Ale, and McHenry. From Heavy Seas: Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale, Peg Leg Stout, and Small Craft Warning Über Pils. Others: Oxford Class Organic Amber Ale and Oxford Organic Raspberry Wheat Beer.
Seasonals: From Heavy Seas: Below Decks Barley Wine (December), Hang Ten Weizen Dopplebock (July), Holy Sheet (February), Red Sky at Night Saison Ale (May–August), and Winter Storm “Category 5” Ale (October–February). The entire Mutiny Fleet line (22-ounce special-edition beers): Big DIPA Double IPA, The Great Pumpkin Imperial Pumpkin Ale, Prosit! Imperial Octoberfest Lager, and Yule Tide Belgian Triple Ale.
A bit of history: Founder Hugh Sisson began his brewing career at Sisson’s in Federal Hill, the first brewpub in Maryland, which he co-owned throughout the 1980s and early ‘90s. Today, Clipper City is the largest locally owned brewery in Baltimore.
The brewmaster recommends: Ernie Igot says, “Clipper Gold Ale is an American-style gold ale, which is very well-rounded because it is made with three kinds of malts and three kinds of hops. It’s wonderfully drinkable. Pair it with salads, mild cheeses, and pork BBQ. Hang Ten Weizen Dopplebock is a classic German-style weizen (wheat) bock. It is slightly cloudy and bursting with flavor; especially good after cellaring for a year. It pairs well with sweet pork and fruit desserts. MärzHon is a traditional marzen lager; it has won more awards than any of our other beers. It’s amber in color with a rich, tasty, malt flavor and a slightly sweet finish. This is a beer everyone can agree on. Pair it with grilled sausages, crab cakes, and pit beef.
Get thee to the brewery: Brewery tours are held most Saturdays and feature a tasting room with six rotating taps. The tasting room is available for prearranged private tours seven days a week. Clipper City hosts four festivals each year at the brewery, complete with food, live music, and firkins (casks of special brews) that you can’t get anywhere else.
Flying Dog Brewery/Wild Goose Brewery
Location: Frederick, Maryland
Brewing since: 1990 (Flying Dog), 1989 (Wild Goose)
Type: Craft brewery
Distributed in: Flying Dog is distributed in 46 states and 29 countries; the newest distribution state is Hawaii. Wild Goose is distributed throughout the Mid-Atlantic region.
All the time: Flying Dog: Classic Pale Ale, In-Heat Wheat, Old Scratch Amber Lager, Road Dog Porter, Tire Bite Golden Ale, Snake Dog India Pale Ale, Gonzo Imperial Porter, Horn Dog Barley Wine, Double Dog Double Pale Ale, and Kerberos Tripel. Wild Goose: India Pale Ale, Brown Lager, Oatmeal Stout, and Extra Pale Ale.
Seasonals: Flying Dog: Garde Dog Biere de Garde (spring), Woody Creek White Belgian-Style Wit Beer (summer), Dogtoberfest Marzen (fall), K-9 Cruiser Winter Ale (winter), and Wild Dog series (specialty, one-batch brews). Wild Goose: Pumpkin Patch Ale, Snow Goose Winter Ale, and Summer Ale.
Beer versus wine: Gwen Conley, Flying Dog’s quality-control beer goddess, says: “Beer and wine are really comparable when it comes to food pairings. Beer is better, however, because it contains carbonation. Wine does not. The carbonation allows the beer and the food to balance and sometimes emphasizes different flavors. For example, the hop bitterness and malt will balance with sweet and rich foods, but the hop bitterness will also emphasize spiciness in food. Without carbonation, wine just bounces off the palate.”
Who do you belong to? After being founded in Cambridge in 1989, Wild Goose Brewery merged with Frederick Brewing Company in 1997. Flying Dog subsequently purchased the partnership in 2006 and now brews both lables out of Frederick.
Beer pairing made easy: Pair Tire Bite Golden Ale with seafood, salad, and pasta with cream sauce. Pair In-Heat Wheat with fish, chicken. and salads. Pair amber lagers with roasted meats and spicy or Cajun food. Pair pale ales with chicken, salads, hearty dishes, barbeque, and cheddar cheese. Pair Snake Dog and Wild Goose’s IPAs with hearty meat courses—red or white meats, especially sausages or burgers—and sharp dressings.
Get thee to the brewery: Flying Dog and Wild Goose tasting room opens at 1:30 p.m. each Saturday. Tours are conducted at 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. With the purchase of a $5 pint glass, you receive complimentary samples and a tour of the production facility. The brewery also hosts seasonal events throughout the year.
Location: 27 locations nationwide, one in Annapolis
Brewing since: 20 years overall, one year in Annapolis
Type: Craft brewery/brewpub
Annual volume: 100,000 barrels (nationwide)
All the time: Golden Export, Hefeweizen, Czech Pilsner, Märzen, Blonde Bock, and Schwarzbier.
Seasonals: Eight to 12 are brewed annually, including Sommerbrau, Dunkelweizen, Winter Bock, and Fest Bier.
A bit of history: The first Gordon Biersch brewpub opened in Palo Alto, California, in 1988 by partners Dan Gordon and Dean Biersch. The Annapolis location, which opened in November 2008, is the most recent to join the Gordon Biersch family. The first beer brewed here was the Winter Bock, a traditional German-style doppelbock. This rich and seductive style was first brewed by monks in Bavaria to sustain them through fasting.
Time to celebrate: Gordon Biersch recently celebrated its 20th anniversary and shows no signs of slowing down. Annapolis brewmaster Jim Sobczak says, “We have tapping parties four times each year to celebrate the release of our most popular seasonal brews. Our most recent party was for our Oktoberfestbier [on tap this month].” Each event kicks off with Sobczak hammering the tap into the traditional wooden keg of beer. “Proceeds from the keg go to a local charity, and everyone has a blast,” he says.
Eat, drink, and be merry: Gordon Biersch is open for lunch and dinner daily. With a huge selection, from American classics to contemporary cuisine, there’s something to pair with each of their handcrafted beers, which are brewed on site. Ask your server for pairing suggestions. And if you’re feeling especially feisty, order a “boot of beer.” The legend of the boot dates back to 16th-century German students who enjoyed having a few drafts and then dueling it out. As midnight neared, revelers laid down their swords and filled their boots with their favorite lagers for a toast. Before long, health-minded craftsmen began producing boots made of glass. Today, Gordon Biersch carries the glass boot tradition forward, part of which involves the correct way to drink from the boot without wearing it home.
16 Mile Brewing Company
Location: Georgetown, Delaware
Brewing since: July 2009
Distributed in: 40 bars and retail establishments throughout Delaware.
All the time: Amber Sun Ale and Old Court Ale (American ale).
Seasonals: Golden Ale (summer) and Brown Ale (winter). A limited-release stout is planned for sometime in the future.
What separates you? “A lot of the popular craft beers are high IBU-count [International Bitterness Units] beers, which don’t really compare to our style,” co-owner/brewer Brett McCrea says. “We aim for beers with a lot of balance. We spent quite a bit of time researching our grains and finding the hops to balance them properly. We’ve cut our own path in a lot of ways.”
What’s in a name? When Georgetown, Delaware, was known as Pettijohn’s Old Field in the 1700s, area farmers and businessmen would use the town as a central meeting point because it was “16 miles from anywhere.” McCrea and Chad Campbell, the brewery’s other co-owner/brewer, decided to revive this piece of history in their brewery’s name. Old Court Ale, likewise, is named after the old courthouse in the center of town.
Get thee to the brewery: “There’s only two of us doing everything, so we’re kind of catch-as-catch-can in terms of tours, but we’ll schedule a tour for anyone who calls ahead to make an appointment,” McCrea says. You can sample beers and purchase cases, kegs, and growlers in the retail/tasting area up front.