May promises to be a month of good spirits

HAPPY EATER

April 28, 1993|By ROB KASPER

I have tasted the beverages of May, and can report there are happy days ahead.

Two local brewers, Baltimore Brewing Company on Albermarle Street and Sisson's on Cross Street, have turned out "Maibock" beers in honor of the lusty month.

The name Maibock means a strong lager served in May. I am told that over in Bavaria the arrival of these beers is part of a general hoo-ha celebrating spring, flowers and flirting. I support the spread of such hoo-ha.

The Maibock is loaded with malt, and a fair of amount of alcohol, 6.8 percent by volume compared to the 5.3 percent in most everyday brews. The lager's tasty kick is supposed to push winter out the door.

The golden Maibock at Baltimore Brewing Company was full-bodied and smooth. It put a spring in my step, air in my head and a desire to kick winter in the tush.

I sipped the malty lager while talking with the proprietor, Theo de Groen. In keeping with the theme of "in with the new," who should arrive on the scene but de Groen's 14-month-old son, Theo, just back from a shopping trip with his mother, Imtraud. With his bright, beaming face, the lad looked like a young Falstaff. His toothy smile was a ray of bright sunshine.

A few days later, I traveled to Sisson's in South Baltimore to reacquaint myself with its "Maibock."

I say reacquaint because I had tasted it before, when it was "a work in progress." The last time I wandered by the place, Hugh Sisson, the establishment's brewer, was busy pouring a solution in a beaker, making calculations, and saying he wished he had paid more attention back in high school chemistry class.

He gave me a taste of the Maibock even though he said it still needed some time lagering before it would be officially ready to drink.

I have learned that when you taste a "work in progress" you don't say "Wow!" or "Yeck!" Regardless of what it tastes like, you say it is "very promising." That leaves you room to wiggle later.

When I returned to Sisson's this week, I found the Maibock had lived up to promising reports issued earlier in its career. The body was so-so, but this beer had an amazing, tongue-tickling finish.

My effort to sip my way into May also led me to the Charles Carroll House in Annapolis where I drank some May wine. Carroll was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. His 18th-century Annapolis home overlooking Spa Creek has undergone nine years of restoration and is opening in May. Maryland's Berry Plantation Winery has issued a commemorative May wine, which will be sipped and sold at Charles Carroll House during the May 8 opening celebration.

May wine is a light, white wine, similar to Germany's Rhine wines. Just before this May wine is bottled, a little Waldmeister, or woodruff -- a wild herb -- is added.

Having the right amount of woodruff in the wine is crucial, said Lucille Aellen who, along with her husband, John, and sons Anthony and Eric, operate the Berry Plantation Winery near Linganore in Frederick County. Ms. Aellen also told me some serving tips for May wine. Traditionally, she said, the wine is served chilled in a punch bowl with strawberries, a little sugar and other fruit. One key to successful punch, she said, is to use fresh strawberries. Fresh strawberries float on the top of the punch. Frozen berries sink, she said.

The best way to chill the May wine punch, she continued, is to add frozen seedless grapes to the liquid. They cool the mixture, and are more buoyant than the frozen strawberries.

All the talk about floating and festivities brought to mind my favorite May beverage, the mint julep.

Hot-damn honey-lamb, as they say down South, Saturday is Derby Day. When the horses line up at Churchill Downs in Louisville to run the Kentucky Derby, I will have a song in my heart and julep in my silver cup.

I will have muddled four to six mint leaves in the bottom of my cup. Muddling means clobbering with a wooden stick or spoon. I will have added two tablespoons of powdered sugar, and two tablespoons of club soda to the leaves. Then as the mint, sugar and club soda mingle, I will bash ice cubes into shavings.

I will fill the cup with these ice shavings. I will pour in the bourbon, add a sprig of mint so the top of the sprig tickles my nose.

Then I will hoist my julep and toast the beginning of the best-tasting month of the year.

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