Sample microbrews at weekly beer tasting

ON NIGHTLIFE

January 04, 2007|By SAM SESSA

When the Metropolitan Wine Bar opened at the end of 2004, owner Bruce Dorsey wanted to host weekly beer and wine tastings right off the bat.

Problem was, he didn't have the space. The dinner traffic downstairs made regular tastings impossible. There was an upstairs bar, but Dorsey wanted to rehab it first.

"I've been able to fix up the building in stages," Dorsey said. "It took me a while to get that area up there in shape."

Then, this past October, he finished renovating the upstairs bar. The tastings began immediately.

Beer tastings are 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Thursdays and cost $10 for six to eight beer samples. The next one is tonight. Wine tastings, which present five wines for $15, are 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesdays. Since you can taste five wines for only $5 at the Vine, a nearby wine bar, we decided to try Metropolitan's beer night instead.

With two floors, two bars and multiple dining rooms, the South Charles Street bar is much larger than it looks. But in spite of the cafe's size, the dark wood, worn bricks and tasteful decorations make each space cozy and relaxing. It's a warm and friendly winter refuge.

We claimed an upstairs table by the bar about 9:30 p.m. and looked around. Stockings hung by the fireplace and evergreen branches tied with red bows gave the place some holiday charm. There were several dozen people scattered throughout both floors, which made the cafe a little less than half full.

The beer tastings draw a steady crowd of 20 to 30 people, Dorsey said. The size of the crowd kept the noise level down, so you could focus on what you were drinking. Last week, music from the Rolling Stones and other classic rock bands played overhead as the bartender brought us our first two samples.

You can arrive anytime in that five-hour window and start sampling at your own pace. The seven beers in last week's tasting were from the Great Divide Brewing Company in Denver. Each one was about two ounces and came in a large shot glass.

Metropolitan's tastings usually start with lighter beers and work their way toward darker brews, Dorsey said.

Last week was no different. First, we tried the Wild Raspberry Ale, which had some berry flavor but was not too sweet or syrupy. Along with it came the HotShot ESB, a mild extra special bitter that started crisp and had a tart aftertaste.

The second round featured the smooth and slightly sweet Denver Pale Ale and the hoppy Titan IPA. Both beers in round three were dark: Saint Bridget's Porter was chocolatey, and the Yeti Imperial Stout was thick and strong. The Old Ruffian Barley Wine, which finished off the tasting, smelled smooth but went down with plenty of hops and hues. It was 10.2 percent alcohol by volume.

Beers from the tastings are also available by the bottle at discounted prices Thursday nights. Last week, the Yeti was $5, the Old Ruffian was $8 and all the rest were $3.

If there's an overwhelming response to one of the beers, Dorsey said, the bar will try to permanently stock it -- but that also depends on availability. Young's, Clipper City Rogue Ales and other breweries have been spotlighted since the tastings started. Beers from Smuttynose Brewing Company are on the list tonight.

"I am a big fan of small producers, both with our wines and our beers," Dorsey said. "I try to find the small microbreweries, local ones, or sometimes they can be a little bigger, but unique. ... It's really just for people who want to be exposed to as many different kinds of beer as possible."

Metropolitan Wine Bar and Coffeehouse is at 902 S. Charles St. Beer tastings are 6 p.m.-11 p.m. Thursdays and cost $10. Call 410-234-0235 or go to metrobalto.com.

sam.sessa@baltsun.com

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