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A toast to Baltimore's old breweries

Baltimoreans have been enjoying their suds since the first brewery opened in 1748

January 01, 2012|By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun

I interviewed Lake, who had managed the hotel from 1920 to 1935, and he recalled the events of that evening.

He had invited Mencken to have a terrapin dinner at the hotel before the celebration when the clock struck midnight. Mencken said he had another obligation but would be there at the noble hour.

At 12:29 a.m., Sun editor and longtime friend Hamilton Owens and others watched as the Sage of Baltimore, pop-eyed with joy, said, "Here it goes."

After downing the malty beverage, he slammed the stein on the bar and said to the assembled, "Pretty good. Not bad at all."

O'Prey said it was a glass of Arrow Beer — "Arrow Beer, It Hits the Spot" — produced by the Globe Brewery, that Mencken downed with such relish.

O'Prey writes about beers a little closer to modern memory that flourished in Baltimore after repeal, such as National Premium, National Bohemian, Gunther's, Free State, American and Arrow Beer, and their sad demises.

She concludes with a chapter on craft beers produced by Hugh Sisson's Clipper City Brewing Co., Oliver's, the Brewer's Art and Bawlmer Craft Beers, which means that the tradition of brewing in Baltimore will continue.

There is more good news for beer lovers. National Premium will return to join its mate, National Boh, which came back last year.

"Tim Miller over in Easton promises it'll be back by Opening Day," said former Baltimore Sun food columnist Rob Kasper, who is writing a book, "Baltimore Beers: A History of Suds City," with Fells Point bartender Turkey Joe Trabert and Baltimore photographer-writer Jim Burger, who also had been on the staff of The Sun.

Kasper said the book, which is being published by History Press, will be available by Father's Day.

In a book laden with pictures, advertisements, beer ephemera and memorabilia, O'Prey assembles many arcane facts.

Did you know that Mary Pickersgill, who sewed the 30-by-42-foot flag that flew over Fort McHenry during the War of 1812, completed it on the floor of Brown's Brewery because it was too enormous to fit in her East Pratt Street home?

Go ahead. You can probably win a beer on that information, too!

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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