The founders of Union Craft Brewing Company. Left to right:… (Barbara Haddock Taylor,…)
Attention all creatures of beer habit -- with Baltimore Beer Week kicking off Friday and running through Oct. 19, it's time to branch out from your Bohs and Buds.
We spoke with Baltimore brewers and bar managers and asked them to recommend their favorite specialty, limited-release and one-of-a-kind beers to give Baltimoreans the perfect opportunity to experiment with taste. All will be available during beer week, so go ahead and try something fruity and crisp or dark and earthy for a change.
10. Made Wit Basil at The Point
For anyone planning to feast while drinking, this 4 percent alcohol by volume (ABV) Belgian-style witbier from Jailbreak Brewing Co., characterized by its crisp wheat and citric flavors and a special addition of basil, is a tasteful option.
Patrick Hewes, bar manager at The Point in Fells Point said the chefs are already preparing a menu that pairs this Jailbreak offering with tasty food items for their restaurant event on Oct. 15. It's unfiltered, with a lighter body and brewed with basil, giving it some nice "earthy tones." It's also very "sessionable," Hewes said. Translation: You can have several pints and not worry about it making you too drunk to enjoy a good meal.
9. General Washington's Tavern Porter at The Wharf Rat
This 7 percent ABV cask-conditioned porter caught Wharf Rat Manager Jenn Oliver's attention last year because of its exciting flavor combinations. Made by Yards Brewing Co., it's brewed with chocolate, roasted barley malts and molasses.
Yards' cask-conditioned ales also have much bolder, richer flavors than typical beers, Oliver said.
"It's really different, with a unique blend of flavors," Oliver said. "It's got a rich caramel taste to it. It's very smooth."
Yards is brewing up a special batch of the General Washington for Wharf Rat and Beer Week — with an unknown "secret ingredient."
8. Grapefruit Sculpin at Max's Taphouse
Grapefruit flavors add an exciting kick to this 7 percent ABV IPA brewed by the Ballast Point Brewing Co.
It's a hoppy, slightly spicy, very bitter beer with a touch of grapefruit citrus backbone — and a personal favorite of Max's cellar master Casey Hard.
Hard said the beer doesn't often leave its hometown of San Diego.
"We've never had it here and we've had everything at least once," Hard said. "And it's going to be here and gone probably within the same day."
Hard called the beer "the ultimate of IPAs."
"The taste is bitter, citrus, with a big grapefruit note, but very drinkable," Hard said. "Anyone really into hoppy beers will love this one."
7. Greater Pumpkin at Heavy Seas Alehouse
This limited-release 10 percent ABV pumpkin ale comes highly recommended by Heavy Seas brewmaster Chris Leonard. And we can see why: It's made with bourbon, cinnamon, ginger, allspice and clove, along with British crystal malt, brown sugar and pumpkin flavors.
Unlike other pumpkin ales, this one is not a heavily pumpkin-flavored beer, but more a celebration of a true "fall taste."
"It's got an underlying nuttiness to it as well," Leonard said. "When it all comes together, it starts out sweet but finishes spicy and dry."
It comes out once a year, Leonard said, and is usually gone after October. Leonard said it's a favorite because of its complexity and layers of flavor.
"It's not a one-trick pony," he said. "It's not just pumpkin or just bourbon-barrel. It's just a very satisfying experience as a beer."
6. Aprés Saison at The Brewer's Art
Consider this the unofficial Orioles' post-season beer, a riff on The Brewer's Art's Birdhouse 5 percent ABV Belgian-style pale ale.
Brewer's Art co-owner Tom Creegan said the beer, brewed on site and made with American and citra hops, and its name (a play on "post-season") is an homage to "the guys who have been playing so well this season and will hopefully continue to play well for us."
It has a pretty light body, with some nice orange and grapefruit notes. Crisp and very drinkable, it also pairs well with fall foods.
"The thing is, we're only serving it at our place and we don't have any TVs at Brewer's Art," Creegan said. "So after the game — I guess that's the 'apres' part — when celebrating, people can come by and drink it."
5. Vienna Lager at Cat's Eye Pub
"There are a million different versions of the same beer in Baltimore," said Cat's Eye Pub owner Anthony Cushing. His suggestion? Try something different and tasty that will "really stick with you" — like this 4.9 percent ABV Vienna-style lager from Devils Backbone Brewing Co.
Cushing said the beer is smooth, lightly hoppy and a little sweet. It's a crisp, caramelized lager made with good amount of barley and bares a "caramel-y aftertaste."
Devil's Backbone is based in Virginia, but just started selling in Baltimore, said Cushing.