A Return to my Craft Beer Roots…

Posted: February 23, 2014 in Beer Drinking Adventures
Tags: , , , ,

The reason why I referred to this post as a return to my roots, it would have to go back to my earlier Craft Beer years.  In 2003, my sister had to Wilmington DE from middle of nowhere GA and while I was drinking better beer at this point in my life, I never really took it seriously.  So, like most people, I got my first real hacks on Dogfish Head.  When my sister moved to Delaware, one of my first stops in the state was to Dogfish Head.  I became a fan instantly because like their slogan is…Off Centers Ales for Off Centered People.  I truly took that statement to heart because I went all in on their crazy beer styles.  It was something new, something different, something decent to drink finally…and that’s the beginnings of the monster that I am today.  But before we jump into Dogfish Head, lets get back to the real time beginning of this trip.

To regurgitate the same opening line….work…travel…and I ended up in (Insert Location Here).  This time the location was Maryland and Delaware.  Unlike my previous destination, this week actually quite a few locations for me to belly up for some craft beer goodness.  On Monday, my flight getting into Baltimore arrived just before 10am, but after a rough day of work, I wasn’t able to complete as much as I had hoped…thankfully, since my last stop of the day was less than one mile from a location of DuClaw Brewing, that’s where my first stop of the week was.

DuClaw Brewing was started in 1995 (in Craft Beer Years, that’s like a long long long time ago) before anyone really knew what a brewpub was.  Since they opened their doors, they have since expanded to several locations and a full time small production brewery location.  I happened to be near their Bel Air, MD location (which is north of Baltimore) and I believe their original location.  Upon entering, it is a wide open floorplan with high ceilings and pretty cool brewiana of their beers along the high part of the walls.  It had a ton of seating along to compliment a long bar with an island, which probably could seat at least 50+ patrons at any given time.  If this were a local place for me, I definitely could see coming here for a game or just popping in for a pint anytime.  For those that do not know, my philosophy when going to a brewpub is ‘go for the goodies’ meaning one-offs, rarities or exclusives.  In keep with said philosophy, here is what I bellied up (or down really) to:

(Note: someone asked me why I didn’t give a little background on the beers…I was posting links of the beer but apparently that wasn’t what they were looking for, so enjoy)

I really liked DuClaw and if I am ever stuck in the Baltimore area again for work, would definitely hit up again.  I didn’t get anything to eat while I was there but they had a full menu and the food didn’t look bad as the bartenders were walking it out to patrons in front of me.

Like most of my craft beer brothers, I too am guilty of something…..being an Untappd whore.  While most of them state they are not, it is crap because it is a great tool to see what your friends are drinking.  I have been called Eliteist by several of friends because I don’t Accept every Untappd invitation but then again, if I have never met you before, then why do I care what you are drinking.  I really do reserve my friends list for drinking buddies and trading partners only.  But, with that being said, none of them have ever reached the Level Two badge for Hotel Hopper.  Since I am in a perfect position to reach Level Ten potentially, I started bringing beer with me on the road (sometimes out of necessity) to get those hotel ticks.  After leaving DuClaw, I headed to the hotel for some work clean up activity and to relax…while there, I sampled this suitcase whale:

After bullshiting in the hotel room, I had to get out, even if for a little while because I was hungry and was sick of being in the hotel room (did enough of that the previous week), so I looked up several highly rated places and decided to settle on Frisco Taphouse and Brewery.  To my surprise when I arrived was that it was an actual brewery too….although the name I listed does say AND BREWERY, every place I looked at reviews only had listed as Frisco Taphouse.  Surprise!!!

From what I could gather about Frisco Taphouse AND BREWERY was that it opened sometime in 2005 and recently moved to this new location within the last 12 months and opened up Push Brewing along with the new location.  The place is great with some really high spacious ceilings, brewiana all over the walls, a nice sized bar that can hold about 25 patrons, tables all around and couches along several walls.  Huge TVs behind the bar area and a small, enclosed brewing facility up by the front windows.  I ordered a Buffalo Meat burger with rice and it was cooked very well but the rice was bland (like rice….go figure).  Frisco offered 50 taps which included several selections from Push Brewing, along with a nice sized bottle collection to pull form too.  Here is what I pulled…

Again, another solid find and a place that I would definitely revisit again the next time I was back in the area, close to BWI airport.

The next day, after another very long day of work, it was time to revisit the beginning of where craft beer really began to blossom for me.  Thankfully my next stop was on my way towards my hotel for the evening, in a small town in lower Delaware…Dogfish Head.  It has literally been a full decade since the last time I stepped through the front door of Dogfish Head Brewing & Eats (their brewpub, not to be confused with the production brewery in Milton DE)…and the place hasn’t changed once bit.  It still had the tight, comfortable feel to it, brewiana all over the walls, small bar that hold 15-16 patrons, nothing flashy…just traditional old time brewpub.  As Dogfish Heads slogan is…Off Centered Ales for Off Centered People, that is exactly what their brewpub exclusive beers have always been it seems (and still is to this day…)

  • Dogfish Head (Province Ales) Wild Carrot Seed Ale ~ Spiced / Herb Ale ~ 5.2% ABV ~ 3.4 /5 Rating (um…it tasted like dirty carrots and seeds, not much more to say)
  • Dogfish Head Raw Creation ~ Spiced / Herb Ale ~ 9.1% ABV ~ 3.2 /5 Rating (collaborative effort between Dogfish Head and D.C. based Gouter, producer of raw, organic tonics and cleanses.  For this beer we decided to go with a Midas Touch recipe base sans saffron (same grain bill, honey, and white Muscat grape juice) combined with Gouter’s Hydrate Tonic, made from Lemon, Cayenne Pepper, Coconut Nectar, Cucumber, and Lemongrass)
  • Dogfish Head Just Richard ~ Old Ale ~ 7.9% ABV ~ 3.6 /5 Rating (Spotted Dick is actually a traditional English dessert, not terribly common here across The Pond.  A spiced bread pudding with raisins, the dessert actually compliments the malty stone fruit flavors of the pale ale and caramel malts, as well as the roasty nutty character added by the roasted Chestnuts.  Originally this beer had a much more suggestive name for fun with our co-workers, but for the sake of staying light hearted, we decided we’d go with Just Richard for the wide release)

While it was great to revisit this place again, especially with the large gap in time between visits, it is more of a tourist trap now.  Other than the three beers I drank this evening, it is all offerings that you can pick up at most corner grocery stores now.  Enough Said.

Again, another hotel, another hotel tick for Untappd…

So while I was stuck in a heavy tourist town for the night, it is quite dead on a Tuesday Night…in February.  I am sure that every night during the summer, it is slamming with people up and down the main drag…but when the snow is falling and the beaches are a little cold, dead as a doornail.  While this next place wasn’t the closest to me, it seemed to have had the most solid line up of all the breweries in the Delmarva region (Delaware, Maryland, Virginia peninsula).

Burley Oak Brewery was opened several years ago with the premise of using local ingredients, coupled with traditional and new brewing practices.  The name of the brewery was interesting enough with BURLEY coming from the land originally named BURLEY PLANTATION back from the 1790s and OAK coming the building itself, originally built as a Cooperage – oak barrel maker.  If they are taking that kind of care with just the name of the place, you can only imagine what they were doing with their beers…and they did not disappoint me one bit…

I was really happy to have found this place and was kind of saddened that I didn’t have more time to spend here.  If I ever get back to this side of the state of Maryland again, definitely a must stop.

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