For you loyal readers of this blog, (and I know all 6 of you) you know I have challenged myself to visit the 57 Maryland breweries that were members of the Brewers Association of Maryland on January 1st, 2017. I have been sorely remiss in pursuit of my duties in the Maryland Brewery Challenge. So, I called my brother and we headed out to 2 breweries in Montgomery County: Denizens and 7 Locks. Continue reading Denizens Brewing Co.→
I walked into Jailbreak just a few minutes before 3:00 PM and sat at the bar. I was early for the 4th Reform on Tap Task Force, so I thought I’d order a beer. My taste buds were craving my favorite Jailbreak and Howard County beer – VanDammit. Columbia Pint Night member, Z, mentioned he had one on Friday, so this limited release beer was available, or so I thought. The bartender gave me the bad news, “They ran out of VanDammit yesterday.” Errrg! I order a Miami Vice, instead. I really like this kettle-soured Berliner Weisse; the key lime puree gives it a nice fruity sweetness. (but it’s no VanDammit)
The Reform on Tap Task Force kicked off with a few opening words by the Maryland Comptroller, Peter Franchot. Then our host and owner of Jailbreak, Justin Bonner, welcomed us and told us a little about Jailbreak. They just celebrated their third year of business and have 36 employees. Then Justin bought a round for everyone attending the event – nice!
At this point, let me just say, I’m just a guy who likes to drink good craft beer. In fact, I enjoy it so much, I write this blog about craft beer and I’ve even made a few batches of my own homebrew. For me, finding the next new delicious craft beer is what I live for. On the other hand, the complex Maryland beer laws are an amazing labyrinth of legislation that this easily distracted beer drinker finds tiresome.
Apparently, the last reform on tap session got a little contested. Some questions from the previous meeting were still unresolved, so they were revisited at the meeting. The Task Force spent nearly an hour talking about the law requiring an 180-day notice to terminate an existing relationship with a wholesaler. 180 days (almost 6 months) seems to me to be a very long time to have to remain in a sour business relationship.
The “buy back” clause was brought up again. Let me get on my soap box about this, one more time. It is good that HB1283 has increased the taproom beer limit to 2000 barrels. It is ludicrous that a brewery can serve an additional 1000 barrels, but only if it is sold to the distributor, touched down at the warehouse and returned to the brewery. In this time of global warming, it is shameful for a governing body to legislate this wasteful, ludicrous practice. If taproom limitations are the goal, just pay a fee to the distributor for the additional barrels.
The beer industry has changed a great deal over the past few decades. In earlier times, there were just a few large brewers and many small distributors. Today, that scenario has been turned on its head, with nearly 70 Maryland brewers and fewer distributors due to consolidation. The laws from the 70’s to protect the small distributor from mighty breweries don’t always apply anymore. Comments from each tier were that they need the other tiers and actually have excellent relationships with them. I believe the tension in the room or the “violent agreement” (my term) is about all these small, new breweries wanting to adjust the rules to protect their interestand give them a chance to compete fairly.
I think Chuck Ferrar of Bay Ridge Wine & Spirits of Annapolis said it best, “We have the same ultimate goal. Sell more beer, make more money.”
Finally, Think, Drink, But Then Repeat raises the question, “Can a beer be judged with just one sip?”. This article raises legitimate questions about our obsession with untappd as well as the changing circumstances that affect our beer tasting experience.
I have discovered the Mecca of beer and it is Ardmore. In a northwest suburb of Philadelphia, Ardmore, PA holds three temples to the gods of ale: Tired Hands Fermentaria; Tired Hands Brew Café; and the Tired Hands General Store.
On a Saturday night, the biggest challenge to entering our first beer shrine, Fermentaria, was finding parking. Affluent “historic” Ardmore is a rabbit warren of shops and chain stores. Among a strip mall, we found Fermentaria and parking a few blocks away.
The high ceilings and hard surfaces of the Fermentaria give it an industrial feel. Despite no TVs or music, the loud buzz of excited beer enthusiasts filled the huge space with noise. I had made reservations and we were quickly seated.
At Philly Beer Week, the star of the weekend was Tired Hands Eviscerated Pathway of Beauty, so I was expecting a lot from this brewery, but really didn’t know what to order. Their “Milkshake” IPAs are acclaimed and untappd friend, Johnny Peppers, raves about their beers but saw nothing on the long list of beers that looked familiar. So, I ordered the top 4 beers on the list. “There’s a little problem with that,” our waiter said, “you can only order one beer at a time, even 2.5-ounce pours. I’ll bring them out, one at a time.” My first sample was a HopHands.
Somehow, Tired Hands manages to pack enormous amounts of subtle flavors into their ales, making them complex and juicy beverages worthy of savoring slowly. I found all the unfiltered samples delicious.
HopHands – Fruity, hazy pale ale with piney hops & grapefruit/citrus
SaisonHands – Wow! Deliciously complex. Tart with lemon, juicy with pear? Some barnyard & straw. Very yummy!
Gatherer (2017) – Wow. Dense and velvety smooth. Each sip is a bite of chocolate cake flavored with wild honey and flowers while drinking a cup of coffee. Wow!
Our second pilgrimage stop was a brief walk to the General Store. It would close at 9:00 PM, so we picked up some beer to share with our friends back home. They have quite an assortment of bottles on shelves and a fridge with HopHands. Since HopHands was the only beer I’d sampled, I picked up a couple 4-packs.
Next door to the store is Tired Hands original brew pub. It is more of a dark traditional bar than the Fermentaria. We sat at the bar and I tried their HopHands (Double Dry-Hopped With Centennial) on cask. All that extra alpha hops was an interesting cask, but I think all the subtle flavors of the very delicious HopHands were masked by the overpowering Centennial hops.
If I cannot tempt my friends to make the pilgrimage to Ardmore over the next year, we will definitely take the train from Philly during our annual Philly Beer Week in June.