On a rainy Saturday night, Brewer's Alley is packed. Double-dating couples share tables, groups of 20-something guys in ball caps are standing at the bar cheering on the Orioles, who are beating the Yankees on the flat-screen TVs, and the bartenders are pouring beer after beer. Domed lamps overhead are casting a soft -- make that flattering -- yellow light onto the crowd and the walls of the 19th-century building, which formerly served as Frederick's City Hall.
I push my way to the front of the high-ceilinged pub, past gleaming copper tanks where the beers are made, and order a pint of the special Resinator Double IPA. The cask-conditioned ale is pumped into my glass by hand, as it might be in an English tavern. The bartender brings me a pint of dark liquid with a rich head. "Three dollars," he says, setting it on the weathered wooden bar. Three dollars? Wait, is there a Saturday happy hour? Score!
Apparently living in Washington skews your perception of the price of alcohol. Three bucks is the regular price for one of the award-winning beers at Brewer's Alley, which is nearly half what some inside-the-Beltway brew pubs charge. Six of Tom Flores's creations are on draft at any time, and the Dunkleweizen -- a dark, spicy wheat beer -- the golden Koelsch and that delicious Double IPA are all standouts. It's worth the $6 (including tax) you pay for a sampler, which arrives as six five-ounce glasses on a little Lazy Susan. You'll want to pick something to go with the fish and chips, because the North Carolina catfish, cooked in a spicy Old Bay batter and served with tangy coleslaw, is better than any I've had in a while.
As lively as Brewer's Alley is on weekends, I think I prefer the slower pace of weekdays. The patio offers great people-watching of folks on Market Street, the city's main drag for dining and window shopping. Mondays and Tuesdays feature jazz upstairs, beginning at 8, and during Wednesday's happy hour, which runs from 8 to close, beers are $1.50 and there's a free Cajun buffet from 9 until the food runs out. (If you prefer cocktails to beer, mixed drinks are also cheap; they sell for $2 during weekday happy hours, which run from 4 to 7.)
--Fritz Hahn (August 3, 2007)