Five beers to drink on the Fourth
When Baltimoreans break out in a beery baritone to celebrate that long-ago victory over British invaders, they’ll have plenty of hometown beer to fill their mugs. Like Washington, Baltimore is experiencing a rebirth of local brewing.
Brewpubs in ballparks are rare but no longer unique. The Sandlot Brewery at Coors Field in Denver paved the way in 1995. In April, Dempsey’s Brewpub and Restaurant opened at 555 Russell St. on the right-field side of Camden Yards. Former Orioles catcher Rick Dempsey is a partner in the operation; his bobblehead likeness graces the tap handles for the four house beers: Wild Pitch Wheat, the grainy Rick’s Red Ale, the faintly coffeeish Pine Star Stout and Rain Delay IPA. (A golden ale will soon replace the stout for the rest of the summer.)
Brewer Jim Dequattro drops by two or three times a week to brew on the malt extract system in the back of the restaurant. Specialty Products, the North Carolina firm that provided the 155-gallon stainless-steel fermenters, also supplies the concentrated barley broth that Dequattro tweaks with some extra hops and specialty grains before turning it over to the yeast. This shortcut system allows Dequattro to skip the usual mash but limits the range of beers to the more mainstream craft styles. “We deal with upwards of 30,000 to 40,000 fans on a game day, and not everybody is ready for Triple-Hopped Death IPA,” explains manager Vincent Vazquez. “We’re trying to get them to give craft beer a try.”
The piney, Cascade hop-accented IPA (the brew pub’s bestseller) will cut through the fat if you’re ordering bacon on a stick, one of Dempsey’s signature appetizers. This tasty, if not exactly heart-friendly snack consists of skewers of chunky bacon dipped in maple syrup, each sticking out of an empty bottle in a six-pack. Dempsey’s stocks a few more-assertive bottled brews from regional breweries, including Flying Dog Snake Dog IPA and Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale.
Dempsey’s is open year-round. Be advised, though, that a pint of the house beer, normally $3.50, increases to $7.75 during home games.
Stake out a bar stool at Max’s Taphouse on June 29 for the debut of another new Baltimore brewery, Union Craft Brewing. Co-founder Kevin Blodger, who used to work for the Gordon Biersch and Capitol City chains, plans to introduce two beers: Duckpin Pale Ale, which Blodger describes as a hoppy, “West Coast” take on the style; and Balt Altbier, a toffeeish German-style brown ale.