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Oct 31, 2014

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More of Baltimore

May, 1998

By Bobby Bush

Last week we opined about the various beers of downtown Baltimore brewpubs, The Wharf Rat, Capitol City and Baltimore Brewing Company. Sit back- our journey continues.

Still hot for more action, we taxied over to Baltimore’s Federal Hill district. Sisson’s Restaurant, which houses the city first brewpub- South Baltimore Brewing Company -resides opposite Cross Street Market, one of Baltimore’s six famous public markets. The restaurant opened in 1979 and brewing began ten years later, so this is no johnny-come-lately. From three connected mid-19th century buildings, Sisson’s, as the brewpub is more commonly called, serves a creative menu of seafood and cajun entrees, from an Jambalaya Stew to Fried Eggplant Creole to Smoked Crayfish Cakes.

And, of course, there’s beer. Sisson’s was between brewers at the time we visited, but the beer did not suffer from inattention. We skipped the requisite summer fruit beer, this time a Blueberry Wheat, as well as Gunga Din IPA and Marble Golden Ale, choosing instead Bob’s Common, a fresh (two days old) Anchor-style ale complete with tart finish. The Maibock was golden and sweet, with no alcohol notice. Edgar Alan Porter, deeply black, initially introduced a strong roasted malt taste which yielded to a chocolate malt finish.

What may have been missing from Sisson’s was a variety of beers listed on their Beer Offerings menu. Perhaps because of the brewer dilemma, perhaps not, several beers were unavailable for our tasting or comments, including Stockyard Amber Ale, Cross Street Wheat and Stonecutter Stout. The list also included two tempting seasonals: Fere Jaffe Grand Cru Ale and 42nd Regiment Scots Ale. We’ll have to go back when the new brewer is starting to feel at home.

After a marathon hike, we discovered Globe Brewing Company in a cavernous old harborside un-air conditioned building, which formerly served as a Bethlehem Steel warehouse. Overhead fans, suspended from a 20 foot ceiling, hardly stirred the humid indoor air, but determination persevered. Beer was ordered and cooler heads prevailed. The White Ale sported some proper clove and yeast flavor, but was fishy and soapy. Yuck. Mobtown Brown Ale was thin, but smooth with very little taste. Likewise, Crazy Dog Porter was light in body with a lager yeast aftertaste. No one had the nerve to try Constellation Stout. Globe claims to specialize in Belgian ales. Leftover from Christmas, the Trippel Celebration was golden and deceivingly mild in taste with no sign of the nearly 9% alcohol it hid. Subdued hops, sweet nose and finish, here was one- and only one -beer that Globe Brewing could boast about.

Let’s get the heck out of this party place and go drink some real beer. Thirty minutes later, after three frantic phone calls, we finally hailed a cab down and headed to the north side of town for dinner.

Now Brewer’s Art is a restaurant/brewpub that really specializes in fine Belgian ales. Amidst mahogany paneled walls, Wedgwood pattern mantle, faux marble molding, cameo-like ceiling and a cramp brewery behind arched Victorian windows, we started with their yet-to-be-named House Pale Ale. Done as a Belgian or Dutch session beer, this 5% alcohol brew was extremely mild with little obvious hops effect. The seasonal Cherry Charm City Sour Cherry was dry and cider-like with no clue that it was an ale. Ozzy, their “answer to the Belgian ‘devil’ beers,” packed sweetness into its flat 7.2% medium body. At 7%, Resurrection, an Abbey-style dubbel, was deep red and soothing with hoppy flavor and malty finale. The Tripple, another seasonal, was light gold in hue, cidery and big in alcohol presence.

Their beer menu lists a nice bottle selection of Belgian Lambics, German beers, Trappist Ales, Scottish and English ales, ciders and a dozen from American micros. What a place! A bit spendy, Brewer’s Art is for fine dining, with vegetarian emphasis, and fine beer. Don’t settle for less.

Looks like this Baltimore trip is going into one more issue. See Bad To Good.

This article first appeared in Focus, a weekly paper published in Hickory, North Carolina.

© Bobby Bush

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