While technically an hour away from Baltimore, a road trip is so worth it to visit this off-the-wall brewery. Known for its edgy beer names and label art drawn by Hunter S. Thompson illustrator Ralph Steadman, Flying Dog moved from Colorado to Maryland in 1994 and we’ve been thankful ever since. Not only does the brewery host hourly tours and happy hour in the tasting room, but there are also full-fledged concerts with food trucks on its lawn. Don’t be afraid to experiment because Flying Dog produces everything from Old Bay beer to an oyster stout to a blood orange ale. Also for the beer super-nerd, the brewery just started Flying Dog University, which offers classes that cover everything from beer-making basics and beer/food pairings to a beer geek tour -- an extensive, two-hour look into all aspects of production.
Credited with being the first craft brewery to open in city limits in 30 years, Union Craft Brewing has been setting trends since it opened in 2012. In more recent news, the brewery is about to change locations in 2018, moving from an old warehouse in Woodberry to a former Sears Roebuck Plant down the street in Medfield. Not only is the new location allowing for triple the brewing capacity, but there will also be a space for a music venue, as well as an adjacent makerspace and marketplace for local startups called Union Collective. Though the brewery is on the brink of a lot of change, we can still rely on its delicious signature beers, like Duckpin pale ale, Anthem gold ale, Old Pro gose, or Snow Pants oatmeal stout.
Known more or less as the grandaddy of the craft beer scene in Baltimore, Hugh Sisson founded Heavy Seas (formerly Clipper City Brewing Co.) in 1994, after owning Maryland’s first official brewpub. The pirate-themed brewery is located in an industrial area of South Baltimore, where it produces 34,000 barrels a year in its massive space. They also offer free brewery tours that finish up in the recently renovated taproom. For $5, you get a pint glass and four beer samples. To get the most bang for your buck, we recommend the brewery’s popular Loose Cannon IPA and our favorite seasonal, The Great Pumpkin imperial stout.
This famed brewpub is known for having two distinct floors: an open, bright top level predominantly for diners and a dark cavernous space below predominantly for drinkers. But what’s really important is the third floor, aka the basement, where Brewer’s has been producing amazing beer since the fall of 1996. The brewpub’s goblets are usually full to the brim with its Belgian-style ales, including abbey-style dubbel Resurrection and pale ale Beazly. (Fun fact: Beazly used to be called Ozzy until Ozzy Osbourne wrote a cease and desist letter to the company. Apparently bats aren’t the only ones who have to watch out for him.) If you want to tour the place that Esquire magazine once named the best bar in America, it offers those too, on most Saturday afternoons.
Inspired by dorm-room homebrew creations and the University of Maryland mascot, three friends started Diamondback in the fall of 2014. Two years of contract brewing later, Diamondback found its permanent home in South Baltimore in an old Phillips Seafood and Coca-Cola plant. Located at the base of a giant smokestack, the brewery hosts local food vendors and yoga classes on weekends while continuing to turn out some of our favorite suds in town. Popular releases include its New England-style IPA Green Machine, the BAMB black IPA, and Omar’s OPA (oat pale ale), which all fans of The Wire know you best not miss.
Back in the infancy of the state’s craft beer scene, DuClaw opened up a brewpub north of Baltimore in Bel Air. In the past 20 years, it has outgrown two different breweries and ended up in a massive production facility just outside of the city. While it’s still working out the kinks of brewery tours and building a tasting room, there are plenty of places to indulge in DuClaw, including its four brewpubs around the state. DuClaw is known for having fun with ingredients, as seen in beers like Sweet Baby Jesus chocolate peanut butter porter and Morgazm grapefruit blonde ale, along with label art that closely resembles metal album covers.
If sharing is caring, then Peabody Heights really loves local beer. Starting production in 2012, it opened as the city’s first co-op brewery, lending its space, equipment, and expertise to a current count of eight startup beer makers. In total, the space puts out about 1,000 barrels a month and just redid its 2,000-square-foot tasting room. You can try Peabody Heights' homage to Baltimore’s Natty Boh roots with an Old Oriole Park Bohemian (the brewery sits on the site of the original baseball stadium). Of course, there are plenty of other beers to choose from, like double IPA Damn from Goonda Beersmiths or Raven Beer’s various nods to a certain notable macabre writer from Baltimore.
Herring Run Park
Though Oliver has been brewing its English-style ales in Baltimore since 1993, it’s the newest developments that have everyone most excited. For the longest time, Oliver brewed its stouts, ales, and bitters in a tiny side room of Pratt Street Ale House, but the brewery’s overwhelming popularity has forced the company to expand. That lead them to purchase an old ice factory in an off-the-radar area of Northeast Baltimore. The new place has an ample 10,000-barrel capacity, a giant parking lot for events, and will be open for business in just two weeks. For now, Oliver beers, like the brilliantly named Draft Punk, can be consumed at its various brewpubs throughout the state.
Another brewery worth the drive (or Uber) is Jailbreak Brewing south of Baltimore in Howard County. The taproom is open most of the afternoons and evenings and even offers occasional yoga classes. Though it just started production last year, its beers and events are gaining popularity in the brew-nerd world. Jailbreak happens to have our favorite local hefeweizen in Feed the Monkey and the ideal amount of heat in the Welcome to Scoville jalapeño IPA.
Just a can’s throw away from Union is Waverly. The tasting room feels warm and cozy with ski lodge-like decor, a collection of beer steins, and nostalgic skateboards and magazine cut-outs on the wall. Thankfully, Waverly’s creations are just as creative and well thought-out as its taproom, and we are especially partial to Golden Sombrero, a sessionable gold ale, and the Local Oyster Stout. Weekends at Waverly are especially fun, as local food vendors serve tacos and sausages, the cornhole boards come out, the picnic tables on the outdoor patio fill up fast.
This East Baltimore brewhouse that opened in late 2015 has already made a name for itself with its straightforward beers and one of the most fun taprooms in town. Key Brewing’s 1,200-square-foot tasting room has 12 draft lines, retro pinball machines, a pool table, and rotating food options like barbecue and oysters. Not to mention, we love the uncomplicated but still creative beer portfolio that includes Helles Lager, Chesapeake Common, Rye Porter, and On Point amber ale.
As the first-ever brewery to open in Columbia, a planned community about 20 miles south of downtown, Black Flag’s enterprising theme shines through. The brewer’s spacious taproom, complete with Star Wars murals and Cards Against Humanity sets, looks into the brewery through floor-to-ceiling windows. There are always 10 beers on tap, but if the brewers had their way, drinkers would never have to sip the same variety twice. Black Flag’s constantly rotating taps include Rainbow Road pale ale -- a hazy, Northeast-style pale ale -- and Z Morris blonde ale, named after our favorite Saved by the Bell heartthrob.
Another recent addition to the Columbia scene is Hysteria Brewing, which has sort of a steampunk/mad scientist vibe. It makes sense, as the brewers and owners come from an experimental home-brew background and are anxious to test the limits of genre and style. Releases include a barrel-aged sour, a coffee milk stout made from local beans, and a New England-style IPA named after an old Orioles baseball tactic, the Baltimore Chop. Visit the taproom for local food and music on the weekends, before or after you visit the local distillery Lost Ark next door.
The first thing you’ll notice about Independent Brewing is the vintage pick-up that’s parked out front of its Bel Air taproom. The second thing you’ll notice is the variety of delicious (and mainly gluten-free!) beers available in the form of growlers, crowlers, or simply a pint glass poured from one of its 22 taps. There are communal tables, an outdoor patio, and local art on the walls, and a couple TVs that are almost always off to encourage conversation. And we’ve had some of the best chats over a pint of the kolsch-like Blue Eyed Blonde or the full-bodied, roasty Cereal Killer oatmeal stout.
As much as we embrace breweries in the heart of the city, sometimes it’s fun to get back to nature and head to this 54-acre farm in Ellicott City. Manor Hill is located at the end of an idyllic lane with hop poles and cows grazing in the distance. The taproom sits in a refurbished barn that has all the rustic touches of a winery, including strung white lights, reclaimed wood, and chalkboard menus. Many of the beers echo this agricultural theme, including the Grisette farmhouse ale, Citra Splendor imperial IPA, and the Farm Fuzz Belgian-style wit.
Southeast Baltimore, which is where National and Gunther cut their teeth 60 years ago, is coming full circle has Monument City Brewing opened there earlier this spring. As a graduate of contact brew co-op Peabody Heights, Monument has found a place to really plant its roots -- a brick industrial warehouse with exposed iron beams, giant sun-filled windows, and a tasting room that looks directly into the brewery. Everything here is handcrafted, including the bar and tap handles made by neighboring woodworker Mark Supik. But the real gems are the beers coming out of Monument’s 20-barrel system, including its signature 51 Rye or recently released Rooftop pineapple-mint pale ale.