You Should Be Drinking at These Baltimore Breweries
Believe it or not, the city of Baltimore has played a crucial role in beer-guzzling history. The bottle cap was patented here in 1829. The people at the American Can Company, located in present-day Canton, were the geniuses who first canned beer. National and Gunther Brewing Companies were household names in the 1950s. But sadly, like in so many parts of the country, Baltimore’s breweries were largely consolidated, bought out, or moved out of town during the 20th century.
Luckily, like many other parts of the country, Baltimore’s beer scene has blown up in the past decade, to the point where a new brewery seems to be opening every day -- and soon each neighborhood in the city will have its own corner brewer. From taprooms to brewpubs to beer co-ops, here are the best spots you shouldn’t miss.
Why let the city folks have all the fun? Located in the suburbs of Hunt Valley, B.C. Brewery took its homebrew competition wins and opened a brick-and-mortar spot in the spring of 2018. The massive space features long community tables, games of corn hole, and an extensive food menu that includes tacos and wings. Try the easy-drinking Hunt Valley Blonde to start and move to the more complex Paw Paw Hazy IPA sourced from Maryland fruit. If you’re not a traditional beer drinker, they’ve got options for that, too, including gluten-free ciders and ales, as well as nitro cold-brew coffee.
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.
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. And don’t overlook the food here, as Brewer’s has been consistently churning out some of the best dishes in the city.
A passion for science and local ingredients brought the team of Checkerspot together, allowing them to open a permanent facility near M&T Bank Stadium in 2018. An ideal spot for tailgating or bolstering a Federal Hill bar crawl, the two-story taproom oozes with character including nods to its titular Maryland state butterfly and other natural, agricultural accents. In the tasting room, you’ll find unique options like the brand’s flagship Juniperus IPA, which combines candy-like hops and the piny notes of the juniper berry. Also, check if Keeper Stout is on nitro, and sample this creamy milk stout fortified with real crab shells.
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 place in South Baltimore in an old Phillips Seafood and Coca-Cola plant. Located at the base of a giant smokestack, the brewery just added a pizza oven and features tons of live music on the weekend, while continuing to turn out some of our favorite suds in town. Popular releases include its New England-style IPA Green Machine, the Ostend Sundays blonde ale, and Omar 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. DuClaw is known for having fun with ingredients, as seen in beers like Sweet Baby Jesus chocolate peanut butter porter. But, with a recent rebrand both in aesthetic and core flavors, there’s a lot of be excited about for DuClaw, included its Sour Me series, and hilariously named Dad Bod Double IPA and Regular Beer American lager, which tastes exactly like it sounds -- in a good way.
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.
Starting out in the Peabody Heights co-op (see below), the guys at Full Tilt are inspired by the eccentricities of Baltimore when crafting their beers. And now they have a full-fledged brewery to do just that. Located inside the Accelerator building in North Baltimore, the space is industrial with exposed brick and ceilings and a colorful mural that pays homepage to the brewery’s mascot, Hops the Cat. In fact, of Hops is the star of its very popular IPA, which releases new seasonal iterations, similar to its Govans Gose series (a blackberry version is coming up in the fall). Besides that, you can try Camden Cream on nitro, Fleet Street Raspberry Wheat, and the deceptively strong Patterson Pumpkin, when we are properly in fall, of course.
When beer behemoth Guinness wanted to open its first U.S. brewery in more than 60 years, it decided a town just outside of Baltimore is the place to be. It helps that its parent company already had offices here and that its industrial facility is just a stone’s throw from the airport (in fact, anyone arriving or departing BWI will likely see the giant white Guinness sign on their travels). But besides just great marketing, Guinness’s new Baltimore facility really delivers on quality. While the famous stout is still produced in Dublin, here you’ll find atypical beer styles like the crushable Guinness Blonde, peppery rye IPA, or the fruit-forward white ale. Plus, you can take a tour of old Irish brewing artifacts, enjoy lawn games outside, or dine at its upscale restaurants upstairs.
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. There are also free brewery tours that finish up in the polish taproom where $5 gets you 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.
Hysteria Brewing sort of a steampunk/mad scientist vibe, which 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.
Thankfully, many Maryland laws have changed in the last five years allowing for the proliferation of farm breweries. A ton of farmers throughout the state have taken advantage (including Milkhouse in Mt. Airy and Patriot Acres on the Eastern Shore), but just a half-an-hour outside the city is Inverness. Coining the phrase “crop to keg,” the farmers at Inverness really take advantage of their 100 acres of land -- filled with cattle, seasonal crops, and 600 hop plants. The picturesque, barn-like taproom opens up to the bucolic Monkton landscape, providing an ideal atmosphere. Enjoy a refreshing Pickin’ Peaches, a sour ale made from local apricots and peaches, or something off the food menu -- which includes burgers, dogs, and pit beef.
Another brewery worth the drive (or Lyft) 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. Since opening in 2014, its beers and events (see its annual Lebowski Night) have been 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.
This East Baltimore brewhouse that opened in late 2015 has 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 yet still creative beer portfolio that includes Helles Lager, Chesapeake Common, Rye Porter, and On Point amber ale.
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.
Baltimore has a ton of nicknames. Charm City and the below Monument City among them. One of its other monikers is Mobtown, referencing a group of anti-war protestors in 1812. With that rebellious spirit in mind, Mobtown opened this past spring, appropriately, in Brewer’s Hill with beers that bend the rules. There’s the “bone dry” brut-style Citrine IPA, Tiny Purple Fishes amber ale with a hint of Belgan candi syrup, or the Chado Saison brewed with matcha green tea. Enjoy any of these brews in its wide open taproom, complete with a brightly colored octopus mural, paying homage to its first canned release, Space Octopus.
Southeast Baltimore, which is where National and Gunther cut their teeth 60 years ago, came full circle when Monument City Brewing opened there in 2017. Monument 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 local woodworker Mark Supik. But the real gems are the beers coming out of its 20-barrel system, including the signature 51 Rye, crisp Penchant Pils, ever-popular Nobo hazy IPA.
Used to be, if we wanted to have great food, inventive craft beer, and cutting-edge cocktails, we had to visit three different spots in Baltimore. Thankfully, we now have Nepenthe. What started out as a home-brew shop and learning center down the road is now a full brewery, restaurant, and bar in one on a busy Hampden thoroughfare. Come here ready to eat (and drink!) as Nepenthe’s wings, fries, and sandwiches are some of the best in the city. The beer list is constantly rotating, but expect bright and juicy flavors from its Polydribbles series or whatever hazy IPA is on tap. There are fun, weekly trivia nights and the home-brew shop is still open and located in the basement in case you want to start a brewery of your own.
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 place has an ample 10,000-barrel capacity, a giant parking lot for events, and is the place to consume its beers -- like the brilliantly named Draft Punk -- straight from the source.
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.
This is what we mean about practically every neighborhood getting a brewery. While you likely wouldn’t find Pigtown in many Baltimore guidebooks, this historic ’hood has been given new life these past few years, thanks to intrepid business owners and residents planting roots here. Enter four friends from UMBC, who started this “nano-brewery” out of a love of community and inclusivity. Suspended strives to be a zero-waste facility with tons of reclaimed materials and supports its surrounding neighborhood with up-and-coming live music acts, events for the LGBTQ+ community, and local chef pop-ups. Try beers with unusual flavors like the Sour Persian, an ale conditioned on Iranian barberries.
Our favorite local taproom is now all grown up. After coming onto the scene in 2012 and changing the game for Baltimore beer, Union Craft now has a new home where they can brew triple the capacity and also support other local businesses. Housed in a massive old Sears warehouse, the Union Collective facility includes not only the brewery but a marketplace for other startups to sell their ice cream, coffee, spirits, pizza, and even rock-climbing services. But if you’re just sticking to the taproom, try some tried-and-true brews like Anthem golden ale, Duckpin IPA, Old Pro Gose, or anything new and exciting in its Rough Draught series. Sip them outside on its dog-friendly patio with a giant Instagram-worthy mural painted by local artists.
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.
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