Full Steam Ahead: Baltimore’s Craft Beer Movement

| January 30, 2013 | 0 Comments

From MacKenzie Real Estate’s Services, MacKenzie’s Restaurant Quarterly:

Full Steam Ahead: Baltimore’s Craft Beer Movement

The “craft beer” scene throughout Baltimore’s restaurants and bars continues to grow by leaps and bounds with the birth of each new local watering hole. Craft beers, often referred to as “microbrews”, tend to be produced by small, local breweries. Similar to a wine connoisseur, the reach of the local craft beer enthusiast has increased throughout the metro area over the past 20 years. While many of Baltimore’s neighborhoods did experience varying levels of “beer bars” and “brewpubs” throughout the 1990’s and early 2000’s, the development and popularity of such establishments today has hit record highs. The influence of craft beer on Baltimore’s modern day restaurant industry can be witnessed on many levels.

The sale of local craft beers in Baltimore restaurants initially began in the form of a “brewpub”, a bar or restaurant that brews its beer on the premises. One of the first, and arguably most notable Baltimore brewpubs, is Clipper City Brewing Company which is helmed by Baltimore-native Hugh Sisson. Sisson, while managing a bar in the quickly gentrifying neighborhood of Federal Hill in 1981, exploited an opportunity to focus his business on a specific niche of beers. By 1989, Sisson was able to convert his family bar into Maryland’s first legal brewpub. Demand for locally brewed beers in a unique, but familiar setting, immediately took off and the enthusiasm for locally brewed craft beer was born.

These traditional brewpubs eventually morphed into restaurants selling craft beers that were not necessarily brewed on-premise, but still had a heavy local influence. More noteworthy examples of these beer-centric type establishments today are Heavy Seas Alehouse in Harbor East, Of Love and Regret in Brewers Hill, Dog Pub in Federal Hill, and Mahaffey’s Pub in Canton. The presence of actual brewpubs has also re-emerged with such establishments as Gordon Beirsch in Harbor East, where the on-premise brewmaster can be viewed creating the beer through a large display window. Also making a re-appearance are unique breweries in small nostalgic Baltimore neighborhoods, such as Union Craft Brewing in Woodberry, which opened in 2011. True to the “craft beer” ideology, Union Craft Brewing’s first objective was to get their product in the hands of the locals, and not to ship it thousands of miles away.

Craft beer will continue to shape and influence the restaurant industry in the Baltimore metro area for many years to come. It has become commonplace for restaurants to expand their draft beer list to include as many local craft beers as possible. Many even go a step further and design their food menu to compliment the specific craft beers on the draft list as is the case with newcomers Birroteca Restaurant in Hampden-Woodberry and Alewife in Westside Downtown. Next time you are in a new local restaurant, take note of the beers on tap. You will notice less and less Budweiser and more unique local creations such as Stillwater Artisanal’s Cellar Door Saison, Oliver Brewery’s Pagan Porter, Flying Dog’s Wildeman Farmhouse IPA, and Union Craft’s Duckpin Pale Ale.

-contributed by Henry Deford

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News releases from various sources around South Baltimore.