Listen up you Pabst chugging, Hamm’s swilling, Schlitz bonging mid-western f*ks, it is bout’ time you got a lesson in craft beer. I’ve been told that craft beer exists in the vast empty void that is the mid-west, but I have never really been there to see it, and thus it doesn’t exist #FlatEarth.
Now, what exactly are we doing here one might ask. Well, since I am employed at a brewery in Maryland, it was suggested to me that I rank various breweries throughout the state in an exercise that mainly boils down to:
- We need content for Maryland week
- Distracting OTE readers from the relative plain of suckitude that Maryland football is going to exist on for all of time.
- I don’t want to talk about Maryland football twice in a single week.
I mean, c’mon, we couldn’t even pull a Rutgers and dig up the corpse of Ralph Freidgen to coach our team in a last ditch (probably fruitless) effort to revive a dead program. (Before you go hitting up Alexa, no, Ralph is not actually deceased, thankfully).
Instinctively, I was going to compare all of the B1G schools to a well known brewery, but essentially, the rest of y’all are AB InBev, and screw you, this week is about MARYLAND BABY.
Since I don’t feel much like going down a path of relatively obscure subjectivity, I will not be “ranking” any breweries. This is something, surely, many have tried to carry out before me, and since most of you aren’t from here, why the hell would you even care. Consider this more of a guide, for those of you readers that might find yourselves in the unfortunate circumstance of actually having to, you know, visit Maryland.
Tier 1: The Scenic
Put me on a serene mountain top surrounded by nature’s beautiful bounty and I could probably suck down a sixer of Milwaukee's Best Ice and remain relatively content about it.
I find it appropriate to start our adventure at a brewery that is not actually in Maryland to remind everyone that Maryland can’t quite do anything right. You can see Maryland from your table though, so I am stealing it.
Harper's Ferry Brewing-Purceville, VA.
A quick jaunt across the Potomac River and you will find yourself at Harper's Ferry Brewing. The beers...average, but look at that view!
Notable Beer: Sell The Team DIPA
This is a nod to a certain owner of a certain potato themed professional football team. Hilariously the beer was marketed by the brewery itself as “bitter and slightly disappointing”.
Milkhouse Brewery-Mount Airy, MD.
This farm brewery is perched nicely atop a hill and is surrounded by nothing other than more...hills. You see, hills are slight topographical changes in the landscape caused by certain geological events over the course of a long time. Perhaps one day you will get out of Cedar Rapids and see one.
Notable Beer: Goldie’s Best Bitter
Backshore Brewing Company-Ocean City, MD.
If you can push your way through the drunk teenagers and moronic sleeveless tee wearing locals that flood the Ocean City boardwalk during the summer you may find yourself at Backshore Brewing Company. It is on the beach, it does not get much more scenic than that. (Side Note: I am 90% certain the guy’s shirt in the photo above reads, “Professional Drinker”...how very appropriate). This is a blink and you’ll miss sort of place, which leads nicely into our next tier. But first, some honorable mentions:
- Elder Pine Brewing and Blending Company-Olney, MD
- Red Shedman Farm Brewery and Hop Yard-Mount Airy, MD
- Waredaca Brewing Company-Gaithersburg, MD
- 1812 Brewery-Cumberland, MD
Tier 2: The Obscure
The craft beer scene has grown exponentially since I became of legal drinking age many years ago, and that is of course a good thing, perhaps even a great thing, but I do sometimes miss the sense of mystery and mild endangerment that came with the earlier days of brewery hopping.
Imagine, traversing through a large back lot, full of mostly over-used commercial vans and unused industrial equipment, only to find yourself in an old office park. One sole garage door stood open on a Sunday afternoon, and inside you find two gentlemen serving ill-conceived small batch brews on a wooden plank supported by old whiskey barrels. “Interesting” you say aloud as you sip on a dill pickle witbier, all the while internally screaming, “oh god make it stop”. But the experience is personal, pure, and charming.
Fast forward a decade or so and we are all clamoring to find who can brew the most hazy boi inside a super huge, shiny, sterile, adult playground completely built on the loans of many people and banks. But, at the end of the day, that is okay too, because at least I am not pretending to like pickle flavored bull shit beer water.
In case you are wondering, that pickle beer story is real. Sadly, that brewery no longer exists, but these other Maryland breweries might take one back to a day gone by.
Jug Bridge Brewery-Frederick, MD.
This brewery sits in an old family diner that coincidentally also used to house another brewery. It’s tiny, not photogenic and not particularly well known, but god damn if they don’t make you feel welcome. It is one of the few breweries in my general area that I know had to temporarily shut down due to the Covid pandemic, but I can happily report that they are back to their old beer serving ways.
Notable Beer: Wedding Grissette
7 Locks Brewing-Rockville, MD
This brewery is on the outskirts of what many might refer to as “the most affluent part of Maryland” or “somewhere kinda close to where Daniel Snyder/Mark Turgeon lives”. 7 Locks is in a repurposed government warehouse and offers pretty much nothing but reasonably decent, reasonably priced beers. This brewery is hard to find unless you are specifically looking for it, and basically stands in complete contrast to all of the other over-priced, needlessly fancy gastropubs in the area. I also felt obligated to include 7 Locks at some point, for reasons some of you may pick up on shortly.
Notable Beer: Surrender Dorothy Rye Pale Ale
Fun Fact: 7 Locks is in a long standing legal battle with Disney, yes, that Disney, over the beer name ‘Surrender Dorothy’.
Brewers Art-Baltimore, MD.
Okay, so this is one of those hipster urban hot spots that doesn’t even put a sign on the outside of their establishment. You have to find out the location through a series of obscure clues intricately placed throughout the inner harbor (or use google), so I am not sure it belongs in this tier, but damn, if the taproom isn’t cool and the beers even better.
Notable Beer: Resurrection Dubbel
Speaking of good beers, let us transition into our next tier, but not before some honorable mentions of course:
- Brewery Fire-Taneytown, MD (Its attached to a bowling alley!)
- Saints Row Brewing-Rockville, MD
- Streetcar 82-Hyattsville, MD
- Calvert Brewing-Upper Marlboro, MD (Melo Trimble is from Upper Marlboro!)
Tier 3: The Heavy Hitters
If you were to ask an average beer drinking Marylander what their top 5 breweries in the state were, I imagine they would include many of the following. For the ten folks from Maryland reading this, if I left off your favorite personal beer hole...I don’t care, I hope you are super offended, go choke on some bourbon barrel aged bull shit.
Burley Oak Brewery-Berlin, MD
Located just outside of Ocean City, MD, I know of people that have driven 8 hour round-trips to get in line at 7AM for Burley Oak can releases. Are Burley Oak’s beers great, yes...are those aforementioned people out of their friggin’ minds, double yes.
I couldn’t find a worthwhile picture of Burley Oak on the interwebs, so here is a picture of Maryland hero Brad Craddock. Thanks for beating Penn State at football that one time! Things have been up hill ever since.
Notable Beer: JREAM Sour Series
R.A.R Brewing-Cambridge, MD
Located on the way to Ocean City, MD, I know of people that have driven 6-hour round trips to get in line at 7AM for RAR can releases. I think we see where this is going. Sadly I do not get to RAR or Burley Oak all that frequently as I would have to cross the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to get there, and anyone that has ever crossed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge knows it is ill advised to cross the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Seriously, don’t try it. I imagine the average Midwesterner that has never seen a body of water would become quickly disoriented and drive themselves off the edge, plunging themselves into a crab and old bay filled grave.
Fun Fact: Governor Larry Hogan dumps four tons of Old Bay seasoning into the Chesapeake Bay bi-weekly.
Notable Beer: Out of Order Series
Sapwood Cellars-Columbia, MD
Personally, I don’t get the hype around this place, they really push their ideals of being a “vegan brewery” (i.e. No Lactose), which is inherently...really fucking stupid... and I find most of their beers to be a bit one note. BUT, they have a dedicated Facebook fan club and I once got yelled at for referring to Sapwood as “slightly above average”, so I must be misinformed.
It’s certainly not bad, not at all, and I would never discourage anyone from going there, just uh, make your own opinions...fan boys can be dangerous.
Notable Beer: Wonderkind DIPA
Cushwa Brewing Company-Hagerstown, MD
Cushwa falls into a similar category as Sapwood does for sticking mostly to brewing hazy variants of similar IPAs, Pale Ales and DIPAs, BUT, they do it so much better. Cushwa does not have the same following some of the other breweries on this list might because they are unfortunately located in WESTERN Maryland (Gross), but have still managed to garner quite the following despite of this.
I know, all of this talk of good beer that many of you corn-bred Nebraskans will never get to try, but have no fear, tier 4 is here, hold up though...it’s time for honorable mentions:
- Union Craft Brewing-Baltimore, MD
- Idiom Brewing- Frederick, MD
- Black Flag Brewing-Columbia, MD
Tier 4: The Big Guys
It is a mild possibility that some of you have seen these bottles haunting the aisles of your local Kroger. These breweries are theoretically based in Maryland, or, at the very least, have production facilities in Maryland.
Flying Dog Brewing Company
Flying Dog got its start in Colorado (I think), but for the time being defines itself as a Maryland craft brewery. You can find their products pretty much anywhere in Maryland, and my assumption is that you might be able to find it occasionally in whatever state you reside in too. They infamously have introduced the world to an Old Bay infused beer, the Dead Rise Gose. I had the pleasure of drinking this beer five or six years ago, at the time it was not advertised as a gose, but given the inherent saltiness of Old Bay, I can see why they have decided to re-brand it as one. Either way, it sucks, try it for the novelty if you must. As someone who loves beer and is generally okay with Old Bay...the two don’t NEED to go together.
Notable Beer: Plenty, but my personal go-to is the Raging Bitch Belgian Style IPA.
No, that is not a typo. Guinness went 63 years without having an operating brewery in the United States, and when they decided to come back, you know where they set up shop?!?! Baltimore, naturally.
I have had the pleasure to visit the Guinness brewery in Baltimore, technically located in Halethorpe, and technically called the Guinness Open Gate Brewery. It is neat, a beer amusement park for curious adults.
There was some sort of legal drama when this place opened, in regards to maximum barrel production and such, but I don’t remember the details, because frankly I am tuned-up on craft beer most of the time.
I am uncertain if they distribute anything other than the standard Guinness and Guinness Blonde outside of state lines, but hey, I bet some of you didn’t know there was a Guinness in Baltimore. Suck it.
Notable Beer: Not Applicable
Other breweries that might distribute to y’alls barren wasteland:
- Heavy Seas Brewing-Halethorpe, MD
- DC Brau-Maryland Adjacent
That brings us to the end of our tour through the world of Maryland craft beer. I sincerely hope you enjoyed the ride and will all now take a minute to stop sipping from the nurturing teet of cheap malt liquors.
Wait, an entire article dedicated to Maryland beer and not one mention of National Bohemian, IT’S IN THE DAMN HEADER PHOTO!
Listen, Natty Boh will always be near and dear to me, and whoever is in charge of the marketing, in particular the can art, panders oh so perfectly to my needs. Is the beer underneath that can art good...short answer, no. Fact is Natty Boh is produced by Pabst Brewing Company, the same folks that bring us Old Style, Strohs, PBR, Old Milwaukee, and Schlitz. You will never convince me that all of those things aren’t just the same shitty beer in different cans. Good night!