As I mentioned in Monday's post, I spent last weekend in Baltimore being shown the delights of that city by my best friend.
My friend and I have spent many, many hours in pubs in various countries in the thirteen years we have known each other. We have enjoyed beer in dives, expat hangouts, brewpubs and basically anywhere that sells alcohol, there was a time when we would buy a case of beer on a Friday afternoon to drink on our balcony in Prague before hitting the town. We have drunk in Czech cities, towns and villages, Slovak cities, towns and villages and now American cities, towns and villages.
In the weeks before our trip I did plenty of research on places that I wanted to go to while in Baltimore, even though, as I admitted on Twitter the other day, I am a useless beer tourist. I am not much of one for visiting breweries and doing tours, there are only so many mash tuns that I am interested in seeing, my interest in beer is primarily based on the fact that I like drinking it. Having arrived in the city in the early evening our plan was simple, get checked in and get checking out the pub scene, starting with a place to eat as well as drink.
That place ended up being in Fells Point, a pub called The Wharf Rat, which I had only learnt about on Tuesday or Wednesday last week, courtesy of Joe's post on cask beer in the USA. Having walked in, the first thing I noticed was a bank of five handpumps and made a beeline for that part of the bar. I could almost have whooped for joy when I saw the magic words "Best Bitter" on one of the pump clips. The bitter was from Oliver Breweries, whose head brewer follows my Twitter account and had warned me that he didn't think the bitter would be available at Pratt Street Ale House over the weekend. Moments later a proper pint of rich copper liquid with a nicely sparkled head was nestling in my grubby mitt, and what a delight it was, a perfect example of one of the most criminally underrated styles of beer.
Oliver Breweries was to become something of a theme of our weekend. Nursing hangovers on the Saturday morning after a somewhat boisterous crawl of pubs and bars, we wandered from our hotel to Pratt Street and the eponymous Ale House, home base of Oliver Breweries. I was hoping that they would, by some happy fate, have more of the bitter to act as a hair of the dog that bit us, though in all honesty the dog that bit us was more rye sized than bitter. Let me take this moment to thank the inventor of ibuprofen for his sterling service to the drinking classes, a handful of pills and my headache was on the wane.
With places at the bar duly taken, the bar itself being my preferred location to drink, I ordered a pint of Dark Horse, Oliver Breweries' mild - what a weekend, bitter and mild in the same city! Dark Horse was the ideal pick me up after the excesses of Friday, a subtly malty beer with just enough hop bite to give some balance and an superb moreishness. Our barmaid soon learnt that when we had two fingers worth of beer in the glass, it was time for a fresh one. It was almost like being back in Central Europe with an endless conveyor belt of beer deposited in front of us. When her shift came to an end, we decided to move on and try some other places, one of which I will talk more about on Friday. Eventually though we ended up back at the Wharf Rat for more best bitter, more banter and more just being a proper pub, eventually kicking the cask.
Pratt Street Ale House and The Wharf Rat appeal to two different sides of my love for beer and the drinking of it. The former has a classic American sports bar environment, good beer and good food, a place to sit and watch the game with plenty of tasty beer, but thankfully lacking pretension. The latter what I regard as a "proper" pub, a place where socialising is at the very heart of your visit, lubricated with quality session beer, a place that is unfalteringly down to earth. These are the kind of places where, in my unhumble opinion, beer and beer drinkers are most naturally at home, I loved them and whenever I am in Baltimore again, I will most certainly be stopping by for more.