Review: Manor Hill Sixfold

I recently started a new job and am trying to figure out where to go for beer after work and between 5 and my occasional evening appointments. Generally, I’m happy to buy beer to drink and review at home, but here is a small chunk of time to kill, so what better way to handle that than with a craft beer? Enter my old reliable, Gilly’s. It’s about halfway between work and my appointment, so it’s a fine place to camp out for a while.

This week, they had a selection from Manor Hill that I hadn’t tried before: Sixfold Imperial IPA. Coming in at 8.8%, this is no lightweight session beer!  Sixfold might be seasonal or a small run, but I feel like I’ve seen it listed on beer menus in the past. It was apparently originally brewed under the name of Hidden Hopyard: Volume 6 and strongly features Eureka and Equinox hops, which I don’t really know well. Manor Hill brews out of Ellicott City, MD, which is very close to me. Clearly, I’ll need to visit them sometime soon.

This came out a really lovely, rich amber-gold color with no head. There’s a little wisp of foam on the surface of the beer, but no lacing left behind as we go on. There’s not a strong nose to this beer at all; it’s perhaps gently green and floral if anything at all. I get some faint bread scents and maybe a hint of pine.

With the first sip, it’s clear that this Imperial IPA is jam-packed with flavor. Citrus and hops and resin and honey and freshly-baked baguette. Wow! It’s not dry in spite of being a decent 70 IBUs. It’s maybe even just a hint sweet and it’s fruity without being too refreshing. I know, that sounds weird. But it’s a good thing in this case. It’s not a super-bright, citrusy beer, but it’s spring-like and really delightful.

I’m absolutely going to keep an eye out for this one in the future! I’d have it again any day of the week. Five out of five delicious mugs!

Review: Old Dominion Grapefruit Pale Ale

Old Dominion Brewery started life as a humble brewery in Ashburn, VA, way back in 1989 (this is fairly old by craft brewery standards, considering that much of the craft movement didn’t gain traction until the 2000s). They lovingly crafted beer and sodas for many years, supplying the Mid-Atlantic with reputable products in bottles and kegs. In 2007, they joined up with Fordham brewery out of Annapolis, MD – and in 2009, the breweries consolidated and moved their base of operations to Dover, Delaware. These two breweries are partners with the Rams Head Tavern in Savage, MD, who keeps several of their beers on rotating taps at all times.

I was meeting friends for dinner at Rams Head one April evening and, as per usual, I was heinously early. I grabbed a pint of this Grapefruit Pale Ale, their summer seasonal, which had just premiered earlier that week. Worth noting, I really don’t like trying to snap pictures of my beers in this venue because the lighting is so dark and kind of red-orange saturated. It doesn’t make for good photography.

This is (probably) a pretty, honeycomb gold color (again, those lights make it hard to tell) with a fluffy, off-white head on its beery shoulders. There’s plenty of full-bodied lacing remaining inside of the glass as the head settles. The nose is faintly hoppy, fairly grainy, and with some light notes of citrus fruit in it.

The bartender described it as “bright” and I agree: it’s very easy to drink and nicely crisp. Now, I don’t really usually like grapefruit anything, so this beer was kind of a risk – but it paid off. It’s great served cold on a warm day. It’s a little piney and reminiscent of an IPA in that way. The finish is a little dry (probably the number one complain that I make on this blog…), but not so dry that I’d never get this again. I think I would order it in the future, especially to support local craft beer.  Four out of five frosty mugs!

Review: Max’s Taphouse Sour Beer Festival

While drinking IPAs with a friend at Gilly’s several weeks ago, I lamented the lack of sour beers that day. Now, Gilly’s does have sours pretty often, but didn’t this day. And my friend says, “I think there’s a sour beer festival in Baltimore next weekend.”

I WAS SO IN.

I hadn’t been to Max’s in probably 10 years, so I didn’t remember anything about it other than the plethora of taps. There are 102 of them to be exact. That’s nothing to sneeze at. The sour beer festival took place on Monday, February 20th – President’s Day. I may not celebrate the holiday, but I’ll celebrate some great wild ales or sour beers!

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We got there early – 11am – and grabbed one of the very last tables. The Belgian Beer Festival, which took up the previous three days, often results in a line out the door before the doors open. I’m grateful my friend knew that arriving early was the right choice. There were pencils and paper slips on every table along with a massive list of beers (on something like 18″ long sheets of paper) and my goal was to pick several, take my paper to the bartender, and get my many small tasters. It was possible to get full pints, but I was in it for the variety.

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Unfortunately, the bartender said she handed my my tasters in the order I wrote them, but some were almost certainly mixed up. I did my best to sort the mess out, but my notes on these beers are all wrong, so this review is moot. I had a great time trying 8 different sours that day and, while the crowds weren’t exactly to my liking, I would definitely go back and do this again next year.

 

Review: Diamondback Wack

Another Gilly’s review (you think they’d be a sponsor of mine by now or something) – and a quick one at that. Diamondback Brewing Company is Baltimore based and has been brewing since 2013. They’re based out of a handsome brick building in the Locust Point area of the city, just off of I-95. And yet I haven’t visited them so far. We’ll have to change that.

Their standard brewing lineup favors IPAs and pale ales, but they definitely went outside of their comfort zone with Wack. This is a weird one: a black gose (which I will admit that I had never heard of before). A black gose’s signature color is dark and this comes from the malts used to brew it. In the case of Diamondback Wack, these are Midnight Wheat and Dark Chocolate Malts. The hops used are Ella (which I’m not really familiar with), and the yeasts are a house yeast for Diamonbdack as well as additional lactic acid.

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I had a 10oz pour this particular Monday. It was a deep, dark brown color with a hint of ruby hue to it. There’s not-quite-a-finger of tan head, which vanishes quickly.  I didn’t get much of a nose off of this, probably because it was very cold. There might be a slightly zingy and sour smell and – I know that this sounds odd – I could swear that it smells slightly salted.

It’s malty for a few moments up front, roasty but not sweet at all. There’s a great deal of complexity in this beer. Diamondback’s website says it’s brewed with coriander, which is part of the nutty, layered flavors. It’s very sour. It has a nice pucker punch to it. The salty finish is also pleasantly strong, which is a great taste for a gose – very signature of this beer style. Even when I lick my lips after, they’re still sour and salty tasting. This is a style of beer that I love and this was a really good example of what I think it can be should be.

Review: Elysian Bifrost Winter Pale Ale

It was Howard County Restaurant Week, I had a night off, and I was craving steak – the stars had aligned for me. I asked a few friends to join me for a lady date dinner, but, in my truest fashion, I arrived about 30 minutes early. Time for a beer? Time for a beer!

Centre Park Grill in Columbia, Maryland, has a decent beer selection and an excellent range of whiskeys and bourbons. Trust me, I love bourbon, but I was in a beer mood. I was even seated before my reservation time, so I didn’t have to sit at the bar (though I would have, even though it was near the front door on a cold night). Which is more depressing: sitting alone at a restaurant table or sitting alone at a bar?

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Elysian Bifrost Winter Pale Ale pours a hazy, orangey gold with maybe one finger of fluffy, foamy head. There’s some lacing to be found, but its staying power isn’t the greatest I’ve ever seen. The smell here is a lot of wet grains or cereal up front with some floral hops in the background. And I may be hallucinating some very faint citrus, but honestly I was second-guessing myself on that the whole time.

This beer leads with malty sweetness, which quickly fades into piney hops. There might be traces of coriander or nutmeg at work here, but just barely. This isn’t a strongly spiced winter ale. There is, however, a quick from that 8.3% ABV. The finish is just a tad dry, very gentle, and then ends on a sweet note. It has a robust mouthfeel and fairly low carbonation.

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Extremely drinkable, I do declare! But definitely seasonal, which is sad. I’d have this pretty frequently if I could find it. I’d absolutely buy this and keep it around at home for cold winter days.

Review: DuClaw Mysterium

DuCaw Brewing Company is another local, area craft brewery – this one based in Baltimore, MD. Founded in 1995, DuClaw has been making a wide range of creative beers for over twenty years. While they have a brew pub not too far from me, I haven’t actually been there in years. I do buy their bottles sometimes at my bottle shop and definitely owe them a visit sometime soon. Some friends even tell me that Tuesday is all day happy hour at the Arundel Mills location. Worth checking out!

At Gilly’s in Rockville, I had a draft pint of their Mysterium brew (and failed to take any pictures). DuClaw calls this beer a light amber Belgian spiced ale, and I’ll buy into that pigeonhole. It’s pretty different and I like that – spiced and herbal beers are hit or miss, but when they hit, I really get into them.

It pours a crystal clear deep golden/copper color. There was no head on this beer for me and no lacing, either. It’s a spiced/herbal beer for sure. The smell is Belgian yeasty, very zingy, with some cinnamon and nutmeg accents. It has a sweet, malty, almost bread-like taste with a very flowery finish. There’s a hint of clove and banana in there, which I’ll assume is due to some Belgian yeast. There’s also apparently chamomile in here, which is likely the floral herbiness that I can’t quite identify.

This was really enjoyable and I would absolutely buy it again. It’s floral, but refreshing.

Review: Otter Creek Couch Surfer

Back at Gilly’s again. Like you do.

Otter Creek, based out of Vermont, is a very environmentally-conscious brewery that puts out a solid lineup. They describe Couch Surfer as a “laid-back oatmeal stout,” which I’ll go along with. I was lucky enough to have this as a nitro draft. I opted for a 10oz glass, which Gilly’s generally offers as an alternative to a full pint.

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It’s a beautiful pour. Deep, rich chocolate black-brown with a rich tan head. Nitro is a magical thing for this oatmeal stout. There’s coffee, chocolate, and grain aromas, maybe with a hint of burnt sugar (probably from the dark roasted malts).

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It has a good mouthfeel – not watery like a lot of stouts can be. Partly the nitro, I’m sure, but this beer felt very velvety and luxurious. The first taste is very mildly coffee, more lactose-sweet than anything else – but not cloyingly sweet at any point. This beer isn’t terribly complex, but it’s also not metallic or acidic at all. Very well-rounded.

Bar and Beer Review: Rams Head Tavern in Savage, MD

Here’s another bar and restaurant, tucked neatly into my back yard. Yes, readers, I am still on a quest to find My Bar. Will Rams Head Tavern in Savage Mill, MD fill that opening? That’s debatable. It has some highlights, but it doesn’t really have the right vibe for me to feel comfortable there all that often. For one, it’s pretty big. It’s a three story restaurant with many tables and a bar on the main floor, more tables upstairs, and then a basement pub all the way downstairs. I’m usually a fan of cozier set ups than that.

The food is decent, though maybe a few dollars more than I generally like to spend. I’ve only been there on weekends, so I haven’t been able to take advantage of any happy hour specials (which include $3 draft beers and some free appetizers on weekdays from 4-7). Their house beers come from Dominion and Fordham Brewing in Delaware.

I grabbed a seat at the bar ahead of some friends (I’m chronically early everywhere) and was taken care of by the bartender, Mike, who I quizzed on their relationship with Fordham. As he explained it, neither Rams Head nor Fordham owns one another, but that they sort of grew up together in the Annapolis location and are now considered partner businesses.

They look like they carry at least six Fordham beers at any given time, plus about a dozen guest taps. The manager, whose name I didn’t catch, told me they have “hundreds” of bottles. Now, I’m a draft girl most of the time, but I may need to explore this in the future. Plus, on the first Thursday of every month, a new beer is released and a promotional pint glass is part of the deal (first beer is $5, you keep the glass, and refills are $2).

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My friends and I feasted on crab dip and Old Bay dry rub wings that night and, I have to say, the food was solid.

Fordham Wisteria Wheat

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This draft beer pours a clear yellow straw-like gold, so I figure it must be a filtered wheat beer. No head was present when I got this beer, but there was some mild, creamy lacing. The low light may have obscured the color of the lacing (and maybe even the beer a little). Mike said its taste trends toward banana and clove, which I like very much in wheat beers.

There’s a definite bread or grain smell with some light banana notes. There’s also a yeasty zing to the scent. It has a very light and crisp taste that mellows into banana bread and clove, just as promised. I would call it very crushable.

Crash Zone IPL

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This beer looks like an amber with a rich, creamy-looking head. There’s not much nose here, maybe a little hoppy, with some sweet grains. It smells like an amber to me. And it tastes a bit like a hoppy amber as well. The aftertaste is a little dry to the point where the finish of this beer makes me want a tall glass of water or something else on my palate. I tried a sample and I wouldn’t order a full pint.

Gypsy Lager

This is perhaps their flagship beer as well as the one I am most familiar with. I also happen to really like it. It’s solid. Pours a light golden brown. It’s clear with minimal head. It’s a very easy drinking beer. It’s mild, crisp, and refreshing when cold. Even after warming up a bit, it’s still really solid. Not impressive or special, but a genuinely good go-to.

Fordham IPA

Here’s a short review for you (because I didn’t care for it and also because I was enjoying my night with friends and not taking many notes at this point): it’s too dry and bitter for me. There’s a very dry finish. As it warmed (and as I got more inebriated), it became a little less overstated and a little more drinkable.

 

Review: Push Galaxy Imperial IPA

Back at Frisco’s in Columbia, MD! I’m guilty of stopping here on late nights when I’m in the area. But I’ve been coming here for about four years now; I joined their beer club in January – 2014.  I got a little book in which I record all of my beers. I even earned a T-shirt at 50! I’m working – very slowly – toward 100 beers, which will earn me my own fancy mug and the promise of all of my future beers being served in a 19oz mug instead of a pint glass. Worth it!

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Push is Frisco’s house brewery and Howard County’s first craft brewery. I’ll drink to that!

This Imperial IPA pours a dark, hazy gold color. There’s no head, but some subtle lacing inside of the glass. It sticks around as I drink the beer down. The smell is a little citrusy, which makes perfect sense because it uses Galaxy hops (a delightful Australian gift to the world), which have a great deal of grapefruit notes as part of their signature.

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It’s hoppy and slightly green with a resinous nose all around. It first hits the palate with a little brightness, but, fair warning: it has a very very dry finish. Lots of pine and resin in the back of the throat. Plenty of flavor in this beer! Pretty sure I’d order this one again in spite of the dryness (which I don’t generally go for).

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I also took advantage of this fascinating doohickey that they have: a one-off canning device. They can pour and seal any of their beers in a 32oz can, pressed right there behind the bar, and you can take it home. I’ll need to look into this soon!

Bar and Beer Review: Olive on Main in Laurel, MD

I wanted to spend my afternoon off having lunch and a beer somewhere while running errands and Yelp suggested to me that Olive on Main might be a good choice. After waiting in line at the post office for almost 30 minutes, I was game.

In the second half of 2016, after my marriage fell apart, I had to uproot my life and move somewhere new. Alone. I picked a city nearer to a lot of my fiends, finally closer than I had been in years, but it was still a new life in a new place that I had to face on my own. This is the first time I’ve ever lived alone. I guess maybe I’m not alone with the birds, but they sure don’t pay rent.

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The place only has six taps for craft beer, so I balked a little. I’m a tad spoiled by craft beer bars with huge selections. Will this become my new bar? I treated myself to Burger (it would have been $6 on Tuesday, but I came on a Monday) cooked medium rare, and served with nice, crispy fries. It was a good, solid, flavorful, and presented on a tasty brioche bun. I’ll consider their well-reviewed falafel or a mezze platter next time.

Inevitably, I failed to take many pictures. Please find it in your heart to forgive me!

Manor Hill IPA

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Pours a lovely, hazy, dark golden color in a lightly frosty glass. It has a decently strong nose despite being poured very chilly. It smells floral and orange, lightly hoppy. The first sip is sweet, bright, and floral. It finishes with a pleasantly green happiness that’s sort of herbal in nature. It tastes the way that admiring a pretty flower garden feels.

Red Hook Long Hammer IPA

Another frost glass and a golden pour. No head and just a film of foam to be seen. I can’t detect any nose at all, maybe because of the coldness of the glass. I took a second, comically deep sniff (somewhat embarrassing in public) and got a piney hop note that was very faint. The first taste has grains, isn’t too sweet, and is mildly hoppy. It’s refreshing up front, but has a dry finish in the back. It didn’t overwhelm my food, but didn’t quite stand up to it, either. It gets happier as it warms.