Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Beat the heat at Mahaffeys

My business takes me south these days, so I don't often have the opportunity to visit with my friend Wayne Mahaffey, owner of his eponymous pub.

But yesterday I was in the Canton neighborhood of Baltimore, Maryland so I dropped in at Mahaffeys' Pub.

And it felt like old times.

As I told Wayne, his pub is a true local, something I haven't found closer to home in northern Virginia where there are good beer bars. But a local is - as I perceive it: a comfortably-sized tavern where different ages can commingle - not necessarily a pick up hot spot - and which offers above-average pub food and a creative good-beer selection.

Here's an excerpt from a review I wrote of Mahaffeys back in November 2003:

Owner Wayne Mahaffey is the new kid in town: his cozy pub is a gem in the Canton neighborhood of Baltimore, attracting a growing number of good beer fans along with his loyal locals. He and his staff are revivalists in the all-too-rare art of conversation and conviviality. Mahaffey's has 9 taps, a cask every Monday (a mix of regional and British), and a healthy, growing bottle list. There's a small but efficient kitchen and grill.

Cask ale would be a plus when it comes to a local. And Mahaffey's has that. And since the above review was written, it's there now almost every day, depending upon availability. The pub has also expanded with an upstairs lounge (closed during the summer months) and has maintained and strengthened its good-beer reputation.

It was humid and in the mid-90s yesterday. So I was very pleased to see the Frank Boone's Geuze on draft. (Mahaffeys was one of only two bars in the DC/Baltimore area to have this on draft.)

This Geuze (Boone's spelling) is what I would consider a true lawn-mower beer: tart, woody, earthy, funky, and dry. It was a perfect antidote for the heat.

Here's a passage from Lew Bryson's book: Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware Breweries (p.184)
I like places like Mahaffey's Pub and Growlers in Baltimore, where the people that run the places are really jazzed about beer, they're nuts about it. They really care about what they're selling. That comes through - the staff get it, and they care about the beer, too, sometimes fiercely.

Wayne Mahaffey called Tom Cizauskas, the beer representative that had gotten him started on transforming his corner bar into a beer bar, and shouted"I did it, Tom! I got rid of Miller Lite! It's the last one, now it's all great beer!" He was as excited as if he'd won the Olympic medal. Wayne gets it.

I would amend that: Wayne was well on his way to bringing in good beers before I even stepped foot in. And that call? It was at 3 in the morning!

Wayne is a true publican, in the above "local" meaning of the word. He's there most every day, for at least several hours after he opens the pub at 4pm.

2706 Dillon St.
Baltimore, MD 21224

If you have trouble finding Mahaffey's, look for the Canton Safeway and Saint Casimir's (with the golden onion-domes). It's between them at a right angle.

[UPDATE: 5 September 2007 - Man hits his mark: 1,000 beers, at Mahaffey's Pub]

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