I ran into Bill Oliver yesterday in downtown Baltimore, Maryland, at the Pratt Street Ale House.
Bill is one of the pioneers of the Maryland craft beer movement. In 1993, he opened the Wharf Rat brewpub in downtown Baltimore —Maryland's third brewpub since Prohibition. Bill got out of the game in October 2008 selling the Wharf Rat brewpub, but retaining the original non-brewing pub in Fells Point.
The new owners closed the Wharf Rat brewpub early in 2009 for renovations. After six weeks, they've reopened it as ... the Pratt Street Ale House.
It's not dramatically different, but the ol' gal does look gussied up, airier, with new paint and gloss. (The bathrooms are clean!)
There are a total of 42 taps, most downstairs in the main pub, and the remainder upstairs. About 8 of the taps seem reserved for non-house beers. Located as it is across the street from the Convention Center, the pub probably needs to offer a few industrial lagers. I did see another Maryland brewery on tap —Frederick, Maryland's Flying Dog— but nothing from Baltimore neighbor Clipper City.
I had a draft Mad Monk, a dark 4%-ish mild ale, one of my favorites from Wharf Rat days. It tasted as good as it had ... as it should have. The brewing kit from the Wharf Rat remains in operation. And handling the brewing chores is Brewer Steve Jones, retained from the Wharf Rat.
One of the new owners, Justin Dvorkin, stopped by my barstool to say hello.
He was quick to reassure me —and by extension all Baltimore real ale fans— that the missing gorgeous beer engines were to be reinstalled next week. That's good news. Cask ale was one of the hallmarks of the brewery from its inception. [UPDATE Installed! 2009.04.07]
The pub is girding itself for baseball Opening Day, Monday 13 April. The Orioles' Camden Yards is just across the street. A grand re-opening with a full menu is a few weeks away.