Sunday, March 28, 2004

Uber Pils

Sometime in late March 2004, after I had purchased a six-pack of Heavy Seas Small Craft Warning (brewed by Baltimore's Clipper City), I heard through the hop vine that the very same was on tap at Mahaffey's Pub in Baltimore Maryland's Canton neighborhood.

Small Craft Warning is a big lager, in the 7% abv range. Clipper City brewery owner Hugh Sisson amusingly calls it his Uber Pils. The nose is lots of sweet malt with spicy, resiny overtones. Deep golden color, lacy off-white head. In flavor, there are competing slugs of rock candy-like Euro-maltiness and piquant Euro-spiciness. A twitch of Ameri-whiff could be from the physical surfeit of European hops needed for balance; or, more than likely, it could be from a patriotic charge of US Amarillo hops. SCW finishes softly sweet with a loitering spicy hop character.

Small Craft Warning is a mighty tasty beer, and, I might add, a more drinkable (if dangerously so) rendering than the Imperial Pils from Dogfish Head.

While I sat there, pint pondering, in walked Philly Gil, supplies in tow.

Gill is a Baltimore contractor who on Thursdays and Fridays rids his tool kit of bull floats and nail guns and fills it instead with bread, meat, and Provolone cheese. These he purchases in Philadelphia and personally drives them down to Mahaffey's Baltimore pub.

Why the trek? Because, with these ingredients, Gil mans the Mahaffeys grill to bring gastronomical culture to Bawlamer - 'true' Philly cheesesteaks.

McGerks' in Baltimore's Federal Hill also lays claim to authentic, 'imported ingredient' Philly cheesesteaks. Maybe there's a cross-Harbor rivalry fomenting. But when it comes to the beer, Mahaffey's has the contest won.

An Impy Pils and Philly Gil's cheesesteaks - they might be perfect together.

Proprietor Wayne Mahaffey told me that his young beer bar recently had crossed a beery Rubicon. Hometown boy Brewer's Art Resurrection Ale had dethroned Miller Lite as the bar's number one tap. Mahaffey plans to celebrate by relegating the mega-swill to bottle-only status.

On handpull was a delicious IPA from Brewers Alley in Frederick, MD.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Wine and Beer ... together. Oh my!

Open since mid-December of 2003, Grand Cru is a wine - and beer - bar in an upscale food market near to Baltimore's historic Senator theater.

Grand Cru pours a fascinating and changing daily lineup of wines - 30 by the glass - and a small but healthy selection of good beer, bottled and draft. There are occasional evening wine and occasional beer tastings, often with the producers themselves.

Recent draft selections were Bitburger, Red Tail Ale, Dogfish Head Brown, Lancaster Milk Stout, Degroen's Rauchbock, and Chimay ... and an artisinal British scrumpy - farmhouse strong cider - Yarlington Mill Cider (7% abv) from a polypin.

Grand Cru doubles as a take-home retail wine, beer, and liquor store with a well-thought-out selection including the beer.

For light fare, the shop prepares small platters of artisinal cheeses, smoked foods, and the like. One can also bring in food from the market's fish monger, sushi counter, delis, Italian market, baker, and gourmet food shops.

The bar seats 15 with much additional seating at small high-top tables placed throughout the store and al fresco.

On one visit, manager Otto served me a small wedge of Oka - a Canadian 'Trappist' style cheese - with a glass of Yarlington Mill scrumpy. Delightful!

On another, I had DeGroen's Rauchbock [2005 update on brewery] paired with some smoked tofu from Neopol in the market. Firm malt, freshly smoked wood bouquet. Scantest of a veil. Good head retention. Nice sweet malt backbone and an insistent yet restrained Canadian bacon flavor. What a wonderful afternoon repast.

Owner Nelson Carey recommended pairing this with smoked mussels or a hangar steak panino from next door upscale Italian market Ceriello.

And as to wines: any bar that pours French Roses (several), Italian Prosecco, Austrian Gruner Veltliner, and Beaujolais Moulin-a-Vent, all by the glass - affordably - is a special place for me.