Annabel Lee White

The Brewery
RavenBeer

The Location
Baltimore, MD

The Beer
Annabel Lee White

I am still re-reading Edgar Allan Poe and thus still in RavenBeer mode. This weekend I tried their Annabel Lee White, which is a Belgian-style white beer (think Hoegaarden). Annabel Lee is a pale, cloudy yellow color and has a fruity banana aroma. It had lots of bubbles when I poured it into my glass, yet the body was a bit flat. The flavor is right, with a nice yeasty taste, but it feels like it’s lacking something. I may give this another shot, though. I feel like I have unfinished business with Annabel Lee.

The Raven Special Lager

The Brewery
RavenBeer

The Location
Baltimore, MD

The Beer
The Raven Special Lager

One of the things I like about Baltimore is that it sparked the careers of two artists that dealt with the macabre and the bizarre. I haven’t had any John Waters-related beer yet, but thanks to RavenBeer, I’ve now had some Edgar Allan Poe-related beer. (He didn’t die from alcoholism, contrary to popular belief, so there’s nothing tacky about this. But even if there was something tacky about it, John Waters would tell you that this would not be a problem.)

The Raven has a rich, brown color and sweet, malty aroma. So many bubbles dance around the glass after I poured that I wanted to have a Poe-themed disco party. I thought The Raven was a bit thin in body, but the subtle malt and wheat flavor gave it the kind of moreishness that comes with the style of German lagers it emulates. It’s definitely something I’ll look for next time I’m eating a pile of crabs up in Baltimore County.

Seacrets White Rum

The Distillery
Seacrets Distilling Company

The Location
Ocean City, MD

The Spirit
White Rum

Can you keep a secret? I’ve lived in Maryland for 13 years and I’ve never been to Ocean City. I feel like I have failed as a wannabe Marylander. Maybe I can pretend that drinking Seacrets white rum is a reasonable substitute.

Normally, I don’t drink straight shots of rum (especially not after New Year’s Eve 2005… shudder), but I am nothing if not thorough here. It smells like rubbing alcohol, but that’s not a bad thing for white rum. It is much sweeter than it smells, even with the astringent bitterness that comes with drinking fresh rum. It’s a really smooth, velvety drink that provides a nice base for mojitos and daiquiris and for the recipe below.

Fig Leaf Flip

I pulled this delicious concoction out of the Complete World Bartender Guide. It’s hard to tell where the Fig Leaf Flip comes from, but I saw a reference to tiki bartender Adam Rocke being the originator. I’m a bit skeptical, only because it’s a fairly straightforward drink, which is out of character with your typical tiki libation. But I’m more than willing to give Rocke the credit.

Ingredients

  • 1½ ounces sweet vermouth
  • 1 ounce Seacrets white rum
  • 3 dashes of bitters
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice
  • Ice cubes
  • 1 pitted cherry
Instructions
Add the vermouth, rum, bitters, juice, and ice into a cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously until very cold.

Double strain into a highball glass filled with ice and serve with the cherry on top.

Nuckin’ Futs

The Brewery
Ocean City Brewing Company

The Location
Ocean City, MD

The Beer
Nuckin’ Futs

I wouldn’t say I am a beer purist, but my tolerance for what I perceive as gimmicky beer is low. Even if that is not a fair perception. So I was a bit on edge when I picked up Nuckin’ Futs. This was going to be ridiculous, I said to myself. But I bought it anyway because, hey, I could be wrong. I’ve been wrong before.

Is Nuckin’ Futs a gimmicky beer? I guess so, based primarily on the edgy wordplay. Ocean City Brewing says they brew this beer with walnuts and honey and to be sure, the initial aroma is less like beer and more like a walnut syrup. Its body is rich and creamy, but a little bit syrupy. The flavor is rich and deep, but a little bit syrupy. Basically, it’s a bit syrupy. It accomplished what it set out to do, which is taste sweet and nutty, so there’s that. But I can’t say I was wrong about it.

Citra Splendor

The Brewery
Manor Hill Brewing

The Location
Ellicott City, MD

The Beer
Citra Splendor

When I buy a beer named Citra Splendor, I have certain expectations that it is going to be citrusy. Like, it’s right in the name. So I can happily report that Citra Splendor delivers on my expectations. Though, to be honest, this is a very odd beer. The aroma of clementines and the taste of tangy orange juice is tasty, to be sure, but it’s almost like Manor Hill has made a parody of over-hopped American pale ales. But I have to admit I liked its audaciousness. And its bitter, pithy aftertaste. It’s different, but different is pretty good.

Double Duckpin Double IPA

The Brewery
Union Craft Brewing

The Location
Baltimore, MD

The Beer
Double Duckpin Double IPA

A friend of mine once said, “Son, bowling has its own tavern, snack shop, and arcade. That’s how awesome bowling is.” I believe in these troubled times, that is a message that can unite us.

Ah, but what kind of bowling? Duckpin bowling is a thing in Baltimore. Apparently, duckpin bowling was also a thing up in New England when I was growing up there, but to be honest, it was never on my radar screen because my family was a candlepin bowling family. I lived walking distance to a candlepin alley (R.I.P. Thunderbird Bowl) and my grandmother even appeared on Candlepins for Cash, the Boston equivalent of Bowling for Dollars.

But since I’ve lived in Maryland, my family and I have found ourselves in White Oak Duckpin Lanes on a reasonably frequent basis. And since beer and bowling make natural bedfellows, there was no way I wasn’t going to snag some Double Duckpin Double IPA when I had the chance.

It has a sour aroma, which I mean as a compliment. The flavor was surprisingly mild for something that promised IPA in all its IPA glory. It is hoppy without citrus gimmickry. It is creamy, and fills my mouth with toasty, herbaceous flavors. It has a sharp bitter finish, but it also mellows out and gets smoother the more you drink it. I had high hopes for this and those hopes were met. It is a really tasty beer.

Recipe Corner: Hungerford’s Tavern Old Fashioned

old-fashionedI have to admit that if I’m in the mood for a stiff drink, I usually just take it straight. I have a few cocktail books and I obsessively watch Drinks Tube, but on the rare occasion I want to make a recipe, I’m usually missing a key ingredient. Apparently my liquor cabinet is way too meager for… just about anything?

I also hate it when certain drinks become fads without me realizing it. After Sideways came out, everyone seemed to want to drink pinot noir, which made me angrily order merlot whenever I went out to eat. I realize I need to get over myself.

Anyway, all of this brings me to the old fashioned. I saw Rich Hunt make it on Drinks Tube and despite the fact that I did not have any bitters in the house and despite the fact that it was popular because of Mad Men, I really wanted to try it.

I am being a bit bold in calling this Hungerford’s Tavern old fashioned. My recipe is basically a tweaked version of Hunt’s recipe. But it took a lot of trial and error… a lot of trial and error… to get it just right. Plus it uses bourbon from Rockville’s Twin Valley Distillers, so I think the name fits. (One of Rockville’s original names was Hungerford’s Tavern, you see.) I’m using Angostura bitters, though, because as far as I know, no one is making Rockville bitters. Yet.

Ingredients

  • 1½ ounces Twin Valley Bourbon Whiskey
  • A slice of orange peel
  • 3 dashes of bitters
  • ½ teaspoon granulated sugar
  • Ice cubes
Instructions
Measure the bourbon into a measuring cup with a lip. Curl up the orange peel and add it to the bourbon. Let the peel steep in the bourbon for as long as you can possible stand it.

Splash three dashes of bitters into the bottom of a highball glass. Add the sugar and just enough bourbon to coat the sugar. Stir until the sugar has mostly dissolved.

Add a couple of ice cubes and a little more bourbon and stir for several seconds, until the ice cubes have begun to melt a little. Add a couple more ice cubes and a little more bourbon and stir for several seconds more. Repeat until all of the whiskey has been added. Adjust the taste by adding a splash of bourbon if needed.

Give the orange peel a little squeeze over the drink, then use it to garnish.

Twin Valley Distillers Bourbon Whiskey

The Distillery
Twin Valley Distillers

The Location
Rockville, MD

The Spirit
Single Cask Barrel Bourbon Whiskey

I am not much of a liquor drinker. I prefer wine with dinner and if I’m looking for a drink after work or during a sporting event, I reach for a beer. But I’ve always had a fondness for whiskey and its variations. I generally like bourbon the most, because I like my whiskeys sweet. It’s something I know about myself and I am comfortable with it.

For Christmas a couple of years ago, my wife got me tickets to a tour of Twin Valley Distillers, which is located walking distance from our house. Because Rockville is amazing.

Twin Valley’s bourbon is right up my alley. It smells of kettle corn. While it has a harsh twang of alcohol when you first taste it, that quickly gives away to a rich, sweet caramel corn flavor. It is great to sip on a cold winter’s night, but it is also versatile enough to stand up to any whiskey cocktail concoction that you mix it into.

I am not one to drink local just because it’s local. I do expect quality as well. And I can tell Twin Valley has pride in its work.

Cutlass Vienna-Style Lager

The Brewery
Heavy Seas

The Location
Baltimore, MD

The Beer
Cutlass Vienna-Style Lager

I love Vienna. I’ve been lucky enough to spend a lot time there, and it is a wonderful city. It has a rich history, wonderful art, gorgeous architecture, cozy neighborhoods, and delicious food. And of course, there’s all the effervescent, flavorful beer.

So while I am excited to see Heavy Seas has a Vienna-style lager, I am a little bit wary, because it has a lot to live up to. (Unless they mean it’s a Vienna, Virginia-style lager, which I am reasonably certain is not a significant thing.)  I am not saying I am an expert, unless expertise is measured by liters consumed, but I feel like I know a good example of Austrian beer when I taste it.

Cutlass has a light, sweet flavor and pleasant carbonation. The more I gulped it and the more that subtle wheat flavor swirled around my mouth and throat, the more I wanted to drink. For me, moreishness is the real test of its Viennaness.

To be sure, I had a bottle while having a plate of Käsespätzle and it matched up really well. I’m not saying I was transported to an Alpine gasthaus or anything (because Vienna is not really in the Alps), but it’s nice to know I don’t have to overpay for Steigl the next time Austria wins the Eurovision Song Contest.

Heavy Seas should not be selling this in 12-ounce bottles. They need to sell it exclusively in half-liter cans to be properly Austrian.

Stray notes: If you ever plan to go to Vienna, and you totally should, you need to make your way to Fischerbräu. They may terrific beer and while they are a little off the beaten path, they are easily accessible via public transportation. You’re gonna need to use the public transportation when you leave.

If you are going for commercially available Austrian beer, I like Ottakringer and Zipfer, but it’s probably best to ask local folks what they prefer. They will have strong opinions and will also probably tell you not to drink Stiegl. Stiegl is the Budweiser of Austria (yet is still better than Budweiser).

Born Bohemian

The Brewery
Denizens Brewing Co.

The Location
Silver Spring, MD

The Beer
Born Bohemian

Look, I don’t want to come off as some sort of Denizens fanboy, but since I reviewed Denizens’ Lowest Lord back in February, it has become my favorite beer. I have consumed a goodly amount of it.

But just as one cannot live on kung pao tofu alone, one can also not live off of one beer. Moreover, as much as I love English-style bitters, I like the Middle European-style lagers and Pilsners even more. The Czech Republic (or Czechia, as the Czech government is aiming to be called from here on out) is probably Europe’s beer central, which, when you consider Germany and Austria are right next door, is saying something.

So Denizens doing a Czech-style Pilsner is sort of gutsy. It has a lot to live up to.

Born Bohemian has a yeasty nose and a refreshing, sweet wheat flavor that lingers. It is tastes like a classic Pilsner and it is super delicious. In fact, Czechs would be hard-pressed to tell the difference between this and their native, local beer. And they would probably like this more and feel so guilty about it they would cry into their next three pints of it.

So maybe I do want to come off as some sort of Denizens fanboy.