My partner, Seung, participated in the Comparative International Education Society’s conference last weekend in Baltimore, thus providing all the excuse I needed to visit my favorite beer haunts in Charm City.
Joining us for lunch at the Wharf Rat and dinner at the Brewer’s Art, was Matthew Jukes. Matthew and I once caroused together in Addis Abeba drinking Ethiopian tej (mead), and now he is an assistant professor of education at Harvard (insert impressed eyebrow raise here). So, among other things, we discussed his work on studying how adolescents in Africa learn how to manage situations involving choices about sex. We never got around to how alcohol consumption influences these choices, but we did sample some tasty brews, including one of the house faves at Brewer’s Art called Ozzy, brewed in the style of Belgian “devil” beers such as Duvel and Lucifer.
The Brewer’s Art is my preferred brewpub in Bawlmer (as they say in Baltimore), and ranks among my favorite anywhere. Housed in a turn-of-the-century building that is reported to be the first fireproof building south of New York City, the design and decoration of the structure create an atmosphere of elegance and sophistication, but without being hoity-toity. In fact, the place is down to earth enough to sell their house beers for a measly $2.50 during the daily happy hour between 4-7pm.
The dining room is adorned with modern art, classy and quiet but not somber. The kitchen prepares a range of modern American fare. Owner Volker Stewart tells me they emphasize local and organic as much as possible. The ante-room lounge (the only non-smoking area in the whole place, which made it our choice spot) has a few tables and comfy leather couches around a fireplace – a perfect spot to sit out the snow storm that was dropping a few inches of snow and ice outside as we drank and stayed cozy indoors. The basement bar has the atmosphere of a mysterious cellar. Brick archways lead into shadowy nooks and crannies that provide cover for a covert rendezvous, or help dampen the noise from a raucous group of revelers tucked within.
We lunched at the Wharf Rat, where I also spent the afternoon after Seung and Matthew returned-a-conferencin’. Facing the Baltimore Convention Center immediately across the street, this is the ideal venue for out-of-towners to grab a casual meal of pub grub and wash it down with one of the many house brewed ales. The beer styles have an English theme, as does the restaurant itself. Wood and brick give it a classic pub feel and breweriana festoons the walls, ceilings and even the glass-covered table tops.
The sheer number of house beers was impressive, well over a dozen. Unfortunately, although the list bragged three cask ales on offer, none were pouring at the time of my visit. Not overly friendly in my experience that afternoon, but overall the place was comfy and unpretentious, with enough windows along the front wall to make it a good place to watch the snow fall.