We woke up in Arlington on Monday morning and were surprised to find that there was about 4 inches of snow on the ground and more coming. Now, being from CT and upstate NY, we are no strangers to snow and can handle ourselves. But we also know that DC loses its shit when there’s a flurry, so we were a little concerned. Thankfully, we had done all of our DCing the days before and now we were just heading home, with a few detours along the way.
Andrew decided that the route that google and I had created wasn’t exciting enough so he took it upon himself to find a way home. The bad thing about beerventuring on a Monday is many breweries are closed so it’s hard to plan a route and not pass a few potentially great stops. But sacrifices must be made. And those sacrifices build up to driving the long way home, through Delaware to stop at the best brewery in the state… But we will get to that later.
So we packed up, grabbed our leftover cinnabomb and headed out. Our first stop of the day was DuClaw Brewing Co, best known for Sweet Baby Jesus. We didn’t actually stop by the brewery but one of its many restaurant locations. This one was in Bowie Maryland. We ordered a couple samples rather than a flight and got a turkey club to split. Yay healthy breakfast! The bartender was super nice and gave me a million coasters for my collection. And the beers were delicious as to be expected. My personal fav was Sweet Baby Jesus (obviously), followed closely by Quick Start my Heart and Dirty Little Freak. We don’t normally pay too much attention to brown ales, but Dirty Little Freak was a rare exception. Andrew held out for the IPA’s per usual, but was disappointed with the Neon Gypsy and Hellrazer. Both were average brews by IPA standard.
DuClaw Brewing Co has some really well done stouts but fails to shine through in the IPA’s; at least for the two we had. Hit a DuClaw if you can, or pick up a Sweet Baby Jesus if you’ve never had one. DuClaw earns 4 myrrh filled mangers out of 5.
The last two Maryland breweries on the list before Delaware were Eastern Shore (St Michaels, MD) and RAR Brewing (Cambridge, MD); two very different animals. Eastern Shore had a very local feel, when we walked in we were promptly greeted as “yankees” by the town drunk. We also met our first brewdog of the trip, shout out to Betty! Luckily, there were only a few other patrons of the brewery on a snowy Monday afternoon so we got to play a little Q&A with our eye candy/manager/bartender. We were surprised to learn that Maryland as a state has been doing a great job in supporting its brewery scene. Over the past few years Maryland had removed various barriers to entry and Jay, our bartender/eye candy, couldn’t even come up with one strange laws or regulation. We’re sure there’s still a few on the books somewhere; every state has at least one. The couple sitting next to us overheard our non-resident status and had suggestions for future stops; which we hope to follow up on this summer.
The beer at Eastern Shore was better than average, although they didn’t have much of an offering. We sampled St. Michaels Ale (red), Knot So Pale Ale (pale ale) and their IPA Situation Critical. Situation Critical was quickly placed on Andrew’s team while I sipped the red and the pale. We both agreed that the IPA was certainly better than the two offerings from DuClaw.
Before we said our goodbyes, Andrew purchased a Duck Duck Goose shirt and Jay invited us back for the St. Michaels Brew Fest. Which unfortunately we cannot attend ☹. But if you’re in the area on Saturday June 4th 2016, we’ve heard nothing but great things about the beer, food and live music.
St Michaels, MD is a drinking town with a sailing problem. And this drinking town prefers its local brewery Eastern Shore. This brewery has small town charm, a fun and engaging bartender, and some unique afternoon drunk patrons. The beer here would be welcomed by any palate but it would fail to impress the more dedicated beerventurers. Eastern Shore earns a solid 3.5 drunk renditions of Yankee Doodle out of 5.
RAR of Cambridge, MD is a young, fun brewery with shuffleboard and lots of tables. I think there’s a college nearby because the people working were certainly younger than us and the décor cried of college town bar. RAR has a huge setup with lots of merchandise for sale, indicating that someone had lots of money to put into this place. It also had that chain-like feel due to the aesthetics; everything was carefully planned out and strategically placed.
We had 4 brews at RAR (worst to best): 3870 Belgian Strong Dark Ale, Farmhouse Nectar Belgian IPA, Nanticoke Nectar IPA, and Winter Groove Hefeweizen. We noted that the 3870 didn’t taste very Belgian like; this beer went ABV before flavor in our opinion. The two IPA’s were great by IPA standard; hoppy but crisp and very refreshing. I’d say that the Nanticoke was almost, if not on exactly on par with Nugget Nectar. I highly recommend visiting this brewery just for their Nanticoke Nectar. As we’ve said previously, hefes always hold a special place on our palates but this winter groove was exceptional even by hefe standards. Considering its name, I don’t think you will find it during this summer season but be on the lookout if they make it year round!
RAR was an exceptional brewery but we did note one disappointing issue; customer service. With two bartenders, and maybe five people already at the bar it took several minutes before we were even acknowledged. The two bartenders were happily bantering with their friends despite our repeated attempts to flag a drink; never even looking at the rest of the bar. It took even longer to cash out since the two bartenders we’re still at the far end chatting away not acknowledging any other customers. Friendly bartenders are great, but you cannot forget your other patrons especially when there are two bartenders and only 7 customers.
Aside from the lack of customer service, RAR is a must visit brewery. If you’re around the area after dark I’d wager that the night life at RAR is also exceptional. RAR has proudly earned itself a must visit 4.25 out of 5.
Now, I know we skipped a ton of breweries in between our starting point in Morristown, NJ and RAR, but executive decisions had to be made. We plan our trips according to beer popularity and most bang for our mileage. We hit as many “extras” as we can along the way and take advice from strangers and locals. RAR was one such recommended trip and we were happy to take it.
We finally made it to Delaware, and by now it was pouring rain. Using advice from our new friends at Eastern Shore, we stopped in at 16 Mile Brewing Company of Georgetown, DE. Another local brewery, but not as friendly as Eastern Shore. Another dog, also not as friendly as Betty. We got a large flight to split; but most of the beers on draft were immediately forgettable.
I did say most, but not all. The two beers that stuck out and were loved by Andrew (not so much me), were the Soul Cake and Golden Soul. One might say that these beers had a lot of soul in them?… Ok, sorry, I will show myself out.
Andrew: “Soul Cake, the better of the two souls, was one of the few reds I’ve ever liked. This full bodied red was a cinnamon whisky beer. Curious right? Imagine a heavy red beer with a shot of fireball and you pretty much get the picture. The Golden Soul was essentially Soul Cake but more enjoyable for those non-whisky drinkers (Melissa). The Golden Soul is also ~2% less ABV than the Soul Cake. If you see either of these souls on draft, you should give it a try.”
16 Mile Brewing Company is another local’s hangout. It sports a large bar, several picnic tables, a small gift shop and even a few town workers playing darts in the back. Even though most of the beers we had were immediately forgettable, the two souls really shined through on this weekend’s beerventure. 16 Mile earns a 3.75 “holy shit it’s snowing?” out of 5.
If you’re on the prowl for DogFish Head brewery, 16 Mile is just a pit stop away and should be on your beerventuring list. Did I mention we’re now headed to one of the beer meccas of the eastern seaboard?
Originally planning out the route home, I didn’t think a 2 hour detour through Delaware was worth it, but apparently I got overruled. Andrew probably had this master plan in his head all along. So we ended up at Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, which needs no introduction. Yes we’ve all had the beer but since nothing tastes nearly as great as beer right from the source; we hit it.
It was too late in the day so we didn’t take a tour but I’ve heard great things about this one so let us know if you take it! Even if you don’t take the tour, the brewery does offer free samples so we opted for that; trying to choose ones we hadn’t tried before. And then we went to the store and bought all the things! Yes, Andrew’s credit card took a huge hit here.
I’m not even going to list all 8 beers we sampled because they all earned greater than 4 stars on untappd. If you’ve never had a beer from Dogfish just start with the 60 Minute and work your way through all of them and you will be just fine.
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery Mecca clearly earned 6 out of 5.
So we’re headed back to Morristown and decided to take one last piece of advice from the other beerventurers at Eastern Shore. Mispillion River Brewing Company of Milford, DE (Milf Love!) is another locals brewery that’s only 23 minutes away from Dogfish Head and deserves a stop if you find yourself in that part of Delaware.
I don’t quite remember the amount of brews they had on draft, but it was a lot. Unfortunately our adventures usually limit us to a flight of 4, aside from special circumstances. So we played bartender/locals choice; which is always a fun game. We had the Miss Betty (pumpkin), Citraponic (sour), Holy Crap! (double red), and the Not Today Satan (IPA). Miss Betty and Citraponic we’re obviously my favorites and Andrew toasted to Satan. The Holy Crap! was a good red, but was lackluster in comparison to the two souls from 16 Mile. And sure enough after we got the flight we noticed a greatly named beer that the bartender was kind enough to let us taste of solely for the untappd check-in.
I mean who wouldn’t want a Reach Around! Except me because it was an IPA and I have lady parts so neither version of a Reach Around was particularly interesting to me. Now I’m sure you’re wondering who names their beers like this? The answer probably won’t surprise you; the owners and brewers get drunk and name beers. Simple as that.
During our chitchat with one of the locals a sad dialog took place. We shared with him who we are, what we do and why we do it. And in return we learned about his life. The experience of meeting new people is always exciting for us because everyone has a story to tell and there is something about beer that brings out a social aspect in our very private world. The bitter to our sweet hobby is that we will never cross paths with this man again; or the hundreds we’ve met before him. He came to this realization mid-conversation and said it out loud in a depressed tone; it was just something that had stuck with us these past few months. It’s something we’ve know subconsciously, but becoming consciously aware of it made us appreciate our adventures even more.
Mispillion is a spacious venue with fun beer names and regulars that like to socialize with out of towners. Like 16 Mile, there is some great beer and there is some average beer but both are conveniently positioned near Dogfish Head so we highly recommend this stop during your Delaware tour. Mispillion gave us the laughs, the feels and a Reach Around deserving of a 3.75 out of 5.
Our final stop of the trip was at Stewart’s Brewing Company of Bear, DE. We met up with Nate and Dani again and ordered some flights and food while watching Lady Gaga perform at the grammys. Nothing too crazy here, but we did enjoy the Barrel-Aged Destroyer. This 9.8% imp stout was a little harsh on the alcohol flavor, so it doesn’t qualify for a top 5 imp stouts from our tour de DC; but it is certainly worth having on your flight board.
Stewart’s is a rather large brewpub located 6 minutes from 95. While we don’t recommend making this a primary destination on a beerventure, we do agree that the food and beer were both good enough for a pitstop. Nothing on our flight really peaked our interest, but the convenience next to 95 makes it ideal as an extra stop. Stewards sunk 2.75 out of our 5 battleships.
And after a rainy and icy drive, we finally made it home at 2am. Andrew has work in a few hours, whoops.
New breweries- 29
Total 2016 breweries- 40
Total Breweries Visited- 240
New States- 3 + d.c.
Total States- 12