Baltimore Beer Week co-founder Dominic Cantalupo led a walk/talk through Canton and Highlandtown on Saturday October 21. Additionally, writer/speaker/historian/educator Maureen O'Prey provided lots of information about brewing in Baltimore before, during, and after Prohibition.
We started at Venice Tavern, a Highlandtown pub that's been owned and operated by the same family since 1933. It's a basement dive but don't let that fool you: it always has a nice assortment of craft brews on tap. The $3-to-$4 pint price makes this place even more attractive. Burley Oak was the featured brewery on this day. I got their Nose Candy, a New England-style IPA with lots of hop aroma and flavor.
Maureen talked about how Prohibition affected Baltimore breweries. An interesting tidbit was that Maryland's governor at the time, Albert C. Ritchie, opposed Prohibition and would not enforce it. In fact, Maryland was the only state to never pass a state enforcement act, labeling itself a "wet" state.
The crowd of about 25 folks then headed out for our next destination. Along the way Maureen related information on post-Prohibition brewing in Baltimore. The number of breweries shrank from 49 to 11, and several of them spent upwards of a million dollars each to modernize. We also stopped in front of a church called Sacred Heart of Jesus, where Dominic went to school as a child. He said that in those days it cost only $50 to send a child there for an entire year.
We walked into Canton and stopped at the Baltimore Taphouse, a friendly place with a good tap list. I got Longtrail Cranberry Gose, which was nice and refreshing. Attorney and former liquor board chairman Steve Fogleman brought hot dogs to share and said some nice words about John Bates, the former owner of the Taphouse who died earlier this year. You can read about John Bates here.
Maureen provided more information about post-Prohibition brewing, including grain rationing during WWII and its effect on beer. Adjuncts such as corn and rice were used and ... well ... we all know how that turns out.
We left en masse for our next stop. On the way, Dominic told us about some of his childhood beer experiences. As a 7-year-old, his grandmother would give him 50 cents and a bucket and tell him to buy beer. With the 5 cents he had left over he'd buy candy. As he walked back to his grandmother's home with a bucket full of beer, people would tell him, "You'd better not spill that beer or Granny'll smack your ass." As a reward she'd sometimes give him a small glass of beer.
We filed into the Hudson Street Stackhouse. There were already a good number of other folks in there so our arrival made it crowded. The tap list was impressive. I got samples of Alvinne Kriek Van Mortagne, Boon Framboise, and Burley Oak Apricot Raspberry J.R.E.A.M., the latter of which was superb. Maureen talked more about the post-Prohibition beer scene over the now much-needed portable loudspeaker.
Our last stop was nearby Mahaffey's Pub, which always has a good tap list. On this day there were several Firestone Walker beers; I got their Velvet Merkin 2017 (an imperial stout), and also tried their Sour Opal (a nice sour ale).
I got to meet "Beer Baroness" Jo Barker, the first person to drink 3000 different beers at Mahaffey's. A copy of a City Paper article about her, written by Steve Fogleman, hangs on the wall. I did not take the photo of her shown below; it is from the 2014 celebration of her hitting 3000 beers.
It was a great day of pub crawling, camaraderie, and learning. Thanks to Dominic for organizing and leading, and to Maureen for delivering lots of information with such energy and passion. Incidentally, she has a website, brewedinmaryland.com, and has written a book called Brewing in Baltimore.