Crawling Through Baltimore
After an afternoon of fresh pierogies, Obolon beer, traditional sword dances and Medivka shots at Baltimore's annual Ukrainian Festival on Sunday, my friends and I decided a mini bar crawl was in order.
In my experience, Baltimore is a better beer town than Washington. You can make all the Natty Boh jokes you want, but I'm consistently surprised by how easy it is to find great beers, whether at mega-bars like Max's on Broadway or the many little taverns that dot the city's neighborhoods. (Baltimore, unlike Washington, has many tiny corner bars.)
I'm a huge fan of the Wharf Rat (801 S. Ann St. 410-276-9034) in Fells Point -- an excellent, cluttered old tavern with a huge, walk-in fireplace and an astounding selection of house-brewed British ales. Before 7, you can get three half-pint mugs of any house beer for $4. Sadly, it's closed on Sundays, so we went to Max's on Broadway (737 S. Broadway; 410-675-6297), my other favorite Fells Point beer bar. Everyone should visit Max's at least once; imagine R.F.D. with more character and more draft beers, and you'd be close. Sixty-eight ales, lagers and stouts are on draft, including such eclectic selections as Lancaster Brewing Company's Oktoberfest, Harvestoun's Bitter and Twisted Scotch Ale, and the evil Belgian Lucifer. Another 200 or so are available in bottles. Yesterday, crowds of football watchers -- including a large number of Cowboys fans -- were clustered in front of the televisions.
My friend Nick works at the Ropewalk Tavern in Federal Hill, so we headed to that neighborhood next. It's especially convenient for Ravens games; an excellent selection of bars, shops and restaurants are clustered within a Kyle Boller bomb of M&T Bank Stadium. Not being Ravens fans, we skipped Mother's Federal Hill Grille (1113 South Charles St.; 410-244-8686) and its celebrated Purple Patio -- an outdoor tailgate with beer specials, music and port-a-johns, where guys in Ray Lewis jerseys were tossing footballs before the game.
Instead, we hit Ropewalk (1209 South Charles St.; 410-727-1298), a pleasant, airy bar that occupies three adjacent 19th-century rowhouses. It's known as a Republican bar -- don't miss the large statue of Ronald Reagan among the wooden cigar store Indians and vintage naval flags -- but televisions and football clearly take precedence over politics. Ropewalk offers 155 beers; drink 105 and you'll be rewarded with an M.B.A. (a Masters of Beer Appreciation) and get your name on a plaque on the wall.
The next stop was the Thirsty Dog Pub (20 East Cross St.; 410-727-6077), a canine-friendly bar with excellent gourmet thin-crust pizzas and a nice list of beers brewed by Ashburn, Va.'s Old Dominion Brewing Company. Here the gimmick is that brews come in pairs: two eight-ounce mugs of brown ale, English-style pale or even raspberry beer are always $3. A parade of dogs came in and out as we split a pair of individual pizzas, including a trio of keeshonds. All were cooed over by staff and other customers. Odd souvenir: leashes with the bar's name and logo.
The Thirsty Dog is a comfortable place with great music, but no televisions. So when we decided to actually watch some football, we went next door to MaGerk's Pub (1061 South Charles St.; 410-576-9230), a saloon with aromatic platters of wings, cheap beer and some of the nastiest bathrooms I'd set foot in since college. We watched Matt Stover miss field goal after field goal after field goal until it was time to go home.
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