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Posted at 3:22 PM ET, 10/18/2006

A Real Find

By Fritz Hahn

Last night, I had one of the most beautiful beers I've had in ages.

I was at Birreria Paradiso for a last-minute tasting of Dogfish Head products when I overheard a waiter telling another customer that they had a cask-conditioned beer from Oliver's on the hand pump. (At the risk of sounding like a broken record, cask ales are the traditional British style with lower carbonation and a higher serving temperature than most American beers.)

Oliver's is the company behind Baltimore's two Wharf Rat brewpubs. Stalwarts in the real ale movement, the Fells Point and Camden Yards locations offer two or three on the hand-powered beer engines at all times, and I'd never seen one of their ales outside Baltimore. Expecting the delicious Best Bitter or the robust ESB, I was surprised to find that the version tapped at the Birreria yesterday is the seasonal Harvest Ale. Rich and malty with hops that support the flavor instead of dominating body -- unlike many craft beers these days -- and some orange peel and citrus in the nose, the Harvest Ale is something I hope to keep sipping in coming months.

(Psst: Stop by before 7 tonight and the cask is half-price, meaning each pint is around $2.)

The Harvest Ale was a nice preview for Saturday, when I plan to head up to the Wharf Rat at Camden Yards for the Chesapeake Real Ale Festival. (It's for research. Seriously.) This annual event features cask ales from all over the mid-Atlantic: More than 20 brewers offered their products last year, making it one of the largest such gatherings on the east coast. Admission is $25, which includes unlimited tasting of all beers.

-- Fritz

By Fritz Hahn  | October 18, 2006; 3:22 PM ET
Categories:  Bars and Clubs  
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