What if I told you could see every brewery within a 20-mile radius of Annapolis in one afternoon? Your tour would be led by a brewer, answering each and every question you could possibly ask, however technical (what’s that doohickey)? Maryland Brewery Tours is offering just that. And I and four friends were fortunate enough to jump on their maiden voyage to the Annapolis area. Previously, they’ve offered beer lovers the ability to tour the breweries near Frederick, Baltimore, Howard County, and Montgomery County, but just last month they launched their Annapolis track, touring local breweries Crooked Crab Brewing, Chesepiooc Real Ale Brewery, Calvert Brewing, and Brewpub chain Gordon Biersch.
Fearless tour guides Mike and Laura picked us up in Annapolis in a bus big enough for our beer bellies. Along the way, Laura offered beer swag from the breweries as prizes for beer trivia, and Mike shared insider knowledge into the beer industry. Mike’s spent his career brewing beer in the Baltimore area for a number of stellar Maryland breweries and was knowledgeable about every aspect of the brewing process. His additions to the behind-the-scenes tours at each brewery really helped us learn a ‘hop-ton’ about the art and craft of brewing.
Our first stop was at our old friends Crooked Crab Brewing. I’ve been a frequent guest of Crooked Crab, having previously written about their delicious “I Fought the Claw IPA” and also attending their annual Get Crooked Fest. When we arrived we were given tickets from our tour guide, which I quickly traded for Crooked Crab’s incredible “A Raspberry and Peach Walk Into a Bar” fruited kettle sour. ARAPWIAB, as I call it, was tart, balanced, and quite possibly the best sour I’ve had this close to Annapolis. Bravo. We were then given a backroom tour of Crooked Crab’s brewing area, where we tasted malt, smelled some hops, and got to see the brewery in action up close and personal. We even noticed a secret stash of Four Roses and Buffalo Trace bourbon barrels, so look out in the future for those rare barrel-aged releases. Crooked Crab even had a pizza food truck for our noshing pleasure.
Next, we stopped at Chesepiooc Real Ale Brewery. It was super interesting to see the difference between Crooked Crab’s scaled up brewery and this nano-brewery, producing small batches on demand, as the creativity of the staff at Chesepiooc demanded. There I tried a pretty tasty Pineapple Milkshake IPA, a testament to the experimentation of the nano-brewery. Chespiooc also has a pretty sizeable cask program for their beers, so be sure to check that out.
We then stopped at Upper Marlboro’s Calvert Brewing Company, where I tried a crisp and dry Berry Weisse. This beer is perfect for a hot day. Calvert is an older brewery, with a pretty big production line, so we were yet again blown away by the differences between the three breweries. Calvert also had some corn hole boards outside, and plenty of games inside, to keep patrons having fun.
Lastly, we stopped at national brewpub chain Gordon Biersch. It’s not the local stuff, but hey, good beer is good beer. I am a bit of a snob about these things, unfortunately, but I have to say, I love a good Märzen in time for Oktoberfest, and Gordon Biersch’s version delivers.
Maryland Brewery Tours’ next guided tour of the Annapolis beer scene sets sail on October 5th, so grab some friends and get out there. Between the free drinks and guided tour, it really is quite a steal. You’ll meet fellow craft beer geeks along the way, too. Our group of five very quickly became a gang of ten near the second brewery, and we had an absolute blast trying new beers, playing games, and eating great food. So, if you are able to get a group of your own together, or are lucky enough to be here on a group trip, make sure to put an Annapolis Brewery Tour on your bucket list!