Baltimore’s place as one of America’s great beer cities has been cemented since the days when National Bohemian Beer (always referred to as “Natty Boh” in these parts) was first brewed here. It’s still a much-loved local favorite, but over the years new breweries have opened up in Charm City, and they’re experimenting with flavors, amping up the hops and pushing the boundaries of sour.
Baltimore’s world-class craft breweries (along with the city’s fabulous beer bars) are must-visit destinations for any beer lover.
UNION Craft Brewing might be most famous for its Duckpin Pale Ale (named after the local style of bowling), but at any given moment you might find clever inventions like a lemon-lime sour ale called 6up or a cream ale with coffee named AM Gold on the menu.
This heavyweight brewery recently moved to the hip Hampden neighborhood as the anchor business in a warehouse space called UNION Collective, which is also home to an outdoor beer garden, a café and an ice-cream parlor, making it the ideal place to while the day away.
Another new addition to Charm City is Checkerspot Brewing Company in South Baltimore, where a couple of dedicated brewers have rapidly developed some of the city’s most exciting new beers.
Some beers, like the 2 Paws 2, a pale ale brewed with paw paws — which are native to Maryland and taste a bit like a mango — are collaborations with other city breweries, while others, like the Keeper stout, a chocolatey nitro beer brewed with Chesapeake Bay blue crab shells, are Checkerspot originals. Head to their on-site taproom for more quirky additions.
Best Beer Bars
A few of the city’s best beer destinations don’t just brew — they also showcase some of the world’s most esoteric beers for Baltimore’s beer mavens. The Brewer’s Art is a stalwart of the Baltimore scene: It’s been around since 1996, scooped plenty of awards, and brews its own beer in addition to offering a lengthy list of exotic bottles from around the world.
House beers change frequently but can range from coffee porters and kettle sours to cherry-flavored brown ales. The Mount Vernon townhouse setting has a long bar, two stories of seating that encourage you to stay all day, and a full food menu to accompany your newest favorite beer.
A couple of blocks away, Wet City produces limited quantities of its house beers, but they’re superbly ambitious: A recent batch was a double-dry-hopped, triple-flaked IPA made using Norwegian kveik yeast.
In addition to its own inventions, this sleek, modern bar always manages to offer at least one beer you won’t have heard of, whether it’s from a tiny brewery in upstate New York or from an obscure Belgian maker. Surprises could range from a golden sour ale aged on apricots from San Diego to a Danish weisse-style ale brewed with dragonfruit and strawberry.
Finally, even world-dominating brands like Guinness are getting inspired by the creativity of Baltimore’s beer game. The Guinness Open Gate Brewery & Barrel House opened in August 2018 and is the company’s first brewery on U.S. soil since the 1950s.
It occupies the site where Maryland’s first distillery opened after Prohibition — where they once aged whiskey in oak barrels, they’re now brewing Guinness Blonde lager.
Take a tour to check out these former “rickhouses,” stop in at the restaurant for oysters or Guinness-and-beef stew, and then head to the experimental taproom (one of only two in the world — the other’s in Dublin) to sample the in-progress beers that are currently being developed on-site. They don’t brew the stout here, but they say you’ll always find it on tap at the bar.