How does one begin the quest to visit every brewery in the ever-growing Maryland beer scene? My wife, Esther, and I started this journey in vastly different ways but still achieved our goal of enjoying delectable sips at every brewery taproom in the state over multiple years. We’ve encountered numerous styles of beer and befriended some of the most courteous people we know along the way. We’d love to share a bit about our journey with you and inspire you to travel the state in search of great beer!
My introduction into the world of beer began while living abroad in Berlin, where I became enamored with Hefeweizen, Pilsner, and Lager—the mainstays of German beer. After this brief two-year escapade, I moved back to the States and had my taste buds wrecked by hops while living down the street from Stone in Escondido, which forever altered my palate and set the tone for a craft beer escapade across my native Maryland.
My interest in trying beers from my native Maryland began in the summer of 2012 upon returning home. I spent many weekends traveling to breweries and becoming familiar with the Maryland beer scene. I even crafted a database of all of the breweries in Maryland, which includes a map of their locations and filters based on days/hours they are open, whether they allow pets, etc. To keep this up to date, I often visited the breweries and collected the information in person (while sipping on a delicious pint, of course).
Esther started her Maryland beer journey with no set goal in mind. She began in her college years by visiting Pub Dog Pizza & Drafthouse in Columbia, keeping it simple, and trying the fruitiest-sounding beers possible. At this point, she still didn’t know what styles she enjoyed, mainly relying on her friends for suggestions. In 2018, we met at Lures Bar & Grill in Crownsville. Esther found out through mutual friends that I was a beer aficionado and could always find a beer that a person would like. Well, we two beer lovers quickly started dating and visiting local breweries together.
I began educating Esther on various styles of beer while our relationship progressed. Over time, she started opening up to trying more than just crisp, clean beers. She would try any beer that I ordered and soon began ordering flights to try small pours of multiple beers at a time. She discovered that sour beers were her new favorite but that she also enjoyed other styles like porters, stouts, and Belgian witbiers.
We started planning longer beer trips after getting married in 2019, primarily relying on my website to plan out our trips. We used the map to determine which breweries were close to each other and then identified when each brewery was open, maximizing our time to hit as many breweries as possible each day. I had already reached the milestone of visiting all of Maryland’s breweries multiple times throughout the years. Still, new breweries kept popping up, and I wasn’t always able to get to them. However, in July 2021, we both reached the milestone of visiting all of the current Maryland breweries. I finished my list by visiting Bay Life Brewing in Jessup, and Esther finished her list by visiting Mad Science Brewing Company in Adamstown.
Beer Styles We Met Along the Way
We noticed trends in our beer preferences while visiting various breweries along the way. With so many varieties of beer under the sun, there is a style that speaks to everyone! Half of the fun on the journey was sampling as many kinds as possible, discovering the nuances of each, and determining which would become new favorites.
We want to give you a little help as you start your journey by listing a few breweries that we think execute a particular style really well. Some of these varieties, like IPAs, are almost universal, and many breweries are cranking out spectacular versions. These breweries will serve as a great starting point as you head down the path of your own beer journey.
Silver Branch Brewing Company in Silver Spring does a great job of accurately representing the clear, traditional European styles. We’re never disappointed with these light, easy drinkers that pair so perfectly with a soft pretzel. No other spot in the state screams Gemütlichkeit (German for warmth and coziness) quite as they do!
For fruited sours, our go-to spot is Crooked Crab Brewing Company. They create masterpieces with pawpaws, mangos, raspberries, boysenberries, and many other fruits. Between their heavy-hitting Punchline sour series or their lighter Walked Into a Bar series, customers can always find a super fruity beer to satisfy their sweet tooth.
When hearing such words as “hoppy” and “tropical,” one of the first destinations that crosses my mind is Sapwood Cellars. Located in Columbia, and just over three years old, Sapwood has taken the Maryland beer scene by storm, and their IPAs are top-notch.
If baseball and dark, heavy stouts are of interest to you, check out Peabody Heights in Baltimore. Right on top of the former site of Old Oriole Park, these folks routinely brew massive stouts, sometimes aged in bourbon or whisky barrels, other times loaded with hazelnuts or chocolate.
A Growing Maryland Beer Scene
Thankfully, our journey to visit every brewery in Maryland won’t end anytime soon, as breweries continue to open across the state. Prospect Point Brewing in Frederick is looking to be Maryland’s newest farm brewery. They’ll be located just a few minutes from the downtown area and will be another compelling reason to get a hotel room whenever making a trip out that way. In Baltimore, Pickett Brewing Company is renovating a spot in the Pigtown neighborhood and intends to offer a community-oriented taproom environment.
On the Eastern Shore, Burnish Beer Company in Salisbury just finished construction and recently opened its doors. Between their large outdoor beer garden and brick-oven pizza, plus a location that’s just off of Route 50, it’s sure to become a mainstay on any beer lover’s Ocean City trips.
So, what are you waiting for? Maryland’s beer scene is ripe for the tasting. Grab a brewery map, pop in the car, and start your own epic adventure!
Photo: Kendrick and Esther Doolan. Beer and cupcakes at Crooked Crab Brewing Company