When people hear I lived in Germany, one of the first things they usually comment on is the beer. I lived in the wine region, so riesling became my drink of choice, but I still enjoyed a classic hefeweizen or pilsener as well. The problem was those were really the only beers ever on tap, aside from maybe some sort of dark or alcohol free beer, neither of which I wanted, so I became bored quickly.
I came back to the Baltimore/DC corridor to find the craft beer business booming. Since I moved away three years ago, more breweries than I could count opened up, names that I vaguely knew previously like “DuClaw” and “Flying Dog” entered my radar, and Guinness even opened its second open-gate brewery in the world 10 minutes away from where I lived. I drank enough riesling and German brews that I was ready to dive headfirst into something new: craft beer.
When the first sour beer I ever had left my tastebuds tingling, I started to appreciate beer not for its alcoholic content but for the mental stimulation from trying the different flavors and styles. The Berliner Weisse and Gose beers quickly became my favorites because I’ve always had a strong affinity for sour tastes, like putting extra lemons in my iced tea or eating Sour Patch Kids. They are also virtually nonexistent in Germany, despite both styles originating there.
Drinking Maryland craft beers has also made me feel like I’m doing my part in supporting local, and honestly, I’ll be satisfied with myself if I never have a Bud Light or Corona (*shudders*) again. There are at least 10 breweries within a 20-minute drive of where I live, and I spent my summer in their outdoor seating areas absorbing the sun and enjoying a refreshing drink. I particularly breweries that offer flights small pours, allowing me to try multiple kinds without having to drink multiple 16-ounce glasses.
So as summer ends and we get into the spirit of apple cider and pumpkin ale, I wanted to reflect on my beer-filled summer by sharing my favorites. Sorry in advance for most of them being sours, but they really are the perfect hot weather drink. Also, shoutout to the app, Untappd, for helping me record and remember all the different beers I had.
Manor Hill Brewing – Hayes Creek – Sour ale
You can’t go wrong with a classic sour ale. Though this one is brewed with tangerine peel, it didn’t come off overly fruity—just a simple sour flavor. The Hayes Creek is as perfect as it gets for me. It was light in color, wonderfully refreshing, citrus-forward and sour enough that my tastebuds tingled. I’m also a big fan of their Grisette farmhouse ale. It had the slightest lemony flavor but resembled beer more than a sour does, so you get the best of both styles.
Pooles Island Brewing Company – He’fe Lifting (Hefeweizen)
Just because I drank a lot of hefeweizen in Germany doesn’t mean I never want to drink hefeweizen again—I still need it every now and then to whisk me away to the wooden benches of a beer garden or the musty bars I used to frequent with friends. The Pooles Island brewery actually found me through Instagram and invited me in to try their many options, from hard seltzers to a raspberry sour to the best hefeweizen I’ve had in Maryland. It had that strong bready flavor that I just love and, amid all the sours I drank this year, it made me realize I do miss German beer sometimes.
Crooked Crab Brewing Company – Haze for Days – Pale Ale
First of all, this brewery wins for best name. They also have incredibly enticing can art, but really, the beer is just amazing and that’s what matters most. The Haze for Days was my favorite pale ale of the summer. The hops brought all the citrusy, juicy flavor that I love without too much bitterness. I also loved one of their limited release sours called, “A Strawberry, Blueberry and Peach Walked Into a Bar.” In the series, they experiment with different fruit combinations, and I loved how this one packed the sour punch without being overwhelmingly fruity, which often happens when too many flavors are brewed into one.
Revelation Craft Brewing Company – Son In Law – Session IPA
Favorite IPA of the summer goes to this Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, brewery. Just like with the pale ale, I love IPAs, but only when they aren’t too bitter. This one had the delicious grapefruit flavor with hardly any bitterness. It tasted refreshing, rather than overwhelming like a lot of IPAs. I had the Son-In-Law as part of an all-around fantastic flight at this brewery, which included two sours and a mule-inspired blonde ale.
Checkerspot Brewing Company – Locally Delicious: STONEFRUIT – Kettle sour
I had two incredible sours from Checkerspot this summer, the other one being “Wrong Side of the Tracks,” but the stone fruit one stole the show because in general, I prefer the peach and plum notes over berry. I have always loved the natural sour taste of plums, and in beer, they make it so refreshing. Even more impressive, this beer was brewed with 100 percent local ingredients, from the malt to the hops to the fruits, so I was feeling some major Maryland pride while drinking it.
Jailbreak Brewing Company – Bia Sot – Dark Lager
I tend to stay away from dark beers, especially in the summer, but this one sounded too unique not to try. It’s a Lao-style rice beer, which I didn’t know was a thing but am certainly glad it is! The toasted flavor really stuck out to me for this beer; it almost had a grainy, cereal-type taste to it. If you’ve ever been on a brewery tour, for example at the Guinness Open Gate Brewery nearby, you may have sampled the toasted grain before it heads into the brewing process, and I just love the flavor of it. I always say they should sell it in bags as a snack! That flavor really comes through in the Bia Sot.
Key Brewing Company – Undertow – Gose
Everything about the Undertow made it a perfect beach beer. From the saltiness of the gose style, to the name and can art, it was a highlight of my Bethany vacation drinks. It had super subtle hints of blackberries, enough to bring a nice tart flavor, but not enough to overpower it. I could’ve happily crushed a few of these while sitting in the sand watching the waves.
Oliver Brewing Company – Bmore Hazy – Double IPA
Apparently double IPAs are all the rage these days, so in my attempt to keep up with beer trends, I’m adding them to my usual flight rotation. Bmore Hazy had a tropical fruit flavor with low bitterness—everything I could ask for really! While it’s a much stronger beer than what I usually drink, as we get out of summer and into winter, it will definitely become one of my go-to styles.
Collective Arts Brewing – Blueberry (Sour w/ Cacao Nibs) – Sour
My research has showed me that this is actually a winter seasonal sour, but oh well, I bought and drank it this summer, so it can still be classified as one of my favorite beers I’ve had in a while. I put off trying it for so long because the thought of having cacao with blueberry didn’t particularly appeal to me. When you crack it open, you get a strong whiff of chocolate, but when you drink it, you are delighted by the delicate balance of tart blueberries with the slightest cacao flavor. It’s something you have to taste to believe, but this beer was so different and fascinating that every sip was truly an experience.