It’s about 10:30 AM in Frederick, Maryland, not long before Christmas, and we’re bellied up to the tasting bar at Flying Dog Brewery. Ralph Steadman’s subversive illustrations line the walls as brewmaster and COO, Matt Brophy pulls two tasting glasses of this season’s Naughty and Nice, a Belgian style dark ale juxtaposed by a Belgian style golden.
“Careful,” he says as we sip some Naughty. The sting of habanero peppers certainly wakes you up this time of day. Then, it’s time for the Nice. And it is.
We had just packed up the lights and cameras from the John I. Haas brewer’s spotlight photo shoot, which Matt was nice enough to take part in. But after an hour of talking up Flying Dog’s great “Brewhouse Rarities” line of beers and seasonal favorites, we decided we needed to get a much better understanding of what got Flying Dog fans so excited.
This was our first stop on a five-day tour of some of the brightest spots on the Mid-Atlantic craft beer circuit. Nearly every week the Haas team is out on the road visiting old friends, and making new ones. And as the craft beer revolution continues in full force, our visits seem to stretch further afield with every passing year.
But this trip was special. For last year’s Craft Brewer’s Conference in Portland, Oregon, we figured the best way to highlight our beloved hops was to talk with some West Coast brewers whose alchemy turns Haas’ golden green wonders into magic. This year the CBC is in Philly, so we thought it only right to feature some of our favorite East Coast friends.
After a few more Rarities and some unforgettable samples of Flying Dog’s oyster-based Pearl Necklace Chesapeake Stout (and of course, they’re best-selling Raging Bitch), we thanked Matt and the folks at Flying Dog and headed east to a dog of different color.
Across the Bay in Milton, Delaware, we pulled up in front of a three-story steampunk tree house, and knew we were in for something wild. This was Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, where they’ve been brewing “off-centered ales for off-centered people” since 1995.
Inside, brewmaster Tim Hawn showed us around the brewery, which is as much a work of steampunk art as the tree outside. We made our way to the famous wood room, where Sam Calagione, Dogfish Head’s founder and president, had built the largest wooden barrel since Prohibition out of palo santo, South American ironwood. After a few photos, it was back into the brewery amid the art and science of their continuously-hopped wonder—followed by a few pints of Piercing Pils, Noble Rot and, of course, Palo Santo Marron to talk scuba diving and open sea kayaking with our new friend Tim.
From there, we headed north to Victory…brewing that is. If hops has a Nirvana–Parkesburg, Pennsylvania is as likely a place as any. There, Bill Covaleski and Ron Barchet have built a state-of-the-art wonder of modern brewing.
Victory Brewing is a place where German tradition meets local community, and whole leaf hops dance on the floor during final dry-hopping. We tried to get Bill and Ron to take things seriously, but they were having way too much fun, as always. So we got some photos next to the distinctive V-shaped testing station in their brew deck. Then we (of course) obliged ourselves of some Victory HopDevil IPA while they custom-canned a few DirtWolf Double IPAs for our trip west.
People think they make chocolate in Hershey, Pennsylvania. But if you know Chris and John Trogner, you know better—and you’re probably high-tailing it to Tröegs Independent Brewing. The centerpiece of the place is their open-air brewdeck which overlooks the newly constructed tasting room, already filling up with loyal visitors at noon. The Trogner brothers grabbed Ben Bailey, Tim Mayhew and Andrew Dickson for a few photos and climbed up onto the Scratch Beer brewdeck—a place where never-ending curiosity becomes a constantly rotating tap of incredibly delicious beer brewed for the Tröegs Scratch Beer Series, with new releases (almost) every Thursday.
As we sat down to a few pints of Tröeg’s Mad Elf and some of the best gastropub cuisine we’ve ever had in a brewpub (thank you Chef DeLutis), we chatted about all the great brewing that’s taking place across the Mid-Atlantic states.
From Flying Dog, who followed their fans across country to reinvent Maryland brewing, to Dogfish Head, who’s been turning beer on its head for over a decade, to Victory Brewing, where incredibly well-made beer never takes itself too seriously, all the way to Tröegs, where brothers and friends, curiosity and community all equal really great beer.
It certainly was quite a trip. Thanks to everyone for joining the fun and making us feel so welcomed. And we can’t wait to see where we end up next.