Monday, December 5, 2011


The National Katyn Memorial
We had walked a lot and drank a lot the day prior, so waking up in the morning brought bursting bladders and aching feet. A good breakfast was in order and the Control had a definite idea as to what he wanted, biscuits and gravy and grits. The plan was to break our fast before we headed out to Fells Point to check out their annual festival. That plan didn't quite work out as planned. I had found a diner in the area that was sure to have the morning vittles that we were looking for and we struck off in search of it. Unlike the Pratt Street Ale House the night before, it was NOT where it was supposed to be. In fact, we think it had closed down and was never taken off Google Maps. Plan B was implemented, which consisted of wandering in the general direction of Fells Point, looking for a good place for breakfast along the way.

The first place we found was swamped and the prices were quite unreasonable for breakfast, but we were still in the tourist area of Inner Harbor so we pressed on, looking at every eatery along the way, rejecting each one for one reason or another. Biscuits and gravy and grits were becoming a fading dream, as we entered Fells Point and started to walk around the festival. Our hunger was distracted by the merchants, classic cars and historic ships for a while, until the Control caught sight of a place that held promise. On previous road trips we have turned to the traditional Irish breakfast to stave off the effects of a hangover. There's nothing like eggs and a variety of greasy, prepared meats to settle you down right. Although we weren't even slightly hung over, the sight of an Irish pub called Slainte gave us hope that we could get some adequate breakfast food to fill our bellies. Slainte would turn out to be so much more and was the third place on the trip that was unplanned, but really made this trip worthwhile.

I miss this place already
As we walked up to the door to check out the menu we could hear raucous cheering coming from inside. It was just after 11:00AM and there were sports fanatics crowding the bar…English Premier League football fanatics. Unlike the Abbey Burger Bistro, Slainte does not appear to have one favorite team and various club scarves adorned the rafters and the fans from both sides of the pitch. Good-natured barbs were hurled back and forth after each play. Being EPL fans ourselves, we decided to get a bite to eat here and, wondrously, biscuits and gravy and grits were on the menu.

We were showed to a booth and were grateful as Wayne Rooney for his new hair that the waitress allowed us to order from the breakfast menu despite the late hour. We each also got a cup of coffee and a pint of Guinness. The food was fresh and very well prepared and the Guinness went a long way to fortify us for the rest of the day. The coffee was even good, but the highlight of that was the mug it was served in. It was a good mug, one of those that feels good in your hand and holds just the right amount of steaming goodness. We each purchased one to bring home as souvenirs. We watched the game, wolfed down our breakfast, sipped our coffee and enjoyed the hell out of a properly poured pint of Guinness. Our waitress assured us that there was no rush and we could sit and lounge as long as we wanted. Being right comfortable in our surroundings and being brought a healthy dose of properly poured pints of Guinness, we had no compunction to leave at all. But leave we must, since we had an appointment for a brewery tour and still needed to walk back to the hotel.

To give you an idea how comfortable we were in Slainte, we both Liked their page on Facebook. They update it often and we both get melancholy when they advertise a special or promote that they're televising an important match live. We so want to just get in the car and drive to Baltimore and lounge in that wonderful Irish pub until they kick us out. For my own happiness I'm thinking of Unliking it, but I can't bring myself to do it. 

No, we never went inside
Another indication as to how much we liked it there is the fact that I knew Max's Taproom was right around the corner. I had wanted to stop into this Mecca for Baltimore-bound beer geeks and even knew that the longer we spent in Slainte the more the chance to pop into Max's would disappear. I really didn't care. We walked past Max's and I took a picture of the outside, but we were in a hurry and now I have another reason to return.

Meat Tent!
On our way, we quickly explored some of the sections of the festival we hadn't see yet. One of these sections is dedicated to the Hispanic community. One of the awe-inspiring sights we saw in that area was meat cooking over an open fire, stretched out on thick, wire frameworks covering the rising heat from the fire. The Control aptly referred to them as "meat tents". These were nearly tall as a man and the smell coming from the slabs of cow smoking away on them was even better. Sadly, we were stuffed and pressed for time, so we took pictures and moved on. Another reason to return now, but it will have to be for the next Fells Point Festival.

We retrieved the car and drove south of the city to reach Heavy Seas. The brewery used to be called Clipper City and they decided to change the name. The old name is still preserved in the Clipper Fleet line of beers, which includes all the beers brewed under the original brand. They also have the Pyrate Fleet and Mutiny Fleet lines, all brewed in their Halethorpe facility, just south of Baltimore. This is another brewery located in an industrial complex but unlike many, the structures are newer. On your way inside, you have the option to buy a logo pint glass that has 5 chips in it with the Heavy Seas logo. As you probably guessed, you can trade these in for samples at the bar, which they will pour to the line on the back of the pint glass in order to stay within the legally prescribed limit for a "sample" of beer.

Who Cares! They Have Beer! And Medals!
The sampling area also doubles as the gift shop and they have all manner of licensed product and much of it has a pirate theme to it. The sampling bar is well-manned and proudly displays all the awards their beers have won throughout the years. Behind the bar is the tap list that very nicely explains each beer being served, including all the technical information (ABV, IBU, OG, FG, etc.) You can get a growler fill while there or buy beer in cases and they even have some of their 22 ouncers available for sale. The Control bought a couple of bottles of their Yule Tide that had been cellared since 2002 and, being the friend he is, gave me one of them.

This is one of the more interesting tours you'll attend at a brewery. The tour guide gets into a bit more detail than most and she would ask questions and reward correct answers with a free sample chip. And yes, I did manage to win one of these for myself by correctly identifying their hop back. The chip came in very handy since the chips are so neat that I decided to keep one as a souvenir. And then, as happens so often at breweries that give out tickets or chips, we were given more chips by people who weren't using them. I was glad that the Control was driving as I gladly tossed back sample after sample of Peg Leg Stout.

I've been to a few breweries that I put in the "been there, done that" column and have no desire to revisit. But if I find myself back in Baltimore, I will make a point of returning to the brewery for some samples and perhaps a souvenir or two. There are quite a few places there that warrant a return visit, like Zeebah Lounge, Slainte, Abbey Burger Bistro and Blue Agave. There's probably enough to turn this into a yearly event…with all beer geeks invited. As Larry promised me years back, Baltimore is a really great beer town, even if it does close up too early.

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