Come Down From That Bough

When it comes to beer, I don’t stray too far from my adopted home state these days. Heck, I don’t even stray that far from my own neighborhood. If I can walk to a brewery, why the heck would I go to one that’s further afield? A 10 minute drive to True Respite or 7 Locks is just too far away.

And if that 10 minute drive is a daunting distance, then going to a brewery in Baltimore or Frederick is like going to the moon. It takes planning!

Fortunately, distribution of local beers is such now that I can develop a strong loyalty to a craft brewery without ever setting foot in it. For example, I’ve been a fan of Union Craft Brewing for three years almost to the day, according to a post on my old beer blog. That was when I wrote about their Balt Altbier. I don’t really like Altbier, which I usually find too bitter and too syrupy. But Union’s version was special: bittersweet chocolate flavor without being bitter, smooth and creamy without feeling like I was drinking Hershey’s syrup straight from the bottle. It was love at first sip.

So what better way to celebrate an anniversary with the one you love than by going to a special place that means a lot to both of you?

The Union Collective building is massive, with plenty of room to brew beer, have a tasting room and a beer hall, a restaurant, a creamery making fresh ice cream on the premises, a distillery, a coffee shop, and an indoor climbing park. It’s altogether impressive.

There was no Balt Altbier available, and although they had my other favorites on tap (Blackwing Schwarzbier-style lager and Duckpin IPA), I made sure to try stuff I had never tasted before.

I got a three-beer sampler and started with Divine IPA, as classic an India Pale Ale as I will ever find. It was clean and crisp and citrusy without being overly hopped. I then moved on to Michele’s Granola Porter, which at first glance, seems bizarre. But it’s really just a classic porter with a little extra oomph. It has an aroma of chocolate milk and starts off sweet before dissolving into a bitter, malty finish.

Lastly, I tried Kev’s Winter Warmer. Kev refers to Kevin Blodger, co-founder of Union and an all-around hero of mine. A lot of brewers will find their lane and stay in it. But Kevin and co-founders Adam Benesch and Jon Zerivitz brew stuff that would make even the hippest beer hipster feel like a frat boy stocking up on Natty Ice. They make an Altbier! Who else in the United States makes an Altbier?

It’s Kev’s favorite, by the way, in case you needed further reason why he’s my hero.

As for his Winter Warmer, it tasted of hazelnuts and nutmeg. Union pulled it through a nitro pump, so it had a smooth body with a toasty finish. It’s the type of beer I’d like to sip in front of a warm fire, which is an odd obsession of mine because I never sit in front of a warm fire. But I like to find beers that I would drink in front of one in case I ever do.

Needless to say, it was worth the visit. Not just for the beer, but also for the Duckpin bratwurst and the popcorn from Well Crafted Kitchen, the brown bread ice cream from The Charmery, and the nice cup of tea from Vent Coffee Roasters. If I’m going to go there, I might as well GO THERE, right?

Yes, brown bread ice cream: malt and cinnamon ice cream with Grape Nuts. I probably should have had it with Kev’s Winter Warmer. That would have been amazing.