Since moving to Maryland a month ago, I haven’t had a chance to explore what the state’s brewing scene has to offer. If it’s anything like its alcohol laws, then I’m in trouble. My queries to the locals about microbrews, craft beers, and where to buy them have come up drier than my mouth waiting for a decent beer out here that doesn’t come from my stash. I am moving from a place (Dayton) that is blessed with the powers of Belmont Party Supplies, which is among the nation’s best microbrew stores, and Brewtensils, their counterpart, homebrew store.
Since I had business to the northwest of the city this evening, I decided to stop by the Thirsty Brewer. The shop has received decent reviews on line, that I read.
I set my GPS on course for their address. Fifteen minutes later, I am in the parking lot for the Valley Wine Shop, in the middle of no where. My wife and I looked around at the small cluster of building; we see no signage for the store. I decide that I want to look inside the Valley Wine Shop. I walk into the Wine shop and stop in the entrance way. I look around; one side is stocked with wine; the other side looks like a shady butcher shop that I visited with Matt a couple years ago (basically, empty freezers). Nothing there worth even looking at.
My wife and I drive down to the corner, where there was an ice cream shop. I decide that I’m depressed and want a milkshake. I go in, and I ask the lady, while she’s making my strawberry milkshake, “Is there a place called Thirsty Brewer around here?” Her attitude totally changes; she gets short and snippy. Says she’s tired of answering that question. She manages to tell me that it’s back in the Valley Wine Shop. I say, “Really? I was just in there. I didn’t see it”. She snaps, “It’s in the basement. I’ve never been there.”
We drive back over, and park in the front this time. My wife walks to one side; I walk to the other. I don’t see stairs, but Heather does. She also found the sign for it, too. It’s this 3′x5′ nondescript board on the side of the building; there’s nothing to it. It was not visible from the road because it’s blocked by Valley Wine swag for shitty beer.
Tentatively, we go down the basement stairs, which are just covered in dripping water from something above. At the bottom of the stairs is an unmarked steel door. My first thought was, “we’re going to get murdered in here.” We go in and it’s like someone set up a homebrew shop in someone’s basement (which, I guess, isn’t a false statement). There are no windows. My wife said it reminded her of what a speakeasy would have looked like, in the 1920s and 1930s.
I browsed the stored, and I was happy with the stock that I found. They had supplies, in number, that were slightly smaller than Brewtensils. They have, basically, all I would need. Maybe skimpy on the specialty grains. I didn’t do an accurate inventory of what they have. The Thirsty Brewer did have a big-ass grain milling station, which I was glad to see. In stock, as well, was candi sugar, pre-packaged, which I hand’t seen before. This is used in Belgian beers, if I recall correctly. On the wall was a larger selection of spices, including cardamon seeds. They had beer kits that weren’t from Better Brewers, which I hadn’t seen before.
What impressed me most, though, was the decent selection of yeast, which was organized numerically. I was happy about that because, at Brewtensils, there was no organization to the yeast. It was all just tossed into bins; one had to dig to find anything. The hops, though, made me cringe a little. Their storage was little plastic tubs with lids, in a windowless, standing freezer. Each shelf had like an inch of frost. Now, I am no expert on how to store hops, but this just struck me as odd. I expected to open the tubs and find body parts.
I did find a strain of hops that I was not familiar with: Bramling Cross, which is apparently rarely talked about or stocked. There’s more information at the link.
My goal was to just browse and not buy anything, since I still need to make my mashtun and because there are a couple of Austin Homebrew Supply kits that I have been meaning to order and try. Mission success.
On the way home, I detoured through Loch Raven Resevior. Very nice and scenic. Going to have to go back with my camera and shoot some pictures of the dam.