The first weekend of the Spring Tour concluded with a Saturday night show at Full Tilt Brewing's Grand Opening in the Govan neighborhood of Baltimore.
Full Tilt has actually existed for several years, but this was the grand opening of their new home, where they have substantial capacity to brew on-prem, and a huge taproom that will likely become a centerpiece of the Govan community. Located right in the heart of the neighborhood on York Road, the taproom has two large garage doors facing the street, behind which is the larger portion of the taproom. Inside the area is decorated in a colorful urban-chic inspired way, with well done graffiti, and a healthy selection of video games, shuffle board, skee ball, and so on. Lots of high-tops give plenty of places to sit, and towards the back of the room is a very long bar, which is also deep enough to have a crowd 5 or so deep a the bar, which is great for the business, but means you have to be a bit aggressive to get served at the bar when it's busy. No biggie, that's why bars are for grown-ups...
Full Tilt Brewing - Baltimore, MD
Beers are distributed throughout the Baltimore area. Check their website for details (at the time of this post their website was still under construction, hence the lack of a link for distro details).
The brewery had actually been in business at this site for a few months, and while a soft-opening can sometimes distract from the impact of a grand opening, these guys did a great job of hyping the grand opening in the community, as the room was full all day through midnight.
Dog and kid friendly, the crowd earlier in the day was definitely more family oriented, and obviously became more of your typical bar crowd as the night went on (although it seemed like a pretty young crowd, largely college age, compared to most other breweries which tend to trend a little older). In front of the stage attractive young women danced for much of the 2nd set, and bought tour t-shirts, so no complaints there!
The brewery operation had only recently come online at this location, so the beer menu was still a combination of their own brews and some choice selections from other breweries. I limited my drinking to only Full Tilt product for obvious reasons.
I started the night with the Govans Blood Orange Gose (4.4%), a sour gose, and second in a series named after the neighborhood of their new digs. Unlike the earlier trend in sours, the newer ones tend to be less obnoxious in how sour they are, and this one is true to form. More generally citrusy in its aroma and taste (as opposed to a very blood orange forward flavor), it was a nice smooth refreshing drink without tasting like a liquified Sour Patch candy. The pour was slightly hazy, with a lighter body and a medium carbonation level. A nice refreshing brew. I'm a big fan of blood orange, so I wouldn't have minded a bit more of a true orange flavor up front, but I'm probably in the minority there, so I'm sure the current more generally citrusy flavor would be a crowd pleaser.
I sipped on the Port of Baltimore: Baltic Port (6.2%) porter as my sipper while I played. Obviously a rather dramatic departure from a sour gose, but I find a porter is a good way to judge a brewery. A nice dark brown pour with a lightly fragrant head, it had roasted maltiness, and a somewhat thinner body. Flavor wise I think it was coming from a good place, but I kept wishing there was just a little more body in there, which isn't really surprising for a place that's only been open for brewing for a few weeks. This one tasted just fine, but I'd be curious about trying it again 6 months from now to see if their process has matured and tweaked it a little bit. Either way, it was a good starting point for a porter, and I'd wager it will improve with time.
With this being the start of Spring, sampling a lighter beer for session drinking seemed to make a lot of sense, so next went to the Memorial Pils (5.3%) pilsner. As most better pilsner and lagers seem to do now, they remind much more of the brands from Canada and Europe as opposed to their American counterparts. Crisp, not too bitter, light in body, ready to be crushed in volume, or good beer for your friend who hit the brewery with you but only really likes BudLight (of course, this was much tastier... I just meant it's about as close to you're apt to find in a craft brewery to the watery mass produced InBev stuff).
Full Tilt seem to have a lot going for it... they did a great job on the location, and the community certainly embraced them for their Grand Open. Their beers are certainly good, and with a little wisdom that only experience brings, could be really great with a little time.
I didn't get to my hotel until after 1am, and they didn't have my reservation. I had prepaid the room, so I wasn't going to pay again... so I drove a bit further west and slept in the van. The van does have a huge bed, so it's not bad to sleep in, but when you're planning on a hotel and a shower and a hot breakfast and all that it can be a bit frustrating to then learn at 2am that you're instead sleeping in the van. The ride home from Baltimore, when trying to avoid Pennsylvania, passes right through my old college town of Athens, OH (where I'll be playing Memorial Day weekend!), so I broke up the drive by stopping there Sunday, had a great dinner at Casa Nueva, partied til the wee hours of the morning, and made it home by Monday afternoon, and slept pretty much through Tuesday (which is why these last couple of blogs have been a bit late).
Next stop: a couple of weeks off for family matters, work on some new material, do a little recording, then New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region for 2 weeks! The madness kicks off on April 12 during the French Quarter Festival.
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