Jess Blumberg Mayhugh's picture
October, 12th 2012

Makers of Raven Beer announce six new flavors

Although everyone has Orioles on the brain today, the makers of The Raven lager—Baltimore-Washington Beer Works—announced six new flavors.

The Raven Special Lager, Tell Tale Hearty Ale, Pendulum Pilsner, and Cask of Amontillado will be available this fall, and the Annabel Lee White and an as-yet unnamed Kölsch-style brew will come out spring 2013.

The brewery has other exciting news: They've moved to the newly created Peabody Heights Brewery, a 50,000-square-foot facility in Waverly that's the former home of the Capital Beverage Bottling Plant.

I'm a big fan of The Raven lager (which we actually used in a local-beer taste test back in August) because of its light, slightly sweet quality. Can't wait to try the new ones out.

[Image: courtesy of Lizardmark Productions]


10:35 am Comment Count Tags: beer, breweries
Jess Blumberg Mayhugh's picture
October, 5th 2012

The 13th Floor grand unveiling

On Wednesday, I, along with other members of the media and selected guests, attended the unveiling of The 13th Floor, which is now open to the public after undergoing six months of renovations. The updates, which started in April, were intended to modernize the swanky space in The Belvedere.

As soon as the elevator doors opened up, the change was undeniable. There were stained-glass motifs, steel beams, and fuchsia and gold accents—giving the place an upscale, industrial feel.

The most prominent change was the bar, which was relocated from the center of the room to the front, where the dance floor used to be. The bar is also now a long, white marble L-shape, instead of its rectangular predecessor. The evening featured some of The 13th Floor's new signature cocktails, including the Hemingway Daquiri, a delicious concoction of rum, maraschino liqueur, and grapefruit juice.

Curiously, they didn't install beer taps, but instead featured bottled beers like Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA, Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse, Stone Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale, Evolution Lucky 7, and Flying Dog Atlantic Lager. The local nods were a very nice touch. The menu also features nearly 40 wine selections.

In general, the new space has a much more sophisticated feel (no more animal-print carpet, though some booths did have a snake-skin pattern) and, it seems, the owners are trying to attract a more upscale clientele. One thing hasn't changed, though: The skyline views are just as stunning.

[Image courtesy of Merkle Photography]

Jess Blumberg Mayhugh's picture
October, 2nd 2012

One-Eyed Mike's celebrates 2,000 members!

On Sunday I attended an event at Power Plant Live! that celebrated One-Eyed Mike's Grand Marnier Club reaching the milestone of 2,000 members.

As many of you know, the Fells Point bar is a shrine to the French liqueur and patrons become a part of the Grand Marnier Club by buying a lifetime membership and getting a bottle of GM reserved on the shelves in their name.

In order to celebrate the milestone, more than 600 people—members of the industry, GM club members, and One-Eyed Mike's staff—turned out at Power Plant, which featured appetizers and live music. Fittingly, the drinks were flowing, including the brand new, spicy-sweet Grand Marnier Cherry, which is being rolled out in local liquor stores this week.

At about 2:30 p.m., One-Eyed Mike's owner Mike Maraziti got on stage and talked about how proud he was of his bar, staff, and patrons. Soon after, they played a video featuring Alexandra Marnier-Lapostolle, great-granddaughter of GM's founder, who made a toast to everyone in the audience. Naturally, we all toasted with a shot of Grand Marnier.

The Sunday funday event was all for a good cause; proceeds went to the local Tyanna Foundation, which supports breast cancer efforts and will be holding their annual BreastFest in two weeks.

[Photo by me]

10:19 am Comment Count Tags: bars, charity, parties
Jess Blumberg Mayhugh's picture
September, 27th 2012

Top five local fall brews

Seasonal beers are coming out earlier every year, it seems. But I think it's just plain wrong to drink a fall beer while there's still humidity in the air (most fall orders get placed in July!) and right now is the perfect time of year to enjoy a pumpkin or Oktoberfest-style brew. Here are my five favorites from Maryland:

Evolution Craft Brewing Company's Jacques Au Lantern: This brewery, which just moved from Delmar to a larger facility in Salisbury, released a classic pumpkin beer for their fall season. Jacques Au Lantern is an amber ale with traditional pumpkin spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, clove) that is definitely sweet to the nose, but has an earthy after-taste that doesn't leave you bogged down with spice. I tried Jacques Au Lantern at a bar in Ocean City, but it's available throughout Baltimore, including CVP and No Idea Tavern.

Stillwater Artisanal Ale's Autumnal: This Baltimore-based gypsy brewer Brian Strumke is known for his Saisons/farmhouse ales and this fall seasonal is no exception. Autumnal, with a 7.2 percent ABV, is a beer with a lot of depth that combines German wheat and Belgian farmhouse styles. The result is a complex flavor that starts out with sweet pear and caramel notes and finishes on the dryer side. Stop into Strumke's Of Love & Regret where Autumnal is on tap.

Flying Dog Brewery's Dogtoberfest: The Frederick brewery's Märzen-style beer uses all imported German ingredients and is extremely well-balanced. The initial taste has a rich malt flavor that turns into a slight caramel sweetness and finishes with mild hops. Dogtoberfest is a lighter take on a traditional Märzen, to be sure, but is well-rounded and goes down smooth. Try this one everywhere from Judge's Bench in Ellicott City to Red House Tavern in Canton.

Heavy Seas Beer's The Great Pumpkin: I've written about this one before because it's my go-to local pumpkin beer. The aroma is fairly sweet, as your nose fills with scents of brown sugar, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Once you taste it, though, the spiciness cuts through nicely leaving you with a rich and balanced pumpkin flavor. Be warned, though, that The Great Pumpkin is a steep 8 percent. Find the beer, naturally, at Heavy Seas Alehouse and Max's Taphouse.

The Brewer's Art's Proletary Ale: While you can find this one on tap at Brewer's Art sporadically throughout the year, it's meant to be a fall/winter ale. After much demand for a darker ale, the brewers came up with Proletary, which has flavors of coffee and chocolate with a dry, nutty finish. This is one of the most sessionable beers at Brewer's Art (clocking it at only 5 percent ABV), making it easy to drink and enjoy.

[Image: courtesy of]

11:36 am Comment Count Tags: beer, holidays
Jess Blumberg Mayhugh's picture
September, 18th 2012

Charm City Music Festival

I got to attend the first annual Charm City Music Festival on Saturday and, by all accounts, the festival was a big success. An estimated 10,000 people packed the empty lot off of S. Caroline Street in Harbor East and festival promoters 24-7 Entertainment and CBS Radio say they're hoping to do it all over again next year.

Everything at the festival—from the food vendors and fair rides to the performance schedule and crowd control—seemed to run extremely smoothly on Saturday. Earlier in the day, local bands All Mighty Senators, Jah Works, Kelly Bell Band, and Ballyhoo took the stage. Predictably, the lot got the most crowded towards the end of the day when headliners Eve 6, Stephen Marley, Flogging Molly, and Weezer all performed.

Eve 6 played a raucous but crowd-friendly set on the secondary stage including singles "Promise," "Here's to the Night," and closer "Inside Out." Stephen Marley came on the main stage around 6 p.m. and, fittingly, played a much more laid-back set, including some of his dad's classics. Next up was Flogging Molly, whose impeccable blend of Irish folk and punk rock wowed the crowd as always. 

Before Weezer came on stage, New York-based band Madison Rising did a rendition of the National Anthem as fireworks blasted into the air. Then Weezer, pictured, right, tore through a hit-driven, 90-minute set that was mainly focused on more recent singles like "Island in the Sun," "Hash Pipe," and "Bevery Hills." But I did appreciate nods to some older material, particularly "El Scorcho" and their set-ending "Say It Ain't So," which sent the crowd wild.

All in all, the festival drew a huge crowd, but never felt claustrophobic, and overall seemed like a big success. Plus, it was refreshing to have a festival right in the heart of downtown—seeing the Baltimore skyline in the background of the main stage was an added bonus.

[Photos by me]
Jess Blumberg Mayhugh's picture
September, 17th 2012

Gordon Biersch Brewery to open October 29

As I wrote about back in May, Gordon Biersch Brewery Resaurant is opening its first Baltimore location on Lancaster Street in Harbor East. The official opening date is Monday, October 29.

The 9,500-square-foot space will have an on-site brewery, headed by Chris Cashell formerly of The Brewer's Art. There will be siganture and seasonal beers like a traditional German Hefeweizen, a Bohemian-style Czech pilsner, and coffee-like lager Schwarzbier. Additionally, the restaurant will serve burgers, salad, pizza, seafood, and steaks under the direction of executive chef Jacob Pulcher.

"The vibrant Harbor East community is the perfect place for us to introduce ourselves to diners in the area," general manager Jon Jones said in a press release. "Baltimore has become a city known for its food and we are eager to bring our fresh handcrafted beers and made-from-scratch menu items to the area for the first time."

The restaurant will seat nearly 300 diners with additional seating on the outside patio for 50 people. Hours of operation will be Sunday and Monday 11 a.m.-10 p.m. (bar 11 a.m.-midnight); Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. (bar 11 a.m.-midnight); and Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m.-midnight (bar 11 a.m.-2 a.m.).

[Image: courtesy of Gordon Biersch]

Jess Blumberg Mayhugh's picture
September, 5th 2012

The White House releases its craft-beer recipe

There has been a lot of political controversy swirling around the two recent conventions, but let's focus on something almost everyone loves: craft beer.

Last month, President Obama was at a coffee shop in Knoxville, Iowa, chatting with Bradley Magerkurth, a salesman for a beer distributor. The two got to talking and Obama revealed his inner brewmaster. "He said, 'You know Michelle and I brew a beer at the White House, we brew a honey beer,'" Magerkurth told the Boston Globe. "And then he said, 'You know what? I should get a beer for you.'" Obama's aide quickly returned with a bottle he retrieved from Ground Force One and handed it to Magerkurth.

This simple act stirred up quite the brouhaha among several-thousand beer enthusiasts, who on August 23, submitted a "We The People" petition asking to see the first official White House brew recipe. Well, this past Saturday, they got their wish as the recipe for White House Honey Ale was released.

The concoction (which aficionados say is a fairly standard mix of light malt extract, amber crystal malt, honey, gypsum, yeast, and corn sugar) is believed to be the first beer brewed on the grounds of the White House. The honey comes from the administration's official beekeeper and all the brewing equipment and ingredients are paid for by the Obamas.

Along with the recipe, the administration also released a video of two White House chefs going through the whole month-long brewing process. Let the race to replicate the White House ale begin!

[Image: courtesy of]

2:49 pm Comment Count Tags: beer, politics
Jess Blumberg Mayhugh's picture
August, 27th 2012

Remembering Scunny McCusker

As Ron Cassie wrote about earlier, we were so incredibly saddened to hear about the death of Patrick "Scunny" McCusker, the owner of Nacho Mama's and Mama's on the Half Shell, who was killed riding a bicycle in Ocean City Friday night. 

Our thoughts are with McCusker's family, close friends, and the tight-knit community that he built in Southeast Baltimore. Last year, I interviewed McCusker and asked him why he loved Canton, a neighborhood he was so instrumental in building when he opened Nacho Mama's 18 years ago:

Canton is like a small town they plucked out of the middle of suburbia and dropped into a city. The neighborhood has a real sense of itself, and a real sense of community. Plus, we have a waterfront for kayaking. We have a huge park for outdoor concerts. We have a lively square and tons of corner bars.

I opened Nacho Mama's 18 years ago and, along with the owners of Looney's, Claddagh, and Speakeasy, I've watched this neighborhood grow. When I first opened, a guy asked me why I was putting a Mexican restaurant in a Polish neighborhood. It's grown from that old-school, working-class feel to a place where people are settling down with their kids and raising families.

I have original customers of mine bringing in their grandkids now—which is a testament to the fact that people don't just live here, they stay here.

Thank you, Scunny, for creating that community. You will be sorely missed. 

Funeral services are scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen and memorial contributions can be made to the Hopkins Children House's Believe in Tomorrow Children's Foundation, 6601 Frederick Rd., Baltimore, 21228.

[Image: Scunny handing out a Natty Boh draft at the first "Tapping of the Keg," courtesy of The Daily Record]

9:04 am Comment Count Tags: community
Jess Blumberg Mayhugh's picture
August, 21st 2012

Hot August Blues at Oregon Ridge

This past Saturday I went up to Oregon Ridge for Hot August Blues, an annual blues and roots festival that always has an impressive lineup. This year included Gov't Mule, Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue, Justin Townes Earle, Cris Jacobs Band, and many others. 

The cost of the festival ends up being a little steep if you procrastinate (which, let's be honest, many of us do): $49 plus a $9 parking pass. But, if you think about what you're getting, it's not so bad—nearly 12 hours of music on multiple stages in a bucolic setting. The perfect 80-degree weather on Saturday didn't hurt either.

Plus, once inside the festival, the prices really weren't too bad. For $5, you got a 20-oz. cup of Magic Hat, either their IPA or #9, which is pretty much the same price you'd pay at any bar. The food and all the vendors selling everything from dreamcatchers to henna tattoos all seemed reasonable, too.

Some of my favorite performances included JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound, who I've written about before. They played the second stage near the entrance and got a pretty huge crowd that migrated over from the main amphitheater. I wish that the band could have performed on a bigger stage, as their Motown/rockabilly sound could have easily filled the space.

I also liked the international flare of Colombia's Locos Por Juana who played the main stage and seamlessly fused funk, reggae, hip-hop and Latin rhythms to keep the crowd thoroughly entertained. Justin Townes Earle was another favorite of mine, though I think his emotional country-soul ballads might have worked better on a smaller, more intimate stage. But I think his fame (and perhaps, his father Steve Earle's fame, as well) validated his main-stage billing.

A band I was really excited for, who lived up to the hype, was Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue, pictured. They had all of the old-school jazz, funk, and soul you'd expect from a New Orleans group—but also merged it with some hard rock and hip-hop. They reminded me of a Louisiana version of The Roots. Check out their 2011 release For True to get an idea.

All told, the festival is a great excuse to plop down your camping chair and listen to some of the most talented national acts touring right now—all in a beautiful, natural amphitheater just a half-an-hour away from the city.

[Image: courtesy of Jordan August Photography]

Jess Blumberg Mayhugh's picture
August, 7th 2012

Ciroc cocktail competition

Last night I got the opportunity to help judge the Ultimate Ciroc Summer Cocktail Competition. The contest, put on by Ciroc and Baltimore magazine, involved 10 local bartenders creating cocktails using a base of Ciroc vodka, with proceeds from each drink benefiting the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults. Throughout June and July, patrons were asked to try the various cocktails and vote for their favorite on our website.

The entire thing culminated at an event last night on the beautiful rooftop terrace of the Royal Sonesta Harbor Court (formerly the InterContinental). Each bartender had 10 minutes to create their Ciroc drink for the judges including myself, B&O Brasserie bar manager Brendan Dorr, Ulman Fund president and CEO Brock Yetso, and Reliable Churchill's business development manager Don Davolio. Baltimore contributor Gina Geppi emceed, as an audience full of industry insiders, Ulman Fund staff, and friends and family of the bartenders munched on appetizers, sipped on Ciroc cocktails, and looked on.

We rated each cocktail according to specific categories: presentation, appearance, aroma, and taste. Coming in third place was Meggan O'Rourke, bar manager at Blue Hill Tavern. She brought her pre-bottled cocktail called June Baby, a mixture of Ciroc, agave nectar, a fig and passion fruit tincture, grapefruit juice, and soda with lime. This was a refreshing summer drink that reminded me of an alcoholic Orangina. Coming in second was Bobby Kerfoot of Roy's Restaurant with his Rock'n Tahitian, a mix of Ciroc with muddled strawberries, raspberries, and lemongrass with fresh mint, lime, and an edible flower garnish. This was a sweeter, more tropical take on the vodka drink, but got points for its colorful appearance and fragrant mint. 

The winning cocktail came from Trevor Ifill, a member of the Baltimore Bartender's Guild, who works at the Four Seasons Splash Pool Bar and Grill. He made a Tamarind-Ginger Tea, which he described as an international fusion of the African tamarind spice, hints of ginger, agave nectar, and, of course, Ciroc. The exotic flavors all combined for a spicy, herbal and, ultimately, bold cocktail. Another standout was the über-refreshing Summer Garden, made by Christian Parent (another BBG member) from Bad Decisions, with Ciroc and flower-blossom liqueur served over crushed ice with fresh strawberries, cucumbers, and mint. I also enjoyed The Fourth Estate, pictured, left, made by Francisco Cutter at Talara, a truer Ciroc martini with St. Germain Elderflower liqueur, a Champagne float, and grapes acting as olives—clean and delicious.

After all of the drinks were judged and awards were given out, the most important ceremony of the night took place: Yetso and his team at the Ulman Fund were handed a check for $3,000. I was honored to be apart of a truly fun event for such a wonderful cause. Keep a lookout for these cocktails, which should be on most of the menus throughout the summer.

[Photos by Meredith Herzing]

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