Traveling for business sucks. Sure, you may get to see other parts of the country on someone else's dime, but you also have to eat hotel food and live out of a suitcase. Whenever I find myself out of town for work, I try to make the best of it. A little bit of pre-planning can help quite a bit, so that I don't find myself amidst the three-decades-old décor of the hotel dining room every night, or wind up drinking well whiskey and light beer at the nautically themed bar attached.
This past week, I've been in Annapolis, Maryland, for a conference, complete with enormous, mediocre lunch buffet. But I've made the point of finding the time to get out of the hotel and see what there is to see.
I'm not going to lie, I didn't stay in Annapolis. I've been there before and, quite frankly, there's not much to it. It's a quaint town, and the harbor area is beautiful. Aside from that, though, it's heavily touristy. Most nights, my coworkers and I drove into D.C. for dinner and a bit of sight-seeing. Thursday night, our dining plans fell through, though, and we found ourselves wandering the cobblestone and colonials section of the harbor, and into the Ram's Head Tavern.
It's not much to write home about, really, being basically a more competent Bennigan's, with the standard pub fare on the menu alongside such worrisome anomalies as Jambalaya and "TX Roast Beef." Needless to say, those items were avoided. We did luck out, though, to have walked in on the day Fordham Brewing Co., a local microbrewery, released its newest seasonal beer, Dominion Double IPA.
We opted for the Fordham "Taste of the Taps" sampler, a tasting pour of each of the brewery's regular rotation beers, plus the current seasonal. With a small road map and six beers in front of us, we dug in.
Fordham Helles Lager and Fordham Light Lager (why you would include a light beer on a tasting is somewhat beyond me) were surprisingly, somewhat disturbingly, similar in taste and temperament. Both exhibited a clean cereal nose, with rice, wheat, and slight citrus elements. The beer was clean, clear gold, and barely effervescent, with a decent head that faded immediately to a full cap with slight lacing.
A clean, sweet taste dominated both, though each was a bit thin. Some caramel and a nice bready malt came in at the end, along with toasted corn notes. Aside from a slightly thicker mouthfeel and less carbonation, though, the Helles was all but indistinguishable from the light.
Copperhead Ale was indeed copper, but with little head to speak of. A sweet, caramel malt nose repeated in the taste, which was similarly sweet and malty, with some caramel and just a bit of spice. It was a well-rounded beer, perhaps to a fault.
The Tavern Ale suffered from a similar lack of backbone. Described as medium bodied with a strong malt current highlighted by punchy hops, this beer was a bit of a let-down. I couldn't detect any smell at all, really, and the flavor was similarly absent. It was clean but bland, with a generic hoppiness only showing up at the end as a pronounced bitter finish without any of the balancing elements of citrus and perfume that make hops so interesting.
Double Dominion, the just-released DIPA, fared much better, although it was originally presented as the Tavern Ale. It was ruddy, with a thin head. Coriander, white pepper and grapefruit perfumed the beer nicely. The taste was much of the same, but with more malt than expected. There was a bit too much alcohol apparent, but aside from that, it was a pretty solid example.
The Old Dominion Oak Barrel Stout was dark with no head, but that's likely due to the three-ounce pour. Chocolaty, dry, green olive nose. Nice texture. Very dry, Irish style. Bourbon and vanilla came through in subtle smoke aroma, and vanilla came into the nose through a sip. It wasn't the best stout I've ever had, but there was nothing wrong with it.
While Fordham Brewing Co. isn't going to be enough to draw me back to Annapolis anytime soon, it was fun to get my hands on a local brew. Next time you're out of town, on business or pleasure, I recommend diving into the local beer scene. You might be underwhelmed like I was this time, but you might also find something remarkable.
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