By Caryn Coyle
There are four fireplaces on the main floor of the Brewer’s Art at 1106 North Charles Street. There is also a pair of copper tuns behind the window panes of the French doors at the back of the main floor. You can see them as you sit at a table with white linen. The Brewer’s Art grounds its own grains on the floor above. Water and yeast are added in the copper tuns behind the dining room and the ale is then piped to the ground floor and stored in 20 gallon kegs.
“Each keg holds about 500 glasses of beer,” explained Ari Magwood, the Brewer’s Art general manager. He recommended the Proletary, a home brewed black ale with what he called “a chocolaty feature.” The ale sparkled like a carbonated drink in my mouth. It did have a chocolaty, spicy taste. Excellent.
The Brewer’s Art sells its house beers for $5 a glass: Resurrection, an abbey-style brown ale made with five types of malts, the Ozzy, their “tribute to the ‘devil’ beers of Belgium,” the Coup de Boule, spiced with cardamom, cinnamon and saffron, the Cerberus Tripel, a smooth blond with a 10% alcohol content, and a monthly selection — this month’s was a pale ale brewed with honey malt called Zodiac Ale.
Though the fireplaces — one framed in marble, another in mahogany — are not actually heating the rooms, they do add to the luxurious ambiance of the Brewer’s Art. Over a century old, the building was the home of W. G. Bowdoin, a senior partner at Baltimore’s Alex Brown and Sons. He built the house with wood carved mantels over the fireplaces and fireproof materials like brick and cement to make it the first residence south of New York to be fireproofed. A college, then an architectural design firm were housed in the building before the copper tuns were installed and the brewing commenced in 1996.
I took a seat at a bare, wood table in the grotto type basement of the Brewer’s Art. I like it down there. The curved brick archways shelter areas for intimate gatherings, and the only light appears to be the candles in bubbled glass on each table. I could hear Rod Stewart’s “Rita,” followed by Heart’s “Crazy on You.” The patrons throughout the restaurant were a blend of Baby Boomers, who would remember both Rod and Heart, the generation they have parented — I did hear the bartender ask for ID several times — and folks who would be too young to be Baby Boomers, but too old to be their offspring!
Chef Dave Newman made me his Kung Po Sweetbreads, which sell for $12. The plate was warm when it was placed in front of me. The sweetbreads were floured and pan fried in red wine, ginger and orange rinds and served with a blend of peanuts, celery root purée and exotic mushrooms that melted in my mouth. The sweetbreads were tender and the carrot and ginger salad that topped them added to the startling flavor. The crunch of the peanuts was satisfying. There was a spicy element to the sauce that stayed with me.
Among the more creative offerings at the Brewer’s Art are octopus with a crab and sweet potato salad, mint, peanuts and yuzu vinaigrette for $13, or an Utz crusted cod with horseradish potato mousseline, braised red cabbage, and Proletary mustard sauce for $25. The menu also features duck, ribs, chicken, scallops and steak frites, a grilled sirloin steak in a red wine shallot sauce with rosemary garlic fries for $28.
There is also bar food for those who are not interested in a meal. The Brewer’s Art rosemary garlic fries were plentiful, hot and crisp for $4 and the crab dip was exceptional, creamy, loaded with crab meat and plenty of pita chips for $11.
The 1901 Brewer’s Art building is exceptional for the food and home brewed beer that is served within it.
Caryn Coyle lives in Baltimore. Her fiction and non-fiction have been published in more than a dozen literary journals and the anthology City Sages: Baltimore (2010) from City Lit Press.