Despite its relatively close proximity to Philadelphia, the small city of Frederick, Maryland, is often overlooked. Lost in the shadow of Baltimore and D.C.’s respectively blossoming craft beer scenes, it’s easy to see how it goes unnoticed. D.C. and Baltimore are two significantly larger cities, each home to some of the highest rated bars on the East Coast and some rising young breweries. With Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and D.C.’s museums and political history, they are abounding in tourism, providing a completely different feel than the neighboring Frederick.
Frederick is a small city, but with more of a small-town feel. Just over two hours from Philadelphia, it is also a prime weekend getaway. Despite being overlooked as a beer destination, Frederick is probably a name quite familiar to most craft beer enthusiasts. That is mostly thanks to Flying Dog Brewery, who relocated from Colorado to call Frederick home.
Easily the largest brewery in Frederick, Flying Dog also seems to be the heartbeat of the city. Walking around downtown you’ll see Flying Dog neons, tins, chalkboards and every other kind of signage, covering every business that sells beer. According to the Brewers Association, Flying Dog was the 29th largest brewery in 2012 (slightly smaller than Victory, to put it into perspective), so it’s understandable the pride that the city has in its brand. Obviously, no trip to Frederick is complete without a visit to the brewery.
Flying Dog is located in a large warehouse-type space that’s hard to miss and the décor is exactly what one would expect based on their creative packaging. The artwork (created by Ralph Steadman, who based it off the world of Hunter S. Thompson) adorns the walls of the public area of the brewery. In fact, one hallway is completely painted, portraying the story of Flying Dog from its days of merely being an idea, up until recent times, with their new home in Maryland. There are also a number of very ornate pieces, such as a throne and dog houses that seem to fit in quite perfectly, making you feel like you’re at the place depicted on their bottles.
There is no pub at Flying Dog but they do have a significantly large bar area with a bunch of brewery exclusives on tap to sample. There are typically some experimental cask brews as well, so you can see what new ideas they are playing with. The tour itself is extensive, lasting about 45 minutes and allows you to sample a specific beer (different each time) during each step of the process. You’ll start with a sample of fresh wort and end with a glass of the final product, all with a signature glass that comes with the tour.
However, there is a lot more to Frederick than Flying Dog. One brewery that is rapidly on the rise, and one of the newest breweries to market their product in Philadelphia, is Brewer’s Alley. Located right in the heart of downtown Frederick, Brewer’s Alley is the city’s first brewpub. It also happens to be located in the area’s original city hall, adding a lot of historic charm to the brewpub. The locals seem to hold it near and dear as well, as it draws quite the crowd. It is definitely a must visit on your trip.
Just down the road from Brewer’s Alley is the home of their sister brewery, Monocacy. A new upstart brewery, they’ve kicked things off with an impressive flagship offering in their Riot Rye, a sessionable rye pale ale. Most of the brewing for Brewer’s Alley also takes place here at Monocacy. Tours are limited for now (only once a month), but it’s worth checking out the building that was previously home to an ice cream production facility. Also, right next door is the local homebrew shop, The Flying Barrel.
One of the most unique stops in Frederick is right outside of town. Up on a hill, mostly in the middle of nowhere, on a farm in Mt. Airy, MD, is Milkhouse Brewery. Started by Tom Barse, Milkhouse was Maryland’s first farm brewery. Farm breweries get a special type of license as they grow a certain percentage of their ingredients. Tom is currently growing hops for his beautiful farmhouse-style beers, as well as harvesting his own honey used in some styles. Only open on weekends, Milkhouse is a great stop on your
way to Frederick. It’s an escape from reality sitting up on the hill, in the peaceful outdoors, sipping on some of Tom’s beers. The beers have a rustic quality fitting to the environment and conversation with Tom is certainly always interesting. Still a full-time farmer as well, the brewery is definitely a passion project for him and one which the area seems to have really grasped onto. Milkhouse should definitely be at the top of your list of destinations if traveling in this direction. While you’re in the farmland, you can also stop by the recently opened nano-brewery, Frey’s Brewing Company, for a growler or two.
If that’s not enough to keep you busy, Frederick also has another brewpub, Barley & Hops Grill, not far from Flying Dog. There are also a number of great bars and restaurants to experience such as JoJo’s Taphouse, Firestone’s, Bushwaller’s and Shab Row. There are also bars at both of Top Chef contestant Bryan Voltaggio’s restaurants, VOLT and Family Meal. Family Meal is more on the casual side while VOLT is upscale dining, but the food is great at both and is certainly worth checking out.