Sesquicentennial of the Civil War Brings Craft Beer to the Front
As the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War rolls across the country, historic tours and re-enactments are bringing craft beer to the front.
For example, in Wisconsin, a June 2011 re-enactment of the Bull Run Battle drew about 2,000 people to the Heritage Hill Historical Park – not far from the Stevens Point Brewery, which was already in operation by 1861 and supplying beer to the troops throughout the Civil War.
But craft brewers can expect the biggest surge in tourism in the Mid-Atlantic and Southern United States. Historic beer recipes of the era are already being tapped. Craggie Brewing Co. of Asheville, NC, brews Antebellum Ale, based on a mid-19th century American recipe using water, yeast, molasses, ginger and spruce tips. The ingredients from the historical drink make the basis for a flavorful craft ale brewed with malt and hops.
Among Civil War sites, Frederick, Maryland has a legacy of battles past -- and breweries present. The Antietam and Monocacy River battles led wounded troops to retreat to Frederick for treatment. The city’s National Museum of Civil War Medicine depicts the advancements in field medicine of the era.
Today, Frederick’s craft breweries – Brewer’s Alley, Barley & Hops, and Flying Dog – can expect a surge of business from Civil War tourism.
Frederick Beer Week in May 2012 will feature a “Battle of the Bubbles” homebrew competition at Barley & Hops, with brewer Larry Pomerantz collaborating with the local club, Frederick Original Ale Makers (FOAM).
Thanks to the Tourism Council's marketing maven, Michelle Kershner, who was my designated driver and host, I took a beer-centric tour of Frederick in June 2011.
We began our journey at Shab Row Bistro (221B North East St., 301-631-8102) where co-owners Jack and Lindsay Clark offer a comprehensive retail beer selection featuring more than 75 craft beers including local and imported brands, plus wines and a virtual apothecary of cocktail mixology tinctures.
Shab Row Bistro surprised me with its innovative menu and culinary technique.
Chef Kevin Longmire attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY, and prepares SRB's delectable mussels - moules and duck fat frites with La Chouffe beer, shallots and parsley - by pan roasting in a dry pan, which allows the juices inside the shellfish to concentrate.
Chef Longmire then finishes off the dish by adding La Chouffe beer and butter to the pan, steaming the mussels open, creating a creamy savory sauce.
One of the many pleasures of an evening at Shab Row Bistro is just hanging out at the zinc-topped bar, and sampling appetizers from the bar menu, such as duck fat frites and house-made charcuterie. If you're dining alone, you'll feel welcome at the bar, and enjoy conversations with the beer-savvy staff.
Shab Row is just a few blocks from the Brewer’s Alley in Frederick, a brewpub in a renovated building at 124 Market St. Originally the site for the Market House in 1769, the building was re-developed five years after the Civil War ended, as the Town Hall and Opera House. In 1996, Brewer’s Alley owner, Phil Bowers, hired Salyer Studio to restore the elegance and glory of the old Opera House by painting the original ceiling panels and columns in mimicked old Italian Sienna marble. Glass etching (garlands of hop bines) and stained glass throughout the dining rooms adds to the ambiance.
Brewmaster Tom Flores, and assistant brewer Maggie Lenz are both graduates of U-C Davis’ brewing studies program. Flores makes beautifully balanced ales (and a few lagers too), from a light Kolsch to robust Oatmeal Stout, brewing about 20 different styles in the course of a year. Many brews are designed to complement Chef Joseph Canlas’ cuisine, and others feature seasonal ingredients, such as pumpkin ale. Chef Canlas prepares regional seafood such as Chesapeake Bay crab cakes with Old Bay seasoning, along with popular pub fare such as burgers and pizza. The burgers are made with locally raised grass-fed beef from Hedgeapple Farm, and the farmer also gets spent grain from the brewery.
During our tasting, a favorite match was the Jamaican-spiced beef, baked in a phyllo crust and served with a stout-blackberry sauce (photo at right, see recipe below). Both were delicious, and the stout-blackberry sauce would be fantastic with roasted pork or sausages.
Flores expects to expand production for Brewer’s Alley in 2011-2012, with a new production brewery beyond the historic district, so look for even more seasonal styles and releases to come.
Frederick’s downtown historic district spans 50 blocks of row houses and brick buildings. Tucked into a brick façade is the Firestone Culinary Tavern (105 N. Market St., 301-663-0330) where executive chef Jack Walker and manager Chris Tereyla have built a loyal following for their extensive craft beer selection and fresh foods.
I first met Walker and Tereyla at the Flying Dog Backyard Symposium, with a fantastic barbecue catered by chef Bryan Voltaggio of VOLT Restaurant.
Flying Dog Brewmaster Matt Brophy teamed up with Chef Voltaggio to create Backyard Ale - a smoked amber ale that’s the perfect complement to all things grilled, charred, broiled, roasted and smoked.
I sampled the Backyard Ale, and talked with Walker and Tereyla about Frederick Beer Week, the upcoming SAVOR event, and trends in craft beer and cuisine.
Executive Chef Jack Walker says the goal of pairings is to choose food and beer that complement, not overwhelm each other. When a pairing works, the two “worlds” should harmonize with each other on the palate.
Later that evening, I sampled Firestone's Steamed Prince Edward Island Mussels paired with “In Heat Wheat” Hefeweizen from Flying Dog, a seamless match.
Next, I tasted roasted Moulard duck (bred from Muscovy and Pekin ducks) with fried green tomato, pearl barley risotto and veal glace, paired with Butternuts’ Porkslap Pale Ale, for a melding of roasted, caramelized and malt flavors.
Chef Walker adds new beer pairings every month, such as Abita Brewery’s Turbo Dog paired with house-made merguez sausage with local tomatoes, fresh herbs, and sweet pepper vinaigrette. It’s a far cry from the Civil War soldier’s fare of hardtack and jerky.
Thank you to my hosts for the trip, as the accommodations and tastings were compliments of Frederick Tourism and the restaurants mentioned here. I covered my airfare, transit and tips.
For more information about Frederick, Maryland, and Frederick Beer Week, contact www.fredericktourism.org; for Civil War tourism, visit http://www.civilwartraveler.com.
Brewer’s Alley Oatmeal Stout Blackberry Sauce
8 oz. oatmeal stout
3 oz. balsamic vinegar
3 oz. sugar
1 pint fresh blackberries
Salt and pepper to taste
Cook stout, vinegar and sugar in a 1-quart saucepan over medium-low heat until reduced to a syrupy consistency. Add fresh blackberries and stir to coat evenly; remove from heat and cool. Season to taste with a pinch of salt and pepper. Recipe by Chef Joseph Canlas.
Portions of this article originally appeared in CELEBRATOR BEER NEWS - Lucy Saunders