The Quest for the Holy Grain - Best Beer Bars





Federal House Bar & Grille
22 Market Space
Annapolis, MD 21401
(410) 268-2576

The Federal House is a well-established bar and restaurant near City Dock in Annapolis that has embraced the craft beer culture in a most successful way.
The Federal House offers an array of 24 taps and 1 firkin...all of the taps pour craft beer, the majority of which are brewed in Maryland.
The firkin is supplied by Union Craft Brewing in Baltimore, and is often augmented with ingredients suggested by the beer-savvy staff at Federal House.
Six of the taps constantly rotate.
The rest of the rotation changes upon the decree of the Beer Congress, comprised of the aforementioned beer-savvy staff.
This Beer Congress convenes once annually.

The visiting Questor also has quite a selection when it comes to the size of the pour.
Federal House beers can be ordered in 12-oz., 16-oz., or 22-oz. glasses.
The more confident drinker can also order a beer in one, two, or three liter capacities.

The circuitous bar seats about 20 thirsty patrons, with tables for many more in the barroom.
There is a separate dining room, and outside seating too.
Our bartender, Vikki, also the General Manager, was extremely helpful with any questions we had about The Federal House.

And I haven't even mentioned the raw oysters...just one of many reasons to return to The Federal House.



Dry 85
193 B Main Street
Annapolis, MD 21401
(443) 214-5171

Dry 85 is a comfortable bar for craft beer, bourbon, and gourmet food located on main Street in Annapolis.
The bar seats about 14 patrons, and there is room for many more at about 15 tables and booths.
There is also a modicum of seating outside if the weather cooperates.
Dry 85 offers 12 craft beers on tap, with many of them brewed in the local region.
Nine of the 12 taps rotate, with one always being a nitro pour.
But wait a minute!
If a creamy, thick nitrogen beer is what you desire, Dry 85 has a split line. Any draft beer you order can easily be switched to a nitrogen line.
For those who prefer spirits, Dry 85 lets one choose from 145 different whiskies, 60 of which are bourbon.
Our bartenders were friendly and helpful with our Quest.
The next time you are strolling down Main Street in Annapolis on your way to the dock, duck into Dry 85 and see what they have to offer.




Chesapeake Brewing Company
114 West St
Annapolis, MD 21401

Chesapeake Brewing Company is on the cusp between beer bar and brew pub, and is the main outlet for its brewery in Crisfield, MD.
Chesapeake has 10 beers on tap; 3 Chesapeake beers and 7 from other Maryland craft breweries, such as Antietam, Ocean City, Assawoman Bay, and Jailbreak.
The 3 beers brewed by Chesapeake included a lager, a red ale, and an oyster stout.
The small bar seats about 8 patrons, and numerous tables seat many more.
It seemed to be a mature, local crowd on a pleasant Sunday evening.
Both our pub fare items, the bacon avocado burger and backfin flatbread were scrumptious.




Rams Head Roadhouse
1773 Generals Hwy
Annapolis, MD 21401
(410) 849-8058

Just outside of Annapolis on the King's Highway sets a one- story island floating in a paved parking lot.
I t's a real roadhouse, not much to look at. Repairs are being made this day so you enter at the side door and a tunnel of darkness greets you from the sunshine you enter from.
The darkness dissipates and the eyes adjust quickly because the place is lighted well enough that you can see the ceiling tiles have turned a dingy cream from their once- white origins. The roadhouse qualities of former occupants remain but they are mere ghosts because this roadhouse is one of the growing Ram's Head franchise and it is shabby chic.

There is a rectangular bar at the back of the main room, three sides of it are used for about two dozen bar stools. Booths and high tables surround it in the main bar area. Off to the side is a second area with seating for many more. Modest-screen TV's ring and dot the bar area, a big screen is found in the other room. Mostly sports.

It is happy hour, we sit, the waiter plops four tiny tickets down on the table with the first beer order. Each ticket is good for four damn good chicken wings, either Buffalo style or Old Bay, with as much celery and blue cheese as you want. I am liking this place, but wait, it ain't going to last. Let's talk beer for now. They've got about 50 or so import bottles that include some nice (meaning popular in America) Belgians and a decent number of German choices along with another 50 or so domestic that include some nice choices but few surprises.

Fordham is the house beer and that is how we went. It had been awhile since I had had Fordham from the tap so I tried the sampler. Ram's Head IPA, Gypsy Lager, Copperhead ale, Dominion Oak Barrel Stout, Route 1 Session IPA, and Wisteria Wheat. Only Ram's Head IPA was high gravity (8%) but every beer was fresh, tasty and repeatable and I have not always regarded Fordham so. I followed up with one each of the IPA's. Route 1 was very tasty and a good beer to accompany my blackened snapper.
Unfortunately I was working on the heavier IPA when food arrived and that one turns the tongue in a delightful way that is not compatible with the snapper but it worked well with collard greens and mango salsa. But enough about what I liked, let's get to the fun part.

This is a bar. It's a goddam roadhouse. It was noisy, like a roadhouse ought to be and females were making most of the noise. What could be wrong with that? The females were all dolled up in evening gown wear, hair in tight buns on their heads, lipstick, make up, the occasional too-short skirt and they were all 12 or under. Worse, each was accompanied by a middle-aged guy in a suit and tie, most of whom looked like three lbs. of sausage in a two pound casing. It was creepy and unnerving, it looked like a fellini movie about a pedophile convention. Turned out it was nothing more caustic than a father-daughter dance. But a roadhouse? Come on dad, get serious. It made me want to break out the f-bombs or to say to the General Assembly-looking papas, she's going to be a looker in a few years, mind if she sits on my lap? Get these kids out of those outfits, out of that make-up and out of this bar and into a nice place for kids, it's Annapolis, I passed some of them on the way here!

And while I am at it, I want to bitchslap the young guy who walked in wearing a “Save the Earth” tee shirt! Really? What were they all out of "I love my mom" shirts and "Hooray for sunshine" shirts?
It's a roadhouse, I want to be with lost souls.
Welcome to Ram's Head.




Rams Head Tavern
33 West Street
Annapolis, Maryland 21401

Rams Head Tavern used to be one of Maryland's most well-established brew pubs, however, now all their beer is brewed in Delaware. Their fare is pretty standard...lager, ale, stout, light, and a seasonal. In addition to their house beers, their guest taps bring the draft total above 20, and they stock about 120 bottles. Things can get pretty hectic in the bar when busy, and the bartenders, though seeming to move at warp speed, may take a while to serve you. If this happens, try the Down Bar in the basement; it's friendlier, and you may want to soak up the lore of old Annapolis, or join the World Beer Club.

Adjoining the tavern is Rams Head On Stage, a national entertainment venue and one of the best places to see live music in the region. A very nice beer bar if no longer a brew pub, Rams Head also has a location in Savage Mill.




Heroes Pub
3 Riverview Avenue
Annapolis, MD 21401
(410) 573-1996

A beer bar in a firefighters-themed sports bar...can't wait to see this, says I. What a surprise! 48 taps, neighborhood atmosphere, and a friendly staff all made the visit a pleasure. The taps presented indeed a colorful array, and featured many regional micros along with 14 or so imports.

Heroes is a lively place. The interior is spacious, and includes a very long bar and dartboards. Carie, our barmaid, was knowledgeable about the beers, and could not have been more helpful. We consumed 4 drafts, all of which were fresh and well-cared for. Include Heroes in Annapolis on your list of great beer bars with one of the largest draft selections in the state.


Old Stein Inn
1143 Central Avenue
Edgewater, MD 21037


How far do you have to go to find a cozy little German bar and restaurant, featuring 10 taps with imported German drafts and authentic German cuisine? That all depends on how far you live from Edgewater, MD.
Located roadhouse-style right on Central Avenue in this small maritime suburb, Old Stein Inn is about 15 minutes south of Annapolis.
The drafts come in either .3 or .5 liters, and if one of these doesn't suit you, they have about 25 German bottles.
The bartenders, in this case, Dathan and Lee, went out of their way to be friendly and informative, as did Mike, the owner.
The clientele knows their beer...that's why they come here.
There is also a Biergarten for warmer weather.


Castlebay Irish Pub

193-A Main Street
Annapolis, Maryland 21401
Phone: (410) 626-0165
FAX: (410) 267-7810

Up until early 2010, Castlebay was Maryland's smallest brew pub.
They made one beer, an Irish ale known as Three Nuns. Sadly, they no longer brew.
According to owner Vincent Quinlan, the cost became too great.
Castle Bay is still a great pub in which to have a beer, but those of us who were acquainted with Three Nuns will mourn its loss.
Castlebay does feature about a dozen taps, and you won't find a better Guinness poured in Annapolis.
Their glasses contain 20 ounces of your favorite beer.



Galway Bay

63 Maryland Avenue
Annapolis, MD 21401

Galway Bay is a great little pub adjoing a fine Irish restaurant. Slightly off the main tourist path, Galway Bay offers about 12 well-cared for taps and as many bottles. The bartenders are friendly and know their craft, especially Hoss and Dave. The crowd seems mostly a mix of professionals,both tourists and locals. They sometimes have acoustic music, but no raw oysters. If you're in Annapolis ask for's a short and very nice walk from the Main Street corridor, and you get to see the Governor's Mansion and the State House.