Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Red Brick Station -- Ringwood Haters, Stay Clear

Now, all you geeks who hate Ringwood beers passionately, know 'em as soon as you smell 'em, and have no time for Ringwood, I want to make sure you don't go to the Red Brick Station brewpub in White Marsh outside of Baltimore.

Because it gets really crowded, and I'd like to make it easier for me and the family to get a seat. We stopped in for a meal -- as we often do -- while passing through last Friday on the way to spending a long holiday weekend with my brother-in-law's family. I immediately grabbed a pint of Spooner's Stout, the not-so-bone-dry Irish stout they have, and it was familiar in its soothing smoothness. Spooner's is lighter on the burnt bitterness, but has a hint of graham cracker to it that keeps things interesting. What really kept things interesting was the Three Pint Pasta I had, a creamy curry sauce on pasta, peas, chicken, shrimp, and andouille that is some of my favorite brewpub food anywhere. It's satisfying, it's spicy, it's comfort food I've never had in my younger days -- go figure that one -- and it's great with a cool pint of Spooner's. We were all quite happy, which was a good thing, because once again, the drive to Richmond was a horror show. Really made me laugh all the way on the longer but painless drive home up I-81.

13 comments:

Loren said...

The only thing to hate about Ringwood is those who don't use it right by rushing it instead of letting it do its thing...slowly.

Hello? Stewart's? Iron Hill? DFH?

Exactly.

Good to hear there's more out there doing this yeast proud.

bill mc said...

Ok, bear with the dumb question..What is a Ringwood beer?

sam k said...

I second the headline on this one. Though I'm not a Ringwood hater, it's certainly not high on my list of attractions when searching for a brewpub. I stopped into Red Brick a couple of years ago and didn't like the place from the time we turned into White Marsh Town Center, which isn't a town at all, but a strip mall on steroids. All concrete, all the time. Told Amy we were entering the gates of hell!

Parked a half mile away (OK, I'm exaggerating) walked into an incredibly crowded bar, had two unimpressive beers (the second of which I didn't even finish...a first!) and left. Too many yuppies, too much noise, just not my cup of tea. I'll never return, especially when the Brewer's Art is not that far away, in a real neighborhood, with more interesting patrons. Goes to show that taste is truly a subjective thing.

Lew Bryson said...

Loren, I don't think you can call anything Ringwood does slow... but yeah, it does need time to rush through things properly. Red Brick Station's Mike McDonald does a great job with the beast.

Bill, "Ringwood" is a yeast strain, actually a multi-strain yeast culture, a Yorkshire ale yeast. There are a fair number of brewers out there who use it -- or something close to it -- and make good beers with it, but unfortunately, there were some guys in the early days who didn't know how to use it right. Ringwood is a yeast with a lot of character -- flavor and aroma potential -- and you have to play with it a bit to get that character right where you want it; mostly by flexing temperature (Ringwood is a rocket in fermentation and will generate a lot of heat) and time (it needs to rest at the end of fermentation). Some brewers hate Ringwood, some swear by it, and geeks are the same way. The most common complaint about Ringwood beers is that they are heavy on diacetyl, a natural by-product of brewing that smells like the 'fake' butter they put on theater popcorn. I'm kinda hamstrung in this dimension: I have a very high detection threshold for diacetyl, there has to be a lot of it in a beer before I even notice it.

Anyway...The Ringwood brewers are mostly on the east coast (and in the UK), and even more clustered in New England: Shipyard, Geary, and Magic Hat are the best-known.

Lew Bryson said...

Sam,
Subjective indeed. I'd stop at Brewer's Art a LOT more often if they were open for lunch and if it were easier to get to (yeah, not as hard as some, but...), and the beer's great, and the food's great. But we've always had good service at Red Brick (yes, that "mall" thing is ridiculous, and colder than hell when the wind blows), I like the food, and I've found the stout reliably good, the Scotch Ale delicious. Crowded...well, I try not to hate a place because it's successful!

sam k said...

Point taken, Lew. You're right, being crowded isn't necessarily a bad thing, and shows yet again that my tastes don't always match those of the masses. I didn't have either of the beers you prefer, and though we didn't eat dinner there, Amy ordered a dessert to die for!

And yes, the Brewer's Art can be a bitch to get to, especially considering that the day we went there was Gay Pride parade day, and much of Charles Street was closed for the event (which hadn't started yet), forcing a massive detour. I'm really sorry we didn't have time to stay for the parade...I'll bet it was a hoot!

Lew Bryson said...

No sweat, Sam. I had one of the best bar nights of my life downstairs at Brewer's Art after the abortive Baltimore GABF, and think very highly of everyone involved there...Like I said, I'd go a lot more often if it was easier to get to; something I could say about a number of places in Baltimore, like Mahaffey's Pub and Growlers.

sam said...

Best part about my visit was that there was a wedding going on in the place, and we just kind of walked in.
When I offered to pay for the beers, I was waved off by the bartender. The party was paying! I'm sorry I didn't bring a present!

Alexander D. Mitchell IV said...

Actually, as a minor point, didn't Alan Pugsley bring over his initial Ringwood samples from the Hull Brewery? So wouldn't that make what we're drinking a "Humberside yeast" rather than Yorkshire? <:-)

Mike McDonald said...

Lew, I'm glad you stopped by. Too bad we didn' connect. Ringwood bashing needs to end. There are a number of breweries using it the proper way. I don't understand understand how one yeast can cause such emotion. Why is it that bret beers get a pass? Or other Belgian styles that are praised for their wet horse blanket aromas or barnyard aromas or medicinal flavors? I'd take a good Yorkshire diacetyl over that any day.

Lew Bryson said...

Hey, Mike! I'd have called ahead, but to be honest, I was figuring on stopping at Franklin's; then we got a late start, and traffic sucked, so when I said, "Hey, how about we stop at Red Brick Station?", I'm not kidding you, the family universally said "Yeah!" Besides, I know if we did get to talking, I'd have been there another hour...

You're absolutely right, though. I do NOT understand why other "characterful" yeasts -- the example I always use is the Bavarian hefe -- get adoration and Ringwood gets slammed.

Thanks to Sandy Mitchell for bringing you in on this, and...he says you're switching to peat-smoked malt for the Heavy and the Pajamas? "Authenticity" or curiosity?

Mike McDonald said...

Considering the BA guidlines say that smoke shouldn't be evident, I'll say curiosity. You could almost say this is a switch to be a true Scottish beer because the price of the Weyermann's Beachwood malt was more expensive than the Faucet Peat malt. A true Scotsman will always try and save money. Frugal or cheap?

Lew Bryson said...

HA! Sounds like solid authenticity in your reasoning to me, Mike. Cheers, hope I can get down to taste some soon.