Living just a marthoner’s distance from Charm City, this is low-hanging fruit for a day away and it’s well worth a full weekend. Our tour de force never touched the Inner Harbor like you would expect most tours of Baltimore. Instead, we began our day in Under Armour’s backyard and finished it north of the city in a gentrifying area.
Lunch, another name for brunch
It’s mid-day Saturday and sunny. Rye Street Tavern is attached to the Sagamore Spirit Distillery near the sprawling Under Armour campus. Also owned by Kevin Plank, the restaurant is gorgeous with plenty of space for events. The menu features inventive takes on classic dishes (tuna poke and shrimp tacos) and features loads of fresh and local ingredients. The best part for us was the bar, where you can order any brown cocktail with the local Sagamore Spirit.
A tour, with a drink
Sagamore Spirit distillery is certainly the new kid on the block. Opened just over a year ago, it’s a baby in terms of distillery years. That said, the marketing machine that created Under Armour was certainly at work creating this place. The smartest move in our minds was linking the distillery (located on the Chesapeake) with a piece of farmland now-owned by Plank’s family 20 miles or so north of Baltimore proper. The Sagamore farm is a local legend where thoroughbred’s are trained to run at Pimlico. Owned by the Vanderbilt’s in the early 1900s, the Plank family is using the limestone fed aquifer to blend into its whiskey, making this brown stuff truly local.
The $15/person tour is necessary if you want to taste the variety of Sagamore Spirit. Under Maryland blue laws, they cannot have a tasting room without a tour. The tour is a pretty cool 45 minutes and features a “smell, eat, and touch” component – the perfect type of tour for a whiskey aficionado. The tour ends with a tasting of the various featured Sagamore Spirit whiskeys and another piece of marketing of a video of the Sagamore farm.
Sagamore Spirit’s secret is blending their high rye and medium rye mash bills after they are aged (mash bill = recipe of rye, corn, malted barley). For now, the Sagamore Spirit in bottles comes from Indiana, though it retains the authenticity of Sagamore Spirit’s mash bill and Sagamore farm’s spring water. In just 3 years, true blue Baltimore Sagamore Spirit will hit the liquor store shelves.
Pints and bros
A three minute drive (or 15 minute walk) under the I-95 overpass is a planned community called McHenry Row of apartment buildings, Harris Teeter, a nail salon, pet store, and… brewery. Diamondback Brewing Company was started by three University of Maryland grads and is set in a 100-year factory building on Locust Point. On a cold day, the warm accents inside are welcoming. On a warm day, the expansive patio is buzzing. More importantly, the beers are really good. We’ve stopped by in two different seasons and been very happy. The taps are attached to the round smokestack penetrating through Diamondback’s roof – really cool. The staff is super friendly and extremely helpful in allowing your tastes dictate which beer to order.
Dinner and a whiskey
Located about 15 minutes north of the Inner Harbor, Woodberry feels like a microcosm of gentrification. Old, expansive factories are now art galleries, or offices, or apartments, or breweries, or James Beard award winning restaurants. Woodberry Kitchen is as farm-to-table as it gets: homemade jam, hot sauce, hand cut pasta, wood fired dishes in cast irons. On any night, this is the right choice. The cocktail and wine menu also do not disappoint. One of our favorite cocktails of all time continues to be “Where there’s smoke,” which as its name suggest is a bourbon-based stirred cocktail with hints of smoke from the bitters. Really special. Order anything. And lots of it.
* * * * *
Items for next time: a stay at the Sagamore Pendry in Fell’s Point (a former power plant re-imagined as a boutique hotel) and a bar crawl down “the Avenue” (another name for W 36th St in Hamden, which is gritty but trendy).
Baltimore is really cool; coming from Pittsburgh sports fans, that’s all the endorsement you need to go.