The Top 25 Mid-Atlantic Breweries to Visit
Welcome to the start of another five part series where I rank something I’m passionate about: breweries. This one won’t contain a bunch of nerdy stats like my NBA article on The Top 25 Players of the Past 25 Years did, and it may not be as controversial, but hopefully it will generate some good discussion over craft beers and will inspire some visits to any of the excellent breweries presented.
Speaking of discussing this, you can do so here.
Before I get to the breweries, let me lay out what this list is and what it is not. This list is my opinion of the best breweries in the region to visit, which of course includes different factors than if I were to simply rank the best breweries. Those factors include the beer quality, beer selection, food, entertainment, the venue itself, value, location, service, and tours. Since I’m a teacher, I of course made a rubric for this, with beer quality and beer selection (quantity, number of relative rare beers, and the likelihood of trying new beers) making up just over half of the total available points; however, this list is not an exact representation of how the breweries stacked up on the rubric so I won’t be showing the scores on here. This list is also not a comprehensive rankings of the breweries in the region, as even though I drag my wife to way more breweries than she would like, I have yet to visit a lot of what the region has to offer and there are new breweries popping up all the time. I have visited about 60 breweries in this region over the past few years. As to the region, this list will represent all of Maryland, DC, and Delaware, Southeast PA, and Northern Virginia down to Richmond, so it is not exactly the Mid-Atlantic and I admit some areas benefit from being more convenient to me (I live in Baltimore).
Anyway, let’s get started and keep in mind that if you have a problem with the rankings, just assume I was two sheets to the wind when evaluating the breweries you disagree with me on.
25. Manor Hill Brewing Ellicott City, MD
The Manor Hill Tap Room is situated on a lovely farm and features 12+ beers on tap including some that are not easy to find elsewhere. The beer from this relatively young brewery is quite good, especially IPA’s such as Citra Splendor, ISO: Columbus, Coffee Brown IPA, and their flagship Manor Hill IPA. They also do well with stouts if you aren’t a hophead. Note, that this laid back visiting experience is only available on weekends and requires reservations due to being limited to 50 visitors at a time. However, Manor Hill receives bonus points for the nearby Manor Hill Tavern in Old Ellicott City, which features around 10 of their beers on draught as well as some really good food, including pizza.
24. Atlas Brew Works Washington DC
One of the better breweries in our nation’s capital, Atlas Brew Works is a good place to grab some beer before a Wizards or Caps game, or any other time for that matter. They have a solid and varied selection of around 16 beers on tap, with most being beers that are not commonly available to me. I especially liked the Dance of Days Pale Ale and Coffee Common on my visit. The brewery generally has food trucks outside, but you can also bring in food. Otherwise, this is just a cool place to try a few beers and hang out with friends, and maybe your dog. Also, if you are into metal music, they do have their share of metal events.
23. Evolution Craft Brewing Company Salisbury, MD
Evolution has been one of Maryland’s best breweries for quite some time now featuring the excellent Lot No. 3 and 6 IPA’s and the Rise Up Stout. Those beers can be easily found in the DMV, though, so that doesn’t do a lot for me in terms of their beer selection, but they do have some harder to find and special beers on tap, often including something from their strong Migration series or when in season, one of my favorites from them, the Rise Up Imperial Stout. Even if you just want to have a Lot No. 6 from the source, or don’t even drink beer, this place is worth visiting because it’s a really good restaurant, offers top notch beer tours, and on the tasting room side of the building, has some solid entertainment options including board games.
22. Waverly Brewing Company
Waverly is located in the Hampden-Woodberry area, right next to Jones Falls and practically beneath I-83 (also very close to a light rail stop). They feature a solid and consistently evolving tap list, generally consisting of some nice hoppy and dark beers plus sometimes a good sour or two. They also typically have food on site. As far as the atmosphere, I’m just going to borrow from their website on this one:
“What started as a concrete and steel building grew in to a funky and cozy space made with a lot of blood, sweat, and beers (sorry). Some say it resembles a merchant marine’s chill out space with great beer on tap- OK, we say that- and some say it’s mash up of an old neighborhood bar with an art gallery + lounge that happens to be attached to a production brewery. Anyway you label it, we call it home and we hope you will too…well, not literally, but, frequently.”
For now, Waverly gets extra points for being in such close proximity to Union Brewing. It’s always great to be able to brewery hop!
Bonus: Suspended Brewing Company Baltimore, MD
This brand new brewery in Pigtown seems very promising. They have yet to open on a consistent basis, but I have been to one of their reserved tours and tastings, as well as their grand opening, and I am pretty optimistic for Suspended, which happens to be in walking distance to my home. Their space is really cool and I’ve thought their initial beers have mostly been quite good. So far they have been focusing on low alcohol beers, mostly of the hoppy variety, but have also showcased at least one each of these styles: stout, hefeweizen, saison, and sour. The Shake the Dust New England style IPA has been my favorite so far. If you happen to be attending Orioles Opening Day, check out Suspended as that’s when their next event is.
21. Yards Brewing Co. Philadelphia, PA
Yards recently opened up its new larger space (both for brewing beer and serving people), and now has a full restaurant. Yard of course features beers such as Philly Pale Ale, Brawler, Love Stout, and their Ales of the Revolution, which you should absolutely try if you haven’t already done so. However, those beers can be found in many other places, so besides the new restaurant, which is quite good, what make’s Yards well worth a visit is the limited releases and cask offerings that make up about half of their 20 beers on tap. Philly is one of the best beer cities in America in large part due to the beer brewed outside of the region that is available in the deluge of excellent beer bars, but any beer centric visit to the City of Brotherly Love should include a visit to its iconic brewery.