You can’t always judge things by their first impression, especially a new city that you’ve never been to. Keep an open mind and seek out the best it has to offer. We arrived in Baltimore, Maryland, around 11 p.m. on our epic drive from Savannah, Georgia, to New York City in January 2012 for the Writer’s Digest Conference. This is not the time you want to arrive in most cities, particularly when you have just driven 12 hours and are tired, hungry, and hotel-less. However, my opinion of the city changed dramatically when we went to lunch at Max’s Taphouse the following day in the heart of historic Fells Point right on the water near the Inner Harbor.
My husband and I are craft beer fanatics, so we seek out places that have diverse and/or huge lists, and Max’s has both. You would have to go to Max’s every day and order a new beer for over three and a half years to go through their selection – 140 rotating drafts, five hand-pumped cask ales, and the biggest bottle selection I’ve ever witnessed, with typically 1,200 different bottles available. Being a Belgian-style fan, I was in heaven with a variety of tripels and quadrupels to choose from, which are my favorites.
But the fun doesn’t end with the beer. The huge interior is nearly all wood, reminiscent of a large pirate ship with long planks and tons of shelves placed everywhere throughout the bar at that perfect standing height – you know, that ideal I-can-lean-and-put-my-beer-on height? I wish more bars did this! Large, distressed wood tables, chairs, and bar stools are scattered throughout, and the long bar flanks nearly the whole length of one wall in the main room. A few smaller bar stations are open during busy hours so you won’t have to wait to enjoy your second – or fifth! – libation.
It’s a big Ravens bar, of course, with huge televisions and an open room in the back for die-hard fans. Thankfully, we came on a non-game day, since we are Browns fans, which provided the opportunity to walk around and check out all the nooks and crannies. And there are plenty of them. My favorite decor was a large glass door encasement filled with tons of dusty old bottles of beer of all shapes and sizes. It made me want to start my own collection! This cool display sits in a small, separate room that has a couple of pub tables perfect for a group that wants to be out but really just take over one area.
Beer signage is plastered everywhere, plus cans, taps, and other beer paraphernalia. Clever beer quotes are engraved in the wood beams like, “Beer makes you feel the way you ought to feel without beer,” stated by the Australian poet and writer Henry Lawson.
With so much emphasis on all things beer, you may think that the menu, titled “Other Than Beer,” was an afterthought and would just be easy, typical bar food. However, it’s got garlic mussels, yummy wraps like a peanut satay chicken or Mediterranean, and pulled pork as alternatives to burgers, wings, and fried favorites such as jalapeno poppers. Signature dishes bear the name Max, like Max’s Shooterz, six baby burgers; Max’s Tater Bowl, a pile of goodness with tater tots, pulled barbequed pork, sour cream, bacon, and melted cheese; or Max’s Suds Sponge, a mishmash of buffalo chips, onion rings, jalapeno poppers, chicken tenders, and nachos to soak up those high-gravity beers.
Oh, and Max’s Taphouse is consistently named one of the best beer bars in America, like making the cut on Draft magazine’s list of America’s 100 Best Beer Bars for 2011. Go!