12 April 2010

Bare Bones, Ellicott City

Here's a place that has largely fallen off the radar screens of most craft beer fans.  This place, at St. John's Lane on Rt. 40 just west of Rt. 29 northwest of old Ellicott City, ceased being a brewpub years ago after an epic series of screw-ups involving a now-extinct Cockeysville location, and have since contracted with other craft breweries to do beers for them.  Currently, beers are brewed for them by Clipper City, Olivers, and Fordham.  The eight house beers (mostly a litany of familiar styles, though a surprise sneaks in every now and then) and root beer are often playing second fiddle to the place's famous BBQ ribs and free happy hour food buffet (liberal offerings of hot wings, roasted potatoes, pasta, tacos, cheese, veggies, meatballs, etc.).

But a surprise met me the other day as I stopped in prior to the SPBW "meeting" in Ellicott City:
"What's the guest tap [pointing to a bare wood tap handle)?"
"Sierra Nevada Bigfoot."
".............. You're kidding, right?"

And they weren't.  Bar manager Noel Johnson claimed responsibility for last week's heat wave: "Who knew it'd get this hot when I put it on?"  And it was delicious, heat notwithstanding.
Waiting on deck to replace it?  "I have two kegs of [Heavy Seas] Big DIPA, then [Dogfish Head] Life and Limb, and Limb and Life."

Stop ignoring this place, folks.  But you still might, depending on the specific beer, want to specify a non-chilled glass.


Caederus said...

My family frequents Bare Bones for the food, but I have never been in the bar. I didn't even know they had a guest Tap. Now that I know, I'll have to ask.

As for the "house" beers none have ever stood out for me in any way.

Alexander D. Mitchell IV said...

But do they HAVE to "stand out"?

Would I drive all the way out there just for a beer? No. Would I stop by if I were in the neighborhood? I do. Would I favor them over the other eateries in the area because of the beer selection, if I were eating out there? Heck, yeah. I've taken clients there, and they've been happy enough with the food to insist on picking up the tab for showing them such a good place.

It irks me considerably that a place can be doing good, solid beers of their own (well, with the caveat that they're only contracting, not "doing" them), but unless they're doing the latest high-alcohol "flavor of the month" (wood-aged imperial peppermint chocolate stout in a German gravity keg, dry-hopped with organic local and low-calorie hops and maybe some unicorn breath to boot), we don't pay attention to them.

david.m. said...

"wood-aged imperial peppermint chocolate stout in a German gravity keg, dry-hopped with organic local and low-calorie hops and maybe some unicorn breath to boot"
Who has that? I've been looking for that beer. I have had the wood-aged imperial peppermint chocolate stout in a German gravity keg, dry-hopped with organic local and low-calorie hops, but I have always heard that unless you've had it with the unicorn breath, you haven't really experienced this beer.

Alexander D. Mitchell IV said...

You left out the "I REALLY REALLY NEED to have that beer."

Sam Sessa said...

Bartender! I'll have my glass triple chilled. Thanks.

Caederus said...

I agree that a place does not have to do the latest beer de jour. I love Ellicott Mills. They do not follow the current trends, but produce solid beers that stand out as being tasty. I especially love any of their lighter beers (pilsner, and kolsch) with just the right balance to the malt and hops allowing you to actually taste them.

The house beers at Bare Bones are, ok. They remind me of a mass produced beer of the given style. So for me they are not standouts.

The solution is to pick up a growler from Ellicott Mills and Ribs from bare Bones and enjoy them together at home.

Brandon Miller - Milhouse44 said...

Off topic of Bare Bones….Caederus, I trust your opinion. Have the beers gotten better since Ray Andreassen has taken the helm @ EMBC? I normally pass them by to get to the Judges Bench. My wife used to go there frequently before the kids but too many infected, poorly served or just a mess of a beer when they were a revolving door of brewers. I admit I have not had a beer from them in more than 3 years.

Caederus said...

I get to Ellicott Mills very couple of months with the family for dinner. I haven't had an infected beer in the past year. While some of the beers have been ok, several have been just great beers.

My advice is to check out the beer board in the bar and focus on the fresher beers. Age on a beer is not good, unless you are looking at a really big dark complex beer and the beers I have most enjoyed at Ellicott Mills are the smaller, lighter beers.

BeerGuy said...

Re: Ellicott Mills, Ray is a fantastic brewer.

Hopefully this doesn't pass as judgment on the owners but they're fairly rigid about a particularly narrow style of beer production.

Its essentially a box that whoever their brewer may be (right now, Ray) must operate within.

Ray knows what he's doing and is happy to do it fairly anonymously and with enthusiasm and they benefit from that and it does give them a particular trademark and consistency, if you will, but obviously its not in touch with how beer is going, right now.

Caederus said...

I would say it speaks volumes about Ray. The beers that he is nailing at Ellicott Mills are technically some of the hardest to do correctly.

There is nothing to hide the flaws. Any mistakes in a Kolsch are blatant, and he has to produce it over and over again so that it tastes the same.

Something like Life and Limb can hide flaws, and they did it once, so they don't have to recreate the same thing.