08 May 2009

What's the Deal with DuClaw?

Okay, I'm just gonna throw this out there.

What is the deal with DuClaw, anyway?

They produce great beer, they're a terrific asset to Maryland's beer scene......... and yet, they don't seem to catch a lot of beer geeks' attentions.

Why is that?

They do good seasonals, they do terrific marketing and promotion, yet I get a sense a lot of beer aficionados don't care for the places or beers. When I go to the one in Fells Point, I seldom, if ever, see any of the beer fans I know, and the DuClaw fans I see here and there seldom appear at any other beer events.

I believe a large reason for that, upon some thinking, is that DuClaw simply doesn't have any outside distribution. I can, if I look in the right places, find Oliver ales in places as far flung as Easton, or Brewers Art beers here and there. Baltimore Brewing Co./DeGroen's was about town and even central Maryland in its heyday. Clipper City/Heavy Seas. Flying Dog/Wild Goose. Victory. Dogfish. Fordham. Even the Dog Pub is doing outside accounts (see below). But no DuClaw unless you go to one of four places or certain festivals.

Come on, folks. Talk about DuClaw. Do you love them? Hate them? Love the beer, hate the bar crowds, as two fellow drinkers have said to me?


Jay Zeis said...

What I like about going to DuClaws (Fells Point) is the food. It is simple, good and cheap.

They usually have something that I am in the mood for on tap, and I enjoy most of their brews. Venom is a constant for our crew, as well as Devils Milk. We enjoy grabbing a table outside keeping the waitress busy on a beautiful day.

I don't think they have their beer anywhere other than in their brewpubs. (At least I haven't ever seen it out.) Maybe if they get their beer in the other pubs around, it would lead people back to their brewpub.

dmoore2 said...

I visited MD last weekend with my wife, and made sure to stop at the Bowie DuClaw. Speaking from the POV of an outsider:

In terms of the beer, I was quite impressed. All fairly standard styles on, but each well done for what it is. The sampler was very reasonable. Alchemy and Venom were my favorites. I only had two problems:

1) the place felt like a chain restaurant. May as well have been an Applebee's. I know it the burbs, but you can do better.

2) $20 for a growler? Are you kidding? It's not even silk screened - it's got a wrinkley, stuck on DuClaw label. Even here in overpriced Brooklyn, you can get local growlers of Sixpoint or Captain Lawrence for $12 including the growler deposit. And it's not like I was buying growlers of Imperial Stout or a Barleywine. Charging $20 ea. for growlers of Venom and Alchemy, as good as those beers are, is pretty damn steep.

Overall, though, I'd be sure to drop in there whenever I could, especially for the releases. Great joint.

The Oriole Way said...

My wife and I greatly enjoy DuClaw. The Venom is one of our favorite beers, and there are a number of seasonals we make sure to get each time they're out. They do great happy hour pricing, and I was a Pint Club member for a while. Occassionally they'll do a limited release in 22oz bottles, but otherwise you have to visit the pub. If they had bottle distribution, I'm sure we would purchase frequently. I had no idea that DuClaw wasn't popular with the beer geeks.

Caederus said...

I think it's a combination or two things.

1) Their base beers (including seasonal selection) are decent beers, but not spectatular. Combined with the limited distribution few have a chance to really develop on attachment to them. If I went to Frisco and they had a DuClaw beer on tap I might go for it, but having to constantly go to their location, is a deal breaker. So they need some distribution, to start spreading the word. When Vinny from Russian river ships kegs to Philly he breaks even monetarily, but he views it as publicity for the brand.

2) Some of the Firkin's may be spectacular but you would never know as they are such small batches that are gone so quick that they have no chance to build a following. Especially since you have to get to the specified location at happy hour or miss out. So they need some focus. Cut the number of experiments/firkins down, and make some of the seasonal beers available in bottles (not growlers).

Having said that I have in my frig right now a bottle of Colossus, and a bottle of their Black jack Stout that has been aged in an oak barrel. I'm saving them for something special. The bottle of their pent ale that I finally cracked open at Christmas was insanely good.

Alexander D. Mitchell IV said...

About the firkins: agreed on one thing. I would refuse to go to a firkin event at Arundel Mills without a cattle prod and padding, based on the mob riots the last couple times I tried. You stand a chance at Fells Point--seemingly none of their regulars know what to make of the firkins there, and the last time I sampled a dry-hopped beer there, I had hop dust floating all through my pint.

BeerGuy said...

I've gone 2 or 3 times, I think their beers are just OK. Shrug.

I'll have to give a try again soon, just nothing I've gotten even close to being excited about from what I've had from them.

The Fells location is a GREAT spot in the summer, yet I still don't end up there. A lot of beer folk I talk to at various bars all share the same good/nothing exciting sentiment about DuClaw.

Jergs said...

I think their offerings are pretty solid. I frequent the Bel Air location and have always been happy with the grub and suds.

The growler is also a good way to go. The initial cost was a bit high but I've been getting refills for $7.50 a pop. That's about 6 full pint glasses which is a nice deal.

I like 13 Degrees (german hefe), Euphoria (tofee nut brown ale), and Serum (double IPA). Of the staples I go with Alchamey (IPA) to former Venom.

Brad said...

Love the Bel Air location (original location). Plenty of beer geeks and great service.

Fells location = leftover clientele from Greene Turtle or a slight step above. Plus the service at the Fell's Point location is God awful.

Agreed though, not as much attention paid to the beer as should be.

platypotamus said...

I've always found their beer to be fairly decent, but nothing fantastic.

Plus, every single time I have been there (Fells Pt location, at least), the service has been absolutely miserable.

I'll echo the chain restaurant vibe comment above, too.

Julian said...

I'd have to agree with the first part of HoCoJoe's comment. When I first started getting into beer, I got excited about going to DuClaw or Ellicott Mills Brewing Co, but now that I know what I like, I'm not really impressed with DuClaw's staple beers. I'm interested in a few of their seasonals, but those only come 'round every once in a while. I'd go there if someone wanted to, but my first choice is Brewer's Art for their staples.