Inertia Creeps Raspberry Sour A Perfect Summer Send-Off at Oliver Brewing
Steve Fogleman, Baltimore Beer Baron
It was a Saturday washout before Labor Day and we all think alike. Movies? Brewery? Bowling? Tasting Room? You know where we were headed. Oliver’s tasting room at the Baltimore brewery provided a perfect antidote to a rainy day. And so did the beer.
If you aren’t sold on sours, Inertia Creeps is everything you’ll need from a sour and then some. I can’t believe they released it on September 2, because this beer could rock Charm City from Memorial Day forward.
“Doing a sour beer in general, this was a conversation we had for a while,” Oliver’s co-owner, Justin Dvorkin, told me by phone when shopping for baby strollers on Sunday*. “We were talking to Steve (Jones, head brewer), planning to take a crack at a kettle sour, and we thought it would be a cool idea to take a shot at doing something with fruit as a send-off to summer.”
“We’re good friends with a lot of other brewers and we’ve been wanting to do something with Manor Hill for a while and we thought it would be fun to do a ‘home and away’ with them,” he said. “We’ll do one fruit and you do another fruit, same base.”
Fermented with red raspberries, Oliver’s Inertia Creeps used the same wort as Manor Hill. Manor Hill’s version used sour cherries and orange peel instead of raspberries. I’m looking to grab the Manor Hill version and hope it’s every bit as good as the 5.2% ABV winner I’m sipping as I write. The word ‘balanced’ has almost become a cliché in the beer lexicon, but that’s the most descriptive word you can use when you’re talking about walking that delicate sweet/sour line. And Oliver’s first foray into kettle sours walks that line like a teetotaler taking a roadside sobriety test. Juicy but not too juicy, it’s a sour with smooth edges. I also tried it with a mix of Oliver’s well-known Bishop’s Breakfast Oatmeal Stout. They call the cocktail a Creepy Bishop, but I’d drink it for a Creepy Breakfast on a vacation day.
In addition to Inertia Creeps, Oliver’s also released two other beers in cans for the first time on Saturday: the Forearm Smash DIPA, a quarterly, dry-hopped fruity IPA with Mosaic and Simcoe hops, and their already beloved Harvest Ale. Both beers used Baltimore County’s own Locust Farms hops and the Harvest Ale has more than a touch of local honey in it, too. Brewer Steve Jones is at the farm before sunrise so the hops can be picked and used for brewing on the same day.
I hadn’t visited the tasting room in a minute and the most obvious change was the canning machine and the impressive skyscrapers of product ready to be trucked out the door. They’re canning 3 or 4 days a week at the brewery and have increased capacity from 1,800 barrels a year and a half ago to around 5,000 barrels over the next year. Luckily, it’s still a local thing for now. You can find Oliver beers in Maryland, D.C. and Northern Virginia, and expect to see the suds for sale in liquor stores and gas stations everywhere, thanks to your 12-ounce aluminum buddies. One other big change since my last trip: gargantuan Connect Four. It was about damn time.
I rank Highlandtown artist and beer aficionado Beth-Ann Wilson as one of the finest chalkboard bar artists anywhere. I met her match at Oliver’s tasting room on Saturday when I noticed the sign that Brittany Herbinko designed for the bar. Herbinko showed me some of the artwork she’s done at Lighthouse Liquors and Calvert Brewery. “I love the sense of family — everyone supports each other’s craft and love their part in this community, and that happiness and positivity resonates,” she told me after the event. “I enjoy spreading the love through a different medium — through my chalk!” I wasn’t surprised when I discovered that she’s a friend and colleague of Wilson’s. Of course there’s a cartel of the beer art scene heavyweights. Herbinko’s work looks like it was born to grace a Stillwater label. Are you listening, Brian Strumke?
Speaking of Stillwater, Oliver’s jumping in the wort with them to produce a second kettle sour, this one a dry-hopped IPA, in the next few weeks. I’m feeling good about that one too. There’s enough new Baltimore beer out there to keep you quenched until Baltimore Beer Week begins in 38 days, don’t you think?
*As a guy who was gobmacked by the price and selection of baby strollers a few years back, I empathize with Dvorkin.