Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Mild Rover

A few weeks back, my wife told me she and our younger son were going away for the weekend.

Now, a weekend to myself -- where I can go and do whatever fool thing strikes my fancy, without risking the need to explain why on earth I'd want to do it -- is a rare treat. (Strictly speaking, it wasn't a weekend to myself, as our older son would be around. But having a high school senior is sort of like having a cat; once he's fed and watered, you don't see much of him, and if he does get out of the house you just need to make sure he gets back inside before you go to bed.)

Naturally, I began asking myself, "What will I drink, and where will I drink it?" Which is to say, "Beer or Whiskey?" and "North toward Baltimore or south toward Washington?"

As questions go, neither of these is particularly vexing, but the answers do make for a very different afternoon.

Beer or Whiskey?

Life is hard enough without making it worse with false dilemmas. There are at least three bars within easy driving distance of me (I really mean easy driving home distance; these days I'm no't so much buzzed after a few drinks as ready for a nap after two) whose owners are big fans of both craft beer and good whiskey.

But if I'm set on beer and I have all day, I'm going to head to one of the many taphouses and beer pubs I've heard about but never been in. And if it's whiskey, well, I've got a list of untried bars for that, too.

North or South?

I live about six miles north of Washington, but I cross the border so rarely I always feel like Lord Emsworth coming to London from Market Blandings. Once resolved to go there, of course, the whole city is open to me, including a number of good microbreweries, at least one world-class whiskey bar -- oh, and they have liquor stores there, too, with different and broader selections than I usually see out in the provinces.

This also puts me about 35 miles from downtown Baltimore, with one or two pockets of civilization on the way. A 70 or 80 mile round trip for a drink of something I can almost surely find within five miles of home is exactly the sort of thing bachelor Saturdays are made for.
It's funny because it's true. (Image from

In the Event

So what did I wind up doing?

Well, feeding a teenage boy isn't difficult, but it is time consuming, in the sense that you have to wait until noon for him to wake up. It was past one in the afternoon before I deposited him at his girlfriend's house, which brought me within a mile or so of the District. So I headed into DC, still without a plan but generally thinking whiskey, and I wound up taking the tour at New Columbia Distillers. (Their Green Hat gin is relatively light on the pine sap, though it is still, when you get down to it, gin. The real point is that they're planning on a Maryland-style rye in the foreseeable future.)

New Columbia Distillers' granary, mill, wash tuns, stills, bottling plant, tasting room, and visitor center.
Then I had a very pleasant couple of drinks at the Quarry House Tavern, a bar near my house that I've been to several times with my wife (and one of the places I mentioned above, where the owners like both beer and whiskey). It bills itself as "Silver Spring's favorite dive," all of which is true, but for some reason I hadn't thought of it when casting about for a place to order a fine whiskey.

How many whiskies costing more than $200 a pour do you suppose are down these steps?
Finally, I capped off the evening with a bourbon while watching no-name horror movies on Netflix with my son.

All in all, it was a great day.


  1. You missed an opportunity to enlist your high school senior as an all day designated driver!

    I visited New Columbia a few months ago--The gin is mildly interesting, but I'm planning to go back when they start distilling the rye.

  2. I did consider tricking my son into joining me for some dessert at the local Scottish pub last night, but he went to bed early.

    Still, he does have his uses. He might, for example, go to Salisbury, which would take me right past Blackwater Distilling (who will start their rye production this year, and plan to open a tasting room) whenever I visit.

    And yes, you'd suggested we meet at New Columbia some Saturday. Definitely let me know when they get around to whiskey. The joint was jumping when I was there. If Washington is really that full of gin drinkers, it explains a lot.