Chesapeake Brewing Company, Fordham & Dominion Ram’s Head Pub
We arrived late into Annapolis after getting hopelessly lost trying to navigate our way out of DC, managing to take in all the key sites but not actually leave the city for the best part of an hour – definitely what my father would refer to as the scenic route. Arriving into Annapolis soon after crossing the state line into Maryland, we were immediately struck with how scenic this cosy little state capitol is – chocolate-boxy in a European style that made me wonder if we’d somehow been teleported to the Swiss mountains. Cute narrow streets lined with boutiques give way to a grand colonial redbrick mansion that’s home to the governor and a beautiful, elegant state capitol building dating back to 1772, and the oldest state capitol still in use in the USA.
After we’d trundled around taking in the sites, including a cannon dating back to 1658 and a bronze statue of dashing revolutionary hero Johann de Kalb , we headed to Chesapeake Brewing, which, like everything else in Annapolis, was just a short walk away. Proudly veteran-owned, Chesapeake has a rustic interior with glossy wooden tables and plenty of military memorabilia, including very cool aeroplane-shaped flight boards. During our visit they had seven of their own beers available and three guest taps, including a cider, and our flight of four was a reasonable $10. My particular favourite was the sweet, smooth and moreish Tangier Red Seas Red Ale, the kind of beer you want to sit back with a pint of. I also liked the soft tangerine notes in the Hazy Grey and Underway NEIPA and the Waterman’s Soul IPA was simple but adequate, although I found the Tall Tales Fruited Sour a bit sweet for me. These are practical, easy-drinking sessionable beers, nothing showy or experimental, but definitely well-suited to the overall Annapolis vibe. The food at Chesapeake was very good too – my burger with crabmeat topping was a real East Coast welcome!
We just had time to squeeze in a swift visit to Fordham & Dominion’s Annapolis taproom. Although the brewery originated in the city, they have now moved their brewing to Dover but retain a nice little brewpub on the original site called the Ram’s Head Tavern with a restaurant on one side and a live music venue on the other, which looked like a lot of fun. I was given a flight sheet with six small samples (possibly 3oz) of their flagship beers which suited me very well, and cost a most abstemious $6 to boot. All their beers were enjoyable, and in a similar style to Chesapeake very unfussy and practical. My favourites were the lovely gluggable bread-honey Gypsy Lager and smoky Oak Barrel Stout, and the Ram’s Head IPA and Copperhead Red Ale also stood out. There is also a good selection of other local beers available on draft and service was very friendly – the atmosphere and décor are so reminiscent of a good old English pub I almost forgot that we’d just crossed the Atlantic!
Annapolis makes a very pretty place to stop en route to the beach, and we were sorry not to have had time to stay overnight. Its small centre is friendly and vibrant with plenty of cosy bars and live music venues and a relaxed, welcoming atmosphere. I was also delighted to find a plaque celebrating the history of female brewers and taproom owners in Annapolis which was absolutely brilliant. Cheers to that!