If you last 20-plus years in the craft beer world, you’re in rarified company. Names like Dogfish Head, Stone, Brooklyn and Deschutes are your peers. So, we offer a hardy congrats in 2018 to Baltimore’s Oliver Brewing Co. for bringing English-influenced ales to Charm City for 25 years.
The brewery, started in the basement of the Wharf Rat brewpub in 1993, was named after owner Bill Oliver. Current head brewer, and metalhead lifer, Steve Jones (a UK ex-pat), was hired in 1999 and stayed on when the Olivers sold the brewpub to current owners Justin Dvorkin and Donald Kelly in 2008. In 2015, Oliver Brewing moved to a separate production facility where it cranks out some of the coolest craft cans in the country.
To celebrate its 25th anniversary. Oliver has assembled a very special mixed six-pack that it launched at a recent anniversary party. The brewery actually put a lot of thought and effort into this limited release. We got in touch with Jones to give us the details. “There’s a close-knit brewing community in Baltimore, close relationships between the old-school brewers in the region, many having been friends for many years,” he says. “As our 25th anniversary approached it was clear to me that I should pay homage to these relationships and invite some of my friends to collaborate with me. I also thought that it was time to let my assistant brewer take the reigns for a brew of his own. So, there were four beers on the schedule. Sitting talking with owner Justin we were both of the opinion that, hey, if we’re doing four, we might as well do six and celebrate by releasing a mixed six-pack of new brews. (Shout out to DC Brau who had done something similar and were an inspiration).”
Oliver’s anniversary six-pack shows not only the brewing diversity its capable of, it highlights its incredible can art. And, yeah, you can definitely see plenty of Jones’ metal influences, an aspect of the brewery that garnered it an invitation to this year’s Decibel Metal and Beer Festival. Jones gave us a breakdown of what each brew is about.
Beyond the Doors of Darkness: Two of my oldest friends in the brewing community arena are Kurt Krol and Brandon Miller. When they were brewers at DuClaw we collaborated (or collided as we preferred to say) on something like 10 brews. They each moved on and up. Kurt is head brewer at Manor Hill and Brandon at Three Stars, so this is a three-way collaboration. I’ve been enjoying brewing some kettle sours recently—a couple with Kurt—so it seemed like a style we should do. I had it in my head that I wanted to brew a sour rye porter and ferment with plums. Fortunately my friends agreed. The name of course is borrowed from Savatage, the Hall Of The Mountain King album being on daily rotation on my commute to work.
Auslander: A take on a sticke alt (German ale). It was important to me that Barrett Lauer was involved in our celebrations. Barrett was head brewer at the Wharf Rat when I arrived in the States. He is currently head brewer at the District Chophouse in DC. Both Barrett and myself have German roots (my mother is German) so I thought it would be nice to pay homage to those roots, hence Auslander.
Eye Of The Beholder: I had some art that I’d commissioned from Brian Profilio and a strong urge to re-visit a brew we’d previously done with the Sword, Sea Of Spears, a dry hopped red wheat ale. Hence Eye of the Beholder was born.
Roots of the Mountain: I thought it would be nice to hand the reigns over to assistant brewer Chris to brew his first solo brew for the occasion. He chose the Finnish Sahti style farmhouse ale as the basis of Roots Of The Mountain—part kettle soured, brewed with juniper berries and fermented with a Belgian ale yeast. I kept out of it other than to say no pastries, breakfast cereals or other bullshit additions to the mash tun, wink-wink.
The Gates of Dawn: The Brewer’s Art is a brewpub/restaurant that is an absolute cornerstone of the Baltimore scene and has been around almost as long as Oliver Brewing, and is a firm favorite of mine. It was a no brainer that I should invite head brewer Steve to collaborate. I’m not sure exactly how it happened, but over the course of a dozen text messages we’d decided that we should brew a Scottish wee heavy and had nailed down a recipe. It was that simple, we were totally on the same wavelength as the cliché goes. I had a mind to call it Piper At the Gates of Dawn because, of course, Pink Floyd and for the Scottish/piper reference, but thought it was a bit too obvious/clumsy so shortened it to the Gates of Dawn.
White Witch: I figured if I was doing a red wheat ale I might as well brew a white IPA too. White Witch is dry hopped with Citra and Centennial and the naming inspiration for this one is courtesy of my love of Angelwitch.