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September 25, 2008

The review: Taps

Early on, I was a proponent of Taps. I believed what co-owner Dave Holter told me he was going to do to the place.

Well, I'm eating my words now. Here we are something like six months after the place opens and they still only have 17 draft beers.  

I think my review is firm but fair. 

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:33 PM | | Comments (22)
Categories: Bars & Clubs


"Despite all the unfulfilled wishes, Holter deserves some credit for his progress with the place."

I could not disagree more strongly with this statement. The Fort Charles Pub was a neighborhood place. It had good to excellent bar food and appropriately priced drinks. Holter should be showered with scorn because of what he has done to the FCP.

Taps has been a giant step BACKWARDS for nightlife in South Baltimore.

I can only hope he fails quickly and new ownership can do something positive with the place.

"only have 17 draft beers"
??!!?? There are quite a number of bars that would wish to have that many. We can't all be Max's...

Well, I don't wish failure on any place. But, Cheese, Holter was talking about having 40 taps there (I think he's still talking about getting 50 taps on the web site). And calling a place Taps that only has 17 taps is overselling yourself.

"I wish more bars around town would offer free samples like this."

I know that brewer's and baltimore tap house (used to be called growlers) does.

i would like to see a bar-off between Taps and The Baltimore Tap House. something tells me Taps is just trying to "tap" into the free-spending federal hill demographic (yuk yuk, i kill myself).

but 17 beers on tap is pretty good.

"Changes coming to Kooper's
"We're no longer trying to be a beer-and-burger joint," Russell said."

Interesting...because they have damned good burgers and wings and i would hate to see that lost. They look to be going in the same direction as the gin mill this year.

it's interesting, i realize the demographic isn't exactly college students in that area anymore, more young professionals...but considering the houseing market and the latest trends in the economy i would think the last thing you would be trying to do is make your place more expensive. i guess we will have to wait and see.

I love the Baltimore Taphouse. It is a great bar without any pretense.

Taps does have some nice taps as does Baltimore Tap House. That would be a great bar to review Sam. It might be a little too far away for you since it's in Canton. The owner John is a great guy, used to work at Racer's, another great beer bar.

KAZ, places close, things change, and time passes on. If FCP was such a great place, why was it struggling to the point where the owners saw no other option than to sell? You can see the FCP's owner's comments in the original post on the sale of FCP.

As for the review Sessa, I do agree that Taps has yet to live up to its potential; however, I feel like your review missed something. You dismiss the progress that has been made with two quick sentences without much to back them up: "Despite all the unfulfilled wishes, Holter deserves some credit for his progress with the place. The service was good and the bar looks better inside."

You admit that your review would be completely different if you hadn't had the initial conversations with Holter. "Holter just aimed too high with Taps. If he hadn't made so many promises in the beginning, Taps wouldn't seem nearly as disappointing now." Shouldn't you be reviewing the place as it is as opposed to what you hoped it would be?

And I have to agree with some of the other commentors, 17 beers on tap is plenty to call yourself Taps, unless of course you're near Max's on Broadway.


Trivia point, a GROWLER is what my father used to take to local bar, for my grandfather, to be filled with tap beer for take out.

Checking on myself, I found that Wikipedia has a description of it and nine other type beer bottles:

The growler post is mine. It just an oversight that it appeared as Anonymous.

Sam, why does Holter's lack of progress leave a bad taste in your mouth? I can understand being disappointed he didn't make enough progress in his proposed make over of Taps, but there's always the possiblity that his grand scheme hit a bad patch when it came to economic realities of how far he could move forward.

If he is still talking up 50 taps and making no visible progress, he's setting himself up for less than favorable word of mouth with those who go with the expectation of a veritable cornucopia of variety, which may be more damaging then your review, to what he has chosen as his target market.

I I agree with GDA. I live right around the corner from Taps and have been going there more and more frequently. I like what I'm seeing

I had the same conversation with one of the bartenders, who was probably Holter himself, about the plans for the place 2 months ago.

Regardless of what the plans were, progress has been made. I've had a great time there. I'm planning on going there for MNF -- even if there aren't 50 taps.

I haven't been there yet, but something in Sam's review stuck out: why has the owner spent all of that money on 10 flat screen TVs instead of investing in more taps?

I agree, the place is nothing spectacular, and the $6 drafts are ridiculous. But we've been hitting them up on Friday's. I believe it starts at 4, but they have bottomless Bud Light drafts and rail liquor for $9 on Friday. Neither Bud Light or rail liquor are my favorites, but it is definitely a cheap way to kick start a Friday night.

I'm interested to see if they actually get the upstairs going with decent bands. The place is bigger then 8x10 probably.

GDA...i'm with you...i live three blocks from brewer's art, so own two growlers myself for resurrection carry out. mmmmm.

I love seeing mentions of The Baltimore Tap House on here. Their bartenders are awesome (esp. Marty). I wish they served food though.

why serve food, when the place does great business without the headache of opening a kitchen. Marty is a great bartender, as is Greg and Brian. My fav is Johnny B. Great beer, great atmosphere. Baltimore Tap House, i.e. Growlers, is a great bar.

Ah, a customer desire vs. a management decision.

Serving food would be based on whether the prospect of long term increased clientele and increased profit is significantly worth the up front cost and, effort of “the headache of opening (and operating) a kitchen”.
If business is truly good and continues to be, it is probably never given serious consideration. If business has been off for a while, it’s attraction, as an option would be amongst those considered, particularly if enough customers have mentioned it.

6 dollars for Fordam? Does this place thinks it is Ram's head?

$6 for a pint. That's LA/NY prices. But if people are willing to pay for it... Has anyone else been in there besides Sam? What's the peeps like? Is it fun? Also, how many taps do you guys think should be in there? 17 is a lot. Besides, I've been in Max's and have asked for a beer and bartender said, "you don't want that, it hasn't been touched in weeks." I also saw a tap handle covered in dust (more like fur). I asked if that beer was any good and the bartender said "ah, sure, I think." Yeah right, No sale. Meaning of the story, stick with a place that has 6 or 7 taps that you know the place uses or rotates. What is the deal with beers being $2.19 or $1.89 when they were originally &2 or $1.50? Was there a tax that bars passed the savings on to me that I didn't know about?

I've popped into Taps a few times - admittedly, hoping for wine on tap, and I have felt the same disappointment as Sam. I actually think Sam's review was kind; the place is a snore. It's a space with 17 beers on tap, and really can't say much more about it. The wine on tap got me excited because it's something different, and I thought the place would be this cool combo of wine and beer bar. I never expected Max's, I expected Metropolitan with a bigger beer selection on tap and the funky new-to-Baltimore wine on tap concept. So, it falls way short of my expectations and if I were to review what's there now, it would read as follows:

I've been to Taps twice. The following anecdote is with regard to the service and has nothing to do with how totally rawkin the place would/could be if they decorated it more or turned into a new 8X10:

Firstly I can't argue with their advertised specials throughout the week, they're really good. The $9 happy hour was the first to grab me, and I went there on a Friday with my buddy to kickstart the evening. We were probably one of maybe ten people there, sitting at the bar, I'm guessing it was sometime after six. I was happy drinking cheap swill but my buddy wanted nice beers, so he stuck to "top shelf" drafts. His tab ended up being $56.00 after 6 or 7 beers. Our jaws dropped, to say the least. Meanwhile, I had to wait at least 10-12 minutes to get draft refills on my happy hour beer - in a 12oz. plastic cup - while we were 20% of the population of the bar. By comparison, some of the other local establishments with remarkably similar happy hour specials always keep me filled and at least give me an actual pint glass.

To say the least, it didn't make me want to go back. Maybe it was a fluke.

but the food there is pretty good, I'll give them that for sure.

I was also disappointed in TAPS. I think Sam's review is completely fair.

Personally I think the outside still looks like crap. I would've rented at least a spray gun and a ladder and painted that nasty stucco color. Get rid of all the palm trees. Do something with all the dead space inside of taps, they at least used to have pool tables. And when you say your going to get 50 taps, get them soon after you say that, otherwise don't set the expectations so high.

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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