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December 21, 2010

Is a beer brunch worth it? Lessons from the DuClaw beer brunch

DuClaw had its beer brunch Sunday. I was there.

It becomes just the latest craft brewer to offer one of these things. During Baltimore Beer Week, there were a whopping 49 beer breakfasts, brunches, lunches or dinners. 

Are they worth it? What's the point? What I've learned so far is that brewers see many more uses for these events than just a bargain meal for their customers.

The brunch was held at Arundel Mills at 9 a.m., a time so early mall power walkers hadn't even made an appearance yet. A few new ones would appear with each passing meal.

Still, the company's storefront was filled. 

Most beer meals consist of several courses paired with the brewer's beers. DuClaw's included six brunch courses. 

Sweet potato pancakes were served with the Sawtooth Belgian white, which, as DuClaw president Dave Benfield, explained, was made with bitter orange peels and coriander. Later, a bloody beer-marinated steak was served with Devil's Milk barleywine.(Full menu below)

Benfield and brewmaster Jim Wagner explained the menu was designed by playing with the ingredients in the beer and those in the breakfast food. The idea of this thing is that one should bring out the flavors in the other.

For instance, the 31 Munich Dunkel was spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg to accentuate the pumpkin waffles it was paired with.

On the other hand, the steak had been marinated with barleywine for a day and a half to highlight that beer's flavor. 

When the pairing is good, though, it works both ways. The steak was very popular with the crowd, as was the Devil's Milk (I can't disagree, though I'm biased as a fan of barleywines.*)

So the brunch made clear a couple of things.

For the people there, it was, more than likely, just a good deal. Forty five dollars for a six course meal and unlimited beer? A bargain.

But, as I'm reporting a story on food-beer pairings, I'm learning that the brewers see a lot of potential for craft beer in these events.

For one, it shows off their product. And, more importantly, by serving beer in different settings - brunch, dinner - they are are also highlighting the variety in styles and uses of craft beer.

This is important for them because even though there's a lot of craft beer culture today, it's still not held in the same esteem as wine at nice restaurants. At most places, you might have several varieties of Pinot Blancs and Syrah wines, but just your basic bottled beers.

But, for Wagner, if the brunch proved anything, it's that with so many styles, "beer is much more versatile than wine with food."

At the very least, the gambit is proving popular with the company's clients. This first brunch sold out. And, Benfield said if the second one does too, it might become a regular thing for them. 

DuClaw's full beer brunch menu: 

Sweet Potato Pancakes with a Vanilla Almond Syrup topped with Fresh Homemade Cream paired with Sawtooth Belgian White

Spiced Pumpkin Waffles topped with a Cinnamon Cream paired with 31 Spiced Munich Dunkel.

Beer Marinated Steak and Eggs paired with Devil’s Milk Barleywine

Cherry Strata paired with Cherry Black Jack Stout

Beer Biscuits and Maple Sausage Gravy with Euphoria Toffee Nut Brown Ale

Banana Crepes with a Chocolate Drizzle with 13 Degrees Hefeweizen

Photo: DuClaw's Bel Air location, from Dave's Blog.

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Posted by Erik Maza at 11:12 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Bars & Clubs


wow you like barley based beers too?!
I thought I was the only one!


Would you have to ask what the point was to a similar wine-tasting dinner, or a bourbon luncheon?

Aren't all beers barley based?

Most but not all beers are barley based, but the barleywine that Erik is referring to is a style of beer which has a higher alcohol content, typically (but not always) a deep amber to chestnut brown color, and rich flavors. Typically, barleywines are aged before serving, which allows some flavors (like alcoholic heat) to mellow and others (like sherry-like tones of raisin) to develop. See this description:

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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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