I've been to twenty-some-odd bars in the last month on tour, and of course thousands in my life, and The Brewer's Art in Baltimore might be the most gorgeous spot of them all. A 100-something-year-old former rich person residence in downtown Baltimore, the interior is a beautiful array of classic fixtures, a sturdy bar, comfortable couches, a seductive underground wine cellar, and even a dining room chandelier. And, with not a television in the joint, this is the kind of cozy spot perfect for intimate one-on-one chatting...and bookselling.
The Brewer's Art had long been on my top-beer-destinations-to-one-day visit list, but I always figured, "Hey, when will I ever be in Baltimore?" So call it perfect kismet when my publisher booked a tour date in Baltimore and coincidentally selected The Brewer's Art as the location. What a dream come true. Even if we hadn't sold a single book Monday night, it still would have been an amazing night to remember in an amazing spot, but luckily, the kinds of folks that frequent The Brewer's Art are the same kind of well-educated, urbane urbanites that love "How to Fail."
Owner Volker Stewart (pictured above) runs a top notch brewpub--he even gave me a brewhouse tour!--that Baltimore is lucky to have. I hope it continues to remain an institution on the Baltimore, if not American, beer scene.
FAIL OF THE DAY:
The "How to Fail" caravan pulled into Baltimore to find the city on fire! Only later would we find out the strip club district, "The Block," was the culprit. I'm not exactly sure what caused it--Mrs. O'Leary's cow kicking over some flaming silicone?!--nor exactly how this was the fail of the day, but it did make us a little late for the event I suppose.
SUCCESS OF THE DAY:
As a man who frequently flies solo at bars, reading and writing by himself, I can tell you that Brewer's Art is a reading/writing alone bar par excellence, and indeed I counted at least a half dozen people over the evening doing likewise. But one particular gentlemen stood out. Older, but very classy and distinguished, he sat reading a thick tome on Joseph Stalin. Heady stuff and surely not a potential "How to Fail" customer, right? So color me pleasantly shocked when he came over to the table to purchase a copy. He stunned me even more when he pointed in the very chair I sat in and noted, "This exact corner is where I finished writing my last book." Wow! We chatted a little and the incredibly humble man noted that he was a frequent New Yorker contributor and also a journalism professor at USC. He took "How to Fail" back to his table and when he exited an hour later, he shocked us yet again but giving me perhaps the best compliment all tour, revealing that he had put his Stalin book away to read "How to Fail," which he greatly enjoyed, and which had given him a much needed laugh. Only the next day after a little stalkerish Googling, did I realize that all these great compliments had come courtesy of Tim Page...a Pulitzer Prize winner! Wow!
DRINK OF THE DAY:
When I visit a new brewery or brewpub I always order a flight of every single beer in the house just to quickly test the goods. At most all spots around the country there's a few stinkers in any flight, usually a lower ABV pilsner or wheat beer, you know, something to sate the masses. Well, as I fawningly told Volker, the flight at The Brewer's Art did not have a stinker in the bunch, and I enjoyed them all heartily, no surprise when even the "lower ABV" flagship beer is an abbey dubbel, Resurrection. Having said that, my favorite beer in the joint was the dangerously drinkable 10% Cerebus Tripel, sweet and yeasty, and as good as any "real" Belgian. The food is amazing at Brewer's Art too, with some of the best garlic frites I've ever had.