Can we all agree that everything is better in the fall? If you don’t agree, please just to lie to me — for the purposes of today’s column and our friendship.
When that trademark chill appears in the air, signaling the arrival of crisp autumn weather, I emerge from my Grumpy Cat-like fog with a smile ... as well as an overabundance of flannel, pumpkin-flavored everything and cardigans.
As an added bonus for my friends and family, I am also ready to spend time outdoors without complaint or aggressive applications of sunscreen.
My pumpkin and plaid obsessions notwithstanding, there is one activity that I firmly believe is more fun in the fall than any other time of year: road trips. Particularly when a farm brewery is the destination.
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Why? Well, there are a lot of reasons that go beyond my usual love of travel and Maryland beer. Farm breweries are not only family-friendly and fun, they’re also a great way to support local businesses and Maryland’s vibrant agricultural community.
Specifically, farm breweries remind us that beer — with its grains, hops, and (sometimes) fruits and vegetables — is, first and foremost, an agricultural product. This is a narrative that can get lost with some craft beer drinkers when they visit more traditional industrial-style brewery taprooms in urban and suburban settings.
That’s why visiting a farm brewery this time of year, when rural Maryland is at its most beautiful, is a dreamy way to celebrate a beverage that is both Maryland-grown and Maryland-made.
To help you get your own road trip planned, here are three great Maryland farm breweries you should consider.
It’s hard not to fall in love with Howard County’s first farm brewery, Manor Hill Brewing. As soon as you make a right turn onto Manor Lane in Ellicott City — and the Marriner Family farm, home of Manor Hill Brewing — you’re met with an overabundance of pastoral charm. You’ll drive through a short span of well-clipped, rolling fields, with a small hopyard and a welcoming taproom waiting for you in the distance.
Though some might balk at the fact that you need a reservation, trust me when I say the small dose of extra effort is worth it. The family-friendly taproom is, at worst, pleasantly full, meaning you are never left fighting for a seat or dealing with a rowdy crowd.
If you’re hungry, don’t forget to pack a picnic, since they only serve light snacks on-site. (Or, you can do what I do, which is unapologetically raid the cheese, finger foods and desserts sections of Trader Joe’s.)
Beers to try: Grisette farmhouse, Taylor’s Row IPA, Farm Fuzz and their Barrel Project Series
More information: 411 Manor Lane, Ellicott City; 410-997-7771
I know, I know. Montgomery County can seem like a bit of a hike, but Brookeville Beer Farm is worth the effort. In their words, the brewery “represents an intersection of sustainable farming and brewing practices.” They grow what they brew and, later on, recycle post-brewing remnants — such as spent grain — back onto the farm.
Brookeville is a great choice for those weeks when you’re desperate to leave the stress of work and “the real world” behind; the easy warmth of the brewery will welcome you like you’re an old friend. For those traveling with a pack, not only is the taproom family-friendly, you’re welcome to bring your well-behaved, leashed pooches to relax with you on their outdoor patio.
In addition to pizza and other snacks, Brookeville Beer Farm hosts a farmers market every Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., featuring local vendors.
Beers to try: Philsner pilsner, Rum Runner rum barrel-aged Doppelbock and Hugelkultur Oktoberfest
More information: 20315 Georgia Ave., Brookeville; 301-260-1000
A trip to Milkhouse Brewery at Stillpoint Farm is the true definition of an escape. Once you peel your car off of the high-speed traffic of Route 70, heading toward Frederick, you trade highway asphalt for gravel roads that zig and zag through picturesque mountain views. You know you’ve arrived when you pull up to a quaint brewhouse in Mount Airy with a bright green antique farm truck parked out front.
The space inside is small, but the beers are classic, with broad appeal. Aside from the taproom, you can often sit inside the brewhouse, right alongside the tanks used to brew the beer you’re drinking. Or, on a nice day, you can take a seat out on the patio with friends, family and little ones. But don’t worry — if it’s chilly, you can use one of their cozy blankets to keep warm.
What I love most about Milkhouse’s “no farm, no beer!” spirit, though, is their story. Back in 2008, Tom Barse and Carolann McConaughy purchased their farm with one goal. They wanted to prove that “a small farm could be profitable in Maryland.” Tell me that doesn’t make you want to champion this brewery.
Beers to try: Dollyhyde farmhouse ale, Red Eye porter and Goldie’s Best Bitter
More information: 8253 Dollyhyde Road, Mount Airy; 301-829-6950