Brewery Review: Ministry of Brewing

Brewery Review: Ministry of Brewing

Ministry of Brewing’s logo. (Courtesy of their Facebook page.)

The Ministry of Brewing was a definite ‘need to check out’ brewery for me. I’ve watched and read about their opening and the cathedral that they took over on their Facebook page as well as other places. So I knew this was a definite must see, must check out brewery. Only problem (for me) – is it’s in Baltimore. Meaning its not just a simple drive to visit place, especially with everything going on in my life as it is. That’s roughly an hour and a half drive just to check out the brewery, and then a hour and a half back, so I knew if I was going to get to check out the brewery, it’d be a part of a destination day that included being in the Baltimore area.

So, as luck would have it, on Friday the 14th (of August, 2020) the day before my oldest would turn 13, I asked her where she wanted to go, what adventure she wanted to have to celebrate her birthday. Just me and her. Daddy / Daughter day. She chose the Baltimore Aquarium. I said certainly. (She could have said the Amazon rainforests and I would have said yes…. albeit with some trepidation maybe.)

So I picked her up, around 11:30AM, we stopped at the Kondu restaurant in Harrisburg, one of her favorite places, got our food to go, and we were on the road heading to Baltimore and Inner Harbor.

We arrived in Inner Harbor, parked at one of the parking garages pretty close to Pratt Street and Inner Harbor, and walked to the Aquarium. Purchased our tickets (39.99$ for adults, and adults are 11 and up), and sat down and ate our Kondu that we had picked up.

My daughter has always been an animal, fish, insect, whatever person. She absolutely lives for and loves nature and all of the animals therein. Outside of spiders, I don’t think she’s met an animal, mammal, bird, insect, slug, or what have you that she doesn’t love in some capacity. (When she was little, she would collect slugs, and even kiss them. If she ever reads this, she will be completely pissed that I included this little factoid in it.)

So needless to say, we had an absolute blast in the Aquarium. We had been there a few times before (at least two that I can remember) as a family (me, her, her sisters, and her mom). But that didn’t change it, everything still felt ‘new’ and ‘interesting’ and we still loved it. Plus, spending the time with her, and just listening to her talk and tell me all the factoids she was reading, completely made the day.

After the Aquarium, we walked the Inner Harbor, looking at the boats, the Trade Building, and stopping at the Barnes and Noble, where as part of her birthday ‘celebration’, she got to pick out some books. She picked out Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, as well as a few others that I’m currently blanking on.

But now it was time for dinner… …..or so we thought.

Ministry of Brewing (exterior shot) (Courtesy of their Facebook page)

She agreed that checking out the Ministry of Brewing sounded interesting and beautiful, so we decided on going there. Not knowing enough, and not seeing anything, that they didn’t do food. We arrive, and park on a side street and walk about a half-block to get there. We get there and are asked if we have reservations…. uh oh… we didn’t, but luckily they still had seating and we were allowed in, after a long spiel about the do’s and don’ts during the pandemic at their brewery, as well as a temperature check. Which Olivia-Grace impressed the bartender who did it by timing her ‘death shot’ acting with his temperature check perfectly. I foresee a career in theater.

Ministry of Brewing (interior shot) (Courtesy their Facebook page)

Now, I want to start this off – this isn’t a negative brewery review. It may sound it, and it may sound like I’m upset, but ultimately I’m not, and I enjoyed the time I spent with my daughter there. This is kind of a review of a ‘lack of good service’ or at least, being attentive in their service.

Due to walking there, I had my walking app on and it kept on while we were inside the place. That’s primarily how I know the amount of times for things. We were seated at the 10 minute mark on the app. We were quickly given a portable sign for a few seconds placed in front of our table, that we could read the beer list on, and I picked Esmeralda – a tart berliner; that could have syrups added to it – but I chose it plain, and Olivia-Grace got a birch beer. They also gave us waters, and then they took the sign away.

While in there, we chatted, and talked about the Aquarium, the upcoming school year, Baltimore, etc, etc, etc. (We did have a bit of excitement at the harbor, where apparently there was a shooting at some point in the day, and there was even a Ballistics Forensics police unit on the scene.) I finished my drink around the 35 minute mark on my phone’s app. I told Olivia-Grace since they didn’t have food we would go somewhere else in the city to get something to eat. Because we were running out of time to get home at a relatively decent time to do birthday cake and presents with my parents. I said to her I was going to get one more on draft, and get a growler (buy a growler of their’s and have it filled) with another beer. I was looking at the one IPA (an Oats IPA) to have in house, and to fill the growler with a chocolate stout.

Part of their COVID-19 pandemic rules was no leaving the table, unless you followed the direct path to the bathrooms and exit. This meant you couldn’t go near the bar, where all the employees were congregated. The employees did come out from behind the bar area and went to various tables to check on them.

They, never, once, came back, to our, table. Not once. In the entirety of the time we were there, after ordering our initial drinks. We were also in a table somewhat near their bar area, so I tried my best to flag them down, by either gesturing that I was putting my mask up (one of their rules was nobody was allowed to come to your table unless you had your mask up), staring at them, and even waving to them. All of this was ignored.

We reached the fifty minute mark, a full fifteen minutes after I finished my drink (Olivia-Grace was nursing her birch beer and it was half full yet). Still nobody approached us, checked on us, talked to us, anything. And despite a good fifteen minutes of me trying to get their attention.

At this point, I called off the idea of getting a second pint and a growler to go, mainly because til I would drink that, it would be far later getting back to my parents (since we had an hour and a half drive from their brewery to home). So sadly, I only got the one pint, and no growler, or anything, and was unable to give them more business like I wanted, and to get a better review here for the blog.

I wanted to give this a good full review, with at least two beers tried in house, a growler to try at home, etc. But they didn’t do flights, they didn’t have in-house food, so there’s obviously some parts of a typical brewery review that I just couldn’t do. Which is fine, and not fully their fault given everything going on. I understand this fully. My annoyance is more the lack of service, and how that then further impeded me on getting to try more of their beers, and to even give them a better review.

Like I said earlier, I don’t want this to come off as a negative review, or that I didn’t like them. I loved the atmosphere of the brewery. Its beautiful. Gorgeous, and a great usage of the building. The Esmeralda beer was absolutely fantastic and I loved it. (I’ll do a small mini-review here in this review, as well as a full beer review of it to be posted soon on Let Us Drink Beer’s blog, and then copied here on my own blog as well.) But, I do feel compelled to call out their service, especially in these difficult times. Because with the rules of not being able to approach their bar, we as guests were even more reliant on their service, and its even more apparent and responsible on their end to provide that service. So to have us go for 35 minutes without even checking on us while we had the first… and then another 15 minutes after that drink was finished and still no one to approach us, thats 50 minutes in total, with no one even checking on us, saying ‘hi’, or anything.

So, finally, I get up and DO approach the bar, despite the warnings. What else was I supposed to do? Nobody acknowledged us. They didn’t respond to us practically staring at them from a distance of 20 feet or so, they didn’t respond to us waving or gesturing towards them etc. I didn’t want to approach this way, but at this point, its now 55 minutes or so, and its getting late, and we need to get going. I can’t keep wasting time with an hour and a half drive home. So I approach them, get a glare, and an evil stare for ‘breaking protocol’ though nobody outright said anything or called me out on it. I ask for the check, which is a moderate and small check, (one pint, one birch beer).

At about an hour and seven minutes, we have the check finished and tip left and we are leaving. And, really, like I’ve said before, in this, and with other people, I don’t like to be negative. I typically am not with this blog. I typically will promote everything, and will talk up the positives. So please don’t misconstrue this. We had a blast, we enjoyed the atmosphere, we liked the artwork on the walls, and ceiling. The building inside and outside is beautiful. It was just a lack of good service, thats all. And hopefully, if anyone from their brewery reads this, they recognize that, and work to make it better. I really genuinely hope and assume we were an exception. A man and his daughter who was unable to drink, so we were probably relegated and forgotten about, in comparison to other tables that had two or more potential drinkers. I don’t know, maybe we were just a blind spot and forgotten about and they didn’t see my gestures or waving, or us looking. I don’t know. I know I enjoyed the beer, the atmosphere, and the building. Its just a shame that the service was less than adequate (from my perspective and our experience). I don’t think its unreasonable to be at least checked in on, or to assume that in an hour and seven minutes, I’d have more than two interactions – one of which I prompted by approaching them.

I am curious for those ‘in the industry’ what do you think of this? How long do you give a person for a pint? How often should a person be checked in on? Twenty minutes, thirty minutes, for a drink and then check in on them and see if they want a second or a check? I don’t know. I’m sure there’s a lot more knowledgeable or experienced people out there who could give a better answer than what I have, or at least some suggestions.

I want to say this, don’t NOT go to Ministry of Brewing because of this. I know if I am in the area again and will be able to – I will visit them again myself. I will hope for better service, but I do know that the beer was great, so I’m looking forward to at some point getting to try more from them.

As I said earlier, this was a brewery I was really looking forward to checking out. So maybe that factored into things, a bit of over-hyping in my own brain? Who knows. I know I enjoyed my time with my daughter, the atmosphere, and the one beer I did have. I would still recommend checking them out, if you are in the area. Like I said, I’m hoping I was the exception, not the rule on this.

But when doing a review, I’d be amiss not describing my experience, in how it happened, and not talking about it, or sugar-coating things. I haven’t embellished or changed facts, I did enjoy my time, it was a longer service time than it should have been, but the beer was genuinely delicious. So there’s my review in a nutshell. And hopefully others have had a different experience, I genuinely hope so. I want only the best for this brewery (as well as all breweries), especially in these very difficult times right now.

So, moving on to a small mini-review of the Esmeralda beer:

Beer: Esmeralda
Brewery: Ministry of Brewing
Style: Sour – Berliner Weisse
ABV: 5%
IBU: None
Untappd Description: Refreshingly tart wheat ale.

Esmeralda by Ministry of Brewing

They are definitely not lying, this is a refreshing, tart wheat ale. It’s not crazy puckering tart, but there is a nice, clean, crisp, refreshing, tartness to this that provides a nice flavor. Would be interesting to try this with the different syrups to see how much change there is and how much flavor those various syrups add to it.

The base, plain Esmeralda, that I had was delicious. And at only 5% I could easily see this being a day drinking beer. A growler fill of this at a baseball game or while watching a baseball game or a summer picnic sounds perfect. Not enough to get you too drunk, but still full in flavor, with a nice refreshing coolness for a hot summer day, is exactly what you want in a beer at a time like that.

My Untappd Rating: ****
Global Untappd Rating: 3.61 (as of 8.20.20)

Be sure to see my full review for the Let Us Drink Beer blog. I will be sure to click back on this and edit it to include the link once that gets posted (hopefully Saturday or Sunday).

For more information on Ministry of Brewing, you can check out their Untappd page: Ministry of Brewing on Untappd. Which says they have 18 unique beers with a global average rating of 3.64. Their Untappd description reads: “Baltimore’s newest craft brewery located in the historic St. Michael’s Church in the Upper Fells Point-area. Opening fall 2019.”

You can also find out more about them on their Facebook page: Ministry of Brewing on Facebook.

Likewise their Twitter page: Ministry of Brewing on Twitter.

Like I’ve said, I definitely recommend them, and would check them out. The beer I had was fantastic, and hopefully everything will be wonderful when you get to visit. If you do get to visit them, or have in the past, please leave a comment. Would love to hear how your experience was!

Be sure to check out my other travel blog posts here:

August (2019) Road Trip Series:

Rickett’s Glen (2020) Road Trip Series:

Monocacy Battlefield Road Trip:

Other Brewery Hopping Articles:

My Article for Breweries in PA:

My Podcast About Breweries in Central PA:

Some other brewery tour and road trip articles:

Ministry of Brewing, August 14th, 2020

Also, please welcome me in officially welcoming Olivia-Grace to the world of being a teenager (she turned 13 on August 15th, 2020). She is my oldest, I still have two more daughters to get to teenage years (God help me). But, Happy Birthday Olivia-Grace!

Cheers everyone, please be safe when out traveling, social distance, wash, and wear your masks. Soon, oh so soon hopefully, we can get back to enjoying pints together at our favorite breweries!

-B. Kline

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