Since City Paper is Baltimore's Most Cynical Newspaper (sorry, Brew, you're not a newspaper), expectations weren't exactly elevated when we arrived at the Arundel Mills Corporate Park on a cloudy Thursday to taste what The City That Drinks would consider an oxymoron: a proprietary craft beer on tap at the Greene Turtle. It was with bemusement and a slight aftertaste of apprehension that we got out of the beer-mobile to try the new "house" brew on launch day last night. Based on our decades-old experience with this franchise, we were expecting a Miller Lite with an infusion of Axe body spray and Lax Bro essence.
Times have changed. Ten years ago, if you told us you could walk into a Greene Turtle, ask for the house beer, and consume a tasty, locally made craft offering, we'd have told you to take that then-criminal 9-gram joint out of your mouth and stop dreaming. Now, that comically oversized spleef is only a civil matter, and the bar has achieved what many beer snobs would have once thought impossible.
It turns out that you can teach an old turtle new tricks, and it happened because smart people contract things out. The bar probably shouldn't be in the business of brewing craft beer, so they turned to the experts: Shell Raiser, the very mild English-style Pale Ale which debuted last night among the 37-bar-strong diaspora of Turtles, is a product of Heavy Seas.
"They did what they do best: listen to their customers," said Heavy Seas marketing director Fred Crudder about the Greene Turtle, "and they let us do what we do best, which is make great beer."
Greene Turtle VP Christopher Janush admitted that a house craft beer "is uncharted territory for us, but it's something that we believe in. Local and craft are where more and more of the market share is heading."
Clocking in at just under 5 percent ABV, and with a sparing amount of UK hops and a smidgen of West Coast hops, Shell Raiser has a chewy malt structure and pairs well with almost anything. Heavy Seas fans will recognize the crystal malt recipe, similar to the brewery's pale ale Powder Monkey. At under 30 International Bittering Units, it's a good gateway beer, able to trick unsuspecting Yuengling guzzlers into nudging their palates just a bit more to the side of angels.
So the Greene Turtle finds itself in uncharted waters on these Heavy Seas, and we'll give this voyage a big "Shell Yeah!"