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Four Baltimore breweries with great beer

Baltimore is hopping when it comes to beer. Literally, because several breweries make trendy IPAs, which are known for their hoppy taste. You can also find a wide variety of beers that range from pale to dark. If you want to venture further afield from Lancaster county, or you just want a good beer after a day in Inner Harbor, here's what you can expect from the most popular Baltimore beers.

Raven Beer

Raven Beer is the best-tasting, freshest beer you'll find in Baltimore. Raven Beercomes from a small brewery in Peabody Heights that also produces other brands. Although more than one brand is brewed under its roof, the atmosphere at Peabody Heights Brewery is friendly and communal. The tasting room at PHB occasionally holds events that are open to the public.

Raven Beer is easily recognizable, thanks to the caricature of Edgar Allan Poe on the label. The name of the beerwas chosen by founder Stephen Demczuk because Poe has roots in Baltimore, and he's known around the world.

The Beer: Annabel Lee White is a Belgian-style beer that's citrusy and refreshing. This is the beer to serve at an outdoor party when the weather is hot, or when you want a beer that pairs with anything. Annabel Lee White is the perfect choice to introduce someone to beer, thanks to its mild taste and low alcohol by volume percentage.

Pendulum Pilsner is a smooth beer with neither malt nor hops dominating the flavor. Pendulum Pilsner had a dry finish that's very drinkable, with only 22 IBU (International Bittering Units).

The Raven Special Lager is what you should be drinking instead of Yuengling. The Raven is a much smoother lager, with bigger flavor that blossoms in the aftertaste. It's just slightly malty, and pairs well with spicy or bold flavors.

Union Craft Brewing

Union Craft Brewing resides in a hip and trendy area of Baltimore, near the Clipper Mill development. Union Craft Brewing is small, but frequently holds tours and events that spill from its bar to its patio area. Union Craft Brewing has a large menu of beer on tap. Ask for a flight of ponies to sample four beers from the menu.

The Beer: Anthem is a golden ale that's Union Craft Brewing's answer to the all-American beer. The taste is fresh and light, with a smoothness that makes it very drinkable.

Balt is Union Craft Brewing's version of an old-world German ale. The copper color hints at the slightly bitter, but creamy and rich taste.

Blackwing Lager is one of Union Craft Brewing's smoothest beers. The taste is smoky and rich, but has nearly no aftertaste.

Double Duckpin is their double IPA, coming in at a whopping 90 IBU. Although it's not as hoppy as Troegs Nugget Nectar, Double Duckpin's delicious flavor blooms in the aftertaste.

Heavy Seas

The Heavy Seas Brewery is easy to spot, in an ocean of nondescript industrial park buildings, thanks to their logo -- a skull sporting an eye patch -- that's painted at the entrance. Everywhere you look there's something pirate-themed, including their food truck, Pieces of Eight. The tour includes four generous samples from the little bar set up in the brewery.

The Beer: Cross Bones is a deliciously hoppy IPA, but with enough of a malt base that casual beer drinkers can enjoy it. Cross Bones has hints of citrus in its aftertaste.

Winter Storm is a brown ale, thanks to it's mix of pale and darker malts. Winter Storm has an earthy hop flavor, that's slightly more bitter than an IPA and lingers in the afterstaste.

Peg Leg is a dark beer, similar to Guiness, but not as sweet and thick. If you're a fan of Guiness, try Peg Leg and discover that you won't get nearly as full when you drink it.

Blackbeard's Breakfast is a thick, fragrant, coffee porter that's aged in bourbon barrels. It's brewed with Chesapeake Bay Roasting Company's Dark Sumatra coffee to give it an even darker, more complex flavor. At 10% alcohol by volume, Blackbeard's Breakfast isn't for lightweights, but seasoned beer drinkers will appreciate its heady flavor.

Pratt Street Ale House

The Pratt Street Ale House was built in 1888, but Oliver Brewing wasn't established until 1993. These beers are brewed using traditional English techniques. Of the four breweries I visited in Baltimore, the beer at the Pratt Street Ale House was my least favorite, but the restaurant's location across from the convention center can't be beat. Ask for a flight of their most popular beers to decide which is your favorite.

The Beer: Blonde is the lightest-bodied ale Oliver Brewing offers. Blonde has just the slightest hoppy taste. It has a very dry, almost sour finish, that would pair with anything.

Irish Red is exactly what you would expect, a beer with a ruby hue. Irish Red is medium-bodied, with a more bitter, earthy taste.

Draft Punk is a hoppy beer that's a close imitation of an IPA, but not quite as flavorful or bitter, because the English ale tradition doesn't call for a strong mix of hops.

Harvest Ale is an amber seasonal beer that's brewed with local hops. The addition of honey gives it a tiny bit of sweetness and smoothness.