Ash, Jackson and I have been on the road now for just about a week now but between getting used to the rig, the lifestyle, and visiting family and friends as we start south we hadn’t had a chance to start hitting up breweries. Well, that all changed today, when we drove about an hour south from our campsite in Delaware to make a day of visiting Assateague Island National Seashore (Read more HERE) in Maryland with a quick pit stop at Burley Oak Brewing Company in Berlin, MD.
The short drive off the highway on the way to the national park led us to the very rustic feeling brewery. Gray wood shingles with an A-frame roof give the appearance of a small barn from the road. There is rather ample, gravel lot parking abutting the brewery that also gives a peek inside to the brewery floor as staff go about their work. The small patio was closed, as it is now late October, and despite a lot of ‘pet-friendly’ reports online, dogs are not allowed into the brewery much to Jackson’s disappointment.
The same aesthetic vibe from the outside continues into the taproom, with exposed raw wood walls and roof beams, hung string bulb lighting, and barrel based high-top tables. There is a small store for branded merch (i.e. shirts, hats, hoodies, stickers, etc.) next to the long bar. The whole setup really reinforces Burley Oak’s roots (pun only half intended) in farming and gives a warm, simple inviting feel.
The simplicity of the brewery ends with its environment though as the beers are anything but. I’d been hearing a lot of buzz about the J.R.E.A.M. series of sours on social media and seeing these pictures of glasses that looked like they had fruit smoothies in them not brews. Somehow, Burley Oak has found a way to make ales that are a bit of both; thick, with actual fruit content evidenced by berry seeds and other by-product in the glass, tart, sweet, creamy and delicious!
Ash and I went with a flight with pours of J.R.E.A.M Bumbleberry Cobbler (cinnamon, brown sugar, mixed berry), Apricot & Blackberry, and Peach Pear; as well as a nitro lined Coffee n’ Cream and Cashmere Coogi Sweater Double IPA.
The first thing I have to say is these folks are sorcerers when it comes to lactose in their brews. An addition mostly used for milk stouts by brewers, Burley Oak has found a way to make their sours and even IPAs have a more full, creamy mouthfeel without overdoing it with the unfermentable sugar that can impart sweetness where it’s not necessarily desired. All 5 beers had a full, comforting, silky pillow mouthfeel that made them real pleasures to drink. The J.R.E.A.M.s are all bursting with a sweet, fruitiness layered over a mellow, but ever present, tartness. Our favorite was hands down the Bumbleberry Cobbler, which tasted like some mad scientist took a berry pie, liquefied it, and then made it adult by giving it a barely perceptible ABV. We even picked up one of two remaining $20 4-packs for the road with our limited beer budget. The Coffee n’ Cream cream ale tastes exactly like a good cup of joe – what? Seriously, are there like leprechauns or Oompa Loompas or something back there turning non-beer things into beer? And then the Cashmere Coogi…oh that Coogi. Be still my hazy, New England style IPA loving heart; hazy and fruity, but the addition of lactose adds a whole extra level of creaminess.
If you’re ever in the southern part of the Delmarva Peninsula, whether it’s visiting Assateague or other great, scenic spots dotting shoreline, or maybe just making the run over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge (recommend not sampling too many beers before attempting though for obvious reasons), definitely take the slight detour to Berlin, MD and meet the magicians at Burley Oak, Brewing Company!
- J.R.E.A.M. Bumbleberry Cobbler – Lactose Fruited Sour: Warm cinnamon notes of sweetness intermingled with tart, berry goodness built on the thickest sour body we have ever tried.
- Cashmere Coogi Sweater – Hazy Double IPA with Lactose: Pale yellow, impossibly thick and impressively soft, in the glass with notes of nectarine, peach, and mango.
- Nitro Coffee n’ Cream – Nitro tap coffee infused cream ale: Golden ale with noticeable nitro head even in a flight glass, smell and taste of lightly creamed and sugared coffee. I wouldn’t expect this much coffee from a pitch black stout, let alone a transparent cream ale, to have so much java goodness!