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The Judge's Bench

The Judge's BenchThe Judge's Bench

Taps: 17 / Bottles: -
Cask: Y / Beer-to-Go: N

19 Ratings
Ratings: 19
Reviews: 17
rAvg: 4.18
pDev: 15.31%
$$ - reasonable

[ Bar, Eatery ]

8385 Main St
Ellicott City, Maryland, 21043-4605
United States
phone: (410) 465-3497

visit their websiteWebsite view map and get directionsMap @judgesbench

None, yet.

(Place added by: johnmichaelsen on 08-21-2008)
Place: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 19 | Reviews: 17 | Show All Ratings:
Reviews by HarryPotHead:
Photo of HarryPotHead


3.7/5  rDev -11.5%
vibe: 4 | quality: 3.5 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 2.5 | $$$

Stopped in on a Sunday afternoon with the wife to check the place out... I had heard about their great beer selection and had to see for myself. They open at 1 on Sunday's and we got there around 1:30 so there was only one other person in the place at the time so we basically had the place to ourselves...I have to think that this place would get more traffic if it was located two or three blocks down the hill closer to the heart of Elicott City's beautiful historic district. Unfortunately it is on the fringe of the town which could be a blessing or a curse depending on the circumstances...

None the less the beer selection was fantastic!! Literally something for everyone and lots of it too!! Offerings on tap were handwritten on a chalk board along with ABV % and I was told that the offerings are always changing. I was like a kid in a candy store! I was unfamilliar with most of what was on tap so I ordered a 4 glass sampler. All were top notch without a bad apple in the bunch. I then asked to see the bottled list and was blown away with the selection...although my first request was "not available" my next two were on hand.

While we chilled at the bar we ordered some chicken nachos while we watched the Cowboys get beat up by the Browns. The menu offerings were not as impressive as the beer selection...typical stuff, but I like pub food (who doesn't?) so it was no biggie. Unfortunately the nachos sucked! Cold cheese goop...the kind pumped from the metal container 7-11 style, stale chips, and dry chicken crumbles with a few olives and even less jalapeños. For the price I was expecting way more in quality and size. Taco bells nachos would have been more satisfying! The bar tender asked how they were and I politely said I had better...I wasn't going to sugar coat it. Hell, if he can't take constructive criticism then that's his fault and I work hard for my money too...so be it.

Long story short. I liked the place. The atmosphere was cool and the beers were top shelf. I'd like to head back on a Friday night, when the place was more lively to see how the vibe is with a few more people in the place. Definitely worth checking out if your are heading to Ellicott City.

11-25-2012 00:50:20 | More by HarryPotHead
More User Reviews:
Photo of MarvinSnyder

West Virginia

4.25/5  rDev +1.7%

11-03-2013 18:56:20 | More by MarvinSnyder
Photo of Boone757


4.25/5  rDev +1.7%

10-18-2013 21:35:43 | More by Boone757
Photo of SeattleStan


1.7/5  rDev -59.3%
vibe: 3 | quality: 1 | service: 1 | selection: 3 | food: 1 | $$

Bad food...Bad Service... Bad Management. What more do you want. On Friday night, at approximately 7:30 pm, I took my wife and two friends to the Judges Bench for drinks and food. After arriving, we found a table quite easily. The Bench was not crowded at the time. My guest and I went to the bar to order drinks and get menus. We returned to the bar between 7:45 and 7:50 to place our food order. At 9:00 I went to the bar to ask about our food and was told there was only one person working and loads of orders were in and we would get our food in the order it was requested. I was also told it was taking longer because I wanted my burgers well done.
I commented that I have never ordered a well done burger in my life so there was a misunderstanding. The waitress was not happy to hear that, commented so and I replied “so who is it, me our you” that made the mistake. She then offered to redo the burgers but that they would have to be thawed out first. But rather than wait any longer, we took our order that arrived “after the music had started”.
The burgers were way too well done, burnt on the bottom but we threw on some sauce and chowed down. Not long after, I went to the bar to sign my credit card tab and decided that a service tip wasn’t warranted. I've never, ever had to wait longer than an hour for my food...tip for what? Before leaving, the manager confronted me, in front of my guest. And asked what the problem was, and stated that “we make our living here on tips”. I asked him to step out the front door, which he did, and I explained what I have previously noted in this review.
He bullied up and told me to either tip him here and now or never come back. NO tip and could care less about going back.

11-07-2011 22:10:37 | More by SeattleStan
Photo of

4.38/5  rDev +4.8%
vibe: 5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4 | food: 4 | $

My favorite bar outside of the city (DC/Baltimore) in the metro area. 17 rotating taps (all American craft with occasional German or Belgian) and maybe 50 bottles. Tap prices are reasonably priced, mostly 16oz pours, with acceptable glassware. Bottle prices are great, usually about 1 or 2 dollars above typical retail price and are a dollar off during happy hour. The people and staff and very friendly esp. the owner and it rarely gets really crowded. There is even a free lot right across the street.

06-07-2011 18:49:59 | More by
Photo of smokeypeat


4.35/5  rDev +4.1%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 3.5 | $$

Here's a great gem in the greater Baltimore area that people in the city might be unaware of. Located in the "historic" section of Ellicott City this bar looks diveish on the outside, but once you see the tap-list you will be happy you came in. Has 18 great taps without one dud in the bunch. The owner does a great job of having an equal mix between lighter and heavier beers. On a recent visit I was able to start off with Duvel Green, have a Double Bag while eating, and finish with St. Bernardus 12 for my nightcap. Also seemed to have a nice bottle selection, but I found the tap options to be plenty so I didn't look too closely. Food is standard in my opinion. Burgers, wings, cheesesteaks, etc. Did notice a few vegetarian options if you are so inclined. I really liked the atmosphere, no obnoxious college jock vibe, mix of regulars and newbies. The bar guy was great, and even as the crowd picked up he kept everyone's glass filled with no noticeable waits. Definitely a place worthy of repeat business.

01-15-2011 16:34:10 | More by smokeypeat
Photo of jgasparine


3.95/5  rDev -5.5%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4 | $$

Amosphere- The atmosphere is hit-or-miss here. On a night with live music it get's unbearably loud. On a night without live music, this place can be fantastic for catching-up with friends over a pint.

Quality- The quality is overall good here. Clean draft lines. Clean plates and utensils (for a diveish bar). The staff clearly try to respect beer and serve in appropriate glassware.

Service- The service is hit-or-miss too. I have had great service some nights... and other nights where is takes over an hour to get a cold burger. It is worth noting that on my night with the hour-long cold burger, the food was complimentary for the delay and poor quality. The staff is knowledgeable about beer too.

Selection- Fantastic selection. Almost purely craft beer with an impressive range of taps and an extensive bottle list. One of the best selections outside of Baltimore for sure.

Food- Food is good. Slightly upscale barfood with good vegetarian options.

06-15-2010 00:03:13 | More by jgasparine
Photo of ocmpoma


3.95/5  rDev -5.5%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | food: 3.5 | $

visited on 8 mar 2010:

Drove up here from Columbia whilest out for a conference. I was impressed. The entire downtown of Ellicott is very nice: lots of old buildings, winding streets, brick sidewalks -- my kind of place. The Judge's Bench was no exception. It's an old building, stone and brick, including the bat and a great old fireplace. Lots of architectural nuances that really made me like the place, almost European. The only things I didn't like were the TVs (four in the not overly large downstairs main bar and another, altar-like layout upstairs) and the drop ceiling, which I'm sure probably concealed some wonderful beams that would have really gone well with the rest of the interior.

But the look can easily be forgiven, especially considering the selection. Lots of great beers: Allagash, and Avery's Czar were on tap, and a rauchbier was sampled as well. A very good selection both on tap and in the bottle. The food was decent, and the service was great. If I lived in the area, I'd all but certainly be a regular.

03-09-2010 03:15:27 | More by ocmpoma
Photo of MaltistLupulist


4.3/5  rDev +2.9%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4 | $$

An unassuming building at the west end of Ellicott City's historic district belies what is perhaps the preeminent taphouse in Howard County. Neon BMC signs in the windows add to the misrepresentation, but each of the seventeen rotating draft beers on offer is a quality microbrew, and the bottled selection is equally impressive, despite a smattering of Coors Light and the like among its ranks.

The vibe here is as unassuming and unpretentious as the architecture; it's really just a nondescript bar that, aside from its stellar craft selection, is indistinguishable from any number of taverns in the Baltimore area: cozy/casual ambiance, TVs broadcasting the game, a mix of blue- and white-collar patrons ranging in age from their early twenties to post-retirement. If it weren't for its relatively large size and nineteenth-century mill town location, the Bench could easily be mistaken for a corner bar in some tight-knit South or Southeast Baltimore neighborhood--a very come-as-you-are, mellow, "What canna getcha, hon?" kind of place (to native Baltimoreans, this may not even be worth pointing out--George W. Bush refers to his West Texas strut as "walking", after all--but from a suburban DC perspective, it's a very foreign, or should I say, four...one-O, phenomenon). In fact, this relaxed feel is probably the single greatest factor in explaining the pub's broad appeal--bona fide beer geeks seem to be but a small minority among its clientele.

The taps are pretty varied as far as style and region/country; I've encountered plenty of Belgians here (Tripel Karmeliet seems to be a de facto fixture) as well as elusive barleywines (Uinta XV among others) and highly anticipated seasonal (Life and Limb) and regional (Hop Pocket Ale) releases. There's definitely some local representation among the taps but, unlike a lot of spots in the area, it doesn't seem that they're slavishly compelled to have a Loose Cannon or a Resurrection Ale on all the time (I don't think I've ever even seen the latter here), which, to my mind, is refreshing. Rotation, dynamism, keeping it fresh is the name of the game here. I've not once been handed an American IPA in a Guinness glass here, nor are they shy about using snifters and tulips when called for.

Beer knowledge on the part of the staff can vary from adequate to competent to guru-esque, and they're quick to make recommendations or offer tastes; in general the service is at once attentive, friendly, professional, and laid-back. Prepare to do a little extra conversing, and a lot of extra listening, if you run into the proprietor--he's one loquacious dude.

The JB seems like it has yet to be discovered as a beer destination or even, more basically, as a popular social venue; foot traffic on Main Street thins out considerably this far west. I've only ever visited mid-week evenings or weekend afternoons, but it never seems too busy; for someone who endured the maelstrom of the opening weeks/baptism by fire of DC's ChurchKey, this should seem like blessed relief, but there are times when I think its location amidst quaint shops on what is essentially an antique row is an incongruous one. For craft beer enthusiasts who don't mind the excursion, the Bench makes for a nice respite from the crowds at Max', Mahaffey's, & al. If you're already in Howard County, there's no reason you shouldn't be supporting this local bastion of craft beer, even if it means imbibing a haunted hefeweizen or a ghoulish gueuze (Ellicott City is notoriously haunted, if you haven't heard; the JB is no exception.). 8 [

...if you believe in that sort of thing = )

02-14-2010 06:02:00 | More by MaltistLupulist
Photo of Jrut224


4.55/5  rDev +8.9%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 4 | selection: 5 | food: 3.5 | $$$

This is definitely my favorite place to grab a brew in the area. I cannot praise this place enough.... Kegs are rotated on 17 taps, and the selection is superior to most/ if not all in the area. Every time I return I get excited over trying something knew. The bartenders are also very willing to help you select a beer, even when they are busy. I must have tried 4 or 5 samples before I chose my first beer. The selection of bottles is also something to drool over. One of my favorite things about this bar is private room upstairs, which is equipped with a big screen TV, a few leather chairs to sit, and a foosball table. The atmosphere, along with an incredible selection of beer, brings me back every chance I get.

And if you get a chance to talk to the owner, I highly suggest it. Definitely a cool dude, who's very knowledgeable and passionate about his beer business.

01-28-2010 00:49:09 | More by Jrut224
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The Judge's Bench in Ellicott City, MD
92 out of 100 based on 19 ratings.