DuClaw brewing just sent me another of their HTML/graphics-heavy e-mails announcing the next firkin event at their Arundel Mills location: June 6th, with a firkin each of vanilla-infused Bad Moon Porter, strawberry-infused Bare-Ass Blonde, and double-dry-hopped Consecration American Brown Ale. On tap at 5 PM until they're gone. The last time I was at one of these events, it was a crazed madhouse that drained two firkins in about 30 minutes. Much as I may like the beer, it just isn't worth such a scene to me.
There's always been something a bit mystifying about the DuClaw chain to me. They can do decent (and at times terrific) beer, but they only seem to promote their firkins and better stuff at the Arundel Mills site. The brewers, Jim Wagner and "Bo" Lenck, say that the cask beer sells at Arundel Mills and languishes at their other locations--and, having seen the near-riot conditions at the firkin events at Arundel Mills, I know they're being accurate. But I don't see these chaotic crowds at, say, Max's Belgian Fest or a beer festival. (Then again, the layout of the beer festivals at least encourages an orderly line. If folks had to line up for a glass of real ale at Arundel Mills, the chaos would diminish considerably.)
Don't get me wrong. I like their beer, and anyone promoting real ale is a hero in my book. But I truly wonder if the frenzy I see at these events is really over good beer, or a frenzy for frenzy's sake? Are there THAT many beer fans in Anne Arundel and Howard Counties that refuse to go into an urban setting for terrific beer? Has DuClaw managed to create a good-beer following where none existed before? Or have they tapped into a kind of mob-driven marketing frenzy akin to bringing the Swedish Bikini Team to their place--the mob is there because it's a mob?
I'd truly be interested in hearing from DuClaw regulars on this. But I have a nagging suspicion that DuClaw beer regulars don't have much of an overlap with the rest of the Baltimore beer scene or those that attend a diversity of outlets.