ARE YOU READY FOR BALTIMORE BEER WEEK?!?!?!?!
Too bad, because here it comes, ready or not.
As with past years, this blog will go over the schedule of nearly 400 events and highlight events worthy of extra consideration, effort, or admission charge. Be aware that selections are simply a sampling and personal selection of the events out there, with emphasis on the "new," the "different," and the "exotic" or "unique"--a beer dinner at a restaurant or museum that doesn't normally do beer or dinners, for example, will get attention over a brewery tap takeover at one of the "standard" craft beer venues like Max's, Mahaffey's, Metropolitan, the brewpubs, etc. Also, we're looking for geographic diversity--a beer event in Ellicott City may appeal more to someone in Columbia than several beer "tappenings" in Fells Point, as an example.
Beer experience can also be a deciding factor. If you are in your early 20s and new to craft beer, for example, a visit to a "mainstream" beer festival like those at the Zoo or Victoria Gastro Pub may serve one better than the Chesapeake Real Ale Festival. Consider cost as well--a couple inexpensive (or even free) beers may be better for the "starving artist" or college student, whereas those with good incomes need not think twice about a $75 beer dinner.
Finally, be aware that some events, such as the Real Ale Festival and beer dinners, are limited-admission and will sell out.
FRIDAY the 19th: Obviously, the Opening Tap Ceremony and party at the Power Plant Live will start off much of the first weekend's fun for most people; the ceremonial tapping of the “First
Firkin” from Heavy Seas Beer by Baltimore’s Best BEERtender (selected by a poll at the BBW website) will get the party started at 6pm, with an after-party at the adjacent Leinenkugel's Beer Garden after 9 PM. For those for whom a trip deep downtown doesn't appeal,. there are a plethora of "happy hour," "tap takeover," and Friday night beer tastings spread throughout the area. Who officially starts off Baltimore Beer Week? It all depends who opens their doors first; several venues normally open at 11 AM on Fridays, including the Wharf Rat, Alexander's Tavern, and Max's Taphouse in Fells Point, and An Poitin Stil in Cockeysville (with a Natty Boh Bratwurst Lunch special). Next in the queue is Mahaffey's in Canton opening at noon, and Big Jim's Deli in the Cross Street Market offering a "Power Lunch" with Flying Dog Ales. Alonso's in Roland Park features a Union Craft takeover with a firkin they assisted in brewing; and Max's reaches out to the "sick of beer" and gluten-free crowd with a cider tasting at the same time as the Opening Tap, and the Heavy Seas Alehouse will have their own event after the Opening Tap. But don't stay out too late, because you'll need your rest for.....
SATURDAY the 20th: The busiest, most hustling day of the "week." How many festivals do you want? There's the 9th Annual Chesapeake Real Ale Festival at the Pratt Street Ale House downtown, the "OktoBEARfest" fundraiser benefit at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore's Druid Hill Park, the 11th annual (but "all new") Pigtown Festival on Washington Avenue west of the stadiums with BBQ and Heavy Seas Beer, and the Second Annual Maryland Beer Festival at Victoria Gastro Pub in Columbia. Out in Abingdon, Friendship Wine & Liquors is hosting a small beer "fest" for the second year in a row, and in Fells Point Kooper's Tavern is holding a "Maryland Beer Fest" with a tap takeover by Maryland breweries. Brewery tours will be held at Heavy Seas in Halethorpe (advance reservations required), Union Craft Brewing in Woodberry, and Monocacy Brewing in Frederick. Hop Heads on Pulaski Highway near Middle River will be having a Hop Fest of hoppy beers all day and night, and at the opposite end of the spectrum Liam Flynn's Ale House on North Avenue will be holding its No Hops Gruit Ale Competition that evening, with entries from both commercial brewers and homebrewers, with guest "celebrity" judge Bruce Williams of Fraoch Heather Ale fame. The Star-Spangled Banner Flag House will host a homebrew competition as well, and for something different, an "Autumn Blaze Fire Festival" at Baltimore Clayworks in the Mt. Washington Village neighborhood. Burley Oak's brewers will be "meeting and greeting" at Duda's Tavern in Fells Point that night. Finally, Of Love & Regret and Brian Strumke will be hosting a "celebrity roast" of Max's cellar master Casey Hard (don't fret; he's not going anywhere).