11 October 2009

The Weekend's Events

The "big kahuna" of the weekend, of course, was the Oktoberfest up at the Timonium Fairgrounds.

"Nobody goes there anymore; it's too crowded." -- attributed to Yogi Berra

Are there people alleging that there's still a recession?  Couldn't prove it by the Oktoberfest.  A preliminary guess by event organizer Greg Nivens (president of Trigger Agency) was that attendance was up 20% over last year, possibly even more.  It was so loud and crowded that my wife surrendered, and we bailed after only an hour or so.  I returned later to catch up with more of the news and events.

In the meantime, however, I was able to run past what turned out to be one of the sleeper hits of Baltimore Beer Week: the tour of the woodcrafting shops of Mark Supik & Co. in Highlandtown.  This company will likely be the subject of aeither a future Mid-Atlantic Brewing News article or a post here; for now, let's just say that this place is like walking into a time capsule of old-time craftsmanship.  This company uses vintage lathes and woodworking equipment to produce stock and custom tap handles for breweries nationwide.  In a side room is a display of many of the most innovative tap handles you are likely to ever see, including some one-of-a-kind examples and ones likely to evoke nostalgia among Baltimore beer fans--anyone remember the crab claw holding aloft a DeGroen's "Baltimore Lager" logo?  In the photo above, Nancy Supik is shown holding a new tap handle for Oliver's new Pumpkin Ale; I was specifically asked not to photograph certain tap handles being worked on in the shop that day, because they were in development to be unveiled by certain clients--one example was waiting to be express-shipped to a major national client on Tuesday.

Want your own?  They are willing to sell you a stock handle that you can then finish as you please, or you can attend regular classes and make your own.  Contact the company via the website for details.  There's also another shop tour on Saturday, Oct. 17th--stop in anytime between 1 and 3 pm.

Now, back to the zoo--I mean, Oktoberfest.............

The big problem with the Maryland Oktoberfest, as opposed to a major "open" festival welcoming all comers, is that there are relatively few "new" beers to show off from year to year.  Certainly there were newcomers--the pumpkin ales from Olivers/PSAH and White Marsh/Red Brick, for example, and the Grisette session beer from Brewers Art.

DuClaw, however, took the opportunity to announce not only a new beer, but a new strategy: The new beer is Nemesis, an 11% abv "Imperial Alt" beer; and the new strategy is bottling.  DuClaw is going to begin bottling both 22-ouncers of their stronger beers and four-pack 12-ouncers of their more "moderate" offerings, beginning with "bombers" of Devil's Milk and Nemesis to hit store shelves by the end of October, with an expected price of $10 or so a bottle.

To say they announce beers with much fanfare is an understatement.  The previous menu board atop their beer trailer, which had Velcro-affixed signs that had to be changed by climbing through the mosh-pit-like crowd and reaching above, has been replaced with a large flat-panel LCD TV screen, run with graphics from a specially-converted Microsoft Xbox video-game controller (to the right in the photo).

As beers either ran out or were replaced to free up lines for special releases, those stuck in the lines watched as the menu selections were "vaporized" by "lasers" and replaced with "robot arms" unveiling the new featured beer, with loud sound effects blaring from speakers beside the screen.  At 5 PM, however, Nemesis was announced and released with a long video display introduction straight from the world of video games.  If for no other reason than avoiding having to crawl through the crowds, it was genius.  And no other brewer could rally such frenzy, excitement, insanity, and crowding--and my camera lens has a nick in it to prove it.  (By the way, they said their "tech guys" came up with the screen.  This brewery has tech guys.  Think about that.)

So how is the Nemesis?  There aren't that many beers of this hybrid style to compare it to--a cursory Internet search only shows three or four other commercial examples in the States--and that style certainly isn't in my copy of the downright obsessive-compulsive Beer Judge Certification Program Style Guidelines.  So what did I think?  Too danged sweet for what I would consider alt style.  I compared notes with other beer writers, and what I came away with was saying it tasted like an attempt at an extra-high-alcohol Belgian dubbel with German ale yeast and too much candi sugar that died off at 11% alcohol instead of a potential 15% or so--or, say, take a high-alcohol doppelbock and add more sugar.

And that crowd killed off whatever keg of Colossus (21%) they put on at 6 pm in only 20 minutes.

Sunday:  I had been roped into helping a friend of my wife's move, so there went the morning.  I got time during the process to swing by Clipper City to check on the sold-out beer brunch.  I wish I had found time instead to get to the scheduled Red Brick Sattion beer brunch instead.  In the afternoon, I swung by Grand Cru up on Belvedere Square, who was having a chili taste-off--only four chilis being served, which was actually a bit of a blessing rather than having to struggle through fifteen or so recipes as I did at Metropolitan a while back.

Also on display was a preview of tomorrow's Grand Cru event, a do-it-yourself "kegerator" construction seminar.  If the example on display at Grand Cru today is any indication, it should be an excellent one.  That's builder and seminar presenter Christopher Attenborough posing with what really is almost a "work of art."  (No, that's just a flatscreen TV where the bar's patrons just saw the Ravens lose in the last minute of the game--there's no Xbox showing the beers on tap inside the kegerator--although, come to think of it, that's an idea, and I'm sure some techy homebrewer has tried it....  )

Monday, Oct. 12th:  The Beer Luncheon at Bertha's for me.  Other events, including lots of beer lunches and dinners, here. On Tuesday and Wednesday there are musical events in Fells Point--a free public concert on the square on Tuesday and the usual monthly sea shantey sing-along at the Wharf Rat--and the Blues and Brews concert at the 8x10 in Federal Hill on Wednesday (a featured Beer Week event).

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