18 October 2012

Baltimore Beer Week: Sneak Previews and Picks


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.

The hyperlinks on the dates below will take you to the official list of events for the day:

FRIDAY the 19th:  36 events.  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, Hellas in Millersville, Anne Arundel County will offer dueling Heavy Seas and Oskar Blues firkins, 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," with 48 events.  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 with cash prizes, 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).

SUNDAY the 21st::  27 events.  The "special" event of the day for the hardcore "geeks" is Stillwater Day at Max's Taphouse with a special release available for purchase only to the first 100-ish folks who line up early, with 20-plus Stillwater and Stillwater-collaboration beers on draft and bottle.  Hudson Street Stackhouse will be doing its "Tri-StateTap Takeover" with beers from Heavy Seas, Dogfish Head, and Troeg's; T-Bonz in Ellicott City will be hosting Flying Dog's Freak Show Fest; Kloby's in North Laurel will have a "firkin battle" between Flying Dog and Heavy Seas, while Heavy Seas Ale House will have a "very Berry Special firkin" of some undisclosed sort for the football action.  Maryland Homebrew in Columbia will host a women's-only homebrew competition (which all can judge); Alonso's will have a charity fundraiser featuring six New Belgium beers; and Union Craft Brewing will get behind the pins with a Duckpin Day at Stoneleigh Lanes on York Road near the city line, with the namesake Duckpin Pale Ale.  In the evening, Key Highway's Little Havana will have a bonfire, Red Brick Station in White Marsh a Chili Smackdown competition, and Blue Grass Tavern in Federal Hill a Beer-versus-Wine Dinner, and Heavy Seas will be a feature of the Haunted Pub Crawl in Fells Point.

MONDAY the 22nd:  39 events.  In past years, the Columbus Day holiday allowed many an extra day of sampling or punishment, but not this year.  The vast majority of the events this day are tied in to either traditional afternoon "happy hour" (4-7, 5-8, etc. depending on venue) or Monday Night Football.  Two notable (and "big-ticket") exceptions: Fleet Street Kitchen in Harbor East will be hosting a Stillwater Beer Dinner, and The Brewer's Art a beer dinner paired with wood-aged beers from New Belgium and the brewery's wooded-beer specialist.  If those $90-a-plate dinners are too expensive, The Americana in Canton will offer a $12.50 gourmet grilled cheese sandwich paired with one of 24 drafts.   Elliott's Pour House in Highlandtown and Brewer's Cask in Federal Hill will be hosting Beer Trivia Night; JD's Smokehouse will pit East vs. West Coast beers, and Mahaffey's will pit two different staff-brewed firkins against one another.  Flying Dog will host a Historic Pub Crawl in Ellicott City with a firkin at Judge's Bench; Dawson's Liquors in White Marsh will be pouring samples from those big "barrel-series" Sam Adams bottles you may have been seeing on the shelves; Hudson Street Stackhouse will feature Evil Twin beers; and Max's will debut Ballast Point beers to Maryland that night.

TUESDAY the 23rd:  46 events.  (Stay tuned for updates.)

1 comment:

JohnM. said...

Alex. Something you might want to add regarding the Max's event on Sunday, is that they're opening up an hour early that day. It's a great idea, given my recent experiences on Sundays during football season. The Ravens game will be on at 1:00, and unless folks get there plenty early, I strongly recommend avoiding Max's on Sunday afternoon (and Fells Point generally, unless you use public transporation - horrible parking). The place will be absolutely packed with football fans, with barely standing room only available.