Friday, October 19, 2012

Best of Baltimore Beer Week: Brent's Picks

Here we are at that magical time of year once again.  Homeowners scramble to stock up on candy to distribute to the masses of goblins and princesses soon to be knocking on their front door.  Legendary baseball games are being played nightly and having a major impact on workplace productivity the next day.  And the humidity that blankets the Mid-Atlantic region is quickly getting pushed away as our old friend, cold air, slowly creeps further south on a weekly basis.  These are signs that the fall season is here and what better way to bring in fall than by "celebrating all things beer in the Land of Pleasant Living."  Bring on Baltimore Beer Week!!!

I'll be honest, even as a local homebrewer and member of the beer community here in Baltimore, on the surface Baltimore Beer Week can be quite intimidating.  By quickly browsing the Baltimore Beer Week, you will soon find that there are an astounding 396 (as of this blog being written) events to choose from over a 10-day period.  Even for the seasoned beer geek, the number of events can be somewhat overwhelming.  I can't even imagine what it would be like for someone who is new to craft beer or homebrewing trying to choose which events to attend.  That is where I come in.  Having participated in many of the events at past Baltimore Beer Weeks, I figured I'd try my best at breaking down the best of the best in an effort to try and assist you through this marathon week of beer drinking.  Before I get down to my picks, I want to make sure you understand a few things.  
1)  This list is strictly based on events I have attended in the past and had an exceptional time at.  That does not mean events not listed here aren't worth attending.  In fact, you are very likely to have just a good a time at any of the other events that aren't listed here but that are part of Baltimore Beer Week
2)  I encourage even those who are not beer geeks or homebrewers to attend these events, ask questions of the people running the events or those sitting next to you.  Baltimore's beer scene is chock full of some of the nicest people I have ever met.  They love their beer, but also love to talk about beer.  So strike up a conversation with people attending these events.  You might just learn something, or better yet, find people who have a lot of the same interests that you do.  
3)  Most importantly, there are a lot of great beers, some of which contain a high amount of alcohol.  Please, please, PLEASE make sure you have a safe, sober ride home from any of these events.  This is a celebration of beer, the breweries, drinking establishments and other business that support our wonderful beer scene here in Baltimore.  One alcohol related accident, injury, or fatality could ruin something great for a lot of people.  Please be mindful in making sure you have a safe way home when attending these events.  

Okay and here you list of the top events to go to (in chronological order):

The Chesapeake Real Ale Festival - Saturday, October 20th
Why you should go:  This event is always nothing short of epic and I'm glad to see they are having the best beer fest event of Baltimore Beer Week right up front.  Long story short, the number of cask conditioned beers available at this event is unseen here in the United States.  We are fortunate to have it right here in Baltimore at the Pratt Street Alehouse.  Couple the amazing, super rare beers with excellent music and people, and you have a recipe for a great afternoon.  
Price:  $40 in Advance/$50 at the Door/$60 VIP

Stillwater Day - Sunday, October 21st
Why you should go:  Stillwater Artisanal Ales brewmaster, Brian Strumke is one of the best new brewers on the international craft beer scene.  Max's will have pretty much every beer that Brian has crafted available to consume, plus a special bottle release of the "Now and Then Project - Cellar Door" will be available to purchase at 10am.  This dry hopped ale aged in french oak barrels and conditioned with brett is a very rare beer limited to 100 sets (so if you want one, get in line early).  One bottle is meant to be consumed now and the other is meant to be consumed in 6 months to 1 year later to observe the transformation from up-front hop aroma to the added complexity developed by the wild yeast.
Price:  Free to enter, pay as you go.
Women of Homebrew Unite! - Sunday, October 21st
Why you should go:  This was a surprise hit last year.  It was foolish of me, but I didn't realize how many women brewers we had here in the Baltimore area.  Not only were there 20 or so women brewers serving up their beer, but there were some damn fine beers here.  At the cost of a $5 donation to the Maryland Women's Law Center, you get entry to the event and a cup to sample all the great homebrewed beers on hand.  I'll definitely be on hand for this event.  Judging starts at noon and to ensure you get some of the yumminess, I'd highly recommend getting there early because at $5, this event is a steal!!!
Price:  $5 donation

Pumpkinfest - Monday, October 22nd
Why you should go:  24 pumpkin beers on draft from breweries like Heavy Seas, Flying Dog, Dogfish, Weyerbacher, Southern Tier, Uinta, RJ Rockers, and my personal favorite from this list Elysian?  Um please save me a seat!!!
Price:  Pay as you go

Maryland Homebrew Beer Dinner - Tuesday, October 23rd
Why you should go:  T-Bonz Grille and Pub, Maryland Homebrew, and the Cross Street Irregulars Homebrew Club have gotten together for their 2nd annual homebrew dinner.  Several courses of food will be paired with 5 beers brewed by the top homebrewers in the CSI Homebrew Club.  I went last year and loved it (not just because I am the president of CSI, but because the beers and food were amazing!!).  I think you would love it too.  Compared to the price of some of the other beer dinners associated with Baltimore Beer Week, this one is more reasonably priced.  
Price:  $50 for general public or $45 for members of T-Bonz beer club.  Note:  If you want to go, purchase tickets now as seating is limited.

Homebrew Extravaganza Benefiting BARCS - Wednesday, October 24th

Why you should go:  This event is in its third year and it remains one of the most epic events of Baltimore Beer Week.  There is going to be tons of amazing homebrew here.  The entry fees paid go to a great organization, BARCS.  And the event is just a lot of fun.  Since it has been so popular, it has grown from taking over one corner in Little Havana to pretty much taking up the whole restaurant.  This year will be the greatest year yet and I can't wait to try all the awesome homebrews being served at this event.  At $10 to enter, this event is a steal!!!

Baltimore Beer: A Satisfying History of Charm City Brewing - Thursday, October 25th

Why you should go:  Baltimore has a real legend in Rob Kasper.  A long time writer for the Baltimore Sun, Rob has recently authored a book called Baltimore Beer: A Satisfying History of Charm City Brewing refreshing account of the history of brewing in Baltimore, from ancient craft brewers in the 18th century,through the beer wars of the Victorian era, to mass production in the 20th century, then back to craft brewers in the 21st.  He attended a CSI meeting and gave a great talk on his book and shared some really interesting stories about brewing in Baltimore.  I highly recommend going to this event and hearing him speak.  Even pick up a book and have him sign it.  I have a copy and it is great reading!!!
Price:  Free
For more information:

Charitably Charmin’ ChiliBrew VI - Friday, October 26th

Why you should go:  My friends in BaltiBrew put on an excellent chili and homebrew competition every spring and fall.  The homebrewed beer is amazing and the chili serves as a perfect pairing item.  $15 gets in you as a tasting judge.  That will get you a ballot to vote on any or all of the competitions (chili con carne, veggie chili, and homebrew, though you must be 21 or older for homebrew of course).  It's a fun time with some great people.  Previous installments have each drawn about 30+ entries and 200+ enthusiastic judges, so it's a great time!  The $15 donation goes to benefit the Baltimore Rock Opera Society, the Indypendent Reader, and Whitelock Community Farm.  It always feels good to drink beer and eat chili for a great cause!
Price:  $15 donation
For more information:

Beer Taps and Homebrew:  Made in Baltimore - Saturday, October 27th
Why you should go: Come meet me!!!  I'll be conducting a homebrew demonstration at this event on behalf of the Cross Street Irregulars Homebrew Club and serving up some awesome homebrew in the process.  All while the master beer tap handle makers at Mark Supik and Company do their thing, hand crafting some amazing beer tap handles.  While you are there, be sure to stop by the Beer Tap Handle Museum and check out all the awesome beer tap handles that were created by Mark and his staff over the years.

Price:  Free
For more information:

A Bar on Every Corner II - Historical Walking Pub Tour

Me chillin with a beer on top of the Natty Boh building
Why you should go:  How else could you ever enjoy a frosty cold one while standing on the roof of the Natty Boh building?  Yup that is what we got to do last year on this tour.  It was awesome!!  We stumbled around Brewers Hill and Canton for several hours, going bar to bar, drinking beer and having a blast.  This year's format is a little different in that it will be more laid back and hitting less bars, but it should be just as much fun.  The highlight is definitely the view of Baltimore from the top of the Natty Boh building.  We have a beautiful city here and I've never seen it more beautiful than last year as I stood on top of the Natty Boh building with a beer in hand.  How else would you ever get this opportunity?  This is a must attend event!!!
Price:  $40 and is limited to the first 50 people.
For more information:

The bottom line, a lot of hard work goes into making Baltimore Beer Week 10 of the greatest days of the year here in Baltimore.  Get out there.  Support this event and the businesses and people that make Baltimore one of the greatest beer drinking cities in the world.  Cheers!!!



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