Frederick Beer Week wrapped up with The Brewer's Association of Maryland's Craft Beer Festival. I always look forward to seeing (and drinking) what Maryland craft brewers have to offer. It was held at Carrol Creek this year. Chris thought it would be a poor venue, but I was excited about it because other festivals on the creek usually turn out well.
As it turns out Chris was right. Not because of the venue itself but because of poor planning, layout, and execution. Don't get me wrong, I had a nice time and we tried a number of excellent brews from Maryland breweries, young and old. But our good time was reduced somewhat by the following:
I think that when most people hear that an event is on the Creek, they usually assume you enter by the Community Bridge. At least I do. Well, I started by the Bridge and had no idea where the entrance was. There were no signs and nobody directing, so I wandered around for about 10 minutes until I realized that the entrance was down on Market St. near La Paz.. Then I found a line that was over a block long to get in.
The event had access to approximately a quarter mile stretch of the creek but only utilized the last 500 feet or so. The reason I heard was that the organizers wanted to keep the brewers close together and close to the music so they would not complain that they were not close to the action. I say, if they were spread along the creek evenly, so too would be the action. During the VIP Hour this was a near perfect event (especially since my kids were not there yet), great beer, nice chill-and-not-too-loud music, and reasonable lines. But after the gates were flung open to the rest of the world things got really (really) crowded thanks to the limited layout.
Last year we brought our kids, and there was a inflatable "jumpy thing" as my daughters call it, and "The Fun Bus" for kids, which is way less creepy than it sounds. This year, the marketing materials touted the event's family friendly environment, so we brought them again this year. Apparently this year family friendly means folk music, huge crowds, and a couple of teetering blow up couches right next to a drop-off into the creek. And oh right, a face painter. Also, the VIP porta-potties were not really enforced, the VIP tent was hidden away, and the line for food was 3,000 miles long.
That's enough bitching, now onto the beers! I tried:
The Brewer's Art: Haymarket Belgian Pale Ale Ruddy Duck (ew) Brewery: Cask conditioned ESB Brewer's Alley: Whiskey Barrel Aged Oatmeal Stout Union Craft Brewery: Clawhammer Cream Ale Heavy Seas: Cask conditioned Loose Cannon IPA Pub Dog: Red Rye IPA Heavy Seas: The big DIPA Double IPA Barley and Hops Oak Aged Hoptopsy on Cask Push Brewing: Hebrew Knievel Red IPA DuClaw Brewing Company: Oz "fractional" IPA Franklin's Restaurant: 97 lb weakling Wheat Wine Flying Dog: Snake Dog IPA in a firkin with local hops DuClaw Brewing: Chai Retribution Imperial Stout Barley and Hops: The Black Plague Sour Stout
My two favorites: Brewer's Alley's Whiskey barrel-aged stout and Union's Clawhammer. The stout reminded me of a melted root beer float. It was sweet, thick, and luscious. The Clawhammer both had an awesome name, and it had a great and surprising hop aroma and taste.
My least favorite: The Ruddy Duck ESB. The wooden cask they used must have been too new or something, but honest-to-God wood shavings came out in the beer when they poured it. It tasted like a used hamster cage.
I wish I had tried: Flying Dog's Bloodline Blood Orange IPA. Luckily I had tried it before, but that actually made me more upset when I realized I was too late and the keg was kicked.
Ultimately, there were a lot of things that could have been implemented to improve the event, but it was well worth it, especially the VIP access.