Beer Guy: The Gourd, The Bad, and the Ugly

Beer Guy: The Gourd, The Bad, and the Ugly

10304795_10204046575140796_2763952147512877295_n Before I get into seasonal goodness, I want to set the record straight – in one of my past columns I intimated that the plans for Amber Fields Brewing had been abandoned. I jumped the gun. In a column entitled Meet the New Boss, I wrote,  “Amber Fields, a company dedicating to growing local barley and malting it, has…or at least had long term plans to become another of the county’s farm breweries.
his is my mea culpa, as in the words of Tom Flores, one of the principals in Amber Fields, “We still have long term plans to create a farm brewery at Greg Clabaugh’s place…Our plans are still the same as they have always been. Just because we move slowly and methodically should not be confused with a lack of ambition or motivation. Rather it is evidence of persistence and a desire to do things right by not getting too far ahead of ourselves in terms of our technical abilities to create quality malt, as well as avoiding burdensome debt to finance this project. We have steadily been creating cash flow through the production of malt for Brewer’s Alley and Monocacy Brewing, most notably rye malt for the Riot Rye Pale Ale.

“From my perspective, we are the originators of the local farm brewery scene, though our final vision has yet to materialize. We first started our experimentation with locally grown and malted grains back in the year 2000. Later, after years of demonstrating the feasibility of this concept to ourselves and others, Greg and I worked with Colby Ferguson from the Frederick County Office of Economic Development in 2009 (when Jan Gardner was still President of the County Commissioners) to create changes to the Zoning Ordinance which would allow for a farm brewery to exist in compliance with zoning requirements. At the time they reckoned a brewery as an industrial activity, not an agricultural activity. We made the case that this was value-added agriculture and met with Larry Smith, Zoning Administrator, of the Frederick County Department of Permits and Development to discuss the need for a change to the Zoning Ordinance. We had a vigorous discussion that day, but it was fruitful. Larry’s staff worked up proposed changes based upon an existing ordinance in Calvert County that capped the annual production of a farm brewery at 15,000BBL, as well as their own review of the operations of breweries already in Frederick County. The Commissioners approved the proposed changes and that was one hurdle we needed to get over. The next one was the issue of getting approval from the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation (MALPF), of which Greg is part. This required us to testify in Annapolis in a day-long hearing before the MALPF Board of Trustees in 2010. This was an eye-opening experience and we did prevail with the case which we made, though it wasn’t a sure thing going into the hearing.

“And recently, we participated in getting the new Class 8 Manufacturer’s License passed into law. We’ve always had our eye on a Class 5, but offered testimony in support of the Class 8 simply because it seemed to us that this proposal would elevate the profile of Maryland breweries and highlight the issue of value-added agriculture. Even though we never were planning to pursue this type of license for ourselves, we felt it was important to lend our assistance in the effort to pass this legislation. Plus the sponsor, Delegate Schulz, is our Delegate, both for Greg and myself.”

Good Gourd
A brief note – seasonally, I find the fall fascinating. As far as seasonal beers go, I think this may well be the most polarizing time of year…or starting two months ago it was. Pumpkin beers are considered a fall beer, and in recent years, brewers have been rushing to be the first to have their pumpkin-inspired brews on the shelves – so much so that now the first are available at the tail end of July.
I won’t get into that rant, even though it is fully deserving of one, but I do want to talk a bit about the other issue with pumpkin beers…
There seems to be little to no middle ground for pumpkin beers – people seem to love them or they hate them. No one ever seems to be lukewarm about them.
For some it’s a harbinger of autumn, a sign of the harvest. For others, the beers are an abomination. Personally, I’m largely in the former camp – I enjoy a good pumpkin beer, and feel they taste like fall, but I don’t fault those who dislike them. I understand the idea of looking for malt or hops, rather than pumpkin pie spices in one’s beer. That said – bad pumpkin beers, and they’re certainly out there, can not only be bad…they can be downright ugly.
The Beer Calendar
This is a a busy weekend for beer fans, with events all over the place – but I’m going to focus on just a couple, including one that you might have to travel a little for…
Up in Hagerstown is the first-ever Quad State Beerfest. The festival kicks off at Noon on Saturday at the grounds of the old Hager Drive-In and features beers from regional breweries from the four-state area. There’s a great piece on the festival in the Herald-Mail, if you’re looking for more information.
Right here in Frederick, Flying Dog is hosting the Local Riot – an open air market supporting local artisinal-oriented businesses. Think of it as an open-air market at which you can get beer and food. Sure to be a good time, but remember, it is a 21+ only event.
If you’re willing to make the two hour drive on Saturday to the Fordham/Old Dominion Brewery in Dover, DE, then you can hit the 2nd Annual Cheesetoberfest! What is that, you ask? A beerfest/grilled cheese competition, which, this year, has added a mac n cheese category. Enjoy beers by Fordham and Old Dominion and be part of the audience judging as restaurants from around the Mid-Atlantic compete for the titles of Best Mac n Cheese and Best Grilled Cheese in the area. Get there early, though. Pre-sales sold out, and only a handful of tickets were held back for sales at the door. I already have my home angioplasty kit ready.
And here are a couple of others…
Sat. Oct. 4 – Beginner Brewing Class at Maryland Homebrew in Columbia, Md. – 
12 p.m.-1 p.m.; $20; Terry Hosford will show how to steep your grain through pitching the yeast while covering everything in the middle and the end. mdhb.com/events.php

Sat. Oct. 4 – Beertoberfest at Severna Park Taphouse in Severna Park, Md. – 
12 p.m.-6 p.m.; $35; Over 30 different beers from 15+ breweries, featuring rarities from local brewers as well as hard to find stuff from all over the
Sat. Oct. 4 – RhinO’fest at Lost Rhino Brewing Company, Ashburn, Va. – 
12 p.m.-7 p.m.; $10-$25; We’re opening up our brewery and ‘backyard’ for an in/outdoor festival of craft beer, food trucks, local vendors, outdoor games, a kids area, and live music. lostrhino.com/events.html
Sat. Oct. 4 – Houndtoberfest at Baying Hound, Rockville, Md. – 
Lets kick off the fall season PROPER with some fresh seasonal brews from your favorite local nano-brewery and some incredible nomz! Free to all ages, leashed and well behaved dogs are always welcome! Tasty eats from Dog Tags Grub, live music, trivia, and more. https://www.facebook.com/events/1557359117817817/

Tue. Oct. 7 – Brewhouse Rarities Black Honey IPA Release at Flying Dog Brewery, Frederick, Md. – 
4 p.m.-6 p.m. and 6 p.m.-8 p.m.; $5; Make a reservation online for one of our two tasting sessions. flyingdogbrewery.com/event/brewhouse-rarities-black-honey-ipa-release/?instance_id=1445
And an Announcement from our Friends at Flying Dog…
Flying Dog, Maryland’s largest brewery, is teaming up with Baltimore-based Otterbein’s Bakery on four new, cookie-inspired craft beers that will be released in a holiday 12-pack. “Craft beer is a revolution that is fueled by equal parts tradition and innovation,” Flying Dog CMO Ben Savage said. “Partnering with a local, family owned bakery and unleashing the creativity of our brewers on this unique partnership is incredibly exciting.”Holiday Collection pack + bottles
Brewed exclusively for this project, the Flying Dog Holiday Collection will include:• Imperial Hefeweizen, inspired by and meant to be paired with Otterbein’s Sugar Cookies• Oatmeal Raisin Stout, inspired by and meant to be paired with Otterbein’s Oatmeal Raisin Cookies• Oak-Aged Hazelnut Scotch Ale, inspired by and meant to be paired with Otterbein’s Ginger Cookies

• Roasted Peanut Brown Ale, inspired by and meant to be paired with Otterbein’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

“In developing each of these recipes, we didn’t simply want to recreate the flavors of each cookie,” Flying Dog Brewmaster Matt Brophy said. “Instead, we used ingredients like specialty-roasted malts and new yeast strains to create flavor profiles that enhance and complement each pairing.”

“Flying Dog did a phenomenal job pairing the beers with our cookies,” Ben Otterbein, Vice President of Otterbein’s, said. “This project happened at a really great time, with Otterbein’s Cookies going into its 5thto a classic family bakery.”

The four beers, alongside their cookie counterparts, will premiere on tap in the Flying Dog taproom on Friday, November 7. Tickets for the beer and cookie pairing are $35 and available through Flying Dog’s website. The Flying Dog Holiday Collection will be available on shelves and on draft starting November 1 exclusively in Maryland.

“It’s rare and exciting for us to brew four brand-new beers specifically for one project,” Savage said. “And what makes this even more special is that it’s truly a package made for Marylanders by Marylanders.”