Frederick Beer Week is Coming!

Frederick Beer Week is Coming!

The FBW Board of Directors is proud to announce that Frederick Beer Week will kick off on Friday, May 29, 2015 with the FBW Tap Takeover, and wrap up on Saturday, June 6, 2015 with the Beerfest at the Farm. Have a safe and happy holiday season, we look forward to seeing you all this spring.





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.

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.
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.

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.
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.”

Beer Guy: The Event Calendar

Beer Guy: The Event Calendar

September/October is always a busy time for a beer writer. Always.IMG_1135

This week alone there’s a lot happening. Tonight, for instance, if you’re willing to take a short drive down to DC and hit Churchkey, the DC craft beer destination is hosting an event celebrating the 25th anniversary of one of the Mid-Atlantic’s long-time staples of the craft beer industry. From the Churchkey website –

DOMINION BREWING COMPANY 25TH ANNIVERSARY EXTRAVAGANZA: “THE DREAM” DC DEBUT, TOTAL TAP TAKEOVER FROM DOMINION BREWERS PAST & PRESENT + MEET FOUNDER JERRY BAILEY! WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 17 AT 6 PM Join us as we celebrate 25 years of beer from Dominion Brewing! This anniversary party will also mark the DC debut of their new 25th Anniversary Black India Pale Lager, The Dream. And we’ll have a special guest of honor in the house: Dominion Brewing Company Founder Jerry Bailey himself! In addition to the lineup of Dominion drafts, we’ll be turning the taps over to 7 brew-eries who’ve inspired, created, supported and drank with Dominion including Lost Rhino Brewing Co., Old Ox Brewing, Victory Brewing Co., Starr Hill Brewing Co., Lagunitas Brewing Co., Bell’s Brew-ery, and Mad Fox Brewing Co.

Casey Hollingsworth over at Dominion added that Brewer’s Art recently was added to the tap list for the event, as well.

And for those of you unfamiliar with the history, yes, Old Dominion/Fordham (Coastal Brewing) is independently owned. AB/InBev divested themselves of the brewery which they briefly owned just before their purchase of Goose Island in Chicago.

If you can’t make it out to DC tonight, Madrones is advertising the following for tomorrow and Friday:

September Tap Takeovers at Madrones
Breckenridge and Jailbreak Breweries
Breckenridge Tap Takeover – September 18th, 6PM
Join us for some rare brews!  Autumn, Regal Pils, Lucky U,  IPA 471 will be on tap.
Jailbreak First Release – September 19th, 6PM
On tap: Big Punisher, Welcome to Scoville, Feed the Monkey and Made Wit Basil.

And all this is just the tip of the iceberg. This weekend is the Maryland Brewer’s Harvest in Baltimore (complete with the announcement of the winners of the Maryland Comptroller’s Cup Competition for the title of Best Beer in Maryland), as is the DuClaw Real Ale Festival in Bel Air – a beer fest that always provides an opportunity to enjoy cask conditioned beers that you won’t find anywhere else.

The Autumn celebration of Maryland beer/craft beer is followed next weekend by the Maryland Microbreweries Festival in Union Mills, Frederick Oktoberfest, Lovettsville Oktoberfest. All fine festivals as well.

Next week, I talk Frederick County’s Amber Waves, Dominion’s Cheesetoberfest (coming up on October 4).

Until then, be well and drink good beer.


Beer Guy: Our New Neighbors

Photo (3)Craft beer is booming.

Not that it’s news that the small brewers out there are doing well, and our region is a microcosm of what’s going on. Ten years ago, Frederick hosted three breweries. Montgomery County hosted Summit Station, a brewpub; Carroll County? Clay Pipe Brewing and Johansson’s Brewpub; Washington County had nothing, and Loudoun was home only to Old Dominion. That five-county/two-state region was home to seven breweries.

Today? It’s hard to keep track. Frederick County alone hosts six breweries, with two more scheduled to open soon. MontCo hosts two, Carroll three, Washington County has one, and Loudoun? Well…Loudoun is going a little nuts. With Lost Rhino, Mud Hound, McDowell Beer Kitchen, Barnhouse, Mad Horse, Corcoran, Adroit Theory, and the recently opened Old 690 Brewing Co., the craft beer business is growing at an impressive rate – nanos, micros, brewpubs? They’re all a part of the development happening next door.

And for the most part, I like our new neighbors.

There’s some very good beer coming out of Loudoun right now, and Old 690 is a great addition to the county’s line-up. Loudoun’s answer to Frederick County’s Milkhouse Brewery at Stillpoint Farm, Old 690 is a farm-brewery growing hops and making beer in the bucolic setting of the back-roads of the unincorporated little burg of Hillsboro.

Billing itself as Hillsboro’s oldest brewery, the roughly month-old venture already has developed a following. With a strong line-up of beers, which includes one of the best session-IPA’s you’ll find (small beer, big flavors), the brewery offers a great, relaxing setting to sit and enjoy some well crafted brews.

For those of you looking for Old 690, it resides at 15670 Ashbury Church Rd, Purcellville, Virginia.

Definitely worth the visit.

Until next week, be well and drink good beer.


Beer Guy: Supper’s Ready

This is a good week. I got things done, rumors of the Beer Camp case being found locally have reached my ears, this weekend is the JoAnn Garrett 10333495_716949105032351_488547306507389777_oClassic, and tomorrow night, here in Frederick, is a true pan-Maryland craft beer event as Barley and Hops will be hosting a beer dinner featuring the beers of Baltimore’s Full Tilt Brewing Co.

Let’s start with that last one, the Full Tilt Beer Dinner.

Yeah, this is an unusual thing, and worth talking about – a brewpub pairing courses with beers that are not their own. It’s different, it’s strange, and it is tres cool.

For those of you not familiar, and I’m sure most of you are, a beer dinner is a dinner that usually consists of five courses paired (typically) with house beers. It’s unusual for a brewpub to do this with a different brewery’s brews, but there’s a plan, says chef Kevin Barnette. “We want to do more of these (dinners with other breweries), and in the future, maybe make them collaboration dinners,” he explained. Brewmaster “Larry [Pomerantz] and I talked about two courses with our beers, two with theirs, and maybe some sort of blend, or collaboration beer [brewed specially for the dinner]. We just didn’t have time to do it for this one.”

While collaboration ales have picked up steam – Frederick Beer Week’s collaboration, Cigar City with New Belgium, Victory with Dogfishhead, the list goes on – and collaborative beer dinners do happen, it’s a little unusual for them to happen at a brewpub. This sort of beer dinner would more commonly be found at a place like Madrones, or JoJo’s, or The Roasthouse. I, for one, am looking forward to this, and the ones in the future – the ones that become truly collaborative brewing enterprises between the brewpub and the participating brewery.

And for those of you curious about this one, it’s a great menu with unusual items like quail, and wild boar. Add to that the job that Kevin does selecting his pairings, and you’re in for an evening of great beer and awesome food.

So, if you’re not able to make tomorrow night’s beer dinner, maybe you can make it to the JoAnn Garrett Classic on Saturday at the Frederick Fair Grounds. For those of you who don’t know, the Classic raises money for cancer research through an annual event which includes an auction, all sorts of food, and beer from Milkhouse Brewery, and Barley and Hops. Go get your food and brew on, and help someone with cancer. There are worse ways to spend your Saturday.

For those of you who missed it, the Frederick Beer Week board recently donated $3000.00 to Team Rubicon, continuing its mission of philanthropic giving through beer. There are some additional plans that are being worked on for FBW5 – yup, that’s right, next year is FBW5! And some important changes are coming – none that will decrease your enjoyment of the week, the changes will merely be done so that FBW can and will more aggressively pursue its mission of promoting craft beer in and around Frederick.

We look forward to the journey to FBW5 with all of you.

Photo: Courtesy of Chris SandsFBW_check-3656


The Beer Guy: The Craft Beer Bubble and AB’s Biggest Problem

10342834_10203750662383162_5650249563386308532_nI’ve said this before: the fears of a craft beer bubble bursting have been greatly overstated. Many people are predicting the bubble bursting within the next year, and many breweries shutting down because the market just can’t handle the industry’s unbridled growth. It’s the en vogue thing to do right now, and while there’s a chance they might be right, I think they’re very, very wrong. And I’m not just saying that.

I don’t think the facts bear out the doom and gloom predictions.

Sure, the brewing industry was down by two percent overall last year, but craft sales were up by about 16 percent. That means that the macro-breweries like Miller/Coors and AB/InBev lost somewhere in the neighborhood of three percent of their marketshare last year. That means that drinkers of macros are either giving them up in favor of some other preferred drink (either hard alcohol, or micro-brews). As long as the macros have a majority of the market (and shelf-space), then there is both market and shelf-space to be taken from those breweries.

But there are a number of other factors at play here.

The doom-sayers point to the number of breweries, but they don’t take into account the size and many other factors that impact the industry, such as;

  1. Many of the newest breweries are small, and focused on their local markets, first building a following in their own backyards. This includes a small explosion of farm and nano-breweries which don’t have the ability to reach beyond their own backyard.
  2. Many states, recognizing craft brewing not only as an economic engine driving job creation, but also tourism, are passing more small-brewery-friendly laws (such as Maryland allowing breweries under a certain size to self distribute, or states relaxing direct shipping laws). These laws are designed to allow the smaller breweries grow, compete and thrive in spite of smaller profit margins than, say, your Boston Beer Company/New Belgium-sized craft breweries.
  3. One of the big reasons I see for the potential of the bubble bursting is that shelf space is limited. While true, I also see more and more craft beer bar/taphouses popping up, as well as stores either focused on craft beer sales, or are dedicating more and more space to it. DJ Liquors here in Frederick is committed to carrying local. Lots of local. And businesses like this are popping up in a number of places, creating more retail opportunities for craft breweries. The question there is, can the retail support system keep pace with the growth of the breweries? This is where I see a potential for a burst, but I don’t buy that. I see it more as something that will cause industry growth to slow, and not cause a decrease in the number of breweries out there.
  4. This one might be a stretch, but one of the other places that could cause issues are brewing supplies, but the craft industry is causing a dynamic shift in the agriculture industry. In Frederick County alone there are at least five farms producing hops, seven within half an hour of downtown Frederick (not including the hop-yard at Flying Dog), and at least one farm producing grain and malting it for use in beer. Across the state there are a number of other hop-farms, and at least one other farm out by Ocean City cranking out grains that are being used in local brews. Again, like the shelf-space issue, a lack of ingredients could damage growth, and even put breweries out of business. And this I think is a potentially more damaging issue than shelf-space, but there are other farms jumping in on the brewery supply train – again, the question becomes, can the ag aspect keep pace with the industry growth…at least enough that it won’t severely damage growth?

I do believe we will experience a slowing in the number of breweries popping up, and that the rate of growth is not sustainable, I just don’t see the so-called bubble popping. Not unless Mother Nature severely screws with things like water, hops, and grain.

AB/InBev’s Biggest Problem

So, AB/InBev has had a bevy of problems leading to decreasing sales, particularly of their line of light beers. Sure, they’re still a multi-billion dollar, multi-national business, but they have a problem that I don’t see them solving with the introduction of Bud Light Lime-A-Rita.

For a long time, the twin wheelhouses of the macro-brews’s customer base has been the blue collar dollar, and the college/just out of college kid due to the beer’s affordability.

I don’t think the blue collar dollar is going anywhere, but that recent college grad dollar? I think the macros might well be fucked.

More and more I’m running into 20-nothings who are talking about their favorite breweries, and they aren’t talking Budweiser. For example, I was picking up my daughter at camp the other day, and the college-ish-aged camp counselors, noticing the brewery stickers on the back of my car, started asking me about the breweries gathered there on my transport, and about my favorite beers from those brewers. The relatively newly minted beer geeks brought up Mad Elf, Nugget Nectar, Dirt Wolf, Gonzo and a slew of other beers from the various mid-Atlantic breweries represented.

As we were having the discussion, it further reminded me of a recent restaurant outing where the waitresses, none of them older than 24, were gushing about the various Belgian-style ales, even making well-informed recommendations. And I was struck; this is AB’s biggest problem – a customer base that they once owned is now the next generation of beer geek (and that’s another reason why craft is likely to continue growing).

In the end, it’s a new world out there, a new market, and the macros haven’t figured out the one truth that would stem the tide of defectors: make a good beer, and people will buy it.

Delaware Beer Tasting @ Orion Wine and Spirits

Delaware Beer Tasting @ Orion Wine and Spirits

When:     1:00 PM – 4:00 PM

Where:    Orion Wine & Spirits

Cost:         N/A

Join Orion Wine & Spirits for a tasting of a selection of beers from the Fordham and Old Dominion Brewery out of Delaware. No cost, but feel free to buy a six pack of your favorite Fo/OD brew.

Monocacy Brewing Company Brewery Tour

Monocacy Brewing Company Brewery Tour

When:      12:15 – 3:15 pm665488_4534069985935_240313226_o

Where:    Monocacy Brewing

Cost:         $5.00

On tour days, MBC is open from 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm with tours departing at 12:15 pm, 1:15 pm, 2:15 pm, and 3:15 pm. Tours (w/ included tasting and souvenir glass) are $5.00 per person (must be over 21 to sample).

Note that guests taking tours must wear close-toed shoes as a safety precaution. Click here for tickets!