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Oktoberfest Forms the Centerpiece for Baltimore Beer Week

Submitted by on October 15, 2009 – 3:56 PMNo Comment
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If you’re planning a ten-day beer celebration in your city, you should start with a successful one-day event, then build a festival around it.

That strategy seems to have worked for Baltimore.  Oktoberfest at the state fairgrounds is the cornerstone of the first Baltimore Beer Week.  Thousands attended the festivities on October 10 and sampled beers from eleven Maryland-based breweries.baltoktband

The setting might have given one pause, if one was expecting palatial, Munich-style Beer Tents.  Here at the fairgrounds, the iron-and-concrete barn where Oktoberfest takes place is clearly meant to house stalls for an agricultural fair.  Thoroughly cleaned, with some German and Bavarian flags and banners hanging from the rafters, it makes a viable venue for the hoisting of quality craft brews.

Carnival games and food stands – some offering appropriately Germanic fare – added to the festival atmosphere, as did the beer-hall soundtrack provided by lederhosen-clad musicians.

But ultimately the beer is the draw.  And, though one might yearn for a full-liter Beer Stein to drain, this Oktoberfest offers something you won’t find even in München: over seventy different beers to explore, all under one roof.

Flying Dog, based in Frederick, MD, was the biggest name on hand, and their familiar logo drew long lines.  In addition to their better-known varietals, an Imperial Porter stood out among all the lagers on display.  Likewise the well-named “Dirty Hippy” Brown Ale, courtesy of the much smaller Oliver Brewery.

But ales were largely relegated to the background.  Virtually every brewery offered an Oktoberfest lager, and none could be called disappointing.  Those from DuClaw Brewing Company and Red Brick Station stood out as particularly zesty interpretations.

All told, there were more varieties of beer on tap than one could likely work through in an afternoon.  But, with rationally-sized 4-oz. tasting cups – along with tokens for six fill-ups – provided with admission, one could make at least good dent in the selection.  Additional tokens were only a dollar each, thus encouraging extensive tasting.

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Raven

Barley & Hops, Brewer’s Alley, Brewer’s Art, and Franklin’s Brewery all did brisk business, as did Clipper City and DOG Brewing Company.  But Baltimore’s Poe-Themed Raven brewery may have provided the biggest, happiest surprise – not with casks of Amontillado, but with its special lager and cask-conditioned lager, both of which could be served in Munich without complaint.

Pulling so many brewers and other businesses together does not happen without effort and support.  Organizer Joe Gold explained, “the closeness of the Baltimore Beer Community is less related to the industry and more related to the general public who will support all the events.”  Without the encouragement of an enthusiastic public, events like Maryland’s Oktoberfest and festivals like Baltimore Beer Week could not occur.

“The Baltimore area has a very strong beer community,” Rob Kasper, respected beer writer for the Baltimore Sun, said.  But he gives primary credit to Gold for bringing the event to life.  “Joe was the work horse,” Kasper said, “the rest of us just rode along.”

Inspired by the success of Beer Week in Philadelphia, Gold began thinking about forming a beer club for Baltimore in the Summer of 2008.  By November, the idea had evolved into Baltimore Beer Week.

“We picked the dates of the inaugural Baltimore Beer Week because of the bookended nature of 2 events,” Gold said.  “[The] first Saturday had the Maryland Oktoberfest and the second Saturday has the Chesapeake Real Ale Festival.”  So choosing a week for a beer celebration was easy.  With a successful Oktoberfest and a craft-beer festival around which to build ten days of beer appreciation, the first Baltimore Beer Week is not likely to be the last.

Photos by: Adam Arnold