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Firkin Fest Closes Out Frederick Beer Week

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Last Saturday, Frederick Beer Week came to a close. I can’t think of a better way to end an exciting week of nonstop beer activity than with an easy, fun day on a hop farm.

You may recall my post last year about the Frederick Beer Festival at StillPoint Hop Farm. This year was every bit as much fun. All the great Maryland breweries were represented, but this year, the festival featured a different twist. The beers were tapped from firkins – and so this year’s festival was dubbed Firkin Fest!

Amazing Maryland Beers were served by Barley and Hops, Brewer’s Alley, Flying Dog, Heavy Seas, Evolution, DuClaw, and Brewer’s Art.   Some unique brews included belgian beers brewed with currants and peppercorns; some great IPAs – including last year’s Battle of the Bubbles competition winner, which was expertly brewed by Larry Pomerantz at Barley and Hops; Oatmeal Stouts; refreshing light lagers; german style bocks and dunkers; and more.  And then there was the homebrew tent, hosted by Frederick’s Original Ale Makers. Lucky attendees sampled from over 20 different styles of homebrew throughout the day.

The festival also brought back all of the great attractions from last year, only bigger and better with a larger and wider variety of vendors, more great folk style music, the ever-popular Hayride to Hoppiness, and hoola hoops!

Imagine plopping down on a hillside with a quality Maryland beer, on a beautiful day, in a gorgeous country setting, listening to live music and watching the little ones (and a few not so little ones) dance around with hoola hoops. It’s easy to see why Firkin Fest has become a fast local favorite for Frederick beer fans!

So once again we bid farewell to Frederick Beer Week – til next year!   In the meantime, plan your next visit to the Mid-Atlantic around some of our great breweries and pubs.  You won’t be disappointed.  Maryland has indeed become a great state for beer!

Cheers beers!

The Victory-Garden BeerVenture

Cheers Beers has been nominated for the Beautiful Blogger Award!  Many thanks to Anne at Zen and Genki for her gracious acknowledgement.  As part of my acceptance, I shall follow a few simple rules…

Instructions for the Beautiful Blogger award:

1. Thank the person who gave you the award
2. Paste the award on your blog
3. Link the person who nominated you for the award
4. Nominate 7 bloggers or less
5. Post links to the 1-7 blogs you nominated

Ground rules aside, I’m happy to recognize several of my long time, personal award worthy favorites for this BEAUTIFUL award …

The Victory-Garden Tour

Feeling the need to post something beautiful, our Victory-Garden Tour should be just the ticket!  We visited Longwood Gardens a few weeks ago, on (as luck would have it) one of the most gorgeous spring days yet.   Longwood Gardens is located in PA, just over the Delaware line.  Of course, when we travel, there’s always beer involved.  It just so happens that Victory Brewing Company is located only 30 minutes away.  Yay!

Our first trip to Longwood Gardens, it was spectacular.  Fabulous for kids of all ages.  Tulips were at their season’s peak, and trees were flowering everywhere.  But the real show was inside the conservatory, where florals, fruit trees and greenery filled every room.  Every turn offered an entirely new experience – new colors, sounds, smells.  Not our last visit, I assure you.

The brew pub at Victory Brewing Company in Downingstown, PA never disappoints.   We followed our usual game plan and bellied up early in front of the growler fillers.  What can I say?  It’s stupid simple entertainment for us big kids.  And of course we had to get a sampler, because the list at Victory always  includes new and rare items that we may have the chance to try again.  Their tap list is long and includes something for everyone – stouts, IPAs and hoppy bevs, belgians, barley wine, german style lagers, wheat beers, and three cask beers.  One of my favorites, St. Boisterous (maibock) was bellowing my name.  I also love the Golden Monkey.

A stand out was the smoked lager.  Smoked beers, when done well, are amazing, and the sure sign of a masterful brewer.  In fact, that’s one thing you can expect from Victory.  Whether or not you like their beer, you can’t say it’s not well brewed.  They have rightfully earned their elevated position in the craft beer hierarchy.  We’re just glad they’re within driving distance.   In fact, we’re considering a year-round pass to Longwood Gardens to justify more trips northward.  I hear the garden fountain exhibit (opening June 9th) is spectacular!

Ah, and here my wordy tour ends with some actually beauty – a small sample of our Victory Garden Beerventure… Cheers beers!


Thoughts on Brewpubs and the Unspoken Rule

You wouldn’t ask for Folgers in a coffeehouse, you wouldn’t expect Five Guys to serve big macs, and you probably wouldn’t scoff at a wine bar that doesn’t serve Riunite (in fact, most people would react quite the opposite). So why are brewpubs expected to sell mass-produced commercial beers?  Not all brewpubs do sell these beers, but the expectation is still a sort of unspoken rule that pertains to beer serving establishments in general.

I suppose a lot of people equate brewpubs to beer bars.  But brewpubs are unique in that brewing beer is their specialty, their differentiator, the heart of their business.  So they should be exempt from that rule, right?  You’d think so, but it really is amazing how embedded certain brands are in our beer culture – and not just American.  I’ve seen people get downright angry if their beers aren’t available, even at brewpubs.

I’m not judging those who prefer the commercial brews.  We like what we like and we shouldn’t have to apologize for it.  And I’m definitely not judging brewpubs for selling those beers.  It’s a business, and brewpubs do have the option to sell or not to sell, and to charge just as much for those beers as for their in house brews, if not more.  I suppose that in itself should be lesson enough to the finicky beer-drinkers who eat at brewpubs but snub the house brews in favor of commercial beers (ok, that might sound a little judgmental).  It’s an easy way to make money and keep the customers happy.  The pressure is evident, and I know that in our semi-rural suburban region, it doesn’t matter how many house or craft brews are available, if a bar (any bar) doesn’t serve at least one of the major brands, then they’re gonna lose business.  Hey, if that’s what it takes to keep a good brewpub going strong for the rest of us, then give’em their beer.  However, I would think its gotta be a sticky pet peeve for most brewers.  Just my opinion.

Responding to the Inevitable Request

Of course it never hurts to ask, fair enough.  I’ve witnessed several ways that brewpubs handle the request for commercial brands…

  1. Sure thing, whatever you want, no questions asked.  The larger chain-type brewpubs often serve commercial brews in addition to their own – no muss, no fuss, no questions asked, the customer gets what they want.
  2. You can have it on one condition.  Give ours a little taste first, and if you don’t like it, then we’ll give you your commercial beer.  This approach encourages non-craft beer drinkers to acknowledge that they are in fact in a brewpub.  And out of sheer respect to the brewer and the establishment, at least give the lightest house brew on tap a fair shot.  Hey, like it or not, its free beer!
  3. We only serve house beers, but our XYZ beer is the closest match to your request.  This “take it or leave it” approach is a sure sign of an independent, confident brewpub whose regulars appreciate the good stuff and come back for it often, and whose head brewer (I’m assuming) probably takes immense pleasure in giving the big three a big bird.


Respect the Brewer, Respect the  Beer

I am not a beer snob – truly, I don’t know enough, nor am I serious enough to be a snob.  But I have tremendous respect for brewers and the passion and commitment they have for their craft.  And virtually every brewpub I’ve ever been in produces one or more lighter beers that speak to a wider audience.  You say you like beer?  Then branch out a little.  Ask for some samples.  Give the house beers a fair shot.  You might even find a new regular, in which case, good for you!  Welcome to the brave new world of craft beer.

Cheers beers!




BeerVenture: Morgantown Brewing Company

February 22, 2011 2 comments

Morgantown Brewing Company - a downtown corner brewpub located in the heart of Morgantown, WV

Over the past 20 years, since meeting my Morgantown, West Virginia bred husband and his family, I’ve watched the area transform from a tired and dreary university and coal mining town into a vibrant cultural and educational center that draws visitors from all over.  The local brewpub has also survived its share of transitions, having changed hands and names a number of times over the past decade.  Under new ownership and dubbed the Morgantown Brewing Company  (MBC), this downtown corner pub and restaurant has been tweaked in all the right places and is quickly making a name for itself as a reputable brewery that’s here for the long haul.

MBC guests can watch the brewing in action.

Still the same rustic, casual, local hangout situated in the heart of downtown Morgantown, MBC is a watering hole that appeases the masses.  Families, WVU students, neighborhood regulars all come here to enjoy a pint and kickback, watch the WVU game, grab some dinner with friends, or enjoy the evening’s live local music venue. The tap list, however, has changed considerably – an indication that the Morgantown craft beer scene is heading in a good direction.   Even home brew champion and beer judge extraordinaire, Gordon Strong paid  MBC a visit and summed up his experience in a tweet – “Stopped at Morgantown WV Brewing Co. Great selection. Killer IPA. Used to be WV Brewing Co. Same place. New name. Worth a stop.”

MBC's tap list offers a large selection of unique craft beers brewed on the premises.

With nine very unique beers on tap, there’s a style to suit every taste.  The Alpha Blonde is full flavored and malty – not your usual watered down beginner’s beer; and yes, the Zack Morgan IPA really is “killer” and unlike any other IPA we’ve had.  The list also includes the Old Morgantown Amber, Two Weeks Lager, an 80 Schilling Scotch Ale, Kettle Bottom Brown, and the Coal City Stout, as well as two seasonals – the Technicolor  Tripel and the FH Pierpont’s Robust Porter.  Each brew is interesting and distinctly flavored (in a good way), and the extensive list is worth exploring through a sampler.

The food is good too!  Sure they cater to casual diners looking to grab a burger or sandwich and a beer (the muffaletta rocks, and the cheesesteak is made with provolone AND cheez whiz).  The menu also includes quite a few tempting vegetarian selections and dinner entrees.

Whether you’re a long time local, a visitor in town for the big WVU game, or just passing through on I-68, squeeze in a visit to MBC.  Nothing fancy, just simple ingredients for longevity – great beer brewed on the premises, good food, and a warm and relaxed place to hang with friends and enjoy some sports or live entertainment.  Yes it has a new name, but Morgantown Brewing Company is heads and tails above the old place, and definitely worth a stop.

Cheers beers!

BeerVenture: Frisco Tap and Brew House

January 28, 2011 1 comment

I’ve personally watched Frisco transform from Frisco Burritos to Frisco Cantina and Grille, and now Frisco Tap and Brew House. Whatever you call it, Columbia, Maryland has become home to one of the hippest new beer bars in the Baltimore/DC metropolis.

Located in what looks like a remodeled warehouse on a side street in the heart of Columbia, the decor is something straight out of Santa Fe. Wrap-around booth seating, wall size windows and extended family style tables make this a perfect place to hang out with friends and stay awhile. The enormous bar practically extends the width of the restaurant, as do the 50 beer taps lining the back wall. The star of the bar, however, is the beer list, displayed digitally overhead like two giant airport tele-prompters.

50 beers on tap, 100 bottled beers, and a TV for every game.

You won’t miss your game or fight over channels here. The beer list is surrounded by flat screen TVs, so there’s always something good on the tube, and the menu is still highly recognizable to Frisco’s long-time patrons. That’s right loyal Frisco fans, you won’t have to give up the green chilis, chorizo, nachos, quesadillas, and burritos that we all know and love. The difference is that you can now pair your meal with any of 50 top US and imported craft beers on tap, and 100 bottled selections. Choose from local brews like Flying Dog, DuClaw, Oliver’s, and Clipper City, or maybe you prefer harder to find imported belgian beers. From east coast (RJ Rockers, Dogfish, Troegs) to west coast (Anderson Valley, 21st amendment, Sierra Nevada), up to Canada (Unibroue) and across to Belgium (Scaldis) – Frisco has the craft beer scene covered.  If that’s not enough, house beers will be added soon, as Frisco plans to open their brewing operations well before the year’s end.

The bartenders are welcoming, knowledgeable and stand by to assist, but when in doubt, ask for a sample.  The taps rotate regularly, and the restaurant entertains a packed house on Firkin Thursdays and Pint Nights. Also, don’t forget to ask about their beer club.  The challenge?  Drink and log 100 different beers at Frisco, at which point you’ll chug a “Natty Boh” with the bartenders and earn a coveted Frisco mug.  What better way to begin your next beer journey!

Cheers beers!

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