The fact that beer is mentioned in the Bible as “strong drink” discreetly rubber-stamps the role the beverage plays in today’s culture. (Turns out the ancient Egyptians threw back their share, too.)
For this upstanding, responsible imbiber, Baltimore Beer Week flows into town at precisely the right moment, taking its rightful place alongside football, fall colors, and bonfires. The local festival—during which the curtain goes up on Maryland-born craft brews—is tantamount to Michelin reviewers steaming up the Chesapeake to dole out their coveted stars.
I like it that Beer Week spills over the city limits of Charm City, creating concentric circles that penetrate halfway to Washington. For instance, at Kloby’s Smokehouse in Laurel, owner Steve Klobosits doesn’t mince words when offering the Cliff’s Notes version of what all the fun and frothiness is about.
Beer Week, he proclaims, is a time set aside for “Baltimore beer enthusiasts to come and celebrate beer. It’s an opportunity to try new craft beer.”
He is justly proud of the 32 tap handles he runs, drawing stouts and barrel-aged creations. Aside from the mass-produced offerings, Klobosits, who runs his popular establishment with wife Michele, adds, “With small-batch beer, you can do so much more. You have more control.”
Then, after reeling off a short list of special flavors—peanut butter? chocolate?—I wonder if he shouldn’t also consider leasing the space next door and opening a candy store.
But with his tempting menu (just examine my girth) of starters, like smoked-portabella collard dip, Carolina-style pulled pork, and beef brisket, Klobosits reassures me that his food “is very masculine. It’s pretty complex, with big and spicy flavors that marry very well to the beer.”
Nursing a craft brew from High Seas at Rams Head Live at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, my longtime buddy, Tom Dwyre, toasts Beer Week for being a singularly unique occurrence, going so far as to liken it to a harvest moon and a presidential election.
“Craft beers are great,” he says. “With these, it’s not like drinking Bud or Miller. When it comes to small-batch beers, people want something different. You’d like to think small-batch beer gets a lot more personal attention as far as the quality of the ingredients goes.”
Beer, of course, is not a chemical stimulant. And yet, it packs magical powers. Unlike morning coffee, which specializes in on-the-go gulping, brews, particularly the craft genre, welcome the confluence of deep, alternative-universe-type thinking.
We sit elbow-to-elbow around a table in a dark bar, waxing poetic on issues from the finer points of H.G. Wells’ classic, The Time Machine, to how Joe Flacco might perform this season. The walls tumble down, and reminders of our shared terrestrial wanderings go up.
One of the members of our unofficial small-batch-beer club is Kristin Yakas. The 30-something lawyer, a resident of Federal Hill, remarks that she adores brews born and served in smaller batches.
“My husband, Evan, prefers the brews with the chocolate or coffee undertones,” she says.
“I’m drawn more toward the light-bodied ones with the fruit or honey undertones. And I like that each season comes with different flavors.”
And Free Staters everywhere should like the fact that the fall season means it’s time again for Baltimore Beer Week.
This year’s Baltimore Beer Week runs Oct. 19-28 at establishments throughout Charm City and beyond. For more information, visit www.baltimorebeerweek.com. Cheers!