For some, it's the depth and variety of flavors. For others, it's the sound of glasses clinking and cheers among friends. No matter the draw, an obsession with craft beer is taking the nation by storm – and it is here to stay.
On Saturday, Sept. 17, the fifth annual Annapolis Craft Beer and Music Festival will bring together beer nerds, casual drinkers and those looking for a fun time to drink, eat, shop and bop along to performances by local musicians.
“It was actually created from a wine festival. Beer has evolved much in the way wine did 20 years ago,” said Annapolis Craft Beer and Music Festival Organizer Jim Barthold. “People started showing interest in craft beer, sampling, collecting and the experience of tasting different kinds of beers.”
According to Barthold, the festival is one of the biggest and best in the country.
“People like coming to Annapolis. They enjoy the ambiance and the history,” he said. “Those who attend the festival have the opportunity to sample over 120 beers from more than 50 regional and national craft breweries.”
While several of the breweries hail from places far from Annapolis, the majority of distributors – such as Heavy Seas, Flying Dog, Brewer’s Art, Hoop Tea, Jailbreak and Assawoman Bay – call Maryland home.
A strong showing of local breweries does not mean that there will be a lack of variety.
“Making unusual, unique beers is part of the attraction driving the beer cult. We bring a wide array of breweries together so you can try dozens of beers right here at home,” said Barthold.
Carolyn Marquis, owner of Chesapeake Brewing Co. in Annapolis, believes a brewery should tell a story – from its branding to its beer.
According to Marquis, she is the only female brewery owner in the State of Maryland. She uses her business to attract more women to the art of brewing.
“Our logo pictures a mermaid. The tap handle is a woman. Our beers carry the Chesapeake heritage theme from the actual brewing to the names of our beers,” said Marquis. “Both men and women can enjoy and celebrate the heritage of the Chesapeake.”
At Marquis’ brewery, she has beers by nearby breweries in addition to her own as a way to highlight smaller breweries rather than big-name brands. For her, traveling to those smaller breweries is worth the time and effort. Geography is an important part of the beer-tasting experience – both in flavor and knowing a beer’s origins.
“No matter where you go, if you find a local brewery you’ll find beer you can’t have somewhere else. Beers vary in taste based on the water source and grain source,” said Marquis. “There’s a beauty in trying different things and a real attraction to having new experiences. I’ve seen a lot of people travel 15 to 20 minutes to try a new beer. That says something. Breweries add to tourism and the local economy through hotel stays, eating and shopping.”
Thorough thought and consideration goes into brewing each beer.
“We craft our beers depending on the season and mood,” said Union Craft Brewing Founder and Brewmaster Kevin Blodger.
“We also brew what we would like to drink. We make our beer for people in Baltimore. We’re three guys who love and have pride in Baltimore. We just want people to experience what we experience through our beer,” he said.
Over at Chesapeake Brewing Co., Marquis makes beers that compliment what is already on tap.
“People prefer variety. Flights are very popular because people want to try all different kinds of beers. We keep that idea in mind when crafting a new beer,” she said.
Marquis credits the rising popularity of craft beers to their low cost and variety.
“Beer, for what it’s worth, has always had its roots as a working man’s drink,” she said. “With beer, you can be a beginner and make mistakes. Wine, not so much. Beer will always be around.”
Beer and wine are often compared due to beer’s recent allure to collectors. Beer is cheaper to buy and quicker to make, with a brewing time between three to five weeks. Despite its reputation as an everyman’s drink, beer is being treated like wine more and more.
“It has a lot more flavor than wine and pairs well with food. As people became aware of the flavor forward aspects of beer, its popularity grew,” said Blodger.
The festival is being held at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, located at 550 Taylor Ave. in Annapolis.
“The stadium is a great location because it has one thing no other place in Annapolis has: parking,” said Barthold. “In Annapolis, parking tends to cannibalize the space you need to put on the event.”
Plus, the venue can hold the 8,000 people expected to attend the beer festival.
Those who attend will be able to enjoy the sounds of smooth jazz, island music, rock and roll, classics, R&B, country and more. Trademark, TJShaw and the Michael McHenry Tribe will take the Pilsner Stage throughout the festival.
The nutrition department at Giant Food will teach seminars on topics from craft beer 101 to cooking with craft beer.
Beer lovers can pair their brew with seafood, crab cakes, barbeque, brats, hot dogs, kielbasa, mini donuts, shaved ice, kettle corn and more. For those who are passing on beer, fruit smoothies will be available.
In addition to great beer, live music and delicious food – guests can purchase work from artists and crafters.
General admission tickets cost $40. The ticket includes a souvenir beer glass and unlimited pours.For designated drivers, a ticket costs $20. For people aged 13 to 20, tickets cost $10 and anyone 12 years old or younger can attend for free if accompanied by a paying adult.
Those interested in volunteer to pour beer samples can sign up at any point before the event begins. All volunteers must be 21 years or older. Email Jim Barthold at email@example.com or call at 410-263-4012 to volunteer.
“Come out to the festival for a great time. Try beers you haven’t tried before and meet great people in a nice setting,” said Blodger.
Pouring begins at noon and ends at 6 p.m.
For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit the festival website.