Beer, Bourbon & BBQ – Perspective and Pictures
From TFP – Last month, TheFullPint.com’s Don attended the Maryland Beer, Bourbon & BBQ Festival. Here is his blog on his experience, as well as tips for those attending the Beer, Bourbon & BBQ Festival in Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and one more trip to Maryland!
When: April 4th from noon – 6pm
Where: Timonium Fairgrounds, Timonium, MD
Who: Me and several hundred other beer, bourbon & bbq enthusiasts
Why: Do I really need to answer this one?
First, let me start by saying that this was my first time attending, it is a fantastic event and is going to be on my annual must-do events list. I will preface this by saying that I am a hop-head with a sweet tooth and all opinions about beers and bourbons will be skewed positively toward those attributes.
Never have I seen a finer array of beer brewers and bourbon distillers in one location. The closest thing you got to a mass-produced beer was Heineken (and I think they were the only one). Even the bourbons were mostly high-end brands and lower priced brands that you may never have tried before; Jim Beam is the biggest exception here. You’d think that constantly mixing beer and liquor would meet with dire consequences, but we somehow managed to keep it together. I can honestly say that I never saw anyone getting sick (although the drunken antics became more pervasive as the day drew to a close). If mixing is a serious concern for you, then you can hit all of the bourbon stands first, gobble down some BBQ then hit the beers, but that requires more walking as the beers and bourbons are mixed together with other craft-type vendors.
Some of the stand-out beers for me were the Du-Claw Bourbon Barrel Stout (perhaps the best of the show), Stone Arrogant Bastard, Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter and Dogfish Head 90-Minute IPA (or was it 60-minute, I can’t recall…. both are excellent). My buddy was excited to taste the Dixie Brewing Blackened Voodoo…. afterward he told me “this is not Blackened Voodoo… you’ve never had Blackened Voodoo.” I admit, it was pretty bland. To be honest, I can’t remember which bourbons I liked and which I didn’t, but I can say, emphatically, you get what you pay for.
Now, some general notes on how to do this. First, avoid public transportation. Other venues may have better options, but the fairgrounds has either the bus (not a snowball’s chance) or the Baltimore Light Rail. We took the light rail. We’ll never take it again.
Aside from the ride back to Glen Burnie bringing back fond memories of riding the bus in Ocean City during high school senior week, it was not an enjoyable experience. It moves interminably slow and just isn’t all that comfortable. Get yourself a designated driver; you’ll thank me. Next, you need to decide on what kind of experience you want to have. If you’re looking for a peaceful beer or bourbon connoisseur’s delight, go early. In fact, don’t be a cheapskate. Splurge for VIP tickets. Between noon and 2pm, you can walk right up to any vendor and get a sample and actually talk with them about the product (sadly, though some work for the breweries and know the product, others are just there to pour beer). After 2, it gets crowded, after 4, it gets absolutely packed, after 5, the vendors start to run out of product (even the BBQ guys) and they’re scrambling to fill pitchers from kegs that are no longer cold enough to properly function. So, if you’re looking for a giant party, save your money and buy a regular ticket; you won’t be disappointed, it’s a hell of a party and Mickey Cucchiella is a great MC.
Also, bring cash. Neither the ticket booth (if you didn’t buy tix online) nor the food or cigar vendors take plastic. Especially toward the end of the day, the people pouring your samples are extremely tolerant folks. They deserve a tip and most have an empty pitcher for them. Bring it with you because there’s only one ATM and it was drained by 3:30. I had to bum a few bucks from my buddy just to get a bratwurst.
All-in-all it was a great experience and one I intend to repeat yearly. I hope to see you there next year. And if you missed this year’s event in Timonium, not to worry, you can still catch it all just an hour or so south at Capitol Harbor on June 20th, in North Carolina on August 15th or in Tennessee on November 7th. See details here: http://beerandbourbon.com