Okay, I can't resist any longer. It's the only appropriate lede.
The temperature, yesterday, was in the low 40s. It was raining. But ...
Saturday's cold autumn rain did nothing to 'chill' or 'dampen' the ardor of five hundred thirsty cask ale fanatics, who descended enthusiastically upon the Pratt Street Alehouse in Baltimore, Maryland, for the 6th annual Chesapeake Real Ale Festival, organized by the only US branch of the UK-based Society for the Preservation of Beer From the Wood (SPBW), as part of Baltimore's observance of its first ever Baltimore Beer Week.
There you have it: in one sentence, sixty-nine words, the obligatory who-what-where-when-and-why, and two bad puns.
The Real Ale Festival has been one of the premier beer events in Baltimore, and still was the crown jewel of this year's Baltimore Beer Week. The entire Pratt Street Alehouse —inside and out— was utilized for the event, allowing half-a-grand to participate, whereas 350 had been the prior top attendance. Things were a bit tight, though. (Port-a-johns needed!)
I was asked several times, "What's the best cask, what's the star of the show?" My answer? There were a few casks that were not as well-conditioned as they could have been, but whenever there are 40 or so fresh cask ales available in one place at one time (and two kellerbiers, or cask lagers), I'm not choosing between them.
There were several brewers and representatives from their breweries onsite with their beers. It's no knock against the volunteer pourers, but one wants to be able to talk shop with the brewers. I saw Hugh Sisson, Stephen Marsh, and Kurt Krol from Clipper City; Jim Lutz from Flying Dog; Volker Stewart, Rob Perry, and Steve Frasier from The Brewer's Art; Tom Flores and Maggie Lenz of Brewer's Alley; Charles Noll from Franklin's; John Franz from Lancaster; Steve Jones, of course, from Pratt Street Alehouse; Geoff Lively from Rock Bottom, Bethesda; Mike McDonald from White Marsh Brewing; and Chris Hancq from Yards Brewing.
In attendance, but without a cask, was Rich Fleischer of Hook and Ladder Brewing. He expressed confidence that his long-awaited pub will indeed be opening in 2010 in Silver Spring, Maryland. Going into an old firehouse, the project has dealt with various structural and building code issues.
Other beer notables included Alan Moore (president of the SPBW, and organizer of the Real Ale Fest); Joe Gold (past president of the SPBW, and founder of Baltimore Beer Week); Rob Kasper (Baltimore Sun features and beer columnist, and co-organizer of Baltimore Beer Week); Les White (Free State Homebrewer's Guild President, and co-organizer of Baltimore Beer Week); Jim McGinty (longtime beer wholesaler in Maryland); Erin Tyler (beer wholesaler, co-organizer of Baltimore Beer Week); Paul Pendyck (owner of cask supply house, UK Brewing).
One final note. Casey Hard, beer manager at Maxs Taphouse, gave me some interesting news. With 500+ different beer bottles, 2 cask lines, and 75 taps, Max's already is the largest taphouse in Maryland. Not satisfied, the bar is increasing the number of its draft lines to 100, and the cask lines to 6.