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October 18, 2010

Did the Ravens dampen first Baltimore Beer Festival?

Jay Trucker reviews the first Baltimore Beer Festival, which took place Sunday at Canton Waterfront Park on Boston Street.

At the inaugural Baltimore Beer Festival, the anchor event of Baltimore Beer Week, everyone got freebies.

Both local Maryland pubs - DuClaw and Red Brick Station, among others – and larger breweries - Saranac and Magic Hat – offered samples.

A sweet Belgian-style dubbel served up by the folks at Judge's Bench welcomed me as I came in. 

With tickets $40 at the door, the cost of admission was worthwhile for those ready to indulge in all samplings, but probably less so for those who wanted only a few 4-ounce tastings and a place to watch TV.

Local food vendors were also featured along a sizable stretch of the Canton Waterfront, though meals were not included with the price of admission. Nacho Mama's, Fins, Alexander's Tavern served up grilled grub and seafood at $6-$10 a pop. Kooper's Chowhound Burger Wagon was also a popular food choice amongst patrons.

However, Ravens football took center stage for most of the afternoon, dictating the comings and goings of most patrons. The festival planners were wise to set up a large screen, as it was clear from the crowd on the lawn that many would have foregone the festival if the game hadn’t been broadcast.

 Unfortunately, with football as the main attraction, the beer vendors, craft peddlers and live bands were largely relegated to the background.

Though tents stretched from the public parking lot, past the Water Taxi stop and towards Tindeco, the concentration of folks around the TV monitor made the event seem sparsely attended. The largest number of folks not watching the game were waiting single-file for the porta-potty.

It’s easy to see then why formerly local iconic brewer Natty Boh gave away the largest number of samples – their tent was closest to the TV. The gentleman manning the Natty tent was clever enough to give out entire cans of Boh rather than a 4-ounce sample, as I'm sure he realized most attendees were intent on parking themselves on the lawn for a large portion of the afternoon.

When overtime finally ended near 5 p.m., the masses finally rose to enjoy the tail end of the afternoon. The Ravens lost but patrons managed to imbibe enough to enjoy themselves anyway.

Hard rock cover band Dirt obliged the finally festive crowd, taking requests and pushing well past the scheduled 5 p.m. finish time. As tourists piled out of the Water Taxi, the band's set, the festival, and the protracted beer week ended with guys and girls in Flacco jerseys blithely dancing to Rage Against the Machine's “Killing In The Name Of.”

It was unclear exactly what this cheery group of Cantonites was raging against (sudden-death overtime rules, perhaps?), but the sudden popularity of the band made it clear that they had stopped caring for the missed opportunity on ESPN CBS.

Perhaps next year the event can be scheduled for a Saturday, or if Sunday is the only feasible day for the festival, hopefully the Ravens won't have a 1 p.m. kickoff time interfering with a solid range of vendors and activities.

On the whole, though, a good beer week should include a solid beer festival, and this was a solid festival in a beery neighborhood.

Jay Trucker previously reviewed Bistro Rx for Midnight Sun.  He also teaches at the Community College of Baltimore County.

Photo: Algerina Perna/Baltimore Sun

For more pictures, go to the Baltimore Beer Festival photo gallery

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Posted by Erik Maza at 3:10 PM | | Comments (26)
Categories: Baltimore Beer Week


I think the fact that this was the third big beer festival in a week was what dampened it! After Oktoberfest and the Real Ale Festival, I'd had my beer sampling fill for the week. This festival didn't seem to have any special distinguishing factor to it like the other two.

I decided to attend the Baltimore Beer Festival over the Real Ale Festival because I liked the idea of an open air festival down on the water. By the football game drawing the crowds to one end of the site booths like Evolution, Flying Dog, and the VIP tent area were perfectly unpopulated.

Even wtih the game the fact that Natty Boh gave out the most samples is a sad comment on the beer tastes of Baltimore. However, that did leave more of the good stuff for the rest of us.

My only complaint is no designated driver tickets were offered. My wife, who does not drink beer, would have enjoyed the food and the music.

The coments in the article neglect to point out that music was available all day. The big screen was great but so was most of the entertainment.
The first band was called DXP according to a girl standing next to me. From what I could tell and they featured two females, one on keys, the other on fiddle, and a strong lead vocalist/guitarist, and a far more musical presentation than Dirt.
The second band was called Caffeine and they played a blend of 80's to 90's as well as a great version of Ramblin Man by the Allman Brothers with strong guitar work and a very strong lead vocalist playing acoustic guitar. They ended their set with a great cover of "All I Want" by Toad the Wet Sprocket.
After these two acts Dirt didn't steal the show they ruined it.
After watching these two bands Dirt ruined the entertainment for all but the early 20 somethings. WAY to loud, poor vocals, constant profanity, and almost no musical ability save for the drummer..
Most vendors in the area seemed almost mortified, with one vendor telling me he begged the sound man to cut the band off only to be told the sound man was not able to control the band times.
A better fit for the actual adults was more of the the first two acts and no third act at all.

Ditto for the comments above. I considered taking my teenage daughter to the festival, I can only thank luck for her attending a friends BBQ instead. I would never expose my daughter to the endless F-bombs and ridiculous attitude of the closing band. 15 or 20 drunk 21 year olds dancing represent very little of what I saw from the stage throughout the day. I didn't see the entire sets of any of the acts but I saw a good deal of each one. frankly I wonder who could possibly hire the first two bands (obviously very talented and skillful) and than also hire the third... whoever is in charge, Please take note....Bring both of the first two bands back next year and let them play all day. Dirt was very aptly named. If I want to hear noise like that I'll take the muffler off of my lawn mower.

Will, I respectfully disagree. It all comes down to personal preference, and I think that Dirt played their set very well. They are a 90's grunge cover-band, and some of the songs from that era (gasp) have profanity-laden lyrics. As I stated earlier, it all comes down to personal preference, and I preferred Dirt to the other two bands. I enjoy that genre of music, and I thought they did a great job with it. That doesn't mean that I didn't enjoy the other two bands, too. They each had a different style, and they were each very good with their respective genre of music. I prefer 90's grunge to country, so I preferred Dirt. You might prefer 90's pop country or country to grunge--that's your prerogative. That doesn't mean, however, that Dirt "ruined the entertainment". I certainly didn't feel that way and neither did the many people dancing in front of the stage while they performed.

Great festival, Great Big screen and fantastic location. Almost a Ravens win but maybe next week. Unfortunately I agree with the two people above. My girlfriends and I loved the first two bands, great songs and great sound, and couldn't believe the last band. We left after the 3rd song. The volume from the stage was deafening, and the f-bombs were a nightmare. Next time just use the first two bands and let well enough alone.

Mike, why would you take your daughter to a beer festival? Maybe exposing your daughter to an afternoon of binge drinking would be a worse parenting move than hearing the f-word in a song.
What, exactly, did you see of the first two bands? Were you in the security tent, because they seemed to be the only people anywhere near the stage for the first two acts.

I don't care what the old farts on this comment board think-- I liked the third band. So sue me.

Don't bust Mike about bringing his kids. Kids were allowed in. Do you ever take your kids out to eat and hear someone working at the restaurant scream f-bombs for no reason . Please think about both sides. The last band was awful.

Hey yo, it's just another blog fight!

It's hard to sue anonymous, clearly age seems to be the difference in taste. You'll enjoy much finer things as you grow older. trust me....

James, thanks for the condescending message.
Anyone who thinks a bad cover of Toad the Wet Sprocket is a musical achievement should NOT be giving a lecture on musical taste. Is that one of the "finer things" I'll come to enjoy as I become older?
Oh, I'm a lawyer, so I don't need you to tell me about the difficulty (or, in reality, the ease) of filing a law suit. What do you do? Obviously, you're not a music critic.

Talk about condescending!

Talk about condescending!

Talk about condescending!


I know facts aren't very important to you, but the game was not on ESPN, it was on CBS. As in "Can't Believe Stuff" you write.

They were admitting teenagers? Talk about dangerous. So I am assuming there were non drinking tickets available for the under 21 crowd or were they the same price?

Actually, Mr. Lawyer, I play music for a living and have done so for over 35 years. I spent most of my adult life playing with some the best players in the area during times when live music in Baltimore was thriving as a 7 day a week situation and really mattered to live music lovers. When inexperienced/poor bands began playing for any money they can get the local scene began to erode. Many people lost interest or stopped seeing bands. The quality wasn't there.
Some exceptions, The Ravyns, Crack the Sky, still can fill rooms for reunion shows because they offer pro playing in spades, and great original songs.
This same trend has continued in the national music scene creating the wasteland of crap that passes for FM radio. Did you ever listen to FM radio during the early seventies. Music before digital storage and (theft) was created and overseen by record labels with musically educated A&R people. People like Tom Dowd, Jerry Wexler etc. Tom Dowd was working working with Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, The Allman Brothers, and the Muscle Shoals studio cats all simultaneously, both from a musical standpoint as well as being a qualified world class engineer, and mentor.
Regardless of generally shady contract obligations and theft of intelectual property by label ownership (By the way the contracts to rip off artists were of course designed by lawyers not musicians to rip off unsophisticated young artists for life) The best artists prevailed not the cheapest or the least talented.
For example John Fogerty having no publishing or performing rights to his own song thanks to the Lawyers at Fantasy records.
So yes I do think I have an opinion with some validity. From a musicians point of view certain things can't be overlooked when offering an opinion. Such as poor Vocal pitch, Guitar tone and intonation, meter, and vocal harmonies. If you saw the same bands I saw you couldn't help but notice the off key harmonies, wavering lead vocal pitch, and the lack of any dynamics from the guitar players, during the Dirt set. Yes they played popular material, Yes the drunks in front and a smattering of the larger audience liked the show. But one sound... LOUD...with poor vocals an so so guitar playing, isn't what most qualified musicians consider dynamic or even pro grade playing. The first band DXP offered all of theses musical qualities in correct porportion.. nice lead vocals, solid playing and a sound that was pro grade. The second band Caffeine had nice vocals nice dynamics and well thought out guitar tones. As an aside both of the earlier band also had respect for the vendors and the audidience in relation to volume. Sorry to rant, but I've said my opinion.

At the risk of bringing this back on topic, I completely agree with the origianl response posted by A. I realize the ticket price included entertainment, but I otherwise felt the $40 price tag was a bit too rich for by blood, at least for a festival that seemed to be featuring beers I can generally find all over town.

Maybe I would have seen things differently if this was billed as an outdoor concert that just happened to have good beer available. However, as a beer festival it just wasn't something that interested me, especially after the (superior in my opinion) real ale event the preceding day.

I bought my ticket in advance for $30. I couldn't go to the event on Saturday, because I had participated in the Baltimore Running Festival the day before, and was in no shape to stand around drinking. My friends and I didn't squat in front of the t.v., but I was glad it was there to keep up with the game. I thought it was a good time, and I would like to go back next year. I heard the last band, and being in my mid-30s, I appreciate the grunge genre. I didn't notice that it was too loud or the f-bombs, but the music wasn't my primary focus. If you were going to bring a child to an event targeted to adults, I'd hope you'd expect that there would be a few things that would not be appropriate for them. I wouldn't equate it to taking your kid to a restaurant, more like taking them to a bar, where I've certainly heard plenty of profanity.

Personally, I think the event was pretty well organized.

Hey, Trucked-up, I don't see a huge deal with ESPN vs CBS in terms of overall credibility (esp if this is a review of a beer festival, not a sports game), but if you've got an editing complaint, don't forget to CC the actual blog poster your criticisms. He edits these posts and is the one who's actually paid by the Sun, as opposed to the guest writers.

Hey, Trucked-up, I don't see a huge deal with ESPN vs CBS in terms of overall credibility (esp if this is a review of a beer festival, not a sports game), but if you've got an editing complaint, don't forget to CC the actual blog poster your criticisms. He edits these posts and is the one who's actually paid by the Sun, as opposed to the guest writers.


No matter how great something is someone will find a way to bitch. For a first year attempt at a large festival in a beautiful Baltimore setting overlooking Ft. McHenry, I thought things went rather well.

Yes there were some hiccups but that's to be expected. Advance tickets were available for months at only $30 and that's a bargain for unlimited sampling. There were no delays in getting in and there were no long lines to get beer. This fest was designed to be DIFFERENT from the Oktoberfest or Real Ale Fest. It offered great beer to both geeks and newbies and allowed an outlet for some larger breweries and those that don't do cask beer. The food vendors had a fantastic mix of items and the other vendors added a nice flair.
I say kudos to the organizers and you know who you are. Yes there should have been more bathroom facilities and there were some logistical issues but what a great job for a first year fest.

I attended the festival as well. I am not sure if it was much different than any other beer festival. However, do to the number of beer vendors and the amount of attendees you never had to wait for beer. The location was great especially if you live in the area as I do. I bought VIP tickets, which that whole set-up was a joke, and so was Amy C. the supervisor of the area. In my opinion and a few others from what I heard should get the price difference refunded to them. Unfortunately, if it wasn't for the Ravens being on the big screen the attendance to this event might have been a bust. Also, in reading some of the other posting this was a 21 and over event. And I really didn’t pay much attention to the live entertainment but the few times I did they sounded good.

Great event. Great beers. Wonderful food. Beautiful day. Music for all and not just one genre. If you got your tickets in advance $30 was a steal. Come back next year, please.

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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