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February 19, 2011

Feb. 13 - 19 reviewed: Grammys, Lexie Mountain Boys, Max's Belgian Beer Festival

Some Canadians won the Grammys last Sunday night, and more importantly, the Internet. Rosie O'Donnell tweeted "Who the eff are the Arcade Fire?" and Beach House was all, "Sooooooo pathetic." Someone else wondered, "who the eff are the Lexie Mountain Boys?" There was also this, on the relationship between Baltimore bands and the Recording Academy. At the end of the week, Dubai, the Velvet Rope's new name, was reviewed. In over 100 years, the building has had a complicated history. Plain White T's defended its lyrics. Clutch closed - without the band Clutch ever playing there. Salt-n-Pepa will be at 1st Mariner tonight, 25 years after the release of their first album. No one agreed on the best anti-Valentine's Day places. Wye Oak announced an upcoming show at Sound Garden, and Rihanna added Cee Lo Green to her tour. Home brewers got a chance to compete against each other. Despite losing to Arcade Fire, Eminem said he'll still perform alongside them at Bonnaroo 2011. Max's Belgian Beer Festival started Friday. If you're reading this, you might still be recovering. If you're going tonight, the full draft and bottle menu is here. You'll be happy to know it's one place where few probably care about buzzbands or the Arcade Fire. 

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Posted by Erik Maza at 9:00 AM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Roundup


Max's Belgian Beer Fest actually kicked off @ 11am on Friday.

The Belgian festival gets a big thumbs down from me. Great idea, poor execution. 90% of the beer is downstairs only & if you want to try do the $4/tasting thing (a good idea), you need to be seated at the bar to get regular service. The crowd is overwhelming.

Better beer festivals are more organized. Still, kudos to Max's for bringing in all of those big beers.

I had a great time although I'm not a Belgian fan- I'm more on the hoppy side. We had seats at the bar so I missed out on the bad experience

Clutch trolling!

I generally find the beers stay around well past weekend - I'm not a fan of the overcrowding either

@foo: yep, there are still 55 different true belgian brands left on tap at the bar.

I went all three days (to Max's), and I'm really not sure what more the staff there could have done to make things go more smoothly. 72 hours of Belgium has become one of the preeminent events in the city (at least if you're into good beer), and to no great surprise, has become incredibly popular. Casey always hires extra staff for the event, and all bartenders (including the part timers) are in attendance for the event. I think there were roughly 6 or 7 bartenders at the main bar (two more upstairs and two more at the back bar), and they were literally tripping over themselves in their hurry to take drink orders. Any more bartenders and they would have just gotten in each others way - it would literally have been counter productive to have any more bartenders.

My understanding is that at one time Max's looked into the possibility of expanding the event outdoors (into the square), but that the cost was just too prohibitive. Aside from the added permits, there would be security issues and the added expense of setting up tents, booths, etc.

I don't like the crowds at Max's any more than transport man, but I really have no idea what more they could do. They already limit the size of the crowd (when I left Saturday afternoon there were approximately 100 people waiting in line to get in), though I suppose they could limit the crowd size even more (but that would mean an even longer wait outside). Another possibility would be to charge admission, which would likely eliminate some of the frat boy/douchebag clientele you see on Saturday (don't know why, but Saturday always seems to be the worst day for this). However, I give Casey credit for not doing that, even though I'm sure it would generate even more money for Max's without any significant dropoff in attendance.

Shrug. Popular events tend to be... well, popular. Consequently, I think a crowd is unavoidable and I just chalk it up to the price of enjoying one of the preeminent beer events on the East Coast and the country. All things considered, I think this event was about as well organized as it could be. Crowd not-with-standing, I'll certainly be back again next year.

Couple of basic ideas: designated spot for ordering beers for folks w/o seats, table service, admission fee to weed out the jabronis.

The designated spot is crucial, IMO. If you're without seats, get in line & order a bunch of the sample-sized beers using the beer list. Works really well at larger festivals.

@ NTM.

No disrespect, but you really need to think about some of the recommendations you make.

A designated spot to order a beer? In your first post you complain about how long it took to get a beer.... how long do you think it would have taken to get your beer order if there were only a couple of designated beer ordering areas at the bar? Lines would have been at least 50 or 60 deep; I'm guessing wait times for a beer would have approached close to an hour. No thanks.... I'll take the organized chaos currently in place before I'd ever want to see that idea implemented.

Table service? Are you serious? On Saturday afternoon it was all I could do to get my 4 sampler glasses back to my spot at the back bar intact. At times it was nearly impossible to get by or through the throngs of people. With that kind of crowd, table service would have been near impossible and would have just added to the chaos. I can't even imagine what it would be like for any waiter trying to take or deliver an order in that kind of crowd.

I've been to quite a few large beer festivals myself (GABF, Oregon Brewfest, Philly beer festival), so I know what you're referring to. However, all of those places were held at very large venues, and there were numerous designated spots to order a beer. By comparison Max's is tiny, which is the primary reason your recommendations are so impractical.

This is the 7th year for this festival and by this time I think the ownership at Max's has things pretty much figured out. It's not a perfect system (some folks cut in line and wait times can be long), but given the size of the crowd, I think they handle this event very, very well. The only thing I can think of that would significantly improve it would be if this event could be held at a larger venue. However, that's not going to happen (it would appear), so the better course of action is to plan for the crowd size, formunlate a game plan (get there early, avoid most popular times, share beers with friends, have friends take multiple orders before heading up to the bar), and enjoy the festival for what it is - a great event at at small venue with an incredible selection of beer.

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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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