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Hello and a backyard beer fest

Greetings, fellow beer lovers. This is my mission: to drink good beer, to spread the word, and to spark interesting and entertaining discussion about the beer-drinking life.

I am one of those people who get paid to eat and drink. I have been doing it for a while. When I asked Paul McCardell, one of The Sun’s Cracker Jack librarians, to find my earliest writing about beer, he pulled a clip from 1984. Back then I had lots of hair and one small child. Now I have as little hair as Cal Ripken, and my kids, two guys in their 20s, are grown and mostly gone. But as offspring do, they return home occasionally to drink their dad’s beer. One, who lives in Anniston, Ala., and works for a newspaper (you would think he would know better), loves craft beer, especially Dogfish Head 90 minute IPA. The other, who works at a financial consulting firm near Washington, prefers Yuengling lager.

My wife rarely drinks beer. The other night when I gave her samples of three Imperial Pilsners I was reviewing for today's newspaper -- Sam Adams, Dogfish Head and Rogue --- she sipped all three and said, “Yuck.” So it goes on the homefront.

Like most residents of this town, I am fiercely local. Yet I do recognize that there is good beer beyond Baltimore. When I venture out of town to attend food conferences, family gatherings, or a college-scouting trip (thank the Lord those days are over), I make it a point to sample the local suds. I have fond memories of a microbrew festival in Portland, Ore., a beer-making class at Anchor Steam in San Francisco, and sipping Otter Creek ales in Middlebury, Vt. Recently I discovered there is good beer in the Kansas City airport; a bar in the Southwest and Delta terminal sells Boulevard, a local favorite. The bar, however, closes at 6 p.m. I know because I got turned away, thirsty, at 6:02. I suppose my writing on this blog will be quick and dirty as opposed to complex and geeky. Just for the record, I am not now, nor have I ever been, a beer geek.

Now on to the beer...

One of the first places I stopped in my role as a beer blogger was Todd Carpenter’s backyard in Catonsville. Every fall for the past 17 years, he and his home-brewing buddy, Chris Ricketts, have a Saturday afternoon Oktoberfest party. About 100 folks drop in and sample the beers that Carpenter and Ricketts have brewed.

“It is a guy’s kind of party, not very organized,” Carpenter told me. "We invite people -- if they come, fine; if not, it means more beer for us." This year, he said, he was inspired to name his beers in honor of Beatles songs. There was Penny Lane Lager, Please, Please Me American Pale Ale, Let It Be Brown Ale, and Octopus’s Porter. I had a Penny Lane lager; it was crisp, refreshing with an unusual hint of sweetness.

These guys make good beer and know how to have a good time. Question of the day: What are you drinking that you are liking?

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