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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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