Imagine a bar with all-you-care-to-taste selections of more than 60 beers, 40 bourbons -- all for one flat cover.
It would need to be a pretty big bar, say, the size of the expansive Cow Palace at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium?
On March 21 and 22, the Beer, Bourbon & BBQ Festival came back to Baltimore, and the formula still works.
"I love the variety of the beer, and the people, and just the fun atmosphere," said AJ Ferguson, a 30-year-old auditor, who came from Ocean View, Del., for the event with her fiance, Jared.
While Ferguson praised the selection of more than 60 beers, she followed the old "liquor before beer" adage early in the day.
"I haven't had much beer; I've had a lot of bourbon," said Ferguson, who suggested a mandatory costume policy at the event. "The Jim Beam Maple tastes like maple syrup and I wanted pancakes."
While costumes were not mandatory, many festival goers chose to dress up anyway. Beards were plentiful, as were broken limbs for some reason. Mullet wigs, oversized plush novelty hats and drastically cut off jeans were popular choices, as were primitive string necklaces threaded through dozens of pretzels, providing convenient nourishment during the marathon imbibing.
From noon to 2 p.m. on Saturday, a VIP session was available to a limited number of earlybirds who were willing to pay $14 more than the $35 general admission ($45 at the door), which ran from 2 to 6 p.m.
Savvy festival goers headed straight for the high-end bourbon table, which served 1-ounce samples of a rotating stock of top shelf bottles.
As 2 p.m. approached, there were some concerns from the steadily intoxicated crowd that a throng of general admittees would flood the venue, lengthening the lines to unbearable wait times and ruining the good vibes. But with more than 100 sampling booths to choose from, those fears were proven largely untrue.
"When I came in, I was worried that the lines would be (too long)," said Aaron Fisher, a 25-year-old Biostatistics student from Charles Village. "We got here early and there was a long line, but it was just because nobody was being let in, so it was building up. The lines have not been so bad. Even at the high-end bourbon table, you get in line and it goes by in like five minutes."
A widely adopted strategy by veteran Beer, Bourbon & BBQ attendees is to sip one sample while waiting in line for another, in a sort of micro, hyper bar crawl.
When faced with an empty sampling glass, there was almost always a "no wait" sampling booth to serve as a port in the storm. In addition to the fancier beer selections, there were also more pedestrian but reliable offerings, such as Pabst Blue Ribbon, National Bohemian, National Premium and even Twisted Tea.
In fact, with so many choices, it would be virtually impossible, or at least not medically advisable, to sample each one.
The fun, then, was in walking the floor and tasting whatever struck one's fancy at the moment.
Still, some festival goers attempted to go for volume, or at least keep tally of how many samples they had tasted.
Cory Melton, a 24-year-old Loch Raven resident who works in tech support for the state government, came with a group of friends who tallied each sample with a hash mark on their T-shirts.
"This is my first time here," said Melton, who was up to 20 beers and four liquor samples with about one hour to go. "I came with friends so I'll just remember the good times and we're taking a tally; we're keeping score."
Melton, whose favorite beer was The Brewer's Art's Resurrection, said that he ran into his boss at the event, who told him that he'd "better see that shirt full of tallies."