Mind your pints, the third annual Carroll County Beer Week commences Monday, Sept. 25, with five days of brew-related activities throughout Carroll, all leading up to the 12th annual Maryland Microbrewery Festival on Saturday, Sept. 30.
And as has been the case since the launch of Beer Week in 2015, a special beer has been crafted just for the occasion by Jay Lampart, brewer at Johanssons Dining House, and George Humbert, brewer at Pub Dog Brewing, both in Westminster.
“Each year we try to sort of showcase and brew a different beer with different local ingredients,” Humbert said. “Last year was a rye lager; the year before that I think was a pre-Prohibition lager with local corn.”
This year’s offering? The Free State Session IPA, which stands for India pale ale, crafted with fresh, locally grown hops from Ruhlman Brewery in Hampstead and wheat ground at the mill at the Union Mills Homestead, which hosts the Microbrewery Festival.
“A session IPA is just a lower alcohol IPA,” Humbert said. “It allows us to basically showcase the hop flavor a little bit more, because there is less malt in it. The fresh hops have a wonderful fragrant aroma, which will really shine through.”
That being said, Lampart suggests the Free State IPA could be an ideal brew for those who have been a little apprehensive about stepping into the world of hoppy pale ales.
“It’s a good entry-level pale,” he said. “It’s not over the top bitter, it’s not over the top hoppy and it’s prefect for this time of year: It’s robust and strong enough to carry through the cooler weather, but light enough to be refreshing and not filling.”
Humbert and Lampart’s collaboration actually predates Carroll County Beer Week. It was at least four or five years ago, as far as either can remember, that they first got a call from the Union Mills Homestead Foundation asking them to craft a unique beer for the Microbrewery Festival.
It was the homestead that launched the concept of Beer Week as well, according to Union Mills Homestead Foundation Executive Director Jane Sewell.
“I love Beer Week, and I think it’s so neat that we do the kickoff at Maggie’s and then Johanssons second night,” she said. “We started it a couple of years ago, and it has just gotten bigger and better.”
The first round
The major event to launch the whole sudsy series will be a Carroll County Public Library organized beer and author event on Monday, at Maggie’s Restaurant in Westminster.
“This is the third year, and we have always tried to have an author come who really speaks to what the week and the Microbrewery Festival are all about — local beer,” said Tony Eckard, director of finance for the library.
In 2015, that was Rob Kasper, a former Baltimore Sun food and drink writer, and author of “Baltimore Beer: A Satisfying History of Charm City Brewing.”
In 2016, the guest was Tony Russo, author of “Eastern Shore Beer.”
This year’s event will feature George Hummel, owner of the Philadelphia home brewing store, Home Sweet Home Brew and author of “The Complete Homebrew Beer Book.”
“Our hope was to really appeal to the public who are into home brewing, so that we kind of expand the audience for our night,” Eckard said.
It will also be the first opportunity to taste the Free State Session IPA, in a special small, cask conditioned sampling, according to Lampart.
Pre-registration for the event through the library is required and is $20, Eckard said.
“It’s a great deal: You get the book; you get to hear him speak; and at the end of the night, there will be a sample of the ale,” Eckard said, “for everyone who is of drinking age, of course.”
Tall cold Tuesday
The official release of the Free State Session IPA will be on Tuesday, however, as Lampart puts the beer on tap in the dining room bar.
“It’s a great time; everyone gathers at the bar. We will have some nice specials that night,” he said. “It will be a good time.”
There will also be specials at other participating restaurants and watering holes, from Sykesville’s E. W. Beck’s, which will offer $2 local drafts from 5 p.m. to close on Wednesday, to Ruhlman Brewery, in Hampstead, which will offer free disc golf with the purchase of a $5 pint from noon to 6 p.m. on Thursday.
Brews for yous: Maryland Microbrewery Festival
Of course, the creamy head on the pint-focused week will be the Microbrewery Festival on Saturday, Sept. 30, at the Union Mills Homestead. It’s an event that’s still growing, with more than 3,000 people coming out to the 2016 festival, according to Sewell.
“In the past 12 years, we have more than doubled the number of brewers that come,” she said.
This year, there will be 20 brewers, including the Johanssons Brewing truck pouring the Free State IPA, a cornhole tournament, food vendors and live music.
Tickets are available online and are $20 for those drinking and $5 for nondrinkers. Tickets at the gate will be $25 for drinkers and $5 for those abstaining, with proceeds going to support the Union Mills Homestead Foundation in its mission to preserve the working mill and homestead on the property, which dates back to the 18th century.
“It’s our biggest fundraiser, and it’s really important to us,” Sewell said. “Because the house and the mill are from 1797, there is a lot of ongoing restoration. You have roofs, you have foundations — there is so much that is involved.”
A special millwright is even hired to help keep the mill, which is entirely water powered, in working order, ready to grind grain for beers like Lampart and Humbert’s.
Sewell said the Union Mills Homestead board did not want to reveal how much money it raises from the Microbrewery Festival.
However, according to the Union Mills Homestead Foundation’s IRS Form 990 for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, 2014, and ending Sept. 30, 2015, the most recent year for which the form was available, the foundation netted $83,874 from “fundraising events.” Without an official comment from the foundation, it’s not possible to know how much of that sum came from the Microbrewery Festival, but a majority portion would go a long way toward covering the $118,473 in expenses for maintaining the homestead as reported on the form. The Form 990 is a required tax filing for 501(c)(3 nonprofits and is public information.
The growing success of Beer Week, the continuing success of the Microbrewery Festival, to Lampart and Humbert, point to the increasing local interest in craft brewing, home brewing and the agriculture necessary to support them. As more grains, malts and hops become available locally, the two predict great things for Maryland, and Carroll County beer.
“For us, the fresher, the closer to home ingredients we can get, the better our beer is going to be,” Humbert said. “That’s why we are always looking for local ingredients we can use and we are excited to get a broader range of ingredients to use.”
If you go
Carroll County Beer Week Events:
Monday, Sept. 25: 7 p.m. author talk with George Hummel and keg tapping, Maggie’s Restaurant, 310 E. Main St., Westminster. Pre-registration $20 through the Carroll County Public Library at library.carr.org/BeerWeek.
Tuesday, Sept. 26: 7 p.m. keg tapping of the Free State Session IPA, dinner and drink specials, Johanssons Dining House and Restaurant, 4 W. Main St., Westminster.
Wednesday, Sept. 27: 5 p.m. to close, $2 off local drafts, E.W. Beck’s, 7565 Main St., Sykesville.
7 p.m. locally sourced five-course dinner with beer, Uncle Matty’s, 142 Church St., New Windsor. Advance registration necessary, $60, call 410-635-6777.
Thursday, Sept. 28: Noon to 6 p.m. $5 pints and free disc golf with purchase, Ruhlman Brewery, 2300 Harvey Gummel Road, Hampstead.
Friday, Sept. 29: 11 a.m. to close, $2.50 local craft beers, Uncle Matty’s, 142 Church St., New Windsor.
Noon to 6 p.m. $5 pints and free disc golf with purchase, Ruhlman Brewery, 2300 Harvey Gummel Road, Hampstead.
4 p.m. to 7 p.m. brewery tours, Pub Dog Brewing, 1203 New Windsor Road, Westminster. $5 includes two beer samples and beer mug.
Saturday, Sept. 30: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Maryland Microbrewery Festival, Union Mills Homestead, 3311 Littlestown Pike, Westminster. Advance tickets — $20 drinkers, $5 nondrinkers —available at www.marylandmicrobreweryfestival.com. Day of tickets $25 for drinkers, $5 nondrinkers.
For more information on Carroll County Beer Week, go to carrollbeerweek.com.