For Bel Air resident Shane McCarthy, 27, beer is more than just something you sip on a hot summer day. As the beer director at Ronnie’s Beverage Warehouse in Fallston and the founder of Bel Air Beer Week, McCarthy is one of Harford County’s foremost beer experts and a major champion of its burgeoning craft beer scene. During Bel Air Beer Week, which returns for its third year Sept. 8-17, restaurants, bars and taprooms all over town will host beer-centric events. This year’s lineup will also include an Oktoberfest party at the Bel Air Armory, featuring beers from 30 different breweries.
How did Bel Air Beer Week start?
I was wondering what I could do to take the store to the next level and bring the community together, instead of everyone trying to do their own thing. I drove to the bars and restaurants in town and said, I have this idea – for four days, everybody focus on craft beer and let’s help each other.
The community was really excited, and I had people reach out to me and ask if they could be involved in some way. It was really successful and everybody had a great time – the community came together and there were a lot of fun events.
How has Bel Air Beer Week grown? What can people expect this year?
Last year we worked with the Bel Air Downtown Alliance. We had over 90 events happen and it grew from four days to nine days. It was everything from cheese festivals to bands, dinners, tap takeovers and food pairings.
Last year we also did a beer with Independent Brewing Co. We collected hops from all over the world and invited the community to come brew the beer – because that’s what the week is about. It was cool and a community builder.
This year, new bars and restaurants have signed on, and we’re expecting it to be even bigger.
How did you get interested in beer?
When I came to Ronnie’s [about five years ago], we had a big craft beer selection. I like art and creativity, and some of the beers sounded crazy – people were adding chocolate and fruit. I started drinking it and thought it was cool. I wanted to educate myself.
What’s your favorite style of beer?
It changes day to day, depending on where I am, what I’m eating and how hot it is. Right now, I really like pilsners – beers that are light and drinkable.
What’s most exciting about the growth of Harford’s beer industry?
People are starting to be more adventurous – even restaurants and bars that have been wary of craft beer. Bel Air Beer Week and all the craft growth wouldn’t happen without people who are willing to take chances and support it.
For more information about Bel Air Beer Week, visit belairmaryland.org/bel-air-beer-week.