On Tuesday, the second night of the second annual Carroll County Beer Week, Johansson's brewer Jay Lampart pulled a pint glass from the stack, took it to a tap and pulled himself a tall, cold glass of a very special beer, the Union Mills Rye Lager.
"I just dropped it, and it's nice and bright and clear — it's very crisp and smooth," Lampart said, holding his glass up to the light. "You get very mild spicy notes in there from the rye and local cascade hops."
Brewed in honor of Carroll Beer Week, the lager was a collaboration between Lampart, brewer George Humbert, of Westminster's Pub Dog Brewing, and Henry Ruhlman, a brewer in his own right, who grew the hops at his farm in Hampstead. The rye was ground at the Union Mills Homestead mill, and many of the homestead's board members had come out to taste the fruit of grist stone.
"I think it's really neat that it's Maryland rye and that the Union Mills Homestead ground it," said Jane Sewell, executive director at Union Mills. "I think it's awesome. I really like the taste of it. It's light, and yet it's a lager, so it's not light light."
In 2015, the homestead also worked with Lampart to create a special beer for what was then the inaugural Carroll Beer Week, when the mill ground corn used in a Maryland Harvest ale that would have been familiar to people in Carroll County in the days before Prohibition. Sewell hopes the collaboration will become a tradition.
"We're talking about possibly doing a wheat next year," she said. "Last year it was a corn, this year it was rye, it's possible next year might be a wheat, though that's not carved in stone yet."
There were two beer lovers who had come out to Johansson's Dining House in Westminster on Tuesday evening to taste Lampart's brew who waited with great anticipation: Steve Kranz and Kevin Mapp, president and vice president of the Midnight Homebrewers League.
"We've been waiting since 5 p.m.," they said in unison, at about 7:45 p.m.
"We're suckers for this stuff," Kranz added.
Rye is more commonly found in ales, Mapp noted, but the Union Mills Rye, a lager, showcased the spicy grain well.
"It's a very unique beer, I think. Rye is not something I have brewed a lot with, but it's a distinctive flavor," Kranz said. "It's very subtle and distinct, and clean and delicious. I just like it."
It's not a big hoppy beer either, Kranz said, something that might turn off people who are used to larger commercial brews. The pair suggested the rye lager could be a good stepping stone for those who want to try something a little different but not too far outside their comfort zone.
"If they are a beer drinker … they should try this beer," Kranz said. "It's unique — they will not get it anywhere else."
The Union Mills Rye Lager will be available at Johansson's during Beer Week and afterward while supplies last, and it will also be served by Johansson's at the Maryland Microbrewery Festival on Saturday, the foamy head of the Beer Week draught.
"There will be 22 brewers, they all have a tent and Johansson's will be pouring this particular beer," Sewell said. "I hope everyone is going to come — it looks like great weather."
In the meantime, Carroll Beer Week events continue at locations throughout Carroll County, including a Friday open house at Pub Dog Brewing, where the Midnight Homebrewers League will be on hand to hand out information and hot dogs, Kranz said.
"Our club will sponsor a hot dog cart, and anybody that wants to know about brewing and home brewing, we will be there to answer questions, and hand out literature and support Carroll Beer Week," he said.
If you go:
•Wednesday: 5 p.m. Pint Night and food pairing with Union Craft Brewing at E.W. Beck's, 7565 Main St., Sykesville
•Thursday: Noon-6 p.m. Disc Golf and Pints at Ruhlman Brewery/Creeping Creek Farm, 2300 Harvey Gummel Road, Hampstead; and 6-9 p.m., Milkhouse Brewery Tap Takeover at Market Tavern, 7556 Main St., Sykesville
•Friday: 4-7 p.m. Brewery tours at Pub Dog Brewing, 1203 New Windsor Road, Westminster
•Saturday: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. 11th annual Maryland Microbrewery Festival at Union Mills Homestead, 3311 Littlestown Pike, Westminster
For more information on Carroll County Beer Week events, go to www.carrollbeerweek.com/events.
For more information on, or to buy tickets to the Maryland Microbrewery Festival, go to www.marylandmicrobreweryfestival.com.