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'If you’re from Catonsville, you understand': State Fare, Jailbreak release July 4-themed Game of Chairs beer

“Game of Chairs,” a hazy pale ale from Jailbreak Brewing and the State Fare restaurant, is a tribute to the annual, pre-Fourth of July ritual in Catonsville of placing chairs on the sidewalk to save a spot on the parade route.
“Game of Chairs,” a hazy pale ale from Jailbreak Brewing and the State Fare restaurant, is a tribute to the annual, pre-Fourth of July ritual in Catonsville of placing chairs on the sidewalk to save a spot on the parade route. (Courtesy of Jailbreak Brewing Co.)

The night is dark and full of terrors. But Catonsville is hot — and full of chairs.

Lawn chairs. Beach chairs. Camping chairs. A spare kitchen chair here, one with a dressed-up mannequin over there. All of them appear on the Frederick Road sidewalk along the Fourth of July parade route in a matter of weeks — an annual small-town tradition that starts earlier every year, marking the coming holiday and saving their owners’ curbside seats for the parade.

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If you’re from Catonsville, you understand.


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This year, they even have their own beer: “Game of Chairs,” a hazy pale ale from Jailbreak Brewing and State Fare, the new restaurant that opened in December, replacing the old Friendly’s on Frederick Road.

Evan Brown, State Fare’s co-owner, who used to own Portalli’s in Ellicott City, came up with the idea, hoping to pay tribute to his hometown’s quirky tradition and solidify the Catonsville credentials of his new restaurant.

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Catonsville has a tradition of people placing chairs on the roadside for the Fourth of July parade, but these days the chairs seem to be going out earlier.

“If you’re from Catonsville, you understand,” Brown said. “If you’re not, it’s a difficult thing to explain what the streets look like before the Fourth of July.”

He faced just that problem when trying to describe the perennial phenomenon to Bill Green, the California-based artist who illustrates Jailbreak Brewing’s can designs and marketing materials. Eventually, Brown just walked outside and took a picture of a few of them to send him.

Green drew a cartoon sketch of the chairs on the sidewalk, with fireworks shooting out in every direction from behind the red Adirondack in the middle, a nod to the Iron Throne in HBO’s “Game of Thrones.”

“The idea of ‘Game of Chairs’ came about because there is a lot of posturing and positioning,” not for the crown of the Seven Kingdoms, but for the best parade-watching real estate, said Justin Bonner, Jailbreak Brewing’s CEO, who lives in Anne Arundel County.

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Jailbreak brewer Andrew “Rossy” Rossbach already had been developing a new hazy pale ale, which was fortunate, because the brewing process normally takes two to three weeks, and they had less than a month to get it ready to go before the holiday week.

The labels usually take 10 business days to produce and ship. Calling in some favors with the labeling company, Jailbreak got it done in three days.

“A lot of things miraculously came together for us to be able to pull this off,” Bonner said.

The tradition of the Fourth of July chairs in Catonsville is growing, but it's origin is a mystery

The brewery produced a limited release of fewer than 100 cases, which sold out in five hours at the restaurant on Thursday.

“I thought be a fun thing to sell these beers throughout the week, and people could drink them on the Fourth of July,” Brown said. “The demand was ridiculously high. I would’ve ordered 300 cases if I knew we were going to do that. We turned 70 people away the next day.”

State Fare plans to put the remaining keg beer in “crowlers,” or 32-oz. cans, and sell those at the restaurant beginning Tuesday afternoon.

It will also host a hot dog eating contest with a $500 cash prize at 1 p.m. on the Fourth of July.

Brown, 38, who grew up off Edmondson Avenue and now lives on Newburg Avenue, said the beer is an ode to the small-town atmosphere of the holiday, when 10,000 people emerge from their homes to watch floats go by, and later, turn their collective gaze to the sky for the fireworks.

“It’s one of the best community parties you can possibly be part of,” he said. “You can walk up and down the street, every house is open, you can pop in and see friends and family. It’s good day to catch up with old friends. Everyone comes back for the Fourth.”

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