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Carroll historical society brews up antique beer recipe for launch at August event

Spruce, dried heather and maple syrup may not sound like the tastiest combination, but it's just what the Historical Society of Carroll County is brewing up.

The ingredients, all local and true to historic recreation, are the flavoring agents of a beer batch the historical society is creating for its upcoming Hops in History event Aug. 9. On Monday, the historical society started its smoked colonial lager's preparations, creating mash, adding hops and beginning the fermentation process.

That doesn't mean it's ready for tasting just yet, though. Executive Director Fred Teeter said the brew will be ready to taste as early as late July, and will be ready for thirsty attendees by August.

Hops in History, which is in its first year, is intended to show the importance of breweries and beer in Carroll County's history all while serving a few drinks and some fun. Teeter expects around 250 people to attend the event, which is billed as a family-friendly day, complete with freshly brewed root beer and vanilla ice cream for the children.

The beer started just this past Monday will be complimentary with admission, Teeter said, as a sort of house beer for the event designed to give people a taste of what they could expect from innkeepers or brewers in the early days of Carroll County. It will be a true, farm-style ale with relatively low alcohol content at about 4 1/2 percent, and traditional flavors.

"It's not for getting blasted on a nice afternoon, exactly, but I'm sure there'll be some of that too," Teeter said. "We hope it will show the importance of the brewing industry and educate them a little about the way breweries and brewing used to be."

The event will also include home brewing demonstrations from Carroll County's Midnight Homebrew League; a walking tour from the historical society's campus to the site of the county's first brew house in the 1830s, the former Westminster Hotel on East Main Street; and a talk from Maureen O'Prey, local beer historian and author of "Brewing in Baltimore."

Maryland, and Carroll County in particular, has an illustrious history with breweries, which O'Prey said contributed to the community.

"When you look at Maryland historically, and you look at the earliest industries, you're going to come up with beer," O'Prey said. "It was a critical industry in the beginning of the state, putting people to work, helping fund projects in the community and, of course, making beer."

From the days of the Revolutionary War, breweries were crucial for troops' morale and expectations, O'Prey said, adding that even George Washington knew to stop his troops close by an inn or place for the daily ration of beer they were promised on enlisting.

Monday's brew, which O'Prey explained in terms of historical accuracy, sticks to tradition, she said.

"It's not what you would think of going to 'World of Beer.' It's a historical recreation in the style of the 1830s," O'Prey said. "It's going to tie in beautifully with the programs at 'Hops in History.' This is really what beer used to taste like."

Teeter expects the batch will be balanced between sweetness and acidity, given the syrup and type of hops used, with interesting aromas from the spruce.

The historical society hasn't named its brew yet, but is open to suggestions from the general public via email.

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